Senator O’SULLIVAN ( Queensland — Nationals Whip in the Senate ) ( 20:13 ): Tonight, I intend to speak
briefly in relation to today’s event of White Ribbon Day. It is well known that I spent a large part of my formative
adult years in the Queensland Police Service as a detective, until my mid-30s. During that time, I had much
exposure to events that involved direct and sometimes fatal violence to women and children—indeed, to young
infants. I can say for every police officer in the country, without even having to ask them, that these are the events
that cause the most stress and angst amongst the police officers, in the sense that they feel completely helpless
in some situations to be able to assist the victims.
Homicides amongst women are predominantly as a result of domestic violence. Unlike general homicides—
if there is such a thing—many of these events are foreseeable and, in some instances, predictable. Yet, in my
adult lifetime, it would seem that we as a society in Australia have not found a way to protect these women and
children, to take them out of harm’s way or, indeed, to remove the cowardly grubs who inflict these assaults
and intimidation on women and put them where they cannot bring harm to them or anybody else. We spend a
lot of time in this place arguing about this and that. We have spent weeks now dealing with the very important
issue of security and terrorism. We have devoted hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to solutions, and
I understand that. I support those decisions. They are important decisions for the security of our communities.
Yet when we compare the number of victims of terrorism in our country with the number of women and children
who are victims, there is a significant disparity. A woman is killed in our country each week, and we ought to
be ashamed of that. This is a national shame. Children are killed in their dozens each year. We all know of the
tragic incident where a father, returning to his 12-year-old son, killed him with a cricket bat. I have difficulty
removing images of my own 12-year-old grandson as I think about those issues.
If we want to talk about things that are important to this nation, then each day in this place and the other place we
ought to talk about this before we talk about anything else. This government, my government, our government,
and all the state governments have put their best foot forward in the last couple of days, but glossy brochures,
good speeches and the best intentions will not save the women who have this constant infliction in their lives. I
have spoken to children who have grown up in these households and they talk about the constant nature of it. It
is there always for them. They do not know whether they can turn their radio on or not or whether or not their
pillow is facing the right way on their bed.
We need a serious unity ticket on this right across Australia. This has troubled me and many of my colleagues who
work to provide health services and social services—police, the courts, everybody who is involved in this area
cannot help but be affected by the sense of hopelessness that seems to exist because of our failure to protect these
people from those who purport to love them and care for them. I say that husbands and partners have a special
duty, a higher duty, to their wives, their partners, their children and their grandchildren than they have to almost
anything else in their lives. Yet we see almost 100,000 women a year in our nation seeking protection, seeking
orders from our courts. But those pieces of paper cannot help them. They need to be relocated, their children
put into new educational facilities. We need to strike them off the roll so that the perpetrator cannot search and
find them. We need a special task force in every state. For every dollar that we want to spend on dealing with
terrorism—that infection that is coming into our nation from elsewhere—this nation ought to dedicate a dollar to
the protection of women and children. After prayers every morning in this place and the other place we should
ask ourselves: what did we do yesterday, and what can we do today?
I almost lost my grandson two years ago to an accident. I sat with a grandmother whose 15-year-old granddaughter
was on life support, having been assaulted by the de facto partner of her mother—who could not even be there
because she had to work the night shift to continue to give her even a remote sense of economic independence.
So I say this: if we cannot fix this—and it is going to take a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of will—we do
not deserve to be in the positions we are in. Starting tomorrow, I intend to try to weave into every conversation
that I have initiatives that might help here, because we simply cannot make one day a year the day to think about it.
We have to think about it and do something about it every day.