White Ribbon Day

25 November 2014

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.