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Domestic violence leave

As a local GP, I understand how domestic violence is perpetrated and its devastating impacts on families and individuals. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness in my electorate of Mackellar in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Of course, domestic violence does not only impact women, but it does impact them disproportionately. Across Australia, one in four women will experience violence from their partner. This includes coercive control to overt control and violence, which can result in injury and death. Domestic violence is insidious, and it must not remain so. The flow on effects on victims, their children and the community are devastating and enduring. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated such harrowing circumstances for many. In this parliament we must implement policies that protect victims and save lives, which is why I support this bill, the Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2022.

In a domestic violence situation, victims are often in an impossible bind, often having to choose between financial security and employment or potentially ending up homeless, as we heard earlier, and unpaid leave will not support them. As Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, describes:

… it takes seven to eight attempts to leave a relationship; it costs around $18,000; and it takes 141 hours to safely extricate oneself from an abuser.

Victims are in financial handcuffs. Often their only hope is to maintain financial security while quietly planning their escape. Emergency leave is their lifeline. We must provide this lifeline. Under this bill, employees can access 10 days of paid leave, up from five, to help deal with the immediate situation or for the required appointments when planning to leave. Importantly, casuals will be included, and all workers will receive financial support to access counselling and doctors appointments. This bill enables people to leave violent relationships without sacrificing their money and their safety.

In my electorate, amazing organisations are working to support victims of domestic violence. Northern Beaches Women's Shelter, for example, is a haven, supporting homeless women so that they can rebuild their lives, reclaim independence and re-join society. Organisations like this welcome this legislation and describe the benefit that it will have, particularly for women leaving relationships. Importantly, they have described how important it is to include existing casual workers.

This is necessary and critical legislation, which many in the business community accept. I am heartened to see that nearly all submissions from businesses and organisations to the committee inquiry into this bill recognised the need to support victims of domestic violence through leave from the workplace. To the businesses in my community: you are the backbone of Mackellar. I am proud of the response I have received from those I have consulted with. Businesses in my electorate are throwing their support behind this legislation.

I would also point out research by the Centre for Future Work, at the Australia Institute, which shows that only 1.5 per cent of women and 0.5 per cent of men are likely to access this leave. Therefore, the cost to the employers would be modest, and any price would be outweighed by the benefits such as improved productivity and decreased turnover. In fact, some states and businesses already offer 10 days of paid domestic leave and have found the impact on business to be very limited, which is promising. Even so, I welcome that the government will provide small businesses with an extra six-month grace period and consult with them now. I also call on the government to consider how they can reduce administration of this measure, keeping it as simple as possible.

As MPs we must all work with our communities to educate them about this critical legislation, so that those impacted by domestic violence know their entitlements and businesses have clarity and simplicity in applying it. Supporting this bill is the least we can do to help the thousands of Australians who find themselves in this awful situation.

You can view the speech here.