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Jan 22, 2014

Crikey says: away from headlines, assaults are rising

The media drove a campaign to Do Something about violence in Sydney. It won, but Barry O'Farrell's knee-jerk response ignores the real victims of violence in Australia. The data doesn't lie.

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From last night’s 7.30:

LEIGH SALES: … in the past 13 years, 90 people across Australia have died in these one-punch assaults. Last year in New South Wales alone, 32 women were killed in domestic violence situations, many involving alcohol. The Police media unit says police in New South Wales respond to about 370 domestic violence incidents a day. Given that random violence is so much less of a threat to people than domestic violence, why is the government’s priority not on domestic violence?”

Because, Leigh, as you well know, Sydney’s media — led by its oddly congruous daily newspapers — is not putting domestic violence on the front pages. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, of course, had a slightly different answer:

BARRY O’FARRELL: Well, our priority is on alcohol and drug-fuelled violence full stop. So most of the media I’ve done today has been criticism that we’re only applying these tougher penalties to alcohol and drug-fuelled violence, and I’m not going to make any apologies for being tough about that, whether it’s happening in a domestic situation, whether it’s happening in a business situation or whether it’s happening on a street in an entertainment precinct. We need to send the clearest possible message to get people to wake up and hopefully to start to educate and change the culture.

The impact of O’Farrell’s adopted crusade on education and cultural change is highly debatable — not that you’ll find much dissent in the pages of newspapers that made it very clear what they thought the government had to do. But the domestic violence comparison is stark. Our politics editor Bernard Keane (really bad at being on holidays) put together a little graph …

One of those lines is going down. The other is going up. And the gap between them is enormous.

The media mourned with the devastated families of some of these alcohol-fuelled attacks and the government was forced to act — with remarkable speed and unfettered power. Newspapers declare victory. Victims find solace.

But most of the lives lost on the streets of Sydney wouldn’t have been saved by these laws. And so many other victims of violent assault, away from the media’s glare, suffer in silence.

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