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Sep 30, 2015

Silver-tongued Malcolm’s govt is complicit in violence against women

The focus on Turnbull’s call for a cultural shift has left unexamined the ways in which government policy is complicit in violence against women and children.

Shakira Hussein — Writer and academic in multiculturalism

Shakira Hussein

Writer and academic in multiculturalism

The announcement of a $100 million package of federal funding to help combat violence against women seemed a lot more palatable for being delivered by Malcolm Turnbull rather than by Tony Abbott, under whose watch it was originally conceived. Turnbull, after all, was able to announce the package alongside a beaming Michaelia Cash — the new Minister for Women, who is actually a woman. And the platitudes about the reasons for the package sounded far more plausible when detached from Abbott’s rugger-bugger persona. Turnbull’s announcement has been praised not only for its substance but also for his smoothly delivered assertion that “violence against women begins with disrespecting women. And so this is a big cultural shift.”

News Corp columnist Miranda Devine only added to Turnbull’s credibility with her op-ed proclaiming that his call for Australians to respect for women showed that he had “drunk the feminist Kool-Aid”. Those described by Devine as “feckless women” — i.e., women who found themselves trapped in relationships with violent men —  have taken to social media to counteract her description of them as irresponsible welfare bludgers producing a string of offspring at taxpayer expense. As a “feckless woman” myself, I share their outrage with Devine’s op-ed — but I also suggest that we should not let it distract us from the more substantial failings of Turnbull’s announcement.

The focus on Turnbull’s call for a cultural shift has left unexamined the ways in which government policy is complicit in violence against women and children. This complicity is most starkly evident in the violence suffered by women and girls subjected to offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru. Monday night’s story on 7.30 about a Somali refugee who alleges that she was raped by two men while living in the community on Nauru was only the most recent evidence of sexual violence committed against women under a regime that Turnbull has stated causes him “concern” — but not so much concern that he will ever agree to allow its victims to be resettled in Australia. As comedian Nazeem Hussain tweeted, “Chris Brown has been refused a visa. Violence against women — Australia says not unless you’re a guard at a detention centre.”

But even women living in the relative safety of the Australian suburbs have been made far more vulnerable by gaping holes in the social safety net on which they rely in the wake of a relationship breakdown. Women’s ability to leave abusive relationships has been significantly impaired by the policy initiated under John Howard’s prime ministership that shifts single parents from the parenting payment to Newstart once their youngest child turns eight. This not only reduces their payment by nearly $100 a week, but also heavily penalises them for part-time work, with any income above a threshold of $102 a fortnight reducing their payment for 40 cents on the dollar.

While many children thrive in after-school care, others struggle — and those whose lives have been disrupted by family violence are particularly likely to need extra parental attention well beyond the age of eight. And women’s ability to relocate in search of employment and housing that suits their needs is often hampered by shared custody arrangements that require them to facilitate their children’s relationship with their former partner — even when, as this week’s coroner’s report into the death of Luke Batty at the hands of his father has highlighted, that partner has a documented history of abuse.

Welfare-to-work policies are routinely justified by the paternalist claim that children benefit by having a wage-earning role-model in their household while the women themselves will enjoy a boost in both their income and their self-esteem for having been badgered into the workforce. But this claim assumes that the only barrier to employment is the lack of motivation from the women themselves, rather than a lack of suitable jobs and/or the pressure of competing responsibilities.

Malcolm Turnbull says that he wants Australia to become known as a country that respects women. How exactly can that come about in a nation whose government routinely punishes the most vulnerable women for the crime of their vulnerability?

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15 thoughts on “Silver-tongued Malcolm’s govt is complicit in violence against women

  1. SusieQ

    Excellent!!! (but is anyone in govt listening?). Worst part of this is that the policy on Newstart continued under the previous Labour govt. Both as bad as each other.

  2. mikeb

    It’s a balancing act. We don’t want women (and presumably men) feeling vulnerable, threatened and financially dependant. We also don’t want an expanding collective of welfare rent seekers popping out fatherless children to boost their welfare payments. No matter what Turnbull does there will be criticism. At least he’s doing something.

  3. bushby jane

    Cash is another nasty pasty from the Abbott punish refugees camp, witness the report in today’s age of her last act in that arena.

  4. JMNO

    Wasn’t it Gillard who moved single parents to the parenting payment? I was very disappointed in her when she did this

  5. leone

    It was Howard, but he ‘grandfathered’ a group who continued to receive payments until their children were teenagers. Julia Gillard ended this grandfathering.

  6. Shakira Hussein

    JNO and Leone – yes, I wrote about this at the time. That measure went through the Senate on the day of her misogyny speech. Various ALP figures have since described this as a mistake but (unless I’ve missed something) Gillard herself continues to defend the measure.

  7. Matters Peter

    It might help if we not only wanted to remove this curse from our life but also tried to look at what makes human beings tick – it would make the solution so much easier. If an ill sorted and weak male looks for a boost to his damaged ego by violent domination of somebody weaker than him, he usually knows where to look.
    The most horrifying curse of the old testament reads:”Your children and your children’s children shall pay for your sins.” In short, a girl growing up in a violent family has it firmly fixed in her mind that she can herself expect to end being a victim – a fact which is tragically only too real.
    Now, social service should be on the lookout for such likely potential victims. If they are taught self defence early in life it gives them a self confidence they had never known before. A potential violator will feel this and will go looking elsewhere for a victim – without the targeted girl even having to use her karate skills. In an ideal life style such a self defence measure should not be needed but until we reach that heavenly stage, it would prevent many tragedies.

  8. Clint Dolmo

    Our governments enthusiasm for driving the unemployed to seek often non-existent jobs requires degradation of the poor and vulnerable.

    Creating economic slavery seems an unspoken Liberal policy, as in the US. Vulnerable women are caught up in the collateral damage.

  9. AR

    Yuk, I need a shower after following that link but had to laugh at the end where the paper asked ‘What do you think?’
    Obviously a trick question if directed at Terrorgraph ‘readers’, the sort of people who probably move their lips when they try to do that.
    However unDivine gave a Bowdlerised version to Price on 2GB in which she basically did a Abbott/BernieBanton on Batty upon which the phones went mad with women (FFS!) agreeing & slandering the latter.

  10. Ken Lambert

    I would think that a just aim of our modern social organization would be respect for both men and women without the underlying assumption that women are to be favoured.

    That idea went out with widows pensions and earlier retirement ages for women and raising of children within marriages where paid work for women was not an economic necessity.

    Domestic violence has existed in all eras, but the phenomenon of the live-in boyfriend and ex-partners doing harm to the female partner and her children is pretty recent invention of the lower orders demonstrating that they have not learned anything from their betters, but have cunningly got them to subsidize their lifestyles.