Extract from Hansard – Wednesday 23 March, 2017
Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (11.57 pm): I rise tonight to contribute to the cognate debate on the Bail (Domestic Violence) and Another Act Amendment Bill 2017 and the Victims of Crime Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. It is my view very definitely that there is no debate to be had. The LNP’s bill should be passed tonight so that we can send, as a parliament, a strong message to the perpetrators of domestic violence to help to end family violence and its devastating effect on individual members of those families.
According to White Ribbon Australia, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them and one in four children are exposed to it. While the majority of victims are women, the organisation also recognises that men and members of the LGBTI community are also represented in those statistics. The line that it is ‘no big deal and all families have secrets’ can no longer cut it.
There are many types of domestic and family violence. It is violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour by a partner, carer or family member to control, dominate or cause fear. It does not have to be physical abuse. It can be emotional, financial, sexual and many other types of abuse. It can affect anyone in the community regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, age, culture, religion, disability, economic status or location.
As many in this place know, I spent a great deal of my working life in commercial radio.
Ms Boyd: You’ve got a great voice.
Mr ELMES: Yes, a great voice. When I was about 16 ½, the radio network that I worked for sent me to a country town. Because I was only 16 ½, they insisted that I board with a family. The husband and wife that I boarded with were probably 23 or 24 years of age. The bloke was a very big and strong ex-military man. I can recall being in the house one night when the wife was accused of putting too much spice in the spaghetti bolognaise, which is the way that it was put. He hit her and she literally went from one side of the room to the other.
Because I worked nights on air, I would come home in the morning and often, after a particularly violent episode, the husband, full or sorrow, would ask me to check on his wife as she lay in bed, with blackened eyes and bruises all over her. At the age of 16, I was supposed to try to sooth her and so forth. On one occasion, I came home in the middle of the day because I had a split shift. I found the woman in the bathtub, which was full of water, with slashes to her wrists. She was bleeding all over the place. That was my experience. I had never experienced that at home. I had a great loving family.
Tonight is the first time ever I have spoken publicly about that. I have always felt that I failed that woman; that I did not offer whatever support a 16 ½ year old could offer to someone. Tonight, having spoken about this publicly for the first time and as one of the 89 members of this House, I have an opportunity to vote and, in some very small way, repay her for the things that maybe I should have done or could have done, something like 40 years ago.
Tonight is the time to act. Tonight is the time to act swiftly and to act decisively with an incredible sense of urgency for all women and families. I do not want delays by this parliament to be responsible for lax laws that allow for another tragedy such as we witnessed on the Gold Coast when Teresa
Bradford was murdered by her estranged husband in front of her children, just weeks after he was released on bail.
Those opposite are as aware as I am that Queensland accounts for one-quarter of all domestic violence related deaths in Australia. I cannot not for the life of me fathom why tonight this parliament would not take the opportunity, for just a second, to agree to pass legislation that would tighten bail laws that have already been enacted in other states. If this legislation had been in place, Teresa Bradford may still be alive, because there would have been no presumption of bail for her abusive husband and, in the event that bail was granted, an urgent appeal to the Supreme Court to have the decision reversed could have been made. In the event of his release, she or another family member would have been notified. He would have been connected to a tracking device and subject to mandatory reporting.
During 2015-16, in Queensland alone there were some 23,000 breaches of domestic violence orders that we know about. It is all very well to talk about statistics—to talk about 23,000 breaches—but everyone who has commented in here tonight knows that the statistics say one and the real numbers are over here. Those are the figures that we must concentrate on. According to the Queensland police, the number of DVO applications increased by 19 per cent between 2014-15 and 2015-16. Therefore, anyone who says that what we are doing is right and proper and that it is working is deceiving themselves, because it is not working. Tonight is the night we can do something that goes further than this parliament has ever gone before. We must do it. We cannot let this opportunity pass us by.
In 2005 in my electorate of Noosa, the local community came together to rally around victims of domestic violence. They donated all that was required to build three safe houses, the first of their kind in the local area. Businesses, trades people and the community generously donated goods and services, labour and time. In just over two weekends, with 150 workers on site at any one time, a place of refuge was built for victims of domestic violence in Noosa. With the recent increase in domestic violence, demand for emergency crisis accommodation is outstripping supply. Late last year, Sunny Kids CEO Chris Turner said that their DV high-security shelter in Noosa was full every night. At the same time, the Sunshine Coast police reported that they are engaging with 15 new domestic violence cases each week. Those are new families that have not been involved in domestic violence before. Those are some of the people who are not represented in the statistics that I talked about a few minutes ago.
Tonight it is vital that we all stand up for the victims of domestic violence and ensure that the scales of justice are balanced in favour of families and members of families. As the member for Redlands said, tonight I am incredibly proud to be a member of the LNP and to support the bill that the Leader of the Opposition has put before the House. I commend the bill to the House.