25/11/2016 6:06 AM AEDT | Updated 25/11/2016 6:06 AM AEDT

Domestic Violence Leave Won't Fix The Problem, But It's A Start

The government needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Adam Gault

No matter how many times I hear them, the figures on the impact of domestic violence are always confronting. On average, one in three women in Australia today have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and one woman dies at the hands of a current and former partner almost every week.

Young women (18-24) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups. Every year in Australia, more than 300,000 women experience violence from someone other than a partner.

Too many Australians are impacted by domestic and family violence and action is needed.

But let me point this out. The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stood next to Telstra and lauded the company for introducing domestic violence leave at the same time as his Government is trying to rip those provisions out of public sector collective bargaining agreements so they are no longer enforceable.

Thousands of public sector workers have already lost important workplace rights and many thousands more are facing cuts to vital conditions such as family friendly provisions.

As Bill Shorten this week said: "We have to make sure that these words actually make a difference in the lives of these people... change doesn't begin and end just with the words we use."

That is why in the spirit of absolute bipartisanship, Labor is asking Malcolm Turnbull to support domestic and family violence leave.

A year ago today, Labor committed to making domestic and family violence leave a universal workplace right, by providing for five days paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards (NES).

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is leading a campaign calling for paid domestic violence leave and a number of leading employers are already providing this leave including Telstra, Virgin Australia, NAB, Qantas IKEA and Blundstone Boots.

The impacts of domestic violence on business include increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and higher staff turnover, with an estimated cost to the Australian economy of $21.7 billion per year through costs such as legal fees, victim compensation, homelessness, loss of income and lost productivity.

The greatest cost of all, however, is the dignity, the self-confidence, and ultimately the lives of the victims. Do I think domestic violence leave will fix the problem entirely? No I don't. But it is a very significant part of the solution.


Brendan O'Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.