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Harawira: Domestic Violence Bill

Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill
Hone Harawira : Maori Party Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau
Thursday 18 November 2008

Mr Speaker, for many Kiwis, Christmas is the time of year for hanging lights, putting up little pine trees, stringing cards on the wall, getting kai ready, organising the hangi, and getting out the mattresses for all the relations coming home for the holidays; a time for family festivities, a time to be with your loved ones, a time for family reunions, and a time for unveilings and good memories at the graveside.

But for some families, those graveside memories will be overwhelmed by grief and anger, at the tragic loss of lives stolen in a haze of alcohol and drug abuse, in homes where violence is the norm, and murder an ugly companion, in a country where during Christmas 2005, Women’s Refuges all round Aotearoa were forced to take in 450 battered and fearful women and children, seven mothers were killed in acts of domestic violence and nineteen kids woke up to a life sentence without their mums.

Mr Speaker, such is the context in which we consider these amendments to the Domestic Violence Act, and seek to eradicate violence by strengthening the response of the Police and the Courts.

Mr Speaker, this may sound flip, but domestic violence really is 'a matter of life or death' - an explosive mixture of threats, stalking, harassment, raging jealousy, obsession, suicide, violence, assault and murder, that runs through every cultural, ethnic and socio-economic group in the country, but way too deeply in Maori society.

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The stats tell us that in 2005, police had to deal with more than 63,000 incidents of family violence, that women are four times more likely to be raped by someone they know than the stranger in the shadows, and that more than 25% of all women are beaten up by their partners.

Mr Speaker, such are the facts of life for women endangered and children cowering in fear; the facts of life that we keep hidden behind closed doors; the facts of violence that we must end.

Mr Speaker, I sincerely hope that this Bill will help address the problem, by allowing police to break the cycle of domestic violence through ‘on-the-spot’ protection orders to protect families from further violence until matters come before the court, directing courts to take into account the fact that the victim is a child when sentencing, and increasing the penalty for breaching domestic violence protection orders to a prison term of up to two years.

And yes – this is a get tough approach, and yes – there is way more to this than is immediately apparent, and yes – there is much to be done in the way of community standards, but, when the safety and the very lives of kids and women are concerned, somebody really does need to say - enough, is enough.

Mr Speaker, over the last forty years, we have accepted the need for fireworks safety, for seatbelts in cars and helmets for cyclists. We could hardly do less for whanau.

We need to set standards of safety for whanau, to emphasise child protection, and to sign up to legislation which treats domestic violence as the serious and criminal breach of human rights that it is.

People tell us that things could be better if only the existing Domestic Violence Act was implemented properly, particularly in areas like:
• comprehensive training for everyone working in the sector including judges, lawyers, court staff and police;
• better resourced advocacy services; and
• collaboration between the courts and family violence networks.

But the one factor that keeps coming up in all the suggestions we’re getting, is the call from people like Parekotuku Moore of the National Network of Stopping Violence, to speak out against violence; to not allow the issue to be hidden behind closed doors; and to denounce domestic violence in all its forms.

Like last week, when some A-hole tried to use Trade Me to sell men’s black singlets under the label, ‘Wife Beater’ but following widespread outrage from all round the country, Trade Me pulled his sicko promotion from their site.

Mr Speaker, this Bill is an opportunity for parliament to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence, to remind the nation that there is no acceptable level of domestic violence, to reaffirm our commitment to protecting women and children from domestic violence, to speak up about the impacts of domestic violence, and to lay down markers about our refusal to tolerate it.

Mr Speaker, this Bill is also an opportunity to speak out against the rampant unemployment that has crippled Maori families for the last quarter-century, to protest the poverty that affects great swathes of the Maori community, and which has created the conditions in which domestic violence, drugs, ill health, theft and lawlessness prevail; to speak up for those children forced to live in a world where they don’t know they’re poor because they’ve never had anything, to challenge attacks on the rights of workers at a time when unemployment is set to go through the roof, and to speak out against the refusal of this house to make the eradication of poverty the priority that it must be, IF we are truly to deal with the problems of violence and crime that are crippling our society.

And for all those National Party members who roundly accused Labour of playing the nanny state and interfering in the lives of ordinary citizens, know that as you pass this bill into law, so too are you doing exactly what Labour did last term – playing a hand in the way in which our society is run to ensure the rights of those most vulnerable, are never forgotten.

And in the same way that the Maori Party stood alongside Labour and the Greens on the S59 bill to protect the rights of children, so too will we stand alongside National to help ensure the protection of families as well.

Mr Speaker, Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection and joy, but for many families Christmas will be a time of drunkenness, hangovers, anger and violence; when business is booming for women’s refuges for all the wrong reasons, and police have to tear families apart, simply to save the lives of those most vulnerable.

Mr Speaker, there are many factors behind domestic violence - not least the destructive violence of poverty - but there can be no excuses for the brutalising of our families here in Aotearoa, and for all those reasons and more Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will be supporting this Bill.


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