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Productivity Gains From Workplace Protection

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader

Productivity Gains From Workplace Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence

Speech delivered at the Dollars and $ense debate held at the Royal Society of New Zealand, Turnbull Street, Wellington on Tuesday 21 July 2015

Let us start with as word of appreciation to the Zonta Club of Wellington, the National Council of Women’s Wellington branch and Graduate Women Wellington for the invitation and opportunity to present New Zealand First’s political view on tonight’s subject.

You have asked for a ten minute address on productivity gains from workplace protection for victims of domestic violence.

Whether it is workplace or non-workplace protection, the objectives for change are surely the same.

Whatever the character shape and form of domestic violence, my party is staunchly against it.

In a recent World Health Organisation November 2014, “Violence against women” update, these were the key facts:

• Violence against women - particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women - are major public health problems and violations of women's human rights.
• Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
• On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.
• Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
• Violence can result in physical, mental, sexual, reproductive health and other health problems, and may increase vulnerability to HIV.
• Risk factors for being a perpetrator include low education, exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality.
• Risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.
• In high-income settings, school-based programmes to prevent relationship violence among young people (or dating violence) are supported by some evidence of effectiveness.
• In low-income settings, other primary prevention strategies, such as microfinance combined with gender equality training and community-based initiatives that address gender inequality and communication and relationship skills, hold promise.
• Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence and present additional forms of violence against women.

We all know that Auckland University's Family Violence Clearinghouse reported that in 2014 domestic violence cost New Zealand $386m in lost productivity.

Of course, it masks the effect upon people in what is a dark stain upon New Zealand society.

The wider cost to the economy, once hospitals, law and order and other societal costs are factored in, is much greater than anyone of us will be prepared to accept.

Whatever the true figure, it represents a serious loss to Gross Domestic Product. It is highly dangerous to model downstream effects because very quickly we would end up with figures as staggering percentages of the overall economy.

Such large impacts on GDP would surely, albeit roughly, be computed by now.

It also detracts from focusing on what is perhaps, a more solid number; $386m in lost productivity which, in any reasonable sense, is an utterly shocking figure and a terrible waste.

There is something seriously amiss in the state of New Zealand society when men, because it is usually men but not exclusively, strike out against a spouse or a child.

It is a staggering weakness and a failure of self-control that must have us asking what went wrong, because the evidence suggests domestic violence is no respecter of how educated the parties are, or how wealthy, or their social status and for that matter what their race or religion may be.

That said there is no denying that certain cultures and certain religions have a far greater propensity for domestic violence than others. Denying this fact will be a certain obstruction to progress.

Our children have ready access to online games that frankly are violence personified. The roastbusters case showed how young men had become de-sensitised to women, viewing them as objects instead of people.

Prevention and response
Currently, there are few interventions whose effectiveness has been proven through well designed studies.

Some reports proffer a range of solutions. Regarding primary prevention, there is some evidence from high-income countries that school-based programmes to prevent violence has shown effectiveness. It may be an old adage but manners does make the man and women. Respect for the rights of others should start at the earliest possible age.

Children are a bellwether, an insight into the family because domestic violence often effects the whole household.

As such, New Zealand First supports nurses in schools and ensuring children are fed because we can seldom do much about one generation, but we can certainly and positively shape the next.

It is also easy to apportion ‘blame’ and alcohol is often a convenient one, but to quote one campaign, it is not what we are drinking, it is how we are drinking. Instead of demonisation and making it the forbidden fruit we must inculcate a culture of enjoyment instead of excess.

That too comes back to the notion of respect of others but more importantly, one’s self.

Government must provide a leadership role by properly funding social services and support to enable people to break out of a negative cycle.

This does include improving a justice system that is far from user friendly. We don’t need another court, we simply need to make the courts operate better.

We have also heard of the Better Public Service Targets but New Zealanders should ignore all “results” from the public sector, including education, police and social services, until they are independently scrutinised and audited. As our spokesperson on Social Welfare Darroch Ball has noted, “The situation is now absurd with the government setting its own public service targets while it refuses to have the ‘achievements’ independently audited.”

Government, like justice, has to be done but it also has to be seen to be done.

New Zealand First believes that having people in employment will go a long way towards improving outcomes in our communities. There is a dignity in work, more so, as we enter an unprecedented period of technological change our country seems completely unprepared for.

Yet we must not shirk from sanctions when people transgress.

Over 5000 protection order applications were made in 2014 so right there, are over 5000 violent people who need help. What happens? Very little. Instead that should trigger one on one counselling that could stop a person tipping over the edge and if this counselling flags risk, then they should be taken out of the immediate community equation.

New Zealand First believes strongly in the role of imprisonment to deal with people who commit violence on members of their own family. This would see mandatory minimum sentences.

“In prison counselling” needs to be used to reduce the risk upon release, with close contact post-release, to ensure conditions are being met.

But we also need to empower victims too.

New Zealand First has the Criminal Procedure (Removing Paedophile Name Suppression) Amendment Bill in the ballot where the victim wants exposure of the crime and not secrecy, then the sub-judice rule, name suppression and the legal cone of silence will be removed.

And if a perpetrator is here on a visa, then that should be rescinded because we do not want that person in our society.

We who are from a Polynesian background know that there is far too much violence in our families and in our communities. What some of us know is that we can take all of the measures possible from a governmental point of view, but for there to be real change, there has to be a non-violence to families renaissance in our cultures and in our world.

Above all we need to be aware of the cost and the awful financial and social impost of not acting.

Something New Zealand First is not scared to do.


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