More on Domestic Violence – Victim Protection Bill

There are two very good things about the progress of Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence – Victim Protection Bill – it is an Opposition MP’s genuine attempt to make a difference in the battle against the scourge of domestic violence, and it is an excellent example of how MPs from all parties can work together on a common worthy cause.

The first two speeches:

Introductions and parts of the rest of the First Reading speeches:

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE—VICTIMS’ PROTECTION BILL

First Reading

POTO WILLIAMS (Labour—Christchurch East):

I have to first acknowledge my dear colleague Jan Logie, who is an absolute champion for women, and I have to say, Minister Amy Adams, I am actually rather taken aback by the emotion you expressed at the end of that speech.

I have to say for many women in the House, this is a very personal issue. I just want to tautoko my daughters and granddaughter in the gallery. Heaven forbid that anything that happens to many of the women in our country happen to those beautiful children up in the gallery.

I must acknowledge Heather Hēnare, champion of this particular cause and supporter of many victims of domestic violence. Your work will go on and you will continue to be recognised for the amazing work that you do.

What this bill, I believe, attempts to do is to really start to normalise the conversations that we must be having in each and every workplace about domestic violence. It must bring it down to the point where we stop being scared of opening the door and shining the light on what is going on in many of the families that we occupy—that we live in.

Each of our families is touched in some way by the abhorrence of domestic violence: whether we are impacted personally, whether our children experience it, and whether we are supporting our sisters and our brothers through difficult times.

This legislation is saying: “You know what? It happens.” Let us own it. Let us get real about this everybody. Because it happens, and because we are good employers, we are going to allow people the time that they need to address those issues. Ten days is not much but, you know what, it is a heck of a lot more than we used to get, and it is a good start. It actually says “Yep. We have a responsibility here. We have a responsibility as employers to support our employees through this, and you know why? Because they are good employees and we want to keep them and it actually adds to our bottom line at the end of the day.” Let us get real; it is all about the cost benefit for the employer…

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill):

I too join in the line-up of people here today who are very pleased to be speaking in support of this bill, the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill, in its first reading, to see it through to the select committee stage to have some honest conversation about how we move we forward in protecting women, the majority of women who are subject to domestic violence, and those men the workplace.

I am pleased that Jan Logie has referred this bill to the Justice and Electoral Committee. I think that our committee is up for the challenge to have these discussions, and, as I said before, I am very pleased to be part of this movement right now that has unanimous support in the House.

I do want to pay tribute to Jan Logie, because, contrary to popular belief, MPs do speak to each other outside this house, and I can also report that I had a conversation with Jan Logie just before we came into the house here tonight and I could see her genuine excitement that

(a) her bill had been pulled from the ballot and
(b) that she would receive unanimous support to see this bill through to the select committee phase.

So, well done, Jan, for championing this, and well done for that achievement.

CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First):

It gives me great pleasure to stand on behalf of New Zealand First to, first of all, acknowledge you, Jan Logie, for bringing this bill to the House. With tongue in cheek and with serious sincerity, I think divine intervention has played a little part in this.

Being International Women’s Day today says a lot, and the only time I have seen that happen again was with Sue Moroney’s bill when it was to do with paid parental leave. It was just again that the stars aligned, so well done and great courage. It just goes to show that the passion that you have for resolving this comes through with your speech and you speak very, very eloquently of that.

I would also like to acknowledge the Minister for her words and her sincere thoughts, along with all other members who have spoken here today, and it gives me great pleasure as a male to stand up and speak to this.

The fact is that New Zealand First wholly supports this. We certainly would encourage the conversation to continue in select committee. I think there are some potential drafting issues but that is not here nor there. We would like to hear from small and medium sized businesses to see what their take is with regards to the period of time, the 10 days, that has been allocated for people who are suffering at the hands of domestic violence…

JONO NAYLOR (National):

There is no doubt that domestic violence is an absolute scourge on our society. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, firstly, we need to do absolutely everything we can to eliminate it to ensure that we do not have victims of domestic violence in New Zealand but also that, secondly, we as a society need to do everything that we can in the meantime to support victims of domestic violence….

…I also just want to acknowledge the delegation of people who I had come through my office door in Palmerston North a couple of weeks ago, the local representatives from the National Council of Women of New Zealand.

They came to me and said: “Jono, we’d really, really like you to support this bill, at least to the first reading stage, to ensure that this very, very important conversation gets on the table in Parliament and is debated, so we can work through all those different sort of nuances”—as I referred to before—”to ensure that we get the very best legislation we can.”

I am really happy to support this, at least at this stage, to ensure that we have that very positive discussion, because, as I said when I opened this speech, it is clearly incredibly important that we not only eliminate domestic violence from our communities but do everything we can to support the victims of it, and I commend this bill to the House.

SUE MORONEY (Labour):

At the outset, can I first of all acknowledge that this is International Women’s Day. What better day to be debating this bill than International Women’s Day, which is a day when we all stand in solidarity with women right across the world in order to, yes, celebrate how far we have come, but also pause and think about what we have yet to do. This bill clearly falls into the latter bracket. I want to congratulate the member Jan Logie on her foresight in bringing this bill forward…It is the ballot goddess at work again to make sure that this got debated on International Women’s Day, because, sadly, this is an issue that does affect women, in more numbers than it does men. In fact, what we would wish is that it affected nobody.

I agree with the last speaker, Jono Naylor, in that all of us would want to not be dealing with this end of domestic violence.

All of us would want to be putting our energy into preventing it from happening, and that is the world we really want to live in: where there are respectful relationships and people can deal with the pressures in life and the stresses in life without battering the people closest to them, the people who should be able to rely on the love and support of family members, but instead are hurt and have violence meted out against them from the people whom they should have the most trust and warmth and understanding from.

Sadly, that is not the world we live in, and I will not rest until we actually address the front end of this, and actually stop that domestic violence from happening in the first place. But it does happen, and so this bill is going to be something that will be a huge relief for those people, predominantly women, whom this happens to.

CHRIS BISHOP (National):

Can I firstly acknowledge the sponsor of the bill, Jan Logie. I was not privileged enough to see her first reading speech, but I understand it was quite a remarkable speech, and I want to pay tribute to you, Ms Logie, for your sterling work in bringing this bill to the House.

…one of the things I have been very privileged to have done since I became an MP just over 2 years ago is to go and spend time with our women’s refuge in the Hutt and to deliberately get out there into the community, to some of our marae and to some of those community organisations that are dealing with the front end and the hard edge of this issue.

One of the things—I suppose the biggest lesson—that I have taken away from those visits and those conversations is that the size of the problem is truly remarkable. You know, it is just almost unfathomable, the extent of violence—almost always by men against women—in our communities.

As Minister Amy Adams said in her excellent speech, which I watched in my office, it is not just going to take the Government to do something about this problem; it is a whole-of-society issue that we need to address.

The Government will do its bit and we will lead on this, and I hope, actually, that we will look back on the 2014 to 2017 Parliament and people will say that that was the Parliament—the 51st Parliament—when the New Zealand Government and elected representatives got serious about family violence.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North):

I would like to start where others have started, by congratulating the member in charge of this bill, Jan Logie. She was very humble in her first reading speech, by recognising that the work—as is always the case with these things—started outside Parliament with Women’s Refuge, with unions bargaining for changes through collective bargaining, and with all the other groups that, I am sure, have worked closely with Jan Logie on formulating this bill.

But the truth is it does actually take someone in this Parliament to put the bill into the ballot, and then, when it comes out of the ballot, to actually champion it, to have the negotiations and to work with colleagues around the House, especially the hard work to get to the point where it appears we will have unanimity when we come to the vote on this first reading.

So I want to acknowledge that work by Jan Logie. We all like to be humble in this place, but we have a job to do, and when those opportunities come up—when that bill comes out of the ballot—it does take a lot of work to get to the position that this bill has got to. So congratulations to Jan on doing that.

I also want to acknowledge the Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, for her leadership, because—I will say this gently, and like the previous member, Chris Bishop, I do not want to be party political—the Government’s initial response was negative.

I think it’s reasonable for Lees-Galloway to bring this up but god of him to say it ‘gently’ in the context of general cooperation on this Bill.

The Government’s initial response was that this would cost too much, and Michael Woodhouse, as the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, stated that on the record.

Clearly, some conversations have gone on within the National Government, aided, I am sure, by the lobbying from the member in charge of the bill, and it is pleasing to see that Amy Adams’ leadership has won through and the Government has decided that this is a worthy piece of legislation to at least take to a select committee, where we can have the conversation.

MAUREEN PUGH (National):

I too stand in support tonight of the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill, in the name of Green Party MP Jan Logie, and I add my congratulations to Miss Logie on her initiative in writing this bill and also on her good fortune of having it pulled from the ballot. I did hear her speech tonight. It was an impassioned speech, and I congratulate you, Miss Logie, on your dedication to this cause.

In my own conversations with NGOs that work with victims of domestic violence, there is a clear need to support women at work who have fallen victim of domestic violence. For women who work in front-line roles where they must interact with the public, it is essential for them to have their privacy protected, especially if a woman bears the marks, the bruises, the impacts from a domestic violence episode.

Also at work an abuser makes it very easy for a woman to be trapped, to be captured in her workplace, and to become yet a further target for abuse. The most effective way that an abuser does that is through violent or abusive phone calls or emails. But also it becomes a risk for others in the workplace, and thereto lies the impact for employers making their workplace a safe workplace.

JAN LOGIE (Green):

It gives me hope to stand up tonight, after having listened to all the speeches in the House. I could think of it as personally gratifying that this bill, with the community we have brought to the House, has support. But mostly what I am feeling is the message that you are sending to survivors in the country, that we are, together, committed to making their lives better. We have heard their experiences and we are committed to making their lives better in every way that we can. I think that, for me, at least is a moment to mark in time.

I have heard really clear support for wanting to eradicate domestic violence, for us to use what tools we can as a country to do that, and to support the victims and survivors in the meantime. I have also heard a very clear articulation from all members in the House that yes, this is not just the business of Parliament or Government. All of us have a role to play in that, and that part of being a good employer is caring for your staff, and that this is one way to do that, and it will pay off for businesses.

I have heard mention that there needs to be some work around the drafting of the bill. I am really happy to acknowledge that. Part of the reality of it was that I had different legal opinions on the current status of the law in relation to flexible working hours, but particularly in relation to the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the extent to which it covered domestic violence.

What we have drafted is something—it is quite hard to get something right, when you are not actually sure of the status of the existing law. I really do see it as an offering for us to be able to work together to come up with the best solution. When we are all on the same page about the outcome, then that gives me hope that this process is going to get the result that we need. I will say it again—it is a result that could save lives, so it is absolutely worth hanging on to.

I did appreciate the comments that maybe we could loosen up a little bit. It is not something that people usually suggest to me. The flexible working arrangements and the need for the domestic violence documents in here were based on some legislation from overseas, in the UK. But yes, we do not want to make it more difficult. We want to clarify that flexible working arrangements should be used and should be available, and that that needs to be visible, I believe, to be able to have that intent realised. But we do not want to make it more difficult.

Somebody did mention the point about the fact that perhaps this would be too onerous for small businesses, and I thank the member Iain Lees-Galloway for asking businesses to come with solutions, if that is a concern for them. But I am going to push quite hard on this, because the international research—in Australia 1.6 million workers are already covered by these provisions, and for most of them, although the provisions are there they do not take them. It is very rare. They will take some. They take what they need. It is not a mandatory 10 days. It is up to 10 days, and you use it when you need it. The experience overseas as well as in businesses here is that people do not exploit that. It is a relationship of trust that is working. I would want to put people’s minds at rest on that point.

In the final few seconds—just for all those people who have been fighting for this for so long, and for those women who went back because they had no other choice or felt that they could not get out, I hope tonight gives you some courage. Kia ora.

Bill read a first time.

Bill referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Full draft transcript.

Adams: Domestic violence – Victims’ Protection Bill

Minister of Justice Amy Adams spoke in support of Jan Logie and domestic violence bill yesterday in Parliament – see Logie’s speech Logie: Domestic violence – Victims’ Protection bill

Adams has made addressing domestic violence one of her priorities. She has some concerns about the bill, and some of her Caucus colleagues do to, especially the cost to businesses. But the cost of unresolved domestic violence can also be costly to businesses.

…last year in New Zealand we had notifications to police of family violence upwards of 105,000 times over the year. That is once about every 5 minutes.

If that is not appalling enough, and it is, police will tell us that, actually, on average, a woman victim—where it is a woman victim—will often have suffered episodes of violence up to 21 times before an initial reach out for help is made.

When you think about those two facts, beyond anything else, 105,000 to 110,000 notifications a year represents the very smallest part of the scale of the problem.

At this stage Adams is “going into it with an open mind, registering some genuine concern about the bill as drafted, but very happy to engage in the process.”


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE—VICTIMS’ PROTECTION BILL

First Reading

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): I am very pleased to come and take a call on the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill tonight and on this issue. Can I begin by just acknowledging the member whose name the bill is in—Jan Logie—for her very genuine commitment to this issue.

I know that it is one that the member feels, and has felt for a long time, very strongly about. I want to acknowledge her not only for her work on the bill but also for her work in the area and the work that she has done with me as we have discussed issues around domestic violence in the time that I have been the Minister of Justice.

Can I just reflect on one of the aspects of Ms Logie’s speech, which is to share her joy when Parliament can recognise issues that are of importance to us all. I have certainly found, in the time that I have been working on these issues, which is the entire time I have been the justice Minister, that right across Parliament, actually, it is probably the one issue where party affiliations go by the by. I want to just acknowledge not only Jan but all of my colleagues across Parliament for their work on the issue.

I have got to say that I have been utterly appalled, as I know other members of the House have, at the sheer scale of this issue in New Zealand. I have said from the outset that I certainly do not claim to stand before any group and suggest that I have all the answers.

But what became patently clear to me very early on is that, as a country, the first thing we had to do is ensure that right across New Zealand, the conversation is had about the importance of the issue, the scale of the issue, the severity of the issue, the trauma it causes, and the intergenerational flow-through effects of those families that experience family violence.

Let us be quite clear that whether or not the victims are getting physically assaulted and whether or not the violence is interpersonal violence between partners, everybody in that family—everybody in that whānau—is affected, particularly when it involves children. They suffer tremendous trauma.

I am sure this House will know that last year in New Zealand we had notifications to police of family violence upwards of 105,000 times over the year. That is once about every 5 minutes.

If that is not appalling enough, and it is, police will tell us that, actually, on average, a woman victim—where it is a woman victim—will often have suffered episodes of violence up to 21 times before an initial reach out for help is made. When you think about those two facts, beyond anything else, 105,000 to 110,000 notifications a year represents the very smallest part of the scale of the problem.

I must say that I never thought I would be in this House long enough to hear a member of the Green Party quoting John Key with respect, and ka pai to you; I think that is a great step forward, Jan.

Jan Logie: Building bridges.

Hon AMY ADAMS: Yes, building bridges. But you are absolutely right. The former Prime Minister was equally absolutely right when he said that this is a problem for everyone—everyone.

I am not in any way shying away from the responsibility of Government to lead in this space and the responsibility of this House, but, equally, we kid ourselves if we think that this Parliament or any Government can fix this on its own. If there was a bill that you could pass, if there was a programme you could fund that would put an end to it, no Government would have said no to that. We all acknowledge that.

That is not to say that we cannot do more, and that is why, with my colleagues, Anne Tolley in particular, but colleagues across all the portfolios that impact on this space, 16 in total, we are overturning every rock and asking every question about what we can do better, because we have to do better. But it has to be more than Government; it has to be a problem for New Zealand and every New Zealander.

The point I made when I made the commitment on behalf of the National Government to support the bill, certainly through to first reading and through to select committee, was that what we do know and what we must know is that whatever the answer is, business has to be a part of that. I am in absolute agreement with the member on that.

Actually, I think that there is far more common ground that the member and I share on this than we may differ on, which is not a bad starting point. But, nonetheless, it is incumbent on us to test carefully everything we do. Although the issue is significant, serious, and real, with anything in this space, we have to be very careful to ensure that we get our responses as right as we can.

What we absolutely know, what I agree with the member on, and what we have a chance to discuss, is that that does have to involve how we support these victims and their employment.

I agree with the statistics that the member quoted around the impact on victims and the additional trauma, difficulty, and challenge if they also lose contact with employment relationships.

Equally, we know that someone going through particularly serious domestic violence when they are trying to get out of an abusive relationship, or trying to stay in one safely and successfully, will put needs, pressures, and requirements on that victim and their support network that are unique to them. Again, it is incumbent on us to think about how the system supports that.

Although, in terms of the Government, we are not yet sure whether the answers in the bill as drafted are exactly the right mix, we are very happy to have an open conversation and explore that.

Can I also say and put on record my—”delight” is the wrong word in this context—great pride, I guess, in New Zealand, that so many parts of New Zealand and the public and private sector have already taken steps down this road. I have been an employer; I have run businesses.

You know when you run businesses that your staff are your biggest asset. Frankly, it is just good business and good economics to look after them. It is not about doing something because you have to do it; it is about investing in the people who pay you far more in dividend when they have a happy, productive, and successful life.

I also know, as a mother of young children who had to balance things, that when businesses are prepared to be flexible with you, it engenders a loyalty, a commitment, and a productivity that I have always thought paid itself off in spades.

I do want to acknowledge, with pride in my fellow countrymen, the businesses that have seen this and that do work—and I know they are many and varied—to support their employees when they are in situations of domestic violence. I also want to acknowledge that across the Public Service we are seeing a tremendously strong response in this respect.

We tested it with our 10 biggest Public Service agencies—no, I think all of them—covering 84 percent of all public sector employees, who all had arrangements in place to think about and work through how they would respond to an employee in this situation.

What I think would be very valuable through the select committee process is to hear more and learn more from those businesses that have put arrangements in place—what has worked, what they have found works best, and what has not worked.

The member, in her introduction, made reference to the five pieces of legislation that this bill amends. Each one of those will have its own impacts that we need to carefully understand. I will admit to some nervousness around, for example, the width and the concept of the domestic violence document and how we frame that, how it works, how we set it up, and what impact that has on victims.

We do have to tread very carefully around how that is, simply, operationalised. These are things that I think are worth exploring.

I think it is also worth reflecting if those 110,000 incidents that I calculated last year would have qualified under the domestic violence document heads. That would be a conservative estimate because we only know what is formally reported. There is a huge continuum of circumstances in that.

Parliament and laws are, by definition, blunt instruments. I think we have to be very careful to ensure that our response is not so blunt across that huge continuum of circumstances for New Zealand men, women, and children who are represented in those 110,000 incidents and that we are able to arrange a framework that is proportionate, responsive, sensitive, and appropriate from that whole continuum.

All incidents are serious, and we take none of them lightly, but there is a very different support system required, for example, when the police are called out to a very heated verbal argument, to obviously where a woman and children are desperate to get out and keep themselves safe.

We have to ensure that our responses recognise those differences and reflect the needs of parties in each case. This is a discussion that we are interested in having because, as I said, how we think about and support domestic violence victims is a multi-faceted approach. We have a huge programme of work under way looking at a number of aspects, but we are never so closed-minded that we are not prepared to consider other aspects.

What I will say though, is fundamentally—and on New Zealand women’s day, or International Women’s Day, I am going to be unashamedly gender-biased for one moment because, actually, in most of the serious cases, it is women who are the victims. Yes, men are victims, but more often than not it is women who are victims.

If you want to know when the women of New Zealand will be safe, it is when the men of New Zealand respect them and stop beating them. Fundamentally, we can keep women safe and we can do what we can to support the women, but if we want to stop this, we have to change the behaviour of the men who beat the loved ones in their life. Nothing will change until we change that.

Can I just end by again welcoming the discussion, welcoming the debate, going into it with an open mind, registering some genuine concern about the bill as drafted, but very happy to engage in the process.