Vested interests ‘have taken over domestic violence debate’: Leyonhjelm | Bettina Arndt | The Australian

August 26, 2016

BETTINA ARNDT Columnist @thebettinaarndt

Australia’s approach to dealing with domestic violence is “ideologically driven” and ignores women’s participation, says Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm, who is seeking more evidence to justify government-funded programs.

“My concern is that vested interests may have taken over the debate. In recent years, successive governments have thrown vast sums at domestic violence services, but the evidence suggests the money is not being spent wisely,” said Senator Leyonhjelm.

He plans to use Senate estimates hearings to interrogate the evidence justifying government domestic violence initiatives. He said he was concerned the domestic violence framework is based on an “ideologically driven agenda which denies female participation in family violence, contrary to a vast body of research both here and overseas”.

Senator Leyonhjelm cited the announcement of new domestic violence guidelines for magistrates and judges released last week by federal Attorney-General George Brandis.

Those broaden the definition for domestic violence to include criticising a partner’s appearance or housework skills or even remaining silent. “The ludicrous, ever-expanding definitions of domestic violence make a mockery of this serious social problem,” he said. Queensland introduced domestic violence legislation this week which requires police to offer “immediate” protection to someone alleging domestic violence. “Our legal system has already gone too far in undermining legal principles such as presumption of innocence,” said Senator Leyonhjelm. “This could further increase the risk of people being arbitrarily removed from their homes and losing contact with their children on the basis of unproven allegations.”

Other crossbench senators have raised concerns on domestic violence. The Nick Xenophon Team’s platform calls for government to “create and fund an evidence-based national awareness campaign with a particular focus on the cultural environment which contributes to family violence similar issues”. Jacqui Lambie has criticised funding cuts to mental health and drug and alcohol services, which address known causes of domestic violence. Pauline Hanson has bemoaned the lack of resources for male victims of domestic violence. The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed one third of domestic violence victims were male. Senator Leyonhjelm welcomed a commitment last week by the NSW government to provide $13 million over four years for male victims’ services.

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