Scott Morrison gave the opening address of the Women’s Safety Summit

Scott Morrison gave the opening address of the Women’s Safety Summit

opening address by Scott Morrison

Sometimes, the headline can just state the fact and ignite so much rage.   

As it has with the above, as women across Australia have already shared on social media today.

Just a sentence outlining what occurred this morning: the Prime Minister gave the opening address of the Women’s Safety Summit.

Morrison spoke, ahead of every other session and everyone else.

That would be the same Morrison, the same Prime Minister, who last week led a government that last week legislated just six of the 55 recommendations outlined by Kate Jenkins in the Respect At Work report, after saying it accepted all of them “in part or in principle” earlier this year.

The same Morrison who said of those women attending the March 4 Justice protest earlier this year should be grateful they were “not met with bullets”.

Morrison, who continues to run a government with an accused rapist serving on the frontbench.

Morrison, whose Government’s decision to abolish the standalone Family Court has just this month seen the commencement of the merged court entity begin, despite legal experts saying the move could see domestic violence victims “falling through the cracks”. Morrison, whose Government has received a statement from the Ministers for Women across five states and territories urging it to “step up” after falling short on women’s safety, “for years”.

And Morrison, who has all but ignored the recommendations from hundreds of women’s safety groups and women’s safety experts on what needs to be done to issue a turning point on safety in this country. He didn’t need a Summit, these experts have been highlighting some of the key issues for years. They’ve noted the need for more funding for support services, more housing opportunities, more priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community-led initiatives, family law reform, more choices for victim-survivors, more long-term funding for specialized programs.

Notably absent from this Summit’s agenda is housing. The Summit almost completely ignores this issue. How does this happen? Advocates have long been highlighting the housing crisis in Australia as putting the safety of women and children at risk, particularly the lack of funding for social and affordable housing.

So what did Morrison have to say?

He spoke more in generalities, and needs, and optimism for people to simply behave differently, than he did in concrete ideas and actions – although perhaps, optimistically, we can still believe that is to come following the ideas shared in this Summit.

“We need to change behaviors and attitudes so that we stop violence before it starts,” he said.

Ok.

“Our country must become a place where every woman feels safe and can live free of fear. That’s what freedom is. That’s every woman’s right. But it’s far from every woman’s reality, as we know.”

Morrison went on to declare that there are no excuses. There are no places for apologies. Too many women feel unsafe. They don’t feel safe at work, they don’t feel safe in broad daylight, they don’t feel safe at home. “Here in this place, even this place, where I speak to you from today, you are not always safe,” he said.

The Prime Minister is acknowledging the problem. He has acknowledged it before, after delivering a sermon on how he’s been “listening” to women earlier this year. He’s conceded that women face very real threats and fears to their safety.

And yet?

It’s difficult to look past the recommendation the Morrison’s Government rejected this past week from the Respect at Work report.

It’s difficult to look past how incredibly difficult it is to pose a question on the Summit. To get an issue heard. To get one of the biggest safety issues there is – housing – acknowledged as important enough as to warrant its own session.

What can we expect to come out of all of this? No doubt we can expect yet another investigation into the problem. More women across the country getting “heard” via an extensive and comprehensive consultation process. More recommendations given via another report, only to be ignored, again. Of course, by that point, months in the future, if not another year, the Prime Minister will surely hope that another election has been won and the women of Australia have moved on.

“I as prime minister have a responsibility,” Morrison said. “Everyone has a responsibility.”

It’s up to all of us, he said.

As Renee Carr from Fair Agenda said, if the solutions are in our hands, then what is Morrison actually offering to bring them to reality?

“We need more from this government – we need them to listen to experts, and resource evidence-based policies. He cannot push this problem back onto the people, when he has power over so many of the solutions,” she said.

Brittany Higgins tweeted that she respected Morrison’s “ambitious spirit”. But that she just can’t match the Coalition Government’s actions with the warm platitudes being shared today.

She then thanked the ACT Government and the Victims of Crime Commission who “kindly stepped in at the last minute to have me invited as a delegate to listen in to today’s event.”

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