Madonna King: Albanese must seize the moment on domestic violence

Source: X/Anthony Albanese

Political leaders almost always leave office on a wave of unstoppable unpopularity.

Scott Morrison. Kevin Rudd. John Howard. Julia Gillard. Malcolm Turnbull. Bob Hawke. Paul Keating. Their rise, and then their unceremonious fall, all chronicled in the history of our nation.

But so too is a legacy each of them left; a mighty decision or act or law that will be attributed to them, long into our future.

John Howard and gun reform. Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations. Julia Gillard and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Malcolm Turnbull and same-sex marriage. Scott Morrison and Covid. Paul Keating and native title. Bob Hawke and the modernisation of our economy.

In each case they seized a moment, and used it to change lives; to create a lasting legacy.

For Anthony Albanese, it was going to be the same, with a once-in-a-generation Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum – until it was botched.

And now, the Prime Minister is left largely as the key character in a half-written story still in search of a plot.

Turning the tide on domestic violence should be his story; one that rewrites statistics where a woman dies at the hands of gendered violence every four days, where police receive a report of a domestic incident every two minutes, and where women, mainly, cower behind a locked door that should protect them.

His announcement late this week, of a $5000 ‘domestic violence payment’, is ludicrous. It’s a spiffing illustration of a political quick fix, akin to finding some paint and throwing it at the closest wall in the hope of covering a big, gaping hole.

What will $5000 do for a woman, tonight, who wants to take her children and run from a monster? Bond and a couple of weeks rent? What then?

Indeed, the announcement – after a fortnight of heartbreak with the death of several women – rubs salt into a wound, ignoring frontline services and prevention, measures to help police track down offenders, and education for magistrates who offenders ask for bail.

In the race to look like the government was doing something, it has done worse than nothing – ignoring the advice of victims and health professionals, police and academics.

Wouldn’t it have been better for Anthony Albanese to tell us how he was desperate to fix this? And that – like the rest of us – he felt heartbroken and helpless?

But that he was seeking the help of those who ran our police services and our domestic violence shelters, those who have spent years rehabilitating perpetrators and those who have lost a loved one to a scourge that shames us all?

Wouldn’t it have been better if he asked the nation’s men to eschew being bystanders and join with their partners and sisters and daughters to upend the stories that are spilling out into courts daily?

Didn’t we want to hear him tell our decent partners and brothers and sons and nephews that they had a place on the front line of this fight, and he wanted to unite the nation, in the same way we do in natural disasters, to lift those who needed it?

Didn’t we want to tell women, and men, who are the victims of domestic violence that he was chasing help for them, and that they would get it?

Did this group of politicians, led by Anthony Albanese on a video link-up, really believe they had the wherewithal to author a solution in 30 minutes?

Or is this the way we now govern – throw a meagre amount of money at something very quickly, in the hope it goes away, and a new headline dominates discussion?

No one should expect the Prime Minister to know how to navigate a quick solution here.

This problem is as pernicious as it is complex. But strong leadership would dictate an acknowledgement that what we are doing now is not working, and that we had to join hands to make our homes safer.

I wanted Anthony Albanese to claim this would be his government’s legacy; the issue he wanted to be judged on, as Prime Minister. And that he would work every day he had left in office to find a means of rewriting our disgraceful domestic homicide story.

Imagine the gift to our nation that would be from a prime minister who needs to change his own story.

But even more so, what a gift to those Australians, and their children, who tonight are desperate to escape a demon, but know that upending their partnership will leave them homeless, and perhaps even risk death.

Anthony Albanese needs to seize the moment, and take back the $5000 on offer for those escaping domestic violence and write a new chapter; one we all want to read.

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