Andrew Wilkie MP – Independent Member for Clark spoke at Parliament on Monday 8 November, calling for the Government to amend Australia’s social security laws to protect those experiencing domestic violence.
Australia’s welfare system was created to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable. But, for thousands of Australians experiencing domestic violence, outdated social security law is actually making their situation even more dangerous.
For instance, survivors of domestic violence, usually women, are pursued by Centrelink for the debts caused by their abusive partner. For example, a perpetrator uses violence to force the survivor into providing incorrect information about their relationship, or his income, then forces her to hand over her Centrelink payments.
In other words, the survivor never gets a cent, but must repay the debt. In making things worse, current legislation doesn’t allow for such debts to be waived, which is why in 2017 I introduced the Relieving Domestic Violence Victims of Debt Bill to enable such debts to be waived – not that it was supported by Liberal or Labour.
Moreover, Centrelink assesses payments by relationship status, which means that a person trying to flee domestic violence cannot access Centrelink payments if they are considered a ‘Member of a Couple’, and if her abusive partner is earning over $1000 a week. This forces survivors to be financially dependent on their abuser at the crucial time when they’re deciding whether to stay or to leave.
All of which, Deputy Speaker, is so very wrong on so many levels. It needs to be fixed and fixed urgently. Thank you, Deputy Speaker.