Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says she would welcome a fresh inquiry into family violence in Australia, just two days after the most recent inquiry was slammed as a “sad failure” for wrapping up without taking submissions or holding public hearings.
The inquiry was established by the Senate in the wake of the murder of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her three young children by Ms Clarke’s estranged husband.
But the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which was in charge of the inquiry, has drawn criticism from legal circles and the Senate crossbench for finalising its report this week, three months early.
The final report, which did not rely on the public submissions or evidence from public hearings, was described by the Law Council of Australia as a “scanty literature review” and a “sad failure”.
Senator Ruston said she also found it unusual for the inquiry to wrap without taking evidence.
“I was as surprised as anyone that the committee held an inquiry without taking any submissions,” she said.
Labor senator and committee chair Kim Carr has defended the report, saying the issue was referred to the wrong committee and that public hearings were hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor pushes for fresh inquiry
Yesterday, Shadow Minister for Women Julie Collins tweeted that Labor would move to set up a fresh inquiry despite the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee finding a broad inquiry would be of “limited value at this time”.
“Survivors’ voices need to be heard and they need to be respected,” she said.
When the Senate resumes Labor will move to establish an inquiry into family violence that will give survivors and their advocates an appropriate opportunity to make submissions and be heard.
Survivors’ voices need to be heard and they need to be respected. #VAWAC
— Julie Collins (@JulieCollinsMP) May 20, 2020
Senator Ruston said she would welcome a new inquiry, suggesting it instead be referred to the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee.
“The more light that you can shine on this issue of family violence, which is an absolute scourge on our society, the better,” she said.
“I’m not defending what happened, what I’m saying is I think it would be more appropriately referred to the Community Affairs Committee.
“If somebody wanted to refer something to that committee, I think you probably would find that they would get a much better outcome.”
Senate crossbencher and committee member Rex Patrick yesterday accused his colleagues on the committee of failing to do their job in examining the issue.
“That is unforgivable,” he said.