Michelle Lensink

Domestic Violence Statistics

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Police on the subject of domestic—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: It is very disrespectful to be talking when a person is asking a question during question time. The Hon. Ms Lensink.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you, Mr President. I assume the minister heard most of that.

The Hon. P. Malinauskas: No, I didn't.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will start again. I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Police on the subject of domestic violence statistics.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Having read Hansard from yesterday, my honourable colleagues on this side of the house asked the minister some questions about domestic violence statistics and a database. The Advertiser of 3 June clearly indicated that a report has been prepared by his agency, SAPOL, which it states has been provided to the Attorney-General and to the police minister. My questions are:

1.Is that correct? Has he actually received a report?

2.Has it been presented to cabinet for approval?

3.Can he advise the nature of the statistics that are contained in it, and whether it has information regarding domestic violence assaults and other offences or whether it just pertains to domestic violence deaths in South Australia?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:26 ): I thank the Hon. Ms Lensink for her important question. What I am in a position to share with the chamber is that of course if information is brought before the cabinet then it is subject to cabinet confidence. Of course we will work collaboratively with police and any other agency that takes an interest in this matter to ensure that if it is appropriate for information to be made public then we will gladly assist in that process where it's appropriate to do so.

What I am not in a position to do now is, of course, to talk to any matters that may or may not be currently before the cabinet. Having said that, I am in a position to be able to share some basic statistics which are rather disconcerting generally regarding domestic violence within this state. I am advised that at least seven South Australians have died as a result of domestic violence so far this financial year, and six in the last financial year. I am also advised that it has been revealed that abusers are breaching conditions meant to protect their victims more than 40 times a week, which is a rather disconcerting statistic and one that of course is subject to an enormous amount of attention and effort on behalf of SAPOL.

As I said earlier this week, domestic violence is an incredibly sobering subject when you read statistics along the lines of the one that I have just read out, and it gives us a great moment of pause to realise that this does represent a very substantial ongoing public policy challenge and it represents an ongoing policing challenge, but it is one that I think this government is up to. I referred yesterday to a number of different initiatives that the government has put in place to try and take on the issue of domestic violence, and the one that I think is probably the most outstanding is of course the Multi-Agency Protection Service, which is aimed very much at across-government collaborative approach towards the issue of domestic violence, and it is delivering results.

But there is more that needs to be done. We're only just starting to learn of the severity and depth of the impact that domestic violence has within our community. The police commissioner earlier this week on the radio referred to the fact that reports that come through that are related to domestic violence appear to have gone up quite substantially in recent times, and I think we would be deluding ourselves, and I have already said this earlier this week, to suggest that this somehow represents a spike in behaviour. I think, rather, it is evidence of the fact that we're only just starting to unravel and reveal the depth of this scourge within our community. We need to do everything we can. Of course transparency has to be a part of that, and that is something that is always under active consideration, but the honourable member would appreciate that matters that are subject to cabinet in confidence need to remain that way.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:29 ): I appreciate the minister's response. However, the statistics he has provided are already available on the public record. Can he advise whether there are other domestic violence offences statistics that are being kept and how and why the reporting of this data differs from data provided publicly through OCSAR?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:30 ): Again, I thank the honourable member for her supplementary question. Clearly, it would be a reasonable thing to say that SAPOL collates a whole range of different statistics on a range of different areas, and they vary in terms of their depth and analysis. We want to make sure, as I referred to earlier in the week, that whenever we release information publicly it is done in a way that we can ensure accuracy, and that sometimes takes analysis work to be able to do that. Collating statistics is not always an easy science; it does take work, and before we go about releasing stats publicly this government will always be making sure we have a commitment to accuracy. This is not about seeking to circumvent an effort around transparency, not at all, but we have to make sure that we go through a process to ensure accuracy and make sure that we are only releasing statistics that are appropriate to do so.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:31 ): Further supplementary: can the minister advise whether the Coroner's office, and in particular the research officer appointed there, has access to SAPOL statistics, and whether that is something that the government, if they do not have access, would consider allowing?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:31 ): I thank the honourable member again for another supplementary question. I understand that there is a very good working relationship between the police commissioner and the Coroner's office. I understand that there is a ready supply and flow of information between those two offices, specifically in respect of domestic violence. I will have to get a bit of additional information to work out precisely what information is shared between the two of them. But, as I understand it—and having followed this issue in recent days—information I have received indicates that there is a productive working relationship between the police commissioner and the Coroner's office, and that is something I think all South Australians would reasonably expect.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 14:32 ): Supplementary, Mr President: can the minister advise the chamber, arising out of his answer, whether the statistics he has referred to, and generally SAPOL statistics, are independently audited? 

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 14:32 ): What I am in a position to be able to explain to the honourable member is that SAPOL, I think, do an outstanding job in ensuring the accuracy of their work. SAPOL collate data across their agency on a whole range of different issues. My experience in the relatively short time I have been Minister for Police is that, with the information they have provided us, they have always placed an emphasis an accuracy, and that is entirely appropriate. I have never seen any suggestion by anyone, or any evidence that suggests, that data that comes out of SAPOL is not accurate. 

In respect of whether or not there is an independent audit, I will have to take that on notice, but I do believe, I do understand and am advised, that SAPOL have systems in place to ensure that the data they release is accurate.

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