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Questions surround domestic violence levy

By Greg Cornwell - 14 June 2016 5

Andrew Barr

The ACT budget announcement of $21.4 million to address the territory’s domestic violence can only be welcomed, however there are questions.

I have written earlier about the lack of research into why domestic violence is so prevalent, acknowledging some reasons for its insidious presence across all sections of society – a fact recognised by the Chief Minister in his budget speech.

“Family violence does not discriminate,” Mr Barr said.

Why then has the government exempted low income households in ACT public housing from the flat $30 annual levy?

Is it suggested these people alone among community sections do not experience domestic violence? Is it a question of whether they can afford the impost – overlooking struggling families in private housing already paying other government levies? Is there a difficulty in collecting this charge because public housing tenants do not pay rates? Or is it political?

There are over 11,000 Housing ACT properties, including flats etc. It hardly seems fair to exclude a significant number of residents from paying a charge which the government itself has said is necessary because “all of us need to stand up and say enough is enough”.

There are another 20,000 general rental properties in Canberra for which landlords rather than tenants will pay the levy. Landlords may or may not pass the cost on to their tenants through rent rises, meaning many renters will not be contributing to the program either.

While the total funding amount is substantial – $21.4 million over four years – even when added to existing outlays for the service is not large compared with really big-ticket items like health, education and transport.

The charge therefore has been questioned as to why existing revenue could not fund it, thus involving everyone (including tenants) in any sacrifice which might be necessary by a $21.4 million deduction from elsewhere in the budget. Another levy – there are three already – is a sneaky discriminatory way to raise money.

The package itself is worrying. The name Safer Families is more hopeful than helpful and reading the reasons for the allocation of funds to over 14 different government and non-government organisations in the four year period seems bureaucratic. One doesn’t doubt the sincerity of those involved but the needs of the victims are paramount.

There does not appear to be many funds allocated to prevention: a residential behaviour change program for men who use or are at risk of using violence is mentioned ($964,000) but needs clarification. In the first instance it is too late and in the second how is the situation accurately identified?

Similarly money to allow police to better assist victims in applying for DVOs is commendable but there are many examples of orders being ignored with tragic consequences, so help in applying doesn’t serve much purpose.

While the government is to be applauded for addressing this problem even with already mentioned selective funding there remains again the failure to investigate the reasons for domestic violence and, at the other end of the line, firm action by the law against the perpetrators.
We have seen too many offenders allowed freedom with sometimes murderous results, a situation not covered in this initiative but which should be addressed with urgency.

Above, Andrew Barr announcing the levy in last week’s ACT Budget lock-up. Photo: Charlotte Harper

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5 Responses to
Questions surround domestic violence levy
wildturkeycanoe 6:39 am 15 Jun 16

Money is not going to fix a problem that doesn’t want to be fixed.How many of the battered wives and husbands out there are in a relationship where they are too insecure to speak to somebody about it? How many are in a relationship where they are more frightened of being left alone, or losing the custody of their children, than of being beaten black and blue? Sometimes violence can go on for decades and nobody knows about it. Sometimes everybody in the street knows, but they are too self centered to inform the authorities. Other times the police are called regularly but because nobody will make any allegations of abuse the hands of the authorities are tied.
I’d say over $5 million per year is no small sum, but where will most of it end up? Acquisition of premises to house a new department, a data center and furnishings to collect and collate information about the problem, wages for the staff of the department, training for the staff on how to deal with the issue, funding to provide services to those affected by the problem such as safe, temporary accommodation and counseling, plus more. It is a start but I doubt this money will be of short term benefit or the answer to everything, you need to look deeper into the root causes of this form of abuse. People do not simply become spouse beaters because of genetics, but external influences such as drugs and alcohol, unemployment and previous exposure to domestic violence certainly would be a starting point. I am no expert though, so perhaps the federal government’s ad campaign to increase awareness of violence against women will solve the problem? TV’s subliminal messaging has certainly made me think about funeral insurance a lot lately.

gooterz 10:22 pm 14 Jun 16

Unless it fixes the issue at the roots, its just a cash cow to transfer to other projects.
Watch the slight of hand as other sources of income don’t come to fruition and money from this gets pulled away to fund light rail or green power.

Whats the life expectancy of this levy? or is it just a flat rate rates increase?

dungfungus 11:45 am 14 Jun 16
Rollersk8r 11:39 am 14 Jun 16

Where does it end? Any number of sensitive/emotive issues could be addressed through additional levies… It’s a cynical and incredibly weak move to say we can’t afford to address this huge problem – but our well-heeled citizens won’t mind making a forced donation.

But I say good – this is a rod for their own backs. If they cannot 100% prove the extra money actually reduced the problem then everyone gets a refund??

Mike_Drop 9:43 am 14 Jun 16

So the ACT Government has used taxes/rates to fund pork-barrelling and pet projects, and then they raise a levy to support a really important issue like DV. The “genius” of this plan is that if anyone objects to the paying a levy for this critical (and potentially life-saving) initiative, they’re howled down because of the impacts of leaving the matter untreated.

I believe that addressing and preventing DV is the sort of fundamental issue that should take precedence over any number of other programs. To ask all ACT residents to fund divisive and untested projects like light-rail, whilst precluding others from supporting a DV program, stinks.

OPs discussion about the judicial system letting down the victims of DV can be extended to most victims of all crime. I’d happily pay a levy to give Public Prosecutions the wherewithal to throw the book at recidivist and violent offenders to ensure they can’t continue to perpetrate crimes in the community.

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