Book Launch: “On Violence”

April 9, 2019


Thank you. It’s great to be here with Natasha and Lucy and all the other Ambassadors for Our Watch.

I want to encourage you all to buy the book. Annabel Crabb – author there – knows the importance of buying a book and Natasha will sign it. You know why she’ll sign it? She’ll sign it because she loves you, she wants you to treasure it, but also, as every publisher will tell you, once signed, a book cannot be returned!

The proceeds go to Our Watch, it is a really critically important organisation and a really critically important cause because it’s focused on changing the culture and behaviours in our society that leads to violence against women and children. I know I’ve said this many times, but it’s worth saying again: not all disrespect of women leads to violence against women, but that is where all violence against women begins. Ultimately, violence against women and children is about power.  It’s about disrespect, it’s about inequality, it’s about the failure to recognise that we owe it to men and women to ensure that every person in our society is treated with the same respect and honour as we would like to be treated ourselves. Pretty basic, it’s very fundamental.

I want to acknowledge some remarks Lucy made which I shamelessly – well, not shamelessly, proudly – repeated again and again. And it was at an International Women’s Day event at Waverley Council. We think it was about 2011, it was quite a long time ago. Lucy, speaking to an audience largely made up of women, said we all have a solemn obligation – and that applies to fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers – to bring up our sons and grandsons to respect the women in their lives; their mothers, their sisters, their grandmothers, their cousins, their sister’s friends. That is a vital obligation because if you get it right at the start you can ensure that that little boy that you treasure so much and who seems to be absolutely perfect and incapable of doing anything wrong or violent, that you make sure that that little boy grows up to be a respectful man and respecting all of the women in his life as well.

Natasha writes in her book about the need to breakdown gender stereotypes – that’s a very good point. You may recall some of the advertisements – when I was PM – we had seeking to do that. You may recall the ones which showed the father criticising his son. They were playing cricket and when the little boy threw the ball and it didn’t quite get to his father and he said “come on, you’re throwing like a girl”. And another one where a little boy rushing through the house knocks his sister over and the mother picks her up and says “don’t worry, boys will be boys”. That sort of casual acceptance of disrespectful behaviour is something we have to be aware of because we don’t think about it enough. And if you’re aware of it then, of course, you can do something about it.

I should mention our daughter, Daisy, who sends her apologies. She’s a school teacher and she’s teaching her chargers now, otherwise she’d be here. But Daisy, of course, was a great fan – as all of us were and are – of Natasha. When Natasha was a Senator and Daisy was very small she was quite convinced that her name was Natasha Spot Destroyer. It was just so delicious we couldn’t ever correct it and it was years and years before Daisy had worked out that her favourite Senator was not called the spot destroyer. 

Anyway, Daisy is no longer making mistakes like that and she’s a schoolteacher, as I said, and a mother with a little boy who’s five going on six and a little girl who’s two going on three. And the boy Jack – who is quite a well-known political commentator, in fact – Jack said something along these lines to Daisy a while ago: “boys are better at sport than girls”. Someone told him that a preschool no doubt. So Daisy – as I said, is a teacher, she teaches at a girl’s school – she didn’t reprimand him or anything like that, but she simply took him along to watch her students – who are all girls – play in their local Australian Rules competition, they were playing for the under 18 Easts Bulldogs, an AFL team , a girls team – AFLW. So Jack came down, saw this, was so impressed, ended up becoming the person to bring the oranges onto the grounds for the girls. And it wasn’t until sometime later we took him to watch the Swans play that he realised boys also play Australian Football – he’s now starting to play himself. But the important moment was that that was a very thoughtful way Daisy just quietly broke down a gender stereotype so that at a very early, impressionable age he understands that boys play football, girls play football. What is the subtext of that? Girls can do anything; boys can do anything; and we treat each other with respect.

Caroline mentioned this at the outset, when I became Prime Minister in 2015 the first decision of my government was a $101 million women’s safety package, it was putting money into frontline services to protect and defend women who were facing domestic violence and the consequences of homelessness and the need take legal action. It’s interesting, cabinet decisions in Australia are all numbered and they begin with the initialsof the prime minister and the year and then there’s a stroke and then there’s a number. So that women’s safety package is: MT15/001. That is literally the first decision of the Turnbull Government.

The Stop it at the Start campaign I think was one of the best government advertising campaigns I’ve ever seen – and there’s a lot of government advertising on at the moment and most of it is not particularly compelling. But I think Stop it at the Start campaign was brilliant and it was inspired by Lucy’s remarks at that International Women’s Day event at Waverly Council.

So, Natasha, congratulations for the work you’re doing to raise awareness with Our Watch. This is really an issue about cultural change. Yes we have to put more money into frontline services – no question about that – but ultimately we need to change the culture. We need men who see or know of a male friend who is disrespecting women to call it out. The Me Too movement is very controversial but it has got a remarkable dividend that it’s paying because it’s making people aware of this sort of casual prejudice, casual disrespect. Things that people took for granted that were so corrosive to that disrespect and then, of course, the vast majority of cases it doesn’t lead to violence.

I should acknowledge Kerryn Phelps, the Member for Wentworth, who is here. Kerryn is another great campaigner for respect for women and leading by example.

This book, it’s a short book – that’s a great virtue. It is! I’m writing a book at the moment and I can tell you I think most people who write long books do so because they didn’t have time to write a short one. It takes great discipline and a keenest of intellect to distil those thoughts into a digestible format you’ve got here. So I encourage you to buy it.

I welcome – I should say in closing – the observations that Natasha’s made about the importance of strong female role models in literature. And she said:

I treat Book Week in primary schools as a gauge showing how we are doing when it comes to male and female role models for young people, especially in pop culture.

Last year my daughter Cordelia went as Hermione from Harry Potter and there were dozens of other Hermiones. Thank goodness for JK Rowling’s inclusion of strong female role models in the Harry Potter Series.

And you can see how there’s been a lot of commentary [inaudible] strong female role models for example in Game of Thrones, another sword and sorcery epic.

It’s vitally important that there are strong role models to look up to. Natasha has been a strong role model, Lucy has, Kerryn has, Annabel has, and you all have, so many of you have. Really important to provide that leadership, but above all, I believe it is critical that we have zero tolerance for disrespect for women. We must call it out and we must stamp it out.

We live in a society of free speech and there are many things people are legally entitled to say and do that nonetheless are wrong and that’s why just because you disapprove of what somebody is saying doesn’t mean they should be banned from saying it. But, equally, just because something is lawfully able to be said that doesn’t excuse you from calling it out and identifying it. And as prime minister, I was proud to be able to make my first decision, the government’s first decision, to defend women from violence, to stand up for the respect for women as a key priority of my government. I believe that will be maintained by governments in the future, but it is going to be up to us to hold them – our elected officials – to account.

Our Watch and this book are doing enormously important work. Remember, governments can pass laws, they can invest money in services – all of that is very important – but nothing is so important as changing the way people think, changing their awareness, changing what is in both their head and their hearts and that requires passionate advocacy and there is no more passionate advocate than Natasha.

Thank you very much.

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