Talking isn’t working: Push for PM to tackle porn, gambling, booze to stop violent men

Talking isn’t working: Push for PM to tackle porn, gambling, booze to stop violent men
Talking isn’t working: Push for PM to tackle porn, gambling, booze to stop violent men

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese must tackle Australia’s substantial problems with alcohol, gambling and children’s access to pornography if he wants to protect women, says an expert who helped shape the national plan to stop domestic violence.

Criminologist Michael Salter said policymakers must be prepared to take a wider view of prevention when national cabinet convenes for an urgent meeting on Wednesday to address growing community uproar about rates of violence against women.

PM Anthony Albanese and state premiers will focus on prevention when they meet on Wednesday.Credit: AAP

“In the wake of this horrific spate of [alleged] murders over the last couple of weeks, we’re seeing prevention leaders say: this is about conversations that fathers need to have with their sons; men need to step up and speak out,” Salter said. “We’ve been doing that for 10 years, and we’re still here.”

Albanese and state premiers will focus on prevention when they meet. Agenda items include online harms and age-inappropriate material on social media – in particular, violent and misogynistic content – as well as discussing how governments can share more information about high-risk perpetrators and serial offenders.

The prime minister’s ability to deal with the issue was at risk being derailed on Monday by a dispute between him and Sarah Williams, an advocate and organiser who accused Albanese of lying when he said he was denied the opportunity to speak at a women’s rally in Canberra on Sunday. Footage emerged of Albanese telling her: “Do you want me to speak or not? I’m the prime minister.”

With the federal government seeking to show it is responding to the national crisis, Albanese said he would work with premiers and chief ministers on how to eradicate violence against women.

“It is not enough to support victims or mourn them. We need to focus on the perpetrators and on prevention,” he said in remarks provided ahead of the meeting.

“This is hard work and demands a real cultural change … This is not a women’s issue, it is a national crisis and we have to take responsibility for addressing it as a nation.”

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In a challenge to Australia’s dominant strategy of changing men’s attitudes to prevent gendered violence, Salter said the government needed to be more practical about its policy opportunities.

“It’s one thing to say that men and boys need to change – and we can keep saying that – but telling them to change is not a strategy,” he said.

“Alcohol, pornography and gambling are clear accelerants to men’s violence … Why is it the responsibility of a 13-year-old boy to change the culture around sexual violence, when it’s not the responsibility of an adult man earning millions of dollars a year promoting violent pornography to that teenage boy?”

Both gambling reform and online pornography have been thorny issues for the Albanese government, which has been balancing community expectations with strong pushback from the gaming industry and social media giants.

Salter said the past decade had shown that changing attitudes was difficult and did not always correlate with changes in behaviour.

“Young people’s attitudes to gender equality are more egalitarian than their elders, but boys and young men are also perpetrating physical and sexual violence at quite high levels, and in some spaces we’re seeing increases in perpetration,” he said.

“Reducing perpetration is going to require other levers beyond attitudes, and what are they? We need to take a non-ideological look at the evidence of what works now. Our message to the community can’t be about what’s going to keep women safe in 10 or 20 years when we’re talking about murder. The question is what’s going to keep women safe next week and the week after?”

His view was backed by Annabelle Daniel, the chief executive of Women’s Community Shelters and chair of Domestic Violence NSW.

“When we only focus on respect and gender equality, we don’t tackle some of these tougher questions. We know calls to domestic violence hotlines spike on the nights of football grand finals. We know that alcohol is in the mix there. We know financial stress, gambling, drinking: while they don’t cause domestic violence, they can certainly increase its impact.”

Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner Micaela Cronin, who will speak at Wednesday’s meeting, said on Monday that she would be looking for an “absolute commitment” from leaders to give both urgent and considered attention to preventing more violent deaths of women.

This would include a road map for next steps and priority actions.

“I absolutely believe there needs to be greater co-ordination and collaboration,” she said. “I think some timelines need to be brought forward.”

As public anger has built over the alleged murder of 27 women this year in violent circumstances, Albanese has pointed to his government’s $2.3 billion investment in a 10-year plan as evidence it is taking action. Both he and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus have reiterated the need for men to “step up”, talk to each other and call out unacceptable behaviour.

Daniel was positive about the national plan but said “we can do more” than the $2.3 billion in measures it contained. She said advocates had consistently been calling for $1 billion a year to fund domestic violence prevention programs, crisis services and community legal services, as well as to develop new evidence-based programs and expand them.

“If we’re talking about meeting the scale of the need out there, which has been made clear by marches around the country, that’s the commitment we need to see. I am glad this issue is once again on the national agenda. What I would really like to see now is a sustained and escalated response beyond the outrage cycle,” she said.

Marie Segrave, another professor who helped put together the plan, said she wanted to see more from leading ministers than recognition that “this is bad”.

“It’s not enough to just say: ‘Hey men, you need to pull your socks up’,” she said.

“An action plan needs to be demonstrating to us that we are seeing change. My strong view is that there’s a lot of frustration and fear, but we don’t hear clearly the substantive action that’s happening. The conversation should be: this is what we’ve done in the first six to 12 months. This is the change it has resulted in. But what else do we need?

“That would be helpful for the thousands of people who have come out and marched, and who are rightly concerned about the persistent levels of violence against women, and men’s violence. People are marching because they don’t know what else to do. That’s sending a signal that the communication so far is not enough.”

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

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Source: smh.com.au

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