Statement on Queensland Senate Results

Congratulations to the six re-elected and newly elected Senators for Queensland – particularly my Liberal National Party colleagues Matt Canavan and James McGrath.

Serving in the Australian Parliament is an immense privilege. It is an opportunity to help shape the future of our country, and to make a real difference in the lives of Australians.

It is a privilege I have never taken for granted. While it is disappointing to not be returning to the Senate, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my fellow Australians, not just as a senator, but as chair Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee, as a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, and as the Assistant Minister to the Attorney General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, and Assistant Minister for Women.

I ran for parliament to fight for the liberal and conservative values that have made Australia free and prosperous, to defend our institutions, and to ensure our sovereignty is protected. I ran to make a difference, and I am proud of what I was able to achieve over the past four years.

This includes:

  • Saving the jobs of 1,400 pub workers by ensuring JobKeeper was changed to take account of a quirk of Queensland’s liquor licensing laws;
  • Joining with a small group of colleagues from both major parties to highlight the growing threat to Australia’s institutions and sovereignty posed by China.
  • Using senate estimates to highlight how Australian universities were failing to uphold freedom of speech. This led to the commissioning of the French Review and legislation requiring universities to better protect free speech and academic freedom;
  • Securing the future of the National Archives of Australia and providing an additional $67.7 million to preserve key at-risk records and address the Archives’ immediate needs;
  • Helping reform the Federal and Family Court of Australia, so that Australians spend less time waiting or their cases to be heard;
  • Ensuring North Queensland had committed locals on the bench to help decide family law cases;
  • Delivering safer workplaces for women by implementing the government’s response to the [email protected] Report;
  • Strengthening domestic and family violence support services through organisations like StandbyU Foundation.
  • Securing $500,000 in funding for a trial of safety smartwatches that help protect women from domestic and partner violence.
  • Improving transparency in Native Title organisation;
  • Successfully advocating for regulations to be changed so that regional and rural firms had access to commonwealth work;
  • Highlighting the unnecessary red tape suffocating many small financial advisory businesses, which led to FASEA being shut down in December 2020.
  • Strengthening protections against child exploitation, including through a new law criminalising child sex dolls;
  • Securing $3.5 million in funding for a Holocaust Museum and Education Centre in Queensland;
  • Ensuring continuous glucose monitoring would be available for adults who suffer from type 1 diabetes.

These achievements have come at the cost of many weeks spent away from my husband Adam and my three wonderful young girls – it is their support that made my public service possible. I look forward to spending more of my time with them.

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Speech: March for Life 2022

Today we gather – as we do each year – to do something important.

We take time to honour the lives of all human beings – from all walks of life, of all ages, in whatever circumstances they are.

That’s a deeply compassionate thing to do.

It says to the woman who finds herself unexpectedly or inconveniently pregnant:we love you and we will support you to honour that life and yours.

It says to the couple who learns that the child they are expecting has a disability: your child is perfect and we will provide you with the help you need to help their gifts shine.

It says to the couple who has been told they cannot conceive that we understand your yearning for a family, and we will support policies that make adoption far more accessible than it is right now.

It says to older Australians, you are valued and we will strive to protect you from the elder abuse that is known to correlate with readily available euthanasia.

So I want to thank each and every one of you being here. For showing the courage to display your beliefs – not to push them on others as we are so often accused of doing – but rather to extend the hand of support and kindness and generosity to people who face great fear about their ability to cope with the circumstances they find themselves in. 

For the measure of a society is how it treats those who cannot speak for themselves. That includes the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and it includes the unborn – the most voiceless of all.

It is madness that we invest for years into our best and brightest to become doctors, teaching them to heal, and then we ask them end life. 

And it is just plain wrong that our society seems more ready to condemn cruelty against a dog or cat than it is against a human child – even one old enough to be capable of life outside of the womb, one who, if unwanted, would have many families into which he or she would be warmly welcomed and supported and loved.

On moments like today, we challenge our society to ask: who do you want to be?

To me, the answer is easy.

I want every child to know that they matter. Planned or unplanned, convenient or not, with or without a disability. You all matter, you all have incredible gifts to offer our world, and it should be our honour to walk beside you, supporting and encouraging you as you discover and reveal what your talents and contribution will be.

You are more than a clump of cells. At just twelve weeks, with your beating heart and all of your key organs, with ten little fingers and ten little toes, you are a human, and you deserve to reach your potential.

And, without a shred of judgment, with nothing but kindness and open hearts, we should wrap our arms around every woman facing difficulty and help her either to grow the confidence needed to adapt to the unexpected, knowing she will be helped, or help to facilitate adoption to a ready family.

It baffles me that some people have questioned whether I am an appropriate person to serve as assistant minister for women because I am pro-life. They suggest there is some conflict between the roles.

But there is no conflict in wanting to support women and the most vulnerable in our community.

I know there are many women who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations. We should be providing care and support to these women, so that they know terminating their pregnancy isn’t their only option.

I want all women to have a real choice. 

Not to be shoehorned into abortion of a healthy child because she feels ashamed or embarrassed to be pregnant. Not to face coercion by a partner into abortion as part of what we know is a form of domestic violence. And not to feel like their life is over just because it hasn’t gone to plan.

And I strongly believe that the little girls and boys whose lives lie in the balance deserve to be heard, deserve to be respected.

So, how can we build a culture of life in this beautiful country?

A friend of mine told me an interesting fact. Most teenage boys have not, throughout their teens, held a baby. Isn’t that an interesting thing? But when they are supported to do so, even when it is a real-weighted doll – they cradle that child to their chest in the most protective way. 

But by giving young people more chances to interact with, and be responsible for, babies, they can come to understand as they grow up the opportunity that is pregnancy – one to be valued.

And when we educate young people to interact with, serve and support older people with dementia, we show them that even with this difficult illness there is a hearing, feeling human within capable of love and joy and fun. Perhaps that experience will make those involved think twice about their families as they age. 

It is with stories like these I am filled with optimism for what is ahead. Hope that it will be the coming generation that seizes the privilege of life with both hands. Belief that with every passing year, the number of babies terminated in Queensland will fall. That our vulnerable will be valued and heard and supported to achieve their potential. That our women will be safe and granted real choice, even in adversity. 

We can do this. Thank you so very much for being a part of the movement for change.

[End]

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Second Reading - Excise Tariff Amendment Cost of Living Support bill 2022

 

Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (19:28): I rise to speak to the Excise Tariff Amendment (Cost of Living Support) Bill 2022 and of course it forms part of the federal government's budget delivered yesterday by Mr Frydenberg. The budget does something very important for all Australians. It acknowledges the challenges that households are facing right now as our market adapts to many of the challenges that have put inflationary pressures on prices; the concerns emerging from Europe and the Ukraine; and the impact on fuel prices. The impact on the cost of transport and its impact on groceries and household bills is something that we acknowledge in this budget, something that we empathise with and something that we understand. So, there is action to reduce the cost of living now, whether one looks to the cost of fuel which, by halving the fuel excise for the next six months, means a household with two cars that fill up once a week will find themselves around $700 better off during that period. Whether it's about the cost-of-living tax offset—$420 that means more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners in this country will find themselves better able to cope with those increased costs of living. We'll have pensioners, carers, veterans, jobseekers and eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders better equipped to handle the price fluctuations we have seen due to that international change. We're also taking important steps to make sure that more Australians can afford the cost of a home. We know and we understand just how important that ambition of Australians to be able to save for and get into a home of their very own is, including ensuring that that's not something that's out of reach for people who are single parents. We're more than doubling the home guarantee scheme to 50,000 places per year, knowing that the enthusiasm for this program in its early years has been through the roof. Helping more Australians get into their own home, get out of the cycle of renting and own their own little piece of Australia is a big part of how we are showing that we understand the pressures that are on people to manage those cost-of-living pressures every day. But we're not just dealing with the here and now. We also have in this budget a long-term plan that is about building the kind of strength in this economy that delivers job and wage growth for the long term, and that is something every Australian benefits from. With $2.8 billion invested to increase the take-up and completion rates of apprentices, we will see more skilled people in the workforce. There will be 800,000 people supported into training places as a part of this budget. With support for small businesses to get supersized tax deductions for every dollar they're prepared to spend investing in the skill sets and training of their employees—investing in the software, the technical and electronic infrastructure needed to improve productivity, to improve cybersecurity and to improve efficiency of their business—they can get benefits of up to $100,000 a year per business if they are prepared to double down on their investment in the jobs of their team, in the growth and in the contribution that they make to our economy. We're investing hard in local manufacturing. Of course, we've made enormous progress in developing the kind of specialised and high-skill manufacturing in Australia that remains an area in which we can be very competitive despite the comparatively high labour costs that we have in Australia. It is going from strength to strength. With support for greater commercialisation of the research that is being done in enormous quantities, particularly in partnership between our universities, the CSIRO and industry, we are driving the commercialisation and the manufacture of new technologies, whether those are in energy, medical supplies, defence or other high-priority areas for this country. Importantly, agriculture and energy are core to this manufacturing strategy. It's all about making sure there is a steady stream of high-value intellectual property developed here in Australia so that income from new patents developed here can be taxed at almost half the rate that ordinarily applies. That means this country will become a really attractive destination for people to set up shop, do their research and development and forge a manufacturing enterprise. Our regions are a big part of the story of the coalition government's vision for the future growth of our economy. Investment in our regions is how we ensure that we give great opportunities to people who live outside our cities, who we know ordinarily have fewer opportunities from which to choose. It is how we harness the enormous gift that we have in the size and richness of the mineral and land wealth of this country. And it is how we ensure that people, no matter where they live in this great country, can have not only the same aspiration to have a great job and afford a home they can be proud of but also the expectation of high-quality services. By building the wealth of this nation, by harnessing both the human talents and the natural talents of our regions, we can make sure that there is opportunity for all in this country from the strength of our economy. All of this makes possible something that is really important, and that's our safety net. We're able to guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on because of the strength of our vision for our nation's economy for the long term. Of course, we have guaranteed Medicare. We have funded our health system at increasing levels every year under our government so that now health spending is at a record high. In last year's budget there was a landmark $2.3 billion investment in the mental health of Australians and in suicide prevention, and in this budget we have built on that commitment further. We heard today in the debate on the Women's Budget Statement just how much the prosperity, the safety, the health and wellbeing, and the leadership of Australian women is vital to this economic story. That is something the women of this country, who now face almost the lowest gender pay gap ever and the highest workforce participation they have ever seen, are benefiting from now. And the families of this country will continue to benefit, with more support for child care and more flexibility in paid parental leave than we have seen in the past. I could keep going but I think the point is clear: we are able to guarantee the essential services that Australians depend on because we have a strong plan for our economy to deliver opportunity for all. What that means is fewer Australians who need our support in welfare. Those very same people not just are getting the dignity of a job, not just getting the pride, the skills and the camaraderie that comes from having work to go to every day; they also become contributors to this country in the sense of making contributions to the tax system. They are net givers rather than takers. That is what we need to make sure we can guarantee the essential services on which Australians rely for the very, very long term. Finally, this budget makes it possible for us to make a record investment in the security of this country. As we face a less certain world, as we observe geopolitical tensions in Europe and elsewhere, it is more important than ever that we invest in the good men and women of our defence forces, that we grow our capability to protect our shores, and that we prepare our cybersecurity, in both the governmental and defence senses but also to assist industries to cope with changing dynamics on that front. Our cybersecurity investment in this budget puts us on a robust footing in this new frontier for international conflict. So it's in that context that I look with great optimism to what is ahead for Australia. These bills play such an important part in realising that vision, delivered so well by Treasurer Frydenberg yesterday. We look forward to not just sharing it with the Australian people in the days and weeks ahead but delivering it—delivering it today, tomorrow, next week, next month and for the years and decades ahead.

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Adjournment Speech - Top Blokes Foundation

 

Top Blokes Foundation Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (21:01): I rise tonight to speak about something that's really close to my heart, and in some ways it's connected to what Senator Hanson has just mentioned. If we're serious about making sure that we reduce the incidence of violence against women and men—violence against anyone—in our community, we don't just need to invest in making sure that there are support services for people who experience this terrible phenomenon and we don't just need to make sure that they have safe places to go if the worst should happen. We also need to make sure that we're doing what's necessary not just to put ambulances at the bottom of the cliff but to put fences at the top of it. It's to do the preventative work that's necessary to keep people in the kinds of healthy relationships with one another that underpin a society which is functioning so well that these statistics move in the right direction. I was really encouraged to get to know an organisation called Top Blokes Foundation. Top Blokes do something which is really special: they engage in small group mentoring with young men aged between 10 and 17. During a three- to six-month regular program of meeting up at school, they talk through the hard issues. In an ideal world, everybody would have a strong father or mother figure who could do this for them. In an ideal world, people would have a home environment that has good examples of how to treat one another and relationships with those who raise them which stick together in the best possible way. In an ideal world, people would have parents who can talk about difficult subjects, whether it's about how to treat people with whom they're in a relationship, whether it's about body image, whether it's about work ethic, whether it's about how we present ourselves to the world or whether it's about expectations and what we expect from people of the opposite sex, even as it relates to young people's unfortunate but surprisingly prevalent exposure to influences like pornography. Top Blokes help to bring out the best in some of the most troubled and high-risk young men in Queensland by providing experienced social work guidance from great influencers like Zed and his peers—JT, Jason and the like— who I got to meet recently at Shailer Park State High School. They're transforming the lives of young men and keeping them out of our jails, out of our family court system, in work and contributing to our community in a way that their parents and teachers had almost given up hope of at the time they enrolled in the program. Teachers report young men who are better able to manage their anger and calm themselves; cope with adversity; and manage conflict in healthy ways. They've got clearer and healthier expectations of what a good relationship looks like. And here's something I think we can all be really excited about: instead of turning to influences like drugs and alcohol as a way of numbing or blocking anger, they've got the skills needed to be able to process it healthily and direct their energies in a positive way so that they don't feel the need or wish to use drugs or alcohol. This is transformative for the lives of the young men involved, and it is an investment that I am so proud to see the philanthropic community of Queensland making. They are doing incredible work, and I can only commend it enormously. I remember the stories of one of the young blokes I got to talk with. He was able to greet me with a strong look in the eye and a handshake, introduce himself by name and explain to me some of the things he'd done in past that he wasn't proud of, as well as all the ways he'd changed and the ways in which he looks to the future with positivity. He says he's going to do an apprenticeship, and that he's looking forward to being a mechanic. I have no doubt he's going to achieve that goal. That's partly due to his great teachers at Shailer Park State High, but it has a lot to do with the talented and caring people who are transforming women's safety by giving men the skills they need to flourish.

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Senate Farewell to Senator Kimberley Kitching

 

Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (12:43): I rise to make a small contribution in memory of Senator Kitching. Senator Kitching was a principled, kind and intelligent parliamentarian. She was warm, gentle and decent. Her decency, her trustworthiness, her fidelity to ideas and principle meant she was effective in working across the aisle to advance what she believed was in the national interest. She and I came to become friends in that context. Along with colleagues like Senator Paterson, Mr Hastie and Mr Byrne, we worked together often to ensure that Australia's interests were protected, despite the changing geopolitical environment, even though—and Senator Paterson might remember this—in the early days this was mocked by some corners of our respective parties. We were, together, able to raise awareness of important threats to Australia's sovereignty and to help make Australia safer. While Kimberley was so very loyal to her party, and fierce in debate, she was capable of rising above the tribalism that so often characterises this place. This job is hard, it is exposed, and the expression of vulnerability that is so vital for good mental and physical health is harshly penalised. Many have commented today on Kimberley's beaming smile and how her enthusiasm could be contagious; but if we are honest, friends, we know those big smiles often hid a sadness and were sometimes a necessary protective device in an environment that can often be harsh and, at times, cruel. The realities of the human experience don't fit well into the black and white of the sound bites that are chased in this place; but Kimberley was courageous in difficulty, and, though she was quickwitted and intelligent and bright, she never used it to wound. It's part of the reason debate with her in this chamber was always such a joy—and she was no less effective for that grace. Andrew, I know your life will never be the same. I hope you will have peace, despite your grief, knowing hers was a life well lived. To Professor and Mrs Kitching, I'm so sorry you've had to bury the daughter you raised and educated with so much love. To staff, I hope the time you've had with Senator Kitching puts you in good stead for what's ahead. It's my sincere hope that this place will become kinder, fairer, less tribal and more nuanced as part of Kimberley's enormous legacy. Kimberley Jane—I'm Amanda Jane, and we would often laugh together that people of a certain age were either Janes or Louises in the middle—may God rest your beautiful soul. We'll always claim you as a Queenslander.

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Speech: Bar Association of Queensland’s Annual Conference

SENATOR THE HON AMANDA STOKER
Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General
Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations
Assistant Minister for Women
LNP Senator for Queensland

Speech: Bar Association of Queensland’s Annual Conference

Sunday 27 March 2022

*Check against delivery*

Introduction

Thank you for your invitation to be here today. I am honoured to have the opportunity to your annual conference.

This is the second time I have address one of the Queensland Bar Association’s conferences. However there have been some major changes to our legal system since the last time I was here, with the merger of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia taking effect in September last year.

This marks a major change in the history of Australia’s family court system – and we’re already starting to see the benefits.

Family law system – need for reform

The need for meaningful reform in the federal family court system has been apparent for years, with seven major inquiries since 2008 indicating a need for reform.

Cases before the family courts have increased in volume and complexity.

There has been an alarming growth in the incidence of cases involving child abuse and family violence. These now make up the majority of cases.

And of the 18,300 notices filed in the former Federal Circuit Court between November 2020 and 2021, 64 per cent of parties alleged they have experienced family violence.

Our court system ought to be of benefit to our community. However the dual court structure and overlapping jurisdiction between the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court had led to inefficiencies, confusion, delays, additional costs, and inconsistent experiences for many court-users.

Put simply, it led to poor outcomes for children and families.

One of the clearest problems with our federal and family court system has been the extensive backlog of cases.

Previously it could take up to 26 months for a case to be resolved in the Federal Circuit Court, with the median time to trial being 21 months.

For the Family Court, it could take up to 38 months for a case to be resolved, with the median time to trial being 24 months.

The impact of these delays was highlighted in recent inquiries by the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System, with hundreds of Australian men and women sharing their stories of the emotional and financial strains caused by prolonged litigation.

The Inquiries heard how excessive wait times escalated family disputes and left parents in situations that were unsafe for themselves and their children.

They heard how the frustration from delays and the depleted of resources led forced parents to accept what they felt were unfair settlements.

And they heard how the complexity of the process left people feeling disempowered, unable to navigate the system without professional help.

These are some of the reasons why there has been widespread recognition that the previous structural arrangements in the courts – with separate rules, practices and processes – were just not working effectively for Australian families.

A single point of entry

The Government’s structural reform of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has been based on extensive analysis of the evidence and significant consultation with the courts and other family law stakeholders.

The reform is designed to create a modern court that is responsive to the needs of litigants.

It provides a consistent pathway for Australian families navigating through the federal family courts, with a single point of entry for first instance federal family law matters.

The previous two federal family law courts have been brought together to ensure consistency in process and, importantly, certainty of the family law pathway.

There is also now a single set of rules, procedures, case management, and practice.

A new duty on parties

In addition to these structural and procedural changes, the reform is also designed to drive cultural change, with the legislation imposing a duty on parties to act consistently and with the overarching purpose of facilitating the just resolution of disputes according to law as quickly, inexpensively and efficiently as possible.

If a lawyer fails to comply with this duty, a judge may order that they personally bear costs. These provisions recognise that parties may need assistance from their lawyers to act consistently with this duty and require lawyers to assist their clients to comply.

If, for example, a party wants to prolong litigation as a strategy to increase costs to the other party, their lawyer would be obliged to explain that this would be contrary to the overarching purpose and may have adverse cost consequences for their clients.

This objective is underpinned by a principle that ought to be at the heart of every proceeding within our justice system – that outcomes for Australian families should be timely and just.

Consistent appeal pathways

This once in a generation structural reform implements a more effective approach to family law appeals.

The new appeal process mirrors the Federal Court model. It brings both courts into lockstep on their appeal pathway, providing a logical harmonisation and consistency in practice and process for the Commonwealth courts.

And because most appeals will be able to be heard by a single judge, the court will have greater flexibility to manage its appeal workload, thereby freeing up considerable judicial resources.

Improving the efficiency of the courts in this regard will have important flow on effects for the experiences of court users, including reducing the delays in the family law system and improving the overall time it takes for families to have their matters dealt with.

New approach to case management

Along with these changes, the government has provided the court with an additional $60.8 million in funding to reform and optimise its case management processes.

This includes funding to establish a Central Assessment Team to centralise the processing of over 106,000 family law applications per annum.

As part of this, we have increased the number of Senior Registrars and Registrars and enabled them to have an enhanced role, which includes triaging and managing cases upfront, and conduct alternative dispute resolution.

Senior Registrars have the responsibility to hear interim applications and conduct alternative dispute resolution.

Only Senior Registrars with the appropriate skills and aptitude to undertake this role will be recruited. But this will be supplemented with ongoing training and professional development.

Crucially, complex interim hearings will still be dealt with by judges.

Not only with this increase access to alternative dispute resolution, it will also shorten the time that families spend in litigation.

It will reduce the emotional and financial costs experienced by already vulnerable families and assist them to find a workable and lasting resolution to their dispute.

And it will free up judges time so they can focus on trials and complex cases

Creating a more efficient judicial system

I’ve already mentioned that prior to our reforms it could take up to 26 months for a case to be resolved in the Federal Circuit Court and 38 months in the Family Court – timeframes that can only be described as shocking.

Thankfully, this reform will enable an estimated 8,000 additional cases to be finalised each year. This will have a massive impact on court wait times.

The primary target is for around 90 per cent of family law cases to be finalised within 12 months, with the median time to trial to be approximately 10 months – meaning wait times and finalisation rates will be cut in half.

This will make a massive difference to countless Australian families during a very challenging period in their lives.

The impact so far

It has only been a few months since the reforms were implemented, but we are already seeing the early signs of success.

Since the reforms commenced, registrars have undertaken around 13,000 court hearings which would otherwise have been undertaken by judges.

As a result, the average docket size for judges has reduced dramatically.

In May 2021, the average number of matters for judges of Division 2 of the FCFCoA was 330. This has reduced to 193 as at 31 January 2022 – a decrease of over 41 per cent.

This has freed judges to focus on trials and complex cases involving family violence and other risks to children.

Over 7,500 dispute resolution conferences have been conducted in the last 16 months, with more than 50 per cent resolving.

This has been supported by the new case management reforms and accompanying funding for additional registrars and family consultants to conduct alternative dispute resolution conferences.

Significant inroads are even being made into the large backlog of family law cases, with the pending caseload having fallen by 12 per cent since September 1 last year. Many of these cases have been in the court system for years.

The number of cases awaiting trial in Division 1 of the FCFCoA has also substantially reduced, falling from 300 in the largest registries to around 50 cases.

These are significant results, which will have a real impact on communities in Queensland and around the country.

Increased access to alternative dispute resolution is saving costs and trauma for parties. Reforms to shift the front-end case management work from judges to registrars is providing a pathway for more cases to be heard quickly, efficiently and cost‑effectively. And it’s providing a pathway for high-risk cases to be identified early, to ensure the safety of vulnerable parties and children.

The Benefits for regional and rural Queensland

The increased number of registrars available to conduct hearings and dispute resolution conferences has also provided greater access to justice for litigants in rural and regional Queensland.

Already there are additional registrars located in regional areas including Townsville, Cairns and Rockhampton.

This will help people in those areas access the same court services as those in the city, whether this is face to face or via an electronic platform.

The Government has also committed to expanding the Family Advocacy and Support Services to an additional 26 locations across Australia, from 1 July 2022. This will enhance access to critical frontline legal and social support services for parties in family law matters involving family violence.

In Queensland this access will increase from three existing locations to a total of 11 locations in all FCFCoA registries and circuit locations, across rural and regional areas.

This highly effective program contributes to the likelihood of timely and satisfactory resolution of legal matters, helps reduce risk and the power imbalance between victims and alleged perpetrators of family violence, and supports holistic legal outcomes.

Conclusion

I acknowledge the concerns raised by some stakeholders. Further reforms may be necessary to refine the new processes, and feedback from practitioners and other legal experts will be important in the process.

The government will continue to monitor and review the reforms, to ensure they achieve the intended outcome of a modern court responsive to the needs of litigants.

But Australia’s family law system has a proud history of innovation. It is supported by incredibly hard-working and dedicated legal professionals – including members of the Bar Association of Queensland.

Thank you for your time, your professionalism and hard work, and your dedication to the administration of Justice.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of your conference.

[END]

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TRANSCRIPT – Sky News First Edition

 

TRANSCRIPT – Sky News First Edition
Friday 25 March 2022

Subjects: Endometriosis funding, Labor bullying, Jacquie Lambie

E&OE

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Joining me now is Amanda Stoker. Senator, thanks for your time this morning. So we'll start there; how much help do you think that will be for women, and also families?

AMANDA STOKER:

Good morning. It's going to be a really significant change in the lives of the one in nine Australian women who experience endometriosis. For many women who experience it, it leads to daily pain. It leads to difficulty with falling pregnant, and it leads to enormous expense associated with the management of that pain. And as the government who first recognise the significance of this problem, first committed to the National Action Plan for action on endometriosis, and who've been prepared to invest in the on the ground services, the awareness and understanding, the training of doctors to make sure they know what they're looking for in diagnosis and treatment, and in the research that supports good clinical care. I'm just thrilled that so many women that grapple with these really debilitating condition daily are going to have a much more optimistic future.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Just a few other issues involving female senators, as it turns out. Bill Shorten has this morning said that he doesn't want an enquiry into bullying claims of the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. Is that the end of it, in your view?

AMANDA STOKER:

Well look, it just smacks of labour continuing to put their own political needs over the needs of the people who work in parliament. When there is an issue affecting safety that arises from circumstances on the non-Labor side, they rustle up protests, they don't let up on that on the claims of failing to act to protect women, they go to town. And yet, when one of their own – in circumstances arising from the conduct of members of their own party – appears to have suffered from circumstances so intense, in the course of her work, in the nature of bullying, that led arguably to her death, they close ranks and they don't want to talk about it. If that's the culture of cover up we see in relation to the passing away of one of their own, in the very good Senator Kimberley Kitching, then what would they be like when it comes to the interests of the nation? They're going to continue to put their own interests above the interests of the nation. I don't think it smells right. If you or I, in a normal workplace – a construction site or a shop – we're so bullied that it adversely affected our health, we would have a workplace health and safety investigation. There would be consequences that flow for the people involved. And there would arguably be compensation payable to a person who experienced that terrible circumstance. Why on earth should have been different in this circumstance?

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Speaking of bullying, I'm reminded now by these claims that Jacqui Lambie made. And she spoke about this this morning too; she says she was threatened with jail time by the prime minister if she revealed details of a secret deal relating to refugees. What grounds could that be – in wearing one of your other hats?

AMANDA STOKER:

Look, I don't think Senator Lambie has put sufficient detail on the public record for me to be able to assess that properly. It strikes me that the prime minister plays a very straight bat when it comes to these types of issues and doesn't issue the kinds of threats we talk about. But of course, all parliamentarians get, from time to time in their duties, access to information that has special significance for the safety of Australian personnel, or for Australia's defence or other interests. I don't know if that's the information that we're talking about here, but when we come into contact with that kind of sensitive information, we've got to treat it in the interests of the nation. And sometimes that means respecting legislative secrecy obligations.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Yeah, but how acceptable is the threat of jail time?

AMANDA STOKER:

Well again, I don't know exactly what she's talking about, but it wouldn't have been at the prime minister’s whim, it would have been something legislated that applies to everybody. So I think it's important to put that in context. These things can't be confected by a prime minister out of thin air. They come from statutes already on the books. And so, if Senator Lambie needs to go-

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So are you suggesting Jacquie Lambie has made it up?

AMANDA STOKER:

No. I say that we are all subject from, time to time, to obligations that exist on Australia's statutes. They apply to public servants who come into contact with certain types of information, and they apply to those in parliamentary service who access information in the nature of official secrets. If she has been privy to that information, in an attempt to brief her to do her duties, then she needs to respect those legislated obligations in the same way that every other parliamentary – and every other Australian – who in the course of their duties came across it would have to.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Ok. Senator Amanda Stoker, thanks as always for your time.

[END]

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MEDIA RELEASE - Stoker, Ruston & Robert - Strengthening Domestic and Family Violence Support Services on the Gold Coast

STRENGTHENING DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
SUPPORT SERVICES ON THE GOLD COAST

The Morrison Government is strengthening the availability of domestic and family violence support services on the Gold Coast, with additional support for StandbyU Foundation to continue delivering services that support individuals, couples, children and families who are experiencing or at risk of family or domestic violence.

Minister for Social Services and Women’s Safety Minister, Senator Anne Ruston, and Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations and Assistant Minister for Women, Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker announced a commitment to provide $262,000 (GST excl) for StandbyU Foundation to employ specialist staff to assess walk-in clients seeking assistance, and provide service referrals and ongoing support.

The Connected Communities: Magnolia Place initiative is located at Westfield Helensvale. Since opening in October 2020, it has provided assistance to over 1000 people.

Magnolia Place enables women, children and families to access domestic violence support services in a safe and non-stigmatising place, to reach out to friends and family, and obtain secure ways to stay connected and feel safe.

“We know that domestic and family violence is enabled by the disconnection of a victim from support networks of friends and family. StandbyU's work is revolutionary because it provides accessible pathways to reconnect with the support communities that keep people safe,” Senator Stoker said.

“Through its important work, StandbyU is changing the lives of those who seek help at Magnolia Place.”

This funding will be provided through Specialised Family Violence Services (SFVS) and forms part of the Government’s annual commitment of more than $290 million to a range of services delivering crucial early intervention support to families and children in need across Australia.

Member for Fadden, Stuart Robert MP welcomed the additional funding for the local community.

“Being located in a shopping centre will help ensure services are accessible and visibile,” Stuart Robert said.

“The Morrison Government is proud to back StandbyU’s evidence-based approach with this additional funding.”

StandbyU Foundation’s founder, Chris Boyle, welcomed the commitment to provide funding over a period of two financial years for 12 months of service delivery.

“The community recognised the need for the services Magnolia Place offers and have rallied to bring it to life”, Chris Boyle said.

“Our all-inclusive model of support values the unique story of every person who walks in. We work hard to make every tomorrow better than today by focusing on life changing connections.”

The Coalition is committed to ending domestic, family and sexual violence for all Australians, that’s why we’ve provided a record $2 billion into women’s safety since 2013.

[END]

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TRANSCRIPT – 2GB Ben Fordham Live

TRANSCRIPT – 2GB Ben Fordham Live
Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Subjects: Lidia Thorpe’s Canberra airport allegations, Labor’s culture.

E&OE

BEN FORDHAM:

Well there’s been a massive reaction to our coverage of the Lidia Thorpe story. So much so that the ABC has decided to block people from commenting on their interview with the Greens MP. Senator Thorpe claims she was racially profiled last year at Canberra Airport, but she provided no evidence, and when she was asked what happened she said she had to wait in line for seven minutes and was told her carry on luggage was too heavy – that was it. But she thinks she was racially profiled. Two and a half months after the incident, she wrote an official letter of complaint and she’s now logged the incident on a register aimed at highlighting genuine cases of racism.

There are many holes in her story, but that didn’t stop the ABC’s Radio National from giving Senator Thorpe six minutes of air time yesterday. But even ABC listeners weren’t buying it. One said on Facebook, “I’m Indigenous and I think this is ridiculous.” Another said, “She was told she couldn’t board the plane because her carry on was overweight. She then refused to comply, so security was called. It sounds like another self-entitled politician.” And following the negative feedback, the ABC has suspended comments on their story.

Our coverage of the controversy has received more than 2,000 comments on Facebook. And one of them came from the new Indigenous senator Jacinta Price. She had this message for Lidia Thorpe, “Perhaps stop assuming everyone around you is racist, when in fact it is you Lidia, who exudes hatred for those you refer to as ‘white people’ all the time. There is no evidence this incident has anything to do with race, just the size of your bag.” That’s from the new Indigenous Senator Jacinta Price. And it’s not racism, it’s standard protocol at an airport. We suspect what’s happened here is that Lidia Thorpe has turned up late for her flight, so it was too late to check-in her luggage. And the carry-on luggage was too big. Isn’t it sad? So tragic!

[Excerpt of Lydia Thorpe on ABC]

BEN FORDHAM:

Oh yes, thoughts and prayers for Lydia Thorpe. She had to wait in a queue for seven minutes, and then she was told her carry-on luggage was too heavy. It’s just unbelievable that this stuff is treated seriously. But thankfully, most people aren’t treating it seriously at all, including the ABC’s listeners. You should see the comments they left on the ABC Facebook page, which is why the ABC said oh we’ll, suspend comments, there are too many coming through – and clearly too many negative ones.

On the line, Amanda Stoker, the Liberal Senator and the Assistant Minister for Women, who's also been on the end of a spray from the Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

Amanda Stoker, good morning to you.

AMANDA STOKER:

Hello Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Have you had problems at an airport before?

AMANDA STOKER:

Who hasn't? But as with most people who are travelling, we try and be patient. We try and use our best manners and show some understanding for the fact that the job that people in an airport do isn't always easy. One thing that might have got lost in the course of the complaint and the remarkably common sense response of Australians to it, is that, as senators, we get treated really well in airports and as we travel. A lot of understanding shown for the fact that we often have difficult timetables, and that we often have papers and items that we need to bring with us. We actually, I think, get really good treatment. And a little bit of basic respect and patience goes a long way.

BEN FORDHAM:

Yeah, well, Lidia Thorpe has previously posted selfies from the Chairman's club at Qantas, so she knows how to enjoy the benefits of her role. But it's really upset people, I think, because she played the race card on something that had nothing to do with race.

AMANDA STOKER:

And this is the problem. When well-meaning institutes like, you know, this project out of the University of Technology Sydney, solicit complaints of racism from arguably one of the most privileged Indigenous people you could find in this country – because of all the advantages that are provided to us in part of our role as senators – we devalue the difficult experience of Indigenous people who are experiencing serious disadvantage. Like the little girls in remote communities who aren't safe in their own homes from predators within their own communities. We dismiss the experience of those who suffer violence in our Indigenous communities. It's usually at the hands of, you know, fellow members of their clan – but not exclusively of course. And it doesn't help bring economic opportunity or jobs or stability to our most at-risk Indigenous people.

The problem with projects like this is that while racism is still a problem wherever it occurs, and we should always be taking steps to make it less common, we've got to be realistic. There's never been better community understanding of racism then we have now. Our society has never been safer and fairer for minorities than it is now. And there is, in an objective sense, less of it. And so sometimes when projects like this, albeit well-meaning, solicit complaints that – like the one Senator Thorpe has put forward – are comparatively pretty petty in the scale of the kinds of disadvantage some Indigenous people face, you get regular punters who are common sense offside. They become less sympathetic to the needs of people who genuinely do need help, and that's divisive. It's the same problem that's raised every time. The senator who cried wolf, senator who cried racism, Senator Thorpe, describes everything she doesn't like as racist.

BEN FORDHAM:

Yeah, we mentioned yesterday she says the police are racist, the parliament is racist, the army is racist. Andrew Twiggy Forrest is racist, even though he employs more Indigenous Australians than just about anyone else in the country.

If I can switch gears for a moment, Kimberley Kitching, I see that Anthony Albanese, the Labor leader, still doesn't want to talk about Kimberley Kitching. He still won't have an investigation.

AMANDA STOKER:

No, he won't. And when I think about the loss to this country and to the Parliament that comes from the passing of my friend in Senator Kimberley Kitching – noting that she's from across the aisle. She epitomised that bipartisan spirit, that principled way of working that people think of when they think of the parliaments of old. But let's be real here; if a construction worker or a shop assistant passed away or suffered serious health consequences because they had been so bullied at work that it adversely affected their health, then there would automatically be a workplace health and safety investigation. It would be thorough, and those who might have perpetrated the kinds of acts that led to that harm would face consequences in their employment, and there would probably be things like compensation that flowed if there were findings that the person had been bullied.

Not only is that not being triggered by the party who claims to be associated with the unions that are always going on about safety, but he refuses to observe that there's a problem. He refuses to even engage in the inquiry that might get to the bottom of whether or not this is what happened here. And there's plenty of people in her family and friends who say that it was. And you can only assume that the reason is that he is not prepared to take on that cantankerous cabal, to use Kimberley's husband's words, of mean girls, and that he is not prepared to face the scrutiny that comes from the failure of Labor's leadership to act.

BEN FORDHAM:

Well, those calls are getting louder. I mentioned earlier, Jenny George, the former ACTU boss, has added her name to the list of people calling for that investigation. Look, we've got to run, we've got the news creeping up. We appreciate your time this morning, Amanda.

AMANDA STOKER:

Thanks for having me, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:

Amanda Stoker, the Liberal Senator and Assistant Minister for Women. And prior to the funeral the Labor leaders were saying, oh no, it would be inappropriate to talk about this before the funeral. Now the funeral is out of the way, they’re still not talking.

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