Cun­liffe’s mes­sage gets lost

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The pub­lic may say they want politi­cians to work to­gether for the good of the coun­try, but the track record sug­gests vot­ers pre­fer to elect strong lead­ers with a clear sense of pur­pose.

That’s one of sev­eral rea­sons why Labour leader David Cun­liffe’s re­cent apol­ogy for be­ing a man seemed so dam­ag­ing.

Re­gard­less of the con­text in which it was de­liv­ered, the apol­ogy played into stereo­types of lib­er­als as wimps.

Cun­liffe was speak­ing to a Women’s Refuge au­di­ence who have to cope on a daily ba­sis with the re­al­i­ties of male vi­o­lence against women.

Even so, Cun­liffe’s awk­wardly phrased apol­ogy man­aged to over­shadow the gist of his speech.

If elected, Labour plans to in­vest an ex­tra $60 mil­lion over four years in front­line ser­vices to cope with do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence – such as Women’s Refuge, fam­ily vi­o­lence pro­grammes and rape vic­tim sup­port ser­vices.

Need­less to say, the ab­ject apol­ogy got far more me­dia cov­er­age than the fund­ing pledge.

For years, the or­gan­i­sa­tions that deal with the vic­tims of sex­ual and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence have been un­der-funded.

Be­lat­edly in this year’s Budget, the Govern­ment an­nounced a $ 10.5 mil­lion fund­ing in­crease over two years, barely a quar­ter of what the next Amer­ica’s Cup cam­paign will be look­ing for from the Govern­ment later this year.

The Budget boost came too late to save the 24-hour phone ser­vice pro­vided by Christchurch’s only rape cri­sis cen­tre – which needed $ 34,000 to keep run­ning, but which can­not ac­cess the Budget funds, be­cause it is in­sol­vent.

There is a grave risk of 20 years of front­line ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing lost.

Last week, the Govern­ment also un­veiled an in­te­grated pro­gramme on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence that will be fo­cused on the es­ti­mated 20 per cent of vic­tims who con­tact the au­thor­i­ties.

The pack­age in­cludes as­sis­tance for vic­tims to leave vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ships, closer mon­i­tor­ing of likely of­fend­ers via GPS track­ing and a re­view of the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act.

In ad­di­tion, those ac­cused of sex­ual vi­o­lence of­fences may lose their right to re­main silent.

As ed­i­to­rial com­men­tary has noted, the Govern­ment ap­pears in­tent on by­pass­ing some of the ex­ist­ing Women’s Refuge/ Rape Cri­sis net­works, and will fund (or cre­ate) other providers to do the same work.

‘‘ Women’s Refuge could read Na­tional’s just-an­nounced poli­cies on do­mes­tic abuse as a slap in the face,’’ noted the Ti­maru Herald.

‘‘Why by­pass the very or­gan­i­sa­tion that is at the heart of deal­ing with vic­tims? What has Women’s Refuge done wrong?’’

Re­port­edly, Women’s Refuge was given no warn­ing of the Govern­ment’s pol­icy changes, and was not con­sulted about them. The ap­proach seems wrong. New Zealand has an ex­ist­ing or­gan­i­sa­tional net­work that deals with this prob­lem. Yet af­ter be­ing chron­i­cally un­der­funded, it now seems it is be­ing cut out of the fund­ing and ser­vice de­liv­ery loop, at a time when re­ported of­fences are on the rise.

Are we al­lo­cat­ing suf­fi­cient funds and us­ing the best avail­able ex­per­tise to cope with New Zealand’s wave of do­mes­tic and sex­ual vi­o­lence – and shouldn’t the re­sponse be do­ing more to reach out to the 80 per cent of vic­tims who, for var­i­ous rea­sons, do not or can­not take the risk of reporting their sit­u­a­tion?

Ar­guably, these is­sues should have led the na­tional de­bate last week.

In­stead, Labour MP Trevor Mal­lard’s keen in­ter­est in rein­car­nat­ing the moa and David Cun­liffe’s ‘‘ man shame’’ dom­i­nated the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

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