Violence against women here too

Australian state and federal governments have come under pressure in recent weeks to do something to stop violence towards women.

Across the country, tens of thousands of citizens rallied, demanding the government declare domestic violence a national emergency.

It came in the wake of a high number of deaths of women, allegedly by their intimate partners, this year.

One woman has been killed every four days.

It is a shocking statistic, but whether measures such as new funding to help women escape from abusive relationships and tougher action against online misogynistic content will make a huge difference to stop such harm is anyone’s guess.

It might be tempting for New Zealanders to be supercilious about our Australian cousins and their attitude to women.

We may remember the appalling amount of misogyny their only woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, attracted, conveniently overlooking the fact our three women prime ministers were far from unscathed on that front. Indeed, many of our women politicians, at all levels, still encounter the vilest online abuse.

Nor can we overlook our own grim family violence statistics, much of it involving harm to women.

The white ribbon is used to signify opposition to violence against women. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The white ribbon is used to signify opposition to violence against women. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The most recently reported New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey (for the year to November 2022) found 24% of women had experienced intimate partner violence offences during their lifetimes.

Between 2009 and 2018 there were 125 intimate partner deaths in New Zealand. More than three quarters of the offenders were men and 70% of those who died were women.

As The New Zealand Herald reported last year, the largest increase in reports to police of violent crime in the six years to March last year related to family harm.

The coalition government partners talked up being tough on crime, before and after the election, but their attention has been on ram raids and gangs rather than preventing domestic violence.

There is no mention of it in the coalition agreements, even though some estimates on the cost of family violence to the country are as high as $8 billion a year.

We have a 25-year national strategy, Te Ao Rerekura, to eliminate family and sexual violence, launched in 2021.

National and Act New Zealand have said they broadly support the strategy but want more focus on outcomes, without specifying what exactly.

Act wants a more urgent focus and has said it will ensure funding for Te Puna Aonui (the joint venture of agencies responsible for delivering the strategy) results in "timely action for tackling family and sexual violence and better outcomes for our communities".

We may have to wait until the Budget to see what that might mean.

And another thing

Now there are plans to do away with the role of the Government’s chief privacy officer, are we expected to believe all of our government departments and agencies are top notch on privacy issues?

This role, within the Department of Internal Affairs in the chief digital officer’s team, was supposed to provide leadership, prepare guidance and help to build privacy capability throughout the public sector.

The role was meant to foster an all-of-government approach to privacy.

If that is no longer needed, at a time when the government wants us to have more online interaction with agencies, it would be good to understand why that is.

In the absence of such assurance, we are inclined to agree with the view of the Privacy Foundation, which says in an era when privacy and cyber security risks are more prevalent than ever, the government should be investing more in privacy and cyber security, not less.

It has been reported that six other roles related to information security, and the role of a cybersecurity analyst within the DIA, are also expected to go.

Relevant ministers, Nicola Willis (public service and social investment) and Judith Collins (digitising government), instead of standing at arm’s length from this cost-cutting, should be explaining how eliminating all these jobs will not jeopardise the safety of personal information.