• Jenny Shipley
Women's Affairs

"The Coalition Government's desire to support women wanting to leave violent relationships is the reason for the introduction of the social security (conjugal status) legislation," the Minister of Women's Affairs Jenny Shipley said today.

"Mindless and ignorant criticism by Labour MP Steve Maharey demonstrates that he has no knowledge of the extent to which domestic violence exists, or how to deal with it.

"A recent court case found that a woman who was suffering from Battered Women's Syndrome should have been able to receive a benefit while still in a relationship with her partner, because the relationship was not in the nature of a marriage. The Coalition Government has fully considered the implications of that court ruling.

"The legislation introduced to parliament for consideration seeks to do two things. Firstly, it supports women as they move out of violent relationships, by providing an emergency benefit and practical assistance for six months. The Coalition Government recognises that Battered Women's Syndrome is very real. What we are aiming to do is to help those women make themselves safe.

"Secondly, it makes it clear that the Coalition Government does not intend to be indifferent to domestic violence, or stand by while it continues. If we were to keep paying a benefit to a woman in a household where there is already another income, because domestic violence was occuring, it would send the wrong message. We do not want women to keep enduring an unacceptable situation for financial reasons.

"This solution is consistent with the intention of our domestic violence legislation, which seeks to make women safe while condemning domestic violence and abuse.

"Women do need support and understanding as they organise their lives and seek help in moving themselves and often their children out of a violent relationship and to a place of safety. Once they are in a place of safety then of course they would be entitled to apply for the Domestic Purposes Benefit in their own right.

"If Labour chooses to oppose this bill, they are ignoring the difficulty women face in getting out of such relationships. The Coalition Government has sought to strike a balance which is both realistic and fair, in the interests of women and their children in both the short and long term," Jenny Shipley concluded.