‘Disrespectful’: Brittany Higgins criticises ditched two-week consultation for women’s safety plan

The federal government has defended its approach to a decade-long women’s safety plan after initially opening the consultation period for only two weeks.

There was a backlash from women’s safety advocates to the timeframe, with many criticising it as being far too short during a pandemic and holiday period.

Former Liberal party political staffer Brittany Higgins called out the federal government for being “breathtakingly disrespectful” after it set the two-week consultation period in the middle of January.

The national plan to end violence against women and children will span 2022 to 2032.

“Two weeks to map out the next 10 years of the fight against gendered violence in Australia,” Higgins wrote on Twitter.

After the government extended the consultation deadline to 25 February, the women’s safety minister, Anne Ruston, said the initial timeframe was set by states and territories at a women’s safety taskforce meeting in December.

The minister contacted state and territory ministers who make up the women’s safety taskforce over the weekend and they jointly agreed to extend the consultation timeline.

“The draft national plan is the culmination of 18 months of extensive, detailed and thorough consultation with victim-survivors, advocates, sector representatives, academics, business leaders and the broader community,” Ruston said on Tuesday.

“We have held a parliamentary inquiry, the national summit on women’s safety, dozens of roundtables [and] two extensive public surveys.”

An open letter signed by prominent women’s rights advocates, community leaders and union heads, had called for the consultation period to run for at least six weeks.

“The tiny window of consultation diminishes this issue to our society and is shallow and disrespectful to our country. We need this plan to succeed,” the letter said.

Labor criticised the government for showing disinterest in the voices of women and advocates, saying women and survivors have again had to fight to have their voices heard.

“This grossly inadequate deadline came amidst a national pandemic, an over-worked sector and exhausted workers, and in the middle of school holidays,” social services spokesperson Linda Burney said.

“This government never misses an opportunity to demonstrate its disinterest in the perspectives of Australian women.”

But the Coalition’s women’s minister, Marise Payne, said the government was taking the issue very seriously.

“We are world leading in this and it is important we continue to work together across the country,” she told 2GB radio.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service says it wants the plan to deliver a more inclusive approach to ending violence in the community by focusing on the voices of people with lived experience.

The services chief executive, Sue Webeck, said the plan was a significant opportunity to help those impacted by domestic and family violence but needed to have “real and tangible budget commitments attached”.

“This all needs to be backed by funding which provides continuity of service provision but also the ability to respond to the emerging needs of the community,” she said.

Payne said the government had committed record funding in the last federal budget to ensure a smooth transition from the current plan to the next one.

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