Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

David Cunliffe: I'm sorry for being a man

New Zealand Labour leader David Cunliffe Photo / Warren Buckland
New Zealand Labour leader David Cunliffe Photo / Warren Buckland

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he's sorry that he's a man because men commit most family violence.

He told a Women's Refuge forum in Auckland today that Labour would put an extra $15 million a year into refuges and other groups supporting the victims of family violence. But he started his speech with an apology.

"Can I begin by saying I'm sorry," he said.

"I don't often say it. I'm sorry for being a man right now, because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children.

"So the first message to the men out there is: wake up, stand up and man up and stop this bullshit!"

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His message went down well with the overwhelmingly female audience. One woman came up to him as he left and said she had moved away from Labour but his speech had won her vote back.

Refuge chief executive Heather Henare said Labour had consulted her about its policy, unlike the National Government which announced its own policy on family violence this week without consulting Refuge.

"David Cunliffe's speech was, I have to say, inspiring," she said.

Video: Key: Cunliffe's comments 'pretty silly'

Video

She said National cut Refuge's baseline funding by $700,000 in 2011 and had never restored it, although "one-off" grants for training and other extras had raised the movement's total funding from $6.2 million in 2008 to $9.2 million today.

"That might include a position in Timbuktu to write a children's programme, it's not an effective use of money," she said.

Mr Cunliffe promised an "action plan to eliminate violence against women and children" that would be led by the Prime Minister's Department.

Labour's policy also includes a promise to let the Law Commission finish its work on alternative trial mechanisms for sexual cases, which Justice Minister Judith Collins put on hold after she took over the portfolio three years ago.

Labour said it would consider:

• Changes cross-examination rules to ensure that victims of sexual cases were not "put on trial".
• Allowing complainants in sexual offence cases to adopt alternative trial processes such as restorative justice.
• Specialist courts to hear sexual violence cases.
• Changing the definition of consent in cases of sexual violation so that it doesn't impose "an unfair burden" on victims.

Mrs Collins and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett dismissed Labour's policy as "just smoke and mirrors".

"Their big initiative is to have family violence led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. This will come as no comfort to the victims of family violence," they said.

"We need to focus on the victims and on prevention services that actually work."

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Cunliffe's comments were insulting to New Zealand men.

Mr Key said he was not sorry for being a man, saying "It's a pretty silly comment from David Cunliffe".

"The problem isn't being a man, the problem is if you're an abusive man. I think it's a bit insulting to imply that all men are abusive.

"A small group are, and they need to change their behaviour and be held to account."

Mr Key questioned whether the Labour leader was sincere about the statement.

"Is he going to go down to the local rugby club and get up and say 'I'm sorry for being a man'? I don't think so."

Next story: Psychologist slams offenders' anti-violence programme

- APNZ

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