“That’s where you find the emergencies,” Henderson told the upper house on Wednesday in the Liberal parliamentarian’s first speech in the chamber.
She filled a Senate vacancy in Victoria after losing her lower house seat of Corangamite – which she held for six years – at May’s federal election.
The Geelong-based senator said it’s important for Australia to take strong action on climate change and believes the Morrison government is doing just that.
But she hopes people pushing for a “climate emergency” declaration will keep perspective.
“I say: please visit the Alice Springs women’s refuge which is in reality a homicide prevention centre for Aboriginal women and their children escaping horrific family violence,” she said.
Henderson visited the refuge in 2017 while chairing an inquiry into the family law system.
Another parliament inquiry into the system is set to launch soon, despite domestic violence advocates saying it’s unnecessary.
They are also concerns One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is the inquiry’s deputy chair, after attracting widespread criticism for suggesting some women lie about domestic abuse during custody battles.
Henderson said she hopes the government will adopt all of the recommendations of the inquiry she chaired two years ago, including ensuring allegations of family violence are determined early in court proceedings.
But she supports the fresh inquiry and defended Hanson.
“It’s disappointing to see the unwarranted attacks on Senator Hanson by those opposite. She shares many of my concerns and will make an important contribution.”
Henderson noted her speech comes on the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Liberal Party on October 16, 1944, after 18 non-Labor parties came together in Canberra.
“The times have changed, but not our values,” she said.
She also stressed that while she supports free and open markets, her first duty will always be to “our country”.
“We must never forget that we are a country before we are an economy.”
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