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Dear Turnbull and Shorten: Don’t wear the White Ribbon next time around

In December 2017, following sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and Westminster, a report into the sexual harassment complaints process in the Australian Federal Parliament concluded that procedures for staffers in this workplace are “incomprehensibly and woefully inadequate.”

The parliamentary policy, controlled by the Department of Finance … does not specifically address sexual harassment as defined by the Sex Discrimination Act (which clearly defines sexual harassment as unwelcome contact of a sexual nature), give examples of behaviour that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment, and, perhaps most egregiously, it does not clearly spell out an employee’s options for pursuing a sexual harassment claim and relevant time limits. The appropriate legal avenue is to make an individual complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, but a six-month time limit applies …


“Where a complaint is substantiated, Finance has no capacity to take disciplinary action against either a Senator or Member or a MOP (S) Act employee.”

At the time of writing, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have remained woefully and incomprehensibly silent about the sexual slurs against Senator Sarah Hanson-Young made by Senator David Leyonhjelm, both in the Senate and later on the Sky News program Outsiders, a whine-fest of woeful and incomprehensible proportions with entirely comprehensible audience numbers of a mere few thousand, hosted by two of the most sadly inadequate men in media, Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron. Cameron is also a former Liberal politician, given shelter by the Sky News network retirement home for failed conservatives.

Sky News, Dean and Cameron have since apologised to Hanson-Young who has instigated legal action. Leyonhjelm, libertarian and defender of free speech but only when it suits him, has not.

Turnbull and Shorten are the leaders of the parliamentary workplace. Leyonhjelm’s verbal sexual abuse of Hanson-Young occurred in that workplace, as well as later in the media. The Senator attempted to use Hanson-Young’s assumed sexual life as a weapon against her. In other words he slut-shamed her, in the Senate and later the media, in the time-honoured manner of misogynistic old men who have never resolved their desire for women with their simultaneous hatred of us.

It was one of the more sickening episodes to come out of a parliament that daily emits a multitude of sickening events.

The silence from Turnbull and Shorten is deafening. Indeed, it is a betrayal of every woman in that workplace, as well as those of us outside of it. No woman is required to suffer sexual slurs when she goes to her job.

Sexual slurs are at the beginning of a continuum that ends with our rape and our murder. There is no workplace occasion, absolutely none, in which it is acceptable to comment on a woman’s sexual life and choices.

Turnbull and Shorten, quick to don the White Ribbon, quick to avail themselves of the photo opportunity and publicitysurrounding the ghastly murder of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon, are complicity silent when a female senator’s sexual life is used in the Senate as a weapon.

Lack of respect, Turnbull famously trumpeted, is where violence against women begins. If you respect women, he claims, you will not harass and abuse us. Lack of respect is the beginning of all violence against us, according to the Prime Minister who said on September 25, 2015:

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women …”

Turnbull’s silence on the sexual harassment of Hanson Young in the Senate indicates utter lack of respect for women, if not contempt. Shorten’s silence indicates the same. The silence of both leaders goes a long way to explaining why the Australian Parliament has some of the most inadequate workplace sexual harassment policies in the western world. Because they don’t give a damn about women. They don’t give a damn.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Judith

    Any apology from David Leyonhelm now would be a further insult – merely a sham. In my book an apology is an admission of an error and an agreement that the transgression will not happen again. The increase in schoolyard bullying, domestic violence and even road rage has its roots in parliamentary question time.

  2. Kronomex

    Good luck getting an apology from someone who is more than obviously a misogynist and foul mouthed thug who leans heavily towards the LNP side of politics. Trembles will not say anything in fear of upsetting Leyonhelm and therefore possibly losing a vote in the senate.

  3. Geoff Andrews

    Poor ‘ole Dave. He’s confused the poor darling (whoa!! now there’s a thought): he thinks “all rapists are men” is the same as “all men are rapists”.

  4. Josephus

    I am revolted that the other female Senators did not all walk out of the Chamber. I am disgusted that the Speaker did not expel the thug, did not ask him to with draw the comment, elected as he was by so few votes. Sen Sarah H Y has spoken out clearly against corruption and denialism, but has never spoken sexual insults. I hope she sues the thug for squillions. Sen L needs to be sacked if he does not apologise, and if he does, warned that he will go if a repeat occurs. Yes the male party leaders of the two main parties are hypocrites- did Di Natale protest? Please remind us Jennifer.
    Finally, were there sexual insults traded when the repulsive Joyce was cheating on his wife and worse, was doing this with a staffer? Not saying there should have been such, of course. Though Joyce should be sacked for incompetence and corruption.

  5. New England Cocky

    David Lout has demonstrated that he is unfit for any public office, especially the Australian Senate.

    indeed, his misogyny appears to be pathological and ingrained; perhaps due to his foreign upbringing in a state where men were “men” and abuse of all kinds was common among self-righteous supporters of apartheid.

    However, will many Australian voters will remember this incident the next time he is up for re-election on a double bed ballot paper?

  6. MikeW

    In any other workplace in Australia the comments by David Leyonhjelm would result in instant dismissal or forced to resign, yet politicians are allowed to insult and degrade each other under parliamentary privilege, time to change the rules. This man is a piece of garbage, and that’s being polite. As for the two stooges on sky TV why were they not suspended instead of a young female producer?

  7. Jaquix

    Leyonhjelm has said “I havent made any comment on her private life”. Yet look at what he did say, in parliament “You should stop shagging men, Sarah.” What is that if its not a comment on her private life? He is definitely a creep. Remember he has form, thought there was nothing wrong with the vile sexist “slogans” plastered all over those Wicked Campers a few years ago. And they were vile.

  8. Kaye Lee

    This is far from an isolated incident. If they were in the same party, we probably would never hear about it. If she was a staffer even less likely. When Michaelia Cash slut-shamed the women in Bill Shorten’s office, where was the disciplinary action? it doesn’t exist. And those women have no power to admonish her.

    Another example….

    When staffer Stefanie Jones first accused former NSW Labor General Secretary Jamie Clements of harassment, she had no idea it would spark an internal brawl that would go all the way to the top of the ALP. Jones alleged that Clements entered her workplace after hours, prevented her from leaving, and demanded she kiss him. Clements has never been charged and denies the allegations. Only one Labor MP, Lynda Voltz, spoke up to publicly defend Jones and to demand Clements stand aside for an independent investigation.

    Voltz told me that too many Labor politicians relied on Jamie Clements and the power he wielded for their jobs, and that’s why they were unwilling to speak out. “MPs won’t speak up in order to protect themselves. Certain politicians are only there because of Jamie Clements.” Voltz said. “It goes on unabated. Women are vulnerable because when you have a dynamic as you do in politics there’s a power imbalance.”

    Or this one….

    In late 2015, a 26-year-old female DFAT staffer made accusations of inappropriate behavior against Jamie Briggs, whose biggest political achievement to date was breaking that expensive marble table at Abbott’s rowdy goodbye party. Following an internal investigation, Briggs was forced to resign but unfortunately the story didn’t end there. He responded by texting a photo of the woman to “a few colleagues” after she made a formal complaint. The photos found their way to media along with anonymous comments suggesting the whole thing was a beat up and a conspiracy designed to denigrate Briggs. Sound familiar?

    The media cop it too as Karen Middleton wrote in her article “Sexual harassment in politics”, though they never name names.

    Remarking that he had not met the newest member of the bureau, the MP quickly stepped into the minuscule room and started running his hand up my stockings, with a sleazy “And who have we here?”

  9. Frank Smith

    And, Kaye Lee, let us not forget the dreadful tactics Tony Abbott and his bully boys used against Julia Gillard even whilst Abbott himself assumed the title of Minister for Women. And I now read that Abbott has advised Leyonhjelm to apologize – what hypocrisy!

    And all this arose during a debate on the absolutely nonsensical idea of five misogynistic Neanderthals that import restrictions on tasers and pepper spray be lifted so that women could “arm themselves” against men rather than have men change their “blokey” disrespectful culture towards women. Talk about “missing the point”. Perhaps Leyonhjelm was also hoping to supply women with his much loved 7 shot Adler shot-gun.

    Malcolm, forget about the politics for once and get in there and show some real leadership on this issue – it needs the authority of the Prime Minister’s Office to send a flashing red light to every Australian male.

  10. Andrew Smith

    Another element in addition to misogyny in parliament, media etc. is that politics has become free entertainment content for mainstream media, especially for the upper median age demographics.

    Mostly commercial channels (tv, print and radio) use this content for presentation and often to normalise unethical, infantile or attention seeking behaviour (unless too egregious) whether freedom of speech, need for security, dog whistling non WASPs, etc.

    The result is society, and more importantly our ageing electorate, become cynical of all politicians, parliamentary democracy, good legislation, facts and analysis etc.; aids disassociation and removes electoral obstacles for sponsors of sub-optimal policy not in the interest of the nation.

  11. guest

    Is this behaviour of David Leonhjelm an example of “patriarchy”? I am becoming confused, having thought that men and women are of equal value. But payment of salary for a good day’s work is yet to be common here in Oz, apparently. And we have examples, two recently in Melbourne, where men have raped women and killed them, as if tossing them away when they have finished with them – and on social media we have hyped up males making crude and indecent comments about the victims.

    On certain news outlets there are scribbling commenters who denigrate feminists and #MeToo adherents as if they are “victim-signalling” or some such nomenclature, as if these women need to “toughen up”.

    “White male supremacists” are seen as merely “blokey blokes” who by their evolution are hunter gatherers, whereas a woman’s place is in the kitchen a la Abbott. And there are cultures which treat women as inferior, cultures which we like to criticise, yet it appears as if we are one of them.

    I was surprised to see a comment elsewhere praising Jordan Peterson as a noble, published psychiatrist and social commentator. Yet my understanding of what he has to say – well spruiked and recommended in some conservative quarters here in Oz – that his alt-Right views were harking back to bad old days of separate stereotypical roles for men and women. A reading of criticisms of Peterson’s views – and there are many of them on line – showed they did not coincide with new views of gender roles. The claim is that Peterson’s views are causing angst among the Left, and I can see why. It should be causing everybody angst, because it is being propounded as a slap in the face for “political correctness”, whatever that is.

    So I wonder if Leonhjelm is one of those conservative “blokey blokes”, driven by ancient DNA in the genes, who sees women as inferior and therefore worthy of being put in their place. And there are those who agree with that way of thinking and do not censor it. All praise then, to Tony Abbott, who is not without fault, but roundly chastised by Julia Gillard has suggested that Leonhjelm should apologise.

  12. Kaye Lee

    In response to Labor’s attempt to introduce domestic violence leave, Leyonhjelm said “Domestic violence is a crime. But what makes it different to say someone being mugged? Or your house gets burgled? Why should it be treated differently than other crimes?”

    Oh gee. Let me think about that. If someone mugs you or burgles your house, you probably don’t have to flee from your home in the middle of the night with the kids in tow and then try to find somewhere to stay where your partner can’t find you. You have probably not been subjected to years of torment and emotional abuse. You probably haven’t had someone controlling your finances.

    He also said that “dirty jokes and office flirting” are not sexual harassment. Apparently, that is just something we should be expected to accept in our workplace.

    He also chose to invite Milo Yiannopoulos to speak in parliament house. At a speech a few days beforehand, this little twerp, during his talk. projected an unflattering photo of the feminist writer Clementine Ford, taken when she was a teenager, with the word “UNF*CKABLE” superimposed over the top. Leyonhjelm was quite enamoured with him.

  13. Stephen Brailey

    I could almost hear the tossers head inflating as he smugly told ABC listeners that an increased public profile because of this incident was “unintended”. Nothing will be done about this abuse of parliamentary privelege so I hesitate to even comment for fear I’m just giving the creep’s vile views more air!

  14. guest

    Google Milo Yannopoulos for an interesting read. Leyonhjelm’s buddy?

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