Thursday, 25 March 2021
I want to take a moment to respond to the passionate pleas across Australia that we've heard over the last few weeks. It's impossible for me as a man to fully understand and appreciate what women have been through, but I want to at least try to respond to the important messages that I've been hearing. Hearing how many young women have been sexually assaulted is one of the most confronting of all of the shocks of the past month. We're failing our girls, and our boys, if we don't do something to turn this around.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
Pornography, alcohol abuse and deep cultural undercurrents that teach boys to sexualise rather than respect their female peers cannot be allowed to continue. Women have been telling Australia they have had enough; they're sick of the way things have been for generations and they want real change. Women are telling us that, if they are to achieve real equality, we must ensure first and foremost that they are safe—safe in their homes, safe as they walk about the streets of their cities and towns, safe in their schools, safe at university, safe in their workplaces and, most importantly, safe in this place, the parliament of Australia. They're also telling us they're sick of being treated as second-class citizens—sick of being ignored, sick of being patronised, sick of being denigrated, sick of being left out. This is a confronting message but it's a vital message, and it's a vital message that we men in this place have to hear.
So the question is: what do we do about it? The Jenkins review is an important step. It's an independent review with multipartisan support, giving staff, MPs and senators the chance to provide open and honest feedback about the culture of parliament and to provide suggestions on what we should do and what we can do to make the parliament a safe and welcoming place to work. As an individual, I'm going to try to lead by example. I think too often where there have been issues of poor conduct of colleagues or people we work with, whether it's here or in other places, we men have turned a blind eye. That's got to stop, and it's got to stop now. We can no longer be bystanders. We've all got to put our hands up to do better. We've all got to adopt the motto: 'If you see something, say something, and do something about it.'
Second, I commit to redoubling my efforts to provide opportunities for women to experience working in this place—this parliament—where I proudly worked as a staffer and now serve as an MP, and where people come from across the country to do great things for their community and their country, motivated by the highest ideals. I commit to encouraging and helping more women to stand for public office, and to spending what political capital I have to help get them there. I commit to making Australia a better, safer, more tolerant place for women so that they can take their full place in our society, a place that has far too often been denied to them. I call on all men around the country to join in these efforts as well.