Senate debates

Monday, 26 November 2018


Suspension of Standing Orders

4:06 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to contingent notice and at the request of Senator O'Sullivan, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion that general business notice of motion No. 1212 may be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.

The reason we want to do this is because the litany of allegations, the fact-finding, the discussions, the public disclosure of the conduct within the Greens political party is so egregious. It contains the most grievous misdemeanours, including sexual harassment and allegations of rape. Those in the Greens pocket in this chamber are in abject denial about it. Just last week, when I was making points in this place, they were yelling abuse at me, saying it was a misuse of parliamentary privilege. Not two hours later they had to do the mea culpa and admit that there has been a disaster under Senator Di Natale's watch. Every Green in this chamber stands condemned for turning a blind eye to the malfeasance that is endemic in their party. Not only is there misogyny; there is misandry, there is heterophobia and there is clearly homophobia. There is a phobia and an ism for everyone in that place, because they will not take control of the disaster that is endemic.

We know the candidate for Batman was accused—I think there were 70 pages of bullying allegations. We know that a candidate accused of rape, who is named in this motion, was not removed from the Greens ballot paper until only days before the Victorian election. We know that former Senator Rhiannon, a person of integrity insofar as she wants to uphold some decency and normality within the Greens, as much as that can be said, was on the warpath about the types of behaviour that were ignored by the leadership within the Greens.

What concerns me in the debate and discussion about the conduct of a political party that have received in excess of $28 million of taxpayer funding, that stands in here and pretends to be pious and accuses everyone else of all sorts of misdemeanours, grievances and moral failures, is that they are the ones that have a history of covering up the abuse, the rampant sexism, the sexual molestation and the allegations of rape. We know about volunteers that have been dismissed by the Greens parliamentary party when they've raised complaints. We know they've been dismissed by the Greens organisational wing. This is a body that is completely bereft of any normality or any morality. They have an obligation to assist those who reach out and say, 'Something has taken place under your watch and you need to redress this.' Yet they refuse to do it. May I quote Senator Di Natale and Senator Hanson-Young: 'The standard you walk past is the standard that you accept.' Yet all of them have chosen to walk past the litany of allegations against the Greens.

It's not confined to volunteers or to their candidates. We could continue to go on and on about the reports of what happens within the Greens parliamentary party and within their organisational wing. We know they've always been a secretive body that won't allow the media into their annual general meetings, and clearly the reason has been exposed: they don't like anyone gazing upon the entrails of what happens within the Greens movement. It is a movement that is rife with misogyny. It is a movement that is rife with misandry. It is a movement that picks one group of people over another every single time, and now they are caught in this conniption.

What do we do? Do we back the young lady who claims that she's been raped or molested by a Greens volunteer, or do we back the volunteer, the person who has allegedly perpetrated this crime? That is the question. Because the Greens have refused to deal with this, because they have refused to publicly address it except in spurious denials and by saying it's all been resolved by internal processes, we need this Senate to make a statement.

I am ashamed of Labor denying formality. You can vote against it if you like and put up a position why, but denying it formality because you're afraid of what it might expose in your ranks is what I find galling. (Time expired)

4:11 pm

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to attach myself to the remarks of Senator Bernardi. In particular, I'm somewhat confounded by why the Australian Labor Party would deny formality on this, although I am not surprised. I remain confounded but not surprised, because it seems that now, when a motion that the Australian Labor Party or the Greens find disagreeable comes to the floor of the Senate, of course they deny formality or deny leave for us to make a comment about it.

On this particular question, I agree with Senator Bernardi. This is a particularly serious issue. Here are the Greens movement, who are trying to introduce a federal ICAC, they say, to oversee corruption and misbehaviour in the political class, riddled with corruption, yet they refuse to attend to and deal with matters in their own house. They won't deal with matters in their own house.

'I think it's always disappointing to see a woman quit in the face of a culture that so many of us know needs to change. The first step in fixing the environment, though, is to break the silence. That's the first step.' They are very wise words. Let me see who said that. Oh, that would be Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in her recent publication En Garde.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, you've read it?

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have. I've had to read it twice. It's not a very well-written piece, but I have read it thoroughly. 'No woman deserves to be harassed in her workplace.' Obviously that does not extend to you if you're a follower of the Australian Greens or a member of their party. Let me repeat it for effect: 'No woman deserves to be harassed in her workplace.'

The reason that we considered this motion was the fact that—while the Greens can stand and deny this—media reports suggest that efforts by the media to obtain comments from members of the Greens party, including the leadership, were unsuccessful. I note that Senator Hanson-Young and others on that side are particularly quiet today. They're particularly silent there. That's the longest I've seen them without their heads up. You need to get your tail up here and defend yourselves. The fact of the matter is that they were contacted by the media and they refused to make comment. The only reason, Senator Bernardi—through you, Madam Deputy President—that they responded to this was this motion. This motion drove them to have to make a decision last week, and they've finally done the right thing in the circumstances.

Fundamentally, we're here now fighting for a freedom of voice. This is about freedom of speech. We are entitled to bring matters of a serious nature to the floor of this Senate, and we have. I've done so. I've been the subject now of a constant denying of formality to motions. As I indicated the other week, we're now going to have a Ronald McDonald special on this. Each time I get denied, I'm going back with two and then, when you do two, I'll do four. This is trying to silence people who want to have a debate or want to have a decision taken, people who want to expose the position of people in relation to particular behaviour—in this case, within the Greens party—because it doesn't suit them. This is directed to you in the Labor Party. You can smile all you want. I'll be interested to see, if we get this up, where you guys vote.

A vote against this motion by the members of the Greens party—kick in, guys, kick in; I'm not used to standing here without you giving me a bollocking—will be interesting. For them to vote against this motion will be, as their behaviour demonstrates at the moment, a complete re-affirmation of the adoption and the cultivation of a culture within a political movement, an important movement, within this country, towards young, vulnerable women—and not one or two of them. This motion would never have got legs if it was one or two.

This is a systemic problem within the Greens. These people speak. They talk. They have a lot to say, but they never back it up with action. If you can't tidy up your own house, you can't come in here lecturing us on moral issues, issues around sexual assaults—until you fix matters at home.

4:16 pm

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Contrary to the untrue assertions of a certain Greens senator about the basis for her defamation case against me, I'm being sued for calling her hypocritical and a misandrist. Yet, in this motion, we see a dozen allegations of Greens hypocrisy and sexism. In fact, it goes beyond the mere words of telling somebody to stop shagging men. We hear there are allegations, as outlined in this motion, of rape, of sexual assault and of endorsement of sexual assault—indeed, of advocacy of sexual assault. So I will exert my right to call the Greens hypocritical and sexist both in and out of the parliament, because not only is it true, but 'the standard you walk past is the standard you accept'.

4:17 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

Australian women have the right to be safe in their homes, online, in their communities and in their workplaces. That's why this government is supporting practical action by contributing $500,000 towards the inquiry led by Commissioner Kate Jenkins. No-one should have to suffer harassment in any part of their lives. However, the government does not believe that Senate motions are the appropriate mechanism for determining and resolving serious allegations. For this reason, the government does not support suspension.

4:18 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

The chamber will note that I actually have a motion on the Notice Paper to reduce the time we spend on motions. We are spending an inordinate amount of time on motions. The Senate has a lot of work to do that directly affects our constituents—work on introducing bills, on scrutiny, on debating legislation and on committee work. In some sense, what's happening here today simply illustrates why we need to deal with this. I get that motions are important, but we need to be very considered in the way in which we allocate time to this particular part of business. So Centre Alliance will be abstaining from the rest of the affairs related to this motion.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion as moved by Senator Bernardi to suspend standing orders be agreed to.