Senate debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Statements by Senators

Hanson, Senator Pauline

1:48 pm

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

On Wednesday, just yesterday, in her contribution to the second reading debate on the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Bill 2021, Senator Hanson chose to single out Ms Brittany Higgins in the most disgraceful way. I'm not going to repeat the offensive remarks made by Senator Hanson, but they reach a new low bar, even for Senator Hanson.

What is shameful is the continued silence of women in this place who hold positions of power in the government and who have offered no rebuttal to the offensive comments made by the senator. Senator Cash, as the highest lawmaker in the land, Senator Ruston, as manager of government business, and Senator Payne, as Minister for Women, have made no comments. They are all cabinet ministers. Their silence continues the safe haven for those who wish to make the kinds of comments made by the senator and assists perpetrators to avoid detection or being held accountable for their actions. Further, and perhaps more importantly, it leaves victims feeling confused and unsupported. Australian women know the Prime Minister won't hold his own male ministers to a higher level of behaviour and indeed seems incapable of understanding the issues. However, I would expect better from these women senators. Sexual harassment thrives in a culture of silence.

Of course, in relation to Ms Higgins the government was at pains to point out how it was supportive after the fact. But it's plain to see that actions speak louder than words, and it was their actions which let Ms Higgins and all of us down. The high aim of the current review into this place will come to nothing unless each and every one of us works to eradicate the culture of silence. I will be silent no longer. It is time to put the interests of women ahead of the pursuit of power or winning a vote.