Putting Women's Safety Above Politics

16 Mar 2021 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby—Government Whip) (19:35): Yesterday I sat in this place and listened to the Leader of the Opposition express outrage at the treatment of women in politics and suggest that we all need to listen to what women are saying. He directed almost all of his outrage at my party and my government. I heard him say almost nothing about his own. I sincerely hope that the Leader of the Opposition and all the senior Labor women are listening to me right now. The safety of women in this place—female staff, and female MPs and senators —should be above politics. The need to change the culture of our parties and of this place should be above politics. It is an issue for us all to address through the bipartisan independent review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins. Despite all this and despite the bipartisan support for the review and the change, yesterday the Leader of the Opposition decided to crawl down into the gutter and make this about politics and turn this into an ugly political fight.

I say to the Leader of the Opposition: I will not be lectured by you. I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place. I ask the Leader of the Opposition: where was he and where was his predecessor and where were the senior Labor women when GetUp, Labor and the union supporters chased, harassed and screamed at me everywhere I went in the lead-up to the 2019 election? Where were they when their supporters were abusing me time after time on Twitter and on my Facebook page? Where were they when I was stalked by a creepy old man who worked hand in hand with GetUp? Where were they when the same was done to my fellow candidate Georgina Downer by a different but abusive, aggressive old man? Where were they when I was subjected to the horrendous sexist and misogynist abuse scrawled all over my campaign office? Where were they saying, 'This has to stop,' when the incidents were all extensively reported on radio, television and in print? The fact that Senator Penny Wong has claimed that I was not subjected to a coordinated sexist campaign and that my claims of sexism have no basis in fact says it all. This is the woman who was paired with my seat and
who was on the ground giving almost daily press conferences throughout the 2019 election campaign. She knew exactly what was going on. Is it any wonder that we now find that Labor female staff have been subjected to horrific treatment within the Labor Party as well? Is this the way they've been treated and listened to as well? In my evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, I stated the following:

Here is a quote from former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, from January 2019—so in the lead-up to the last federal election:Women deserve to be safe and valued at home, on the streets, in our workplaces and in everything they do.

And a quote from Senator Penny Wong …

… of course bullying and intimidation in any workplace are unacceptable.

Senator Wong responded to my committee evidence by attacking me. Today in this place, the member for Sydney said she was 'unaware of any harassment by GetUp of the member for Boothby until very recently'. I find the member for Sydney's claim hard to believe, as I was one of only seven Liberal Party members on GetUp's federal election hit list. I was the only woman, the only backbencher and the only one who was not a current or former cabinet minister. I find it hard to believe that Senator Wong and the Labor members on the committee did not tell the member for Sydney that I had named her in my evidence in September last year. But, although I find the member for Sydney's personal explanation today more than a little disingenuous, I don't want to attack her.

What I say to the Labor Party today is that they may not have held the spray can to vandalise my office with sexist slurs and they may not have held the camera pointed at me by the stalker or called me evil in GetUp's phone calls, but they did create the environment in which hate could flourish. So I say to the Leader of the Opposition: what will you do about this? I say to the Leader of the Opposition: get your own house in order. And I say to the Leader of the Opposition: this can't be about politics anymore. We all bear the responsibility for change.