As a politician, it is my job to be in the thick of parliamentary debate. That debate can be heated; it can be robust, fuelled by the passion of conviction. That is to be expected. What I would never expect nor tolerate is for personal abuse to be hurled across the floor of parliament. That would not be tolerated in any workplace and parliament is no different.
I was shocked to learn that Senator Hanson-Young was the target of personal sexist comments by Senator Leyonhjelm last week in parliament and that the use of sexual slurs and innuendo directed at her had been common place beforehand.
Our parliament should set the standard of behaviour. Respect for one another should be the starting point but we should strive for much more than that. And male politicians have a particular responsibility to set the standard of respect for women that will hopefully carry through to the rest of the community.
Most men are decent human beings who respect women, but there is no doubt that men are the cause of one woman a week in Australia being killed by a current or former partner. There is no doubt that all men can do more to prevent this scourge.
All men need to call out behaviour that contributes to violence against women, and all men need to call out victim-blaming.
I spoke in Parliament last week about the tragic death of Eurydice Dixon. After her violent death some said this young lady, with the world at her feet, should have taken more care than daring to walk through a park late at night. Eurydice had every right to expect to walk home safely. A man should not have killed her.
We often hear the question asked of women who are victims of domestic violence: why didn’t she just leave. A man should not have physically abused her and made her so scared that she was afraid to leave.
New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released data just last week that on State of Origin game nights women in New South Wales are 40per cent more likely to be victims of domestic violence. The State of Origin series in Australia is played by men and Rugby League is overwhelmingly governed by men. Yet this men’s game is putting women at risk.
This is a sad indictment of the way women are treated by men in Australia. Not all men obviously, but some men.
And this is why good, decent men need to step up. Good, decent men can change the behaviour of the sad pathetic minority who disrespect and harm women.
White Ribbon Australia has a checklist of five things that all men can do to help prevent violence against women. They suggest, when a comment is made that makes you feel uncomfortable:-
- Ask the person to repeat it.
- Then ask the person if it was their sister/daughter or son would they say the same thing.
- Tell the person that you believe abusing a woman is wrong.
- If you think others in the group are also uncomfortable ask the others if they also feel uncomfortable.
- Talk to the person privately about what they said or did and how it made you feel.
It’s not a hard ask. All men have the power and responsibility to call out bad behaviour against women.
So, Senator Leyonhjelm, I bet you wouldn’t say what you said about Senator Hanson-Young if it was your sister or daughter that you were talking about. I believe making personal comments like you did about any woman is wrong, but I am particularly outraged that you would make those comments about a female Senator in our parliament. It is not the behaviour expected of any man, let alone a Senator who is elected to represent all the men and women in New South Wales.