Today’s sexual harassment apology from Australia’s political leaders are just more words without action, according to critics.
A review by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recommended House of Representatives and Senate make the statements of sorrow.
Sexual harassment apology just words
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led the apologies, telling the parliament, “I am sorry, we are sorry”.
He acknowledged former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, who’s sexual assault allegation prompted the inquiry.
Higgins listened to the statements from the gallery, along with a small group of others.
“I am sorry to Ms Higgins for the terrible things that took place here. The place that should have been a place for safety, that turned out to be a nightmare.
“I am sorry for far more than that. All those that came before Ms Higgins … but she had the courage to speak, and so here we are.”
However, many soon took to social media to criticise Morrison’s words, considering his appalling track record on women’s issues.
Others also pointed to the record of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who not only had an affair with a staffer, but was also accused of sexual harassment by National Party member Catherine Marriott.
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Firstly, former Australian of the Year Grace Tame tweeted:
“How about some proactive, preventative measures and not just these performative, last-minute bandaid electioneering stunts?”
Previously, Commissioner Jenkins’ ‘Set the Standard’ report described Federal Parliament as a “boys club”.
Furthermore, it found the parliament had a culture of “bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault”.
It also found that one in three staff working across parliamentary offices had experienced sexual harassment.
I felt vindicated by apology
Earlier, Higgins left the chamber in tears, briefly comforted by fellow former Liberal staffer Rachelle Miller who soon returned to the gallery.
Miller’s current complaint against minister Alan Tudge is still in progress. She told ABC News:
“I felt vindicated that there was an apology made,” she said.
“It felt like finally, what I’ve been saying all along that this culture is an acceptable, was being recognised and acknowledged, but it is only the first step.”
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Words without action mean nothing
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said words without action mean nothing.
“Unfortunately, we have a Prime Minister and a government who like to make announcements but then take no action,” he said.
“To date, Scott Morrison has refused to implement the full recommendations in Ms Jenkins [email protected] report.
“In fact, he ignored that report for 12-months until the Brittany Higgins scandal broke and he needed to pull it off the shelf to look as though he was doing something about yet another crisis and scandal.”
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Men need to step up
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese apologised on behalf of the Labor Party, committing to taking action.
“We cannot attract the best people to this place if we don’t strive to be the best ourselves,” he said.
“Nor can we leave this work just to women … they belong to us all.
“Men have to step up and be allied in both word and deed.”
“This has been made clear to us by the extraordinary examples of not just Brittany Higgins, but Grace Tame and others who have found the strength to lift the weight of their own experience and hold it high until no one could look away.”
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