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Australian parliament 'toxic' for women, says Labor's Clare O'Neil

Posted by On 9:36 PM

Australian parliament 'toxic' for women, says Labor's Clare O'Neil

Australian politics Australian parliament 'toxic' for women, says Labor's Clare O’Neil

Frontbencher says unlike Liberals, Labor has anti-bullying processes and defends party’s handling of Emma Husar complaints

Clare O’Neil
Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil says there’s a ‘level of aggression’ in parliament now. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

Politics is increasingly toxic for “normal people” in general and women in particular, Labor frontbencher Clare O’Neil has said.

The shadow financial services minister made the comments on Sunday in the wake of Li beral MP Julia Banks announcing she will quit at the next election because of “bullying and intimidation” from within her own party.

O’Neil argued that â€" unlike the Liberal party â€" Labor has processes to prevent gendered bullying and defended Labor’s handling of complaints against MP Emma Husar, arguing the case is different because there was fault on both sides.

In the past fortnight Banks and Liberal senator Linda Reynolds made public claims that lobbying over the Liberal leadership stoush resulted in “bullying and intimidation” of parliamentarians.

While some senior Liberal women have circled the wagons, arguing there is no culture of bullying and the claims are part and parcel of leadership challenges, moderates such as MP Craig Laundy have warned the complaints will have to be investigated.

Politics in Australia has a woman problem â€" and it’s time it stopped | Sarah Hanson-Young Read more

O’Neil told ABC’s Insid ers that “increasingly” the culture in parliament “feels really toxic” for “normal people generally, but in particular for women”.

“So there’s a level of aggression, of conflict, of egocentricism that dominates the culture in parliament house and I think that that is quite hard to handle,” she said.

O’Neil said there was “a very gendered aspect” to the treatment of Husar, but argued Labor has been tackling the problem with 25 years of affirmative action policies whereby the proportion of women rose from 14.5% of the party room to 48%. She said this had “shifted the culture across my party very significantly”.

Husar, the member for the western Sydney seat of Lindsay, also announced she will quit at the next election, citing leaked bullying allegations, including a claim she acted in a sexually inappropriate manner towards frontbencher Jason Clare, which was not sustained in an internal investigation.

Asked about the two cases, O’Neil said there is a distinction between the experience of women in the two major parties and that Husar’s case was “a bit more complicated” because there was “acknowledged wrongdoing on both sides”.

While the most serious allegations of sexual harassment were not supported, the investigation into Husar found that staffers’ complaints that they were asked to do personal duties had merit and claims of misuse of entitlements warranted further investigation.

O’Neil said Banks’ criticism reflected “the culture within the Liberal party” and said the response had been “tone deaf”, with senior people suggesting she needed to “toughen up”.

Emma Husar says 'vicious slut shaming' ended her career Read more

“I can say, very honestly, if there was bullying and intimidation put on me as a member of parliament, I would pick up the phone, I would call [Labor Senate leader] Penny Wong and call [deputy leader] Tanya Plib ersek and there would be a nuclear armageddon on the person who did this to me,” O’Neil said.

By contrast, O’Neil said, she did not see “who will drive that culture” within the Liberal party “to make sure that women feel valued and that they have a voice”.

“I’m not claiming that the Labor party are perfect here, but you’ve got to say that we’re having a crack at fixing the problem and I don’t see the same being done on the other side of politics,” she said.

O’Neil also targeted the Morrison government for its handling of the financial services portfolio.

She said it was “extraordinary” the role had been given to the assistant treasurer, Stuart Robert, who was sacked in 2016 over a “private” trip to Beijing to oversee a mining deal involving a major Liberal donor and meet a Chinese vice-minister.

O’Neil said Robert had “misused his position as a minister” and “behaved completely inappropriately”.

“Someone who was sacked for misconduct is going to be put in charge of fixing bank misconduct? It’s a joke,” she said. “And it shows that the government has never taken [the financial services] royal commission seriously.”

Topics
  • Australian politics
  • Labor party
  • Coalition
  • Bullying
  • Gender
  • Liberal party
  • news
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Source: Google Australia | Netizen 24 Australia

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