Women in Australia’s Parliament Decry Bullying and Sexism in Push for Change

The spill certainly inflamed the tension in Parliament, but women have long struggled to find a foothold there.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young filed a defamation lawsuit against a male colleague after he told her during a debate over women’s safety to “stop shagging men.”CreditTang Chhin Sothy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Australia has slipped in recent years in world rankings of the percentage of female lawmakers in national legislatures, currently coming in 50th according to figures maintained by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. (The United States is 102nd.)

Some, like Ms. Sharkie, have suggested that the climate for women could improve if Parliament created a “code of conduct” to rein in inappropriate behavior. There has also been a push to implement quotas to increase women’s representation in the Liberal Party, though those calls have been rebuffed in recent years.

Mr. Morrison has offered assurances that the Liberal Party “will absolutely deal with this issue.”

“I have no truck with bullying,” he said, “whether it’s in a classroom, whether it’s in a workplace or with a broadcaster.”

Some say Parliament simply reflects the rough-and-tumble nature of Australian politics, where sharp elbows and robust debate dominate. Alan Jones, a prominent radio broadcaster, suggested in a television appearance that members who were complaining should “take a teaspoon full of cement and toughen up.”

“I’m frankly a little bit disgusted by that,” Kelly O’Dwyer, the minister for women, countered in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

She agreed that politics could be bruising.

“But, clearly, there is behavior that is outside the accepted bounds,” she added. “The truth is, across all political lines, we as women and as people of good standing need to say it is not acceptable to bully and intimidate.”

Source Link