23 March 2021

SUBJECTS: Workplace culture in Parliament House.





NADIA MITSOPOLOUS, HOST: Let's have a chat to Madeleine King. She's the Member for Brand and no doubt she was listening closely to what the Prime Minister had to say this morning. Madeleine, thank you for your time.




MITSOPOLOUS: First of all, your reaction to this latest revelation, a male staffer sacked for a pretty vile act on a female MP’s desk. I mean, how do you react to that news?


KING: When I heard it last night, I was like the rest of the country, just absolutely staggered. Just simply amazing. How can it be that a group of men think this is in any way, in any place, an acceptable type of behaviour, and behaviour designed to humiliate women, their boss, a female member of parliament. But wider than that it's a pattern of behaviour that is targeted at embarrassing and humiliating women, It beggars belief. I can't believe I'm talking about it, to be honest Nadia, because who would ever have dreamed this kind of day would come?


MITSOPOLOUS And then also last night revelations or claims of regular sex happening in the so-called meditation room or prayer room. I mean, is that something you'd heard of before?


KING: It's not something I'd heard of before, but I am equally appalled. The degrading of a room where people do go for solace or prayer or simply quiet time to meditate, that it has been sullied by this kind of behaviour that shouldn't happen in any workplace, let alone this workplace. So it's humiliating, it's embarrassing for me as an elected Member of Parliament to even have to talk about it. People may think I'm naive but I've not witnessed this kind of behaviour personally in the Parliament, but clearly it is happening. And we know it is happening, and at least the light is shining in and we're finding out about it so we can stop it.


MITSOPOLOUS: Is everyone in Parliament being tarnished by this behaviour?


KING: Absolutely, Nadia. And we are tarnished, we deserve to be tarnished. The culture has not built up overnight like this. There is a sense of entitlement around this building that has clearly been building up for decades. It certainly feels like it has reached its zenith, where people feel they can do such things on a woman's desk and show off about it. But we're all tarnished. I'm an elected representative, but there are a lot of people that work in this building that are not. They either work for MPs, but there's also lots of support staff, like the librarians, the clerks, all these other people that love coming to this place and love working here. And I bet you right now they don't like it at all because they're just caught up, thrown in with this whole dirty stinking mess of the creation of these men, and it must be really hard to turn up to work each day for all of them.


MITSOPOLOUS: Madeleine King is my guest this morning, the Federal Labor MP for Brand. I'll get to your calls in a moment on 1300 222 720. The Prime Minister this morning said there will be women in Parliament who might be thinking this morning, why bother, why bother anymore? Do you feel like that?


KING: It does feel desperately sad that this is where we've arrived at. I heard the audio of the Prime Minister and he sort of intimated that we've only been speaking about these kinds of matters in this Parliament for the last five weeks, whereas the country's been speaking about it forever. I really must disagree. Women in this place, and men for that matter, have been talking about the importance of equality for women and putting out on the record the disadvantages women face in this country and this world. And I have to acknowledge the work of Sharon Claydon, the Member for Newcastle, who every single year goes into the Parliament and lists the names of the women who have been killed by their partner or former partner in acts of domestic violence. And she's been doing that for a number of years so this is not a new conversation in the Parliament. Women's rights, women's equality, has been spoken about for a long time, and that the Prime Minister today just seems to have noticed this kind of beggars belief.


MITSOPOLOUS: Do you feel he's listening now though, Madeleine King?


KING: I sure hope so Nadia. It's remarkable that it takes these kinds of brutalities to make him listen. I hope something comes of it. This new admission to understanding has to be followed up by action.


MITSOPOLOUS: And so what is that action, because we know there's a number of inquiries underway looking at the culture of Parliament House and that workplace. The Prime Minister didn't want to go into detail about what other changes might happen, but he did talk about being open to the conversation of quotas to get more women into parliament. Is it as simple as that? What else can be changed immediately?


KING: Well, quotas is definitely part of the discussion for the Liberal Party and as you know, Labor has them already. But there are immediate things that can be done like mandatory consent training for all MP, senators and staff. That is something staff have called for. Out in the community, immediate funding of domestic violence refuge centres to indicate we know what's going on in the community and women need to be protected when they are assaulted. Within the Parliament, a more open approach to these inquiries as to what's going on. We know that the Gatejens report has been stopped so at the moment the Prime Minister cannot tell you or me who in his staff knew what about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, and that is staggering as well. So generally a more open approach, let the light shine in, so that we can deal with these matters.


MITSOPOLOUS: And in the meantime, public confidence wanes.


KING: Absolutely. And as you said before, we're all tarnished, the trust in the institution is diminished. The good work many decent, hard-working elected representatives and their staff are trying to do every single day is entirely diminished by the behaviour of, quite frankly, some immoral people.


MITSOPOLOUS: Madeleine King, I’ll leave it there. Thank you very much for your time.


KING: Thanks Nadia.