This week, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale refused to apologise for calling LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan a pig after O’Sullivan had made a crude joke about another Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young. As a result, Di Natale was suspended for the remainder of the day, while O’Sullivan, who did ‘apologise’ was able to stay. LNP MP Julie Banks, in an image saving move, ditched her Party to join the crossbench as an Independent. Self-serving as it may be, the reasons she cited were commendable – she was sick of the sexism and harassment from male colleagues towards women. People often say that racism and sexism aren’t issues today, but our very own government is proof to the contrary.
Sarah Hanson-Young isn’t exactly the best Greens Senator, but for quite some months now she has been subject to a lot of vile comments and uncalled for hatred. Not only from the other members of the Parliament, but any comments section on social media referring to her is rife with disgusting remarks about her, often agreeing with whatever insults or jokes that were made. In any other workplace, that would be grounds for termination, but in Parliament, it’s just another day in the cushy job for our conservative members. Sure, Labor didn’t fight the move to suspend Di Natale, but at least they did repeat his sentiments; only one side didn’t.
There was a common theme in a number of speeches that took place as well. In Hanson-Young’s response, Banks’ resignation, and Di Natale’s comeback, men from the other side left the room. There is a photo of Banks’ speaking with at least five of her now former colleagues walking away. During Di Natale’s speech, he had to call them out as they got up and walked away. These are the men who routinely dish out insults and provocative statements, chiding anyone who dares be offended by them, but then can’t stand to hear themselves being on the receiving end on a well-deserved verbal lashing. As Hanson-Young said, they are the most fragile of them all.
Is sexism the biggest issue facing Australia at the moment? Probably not, but it’s a battle that has been going on for decades, and will likely keep going for a few more. People look to their leaders as a role models, and when we have leaders who act like spoilt children and bullies, it doesn’t bode well for our society. Everyone needs to call it out when it occurs, and just maybe things might change, in Parliament and elsewhere.
In Parliament, however, I won’t be holding my breath.