11.34am | March 16, 2021



SUBJECTS:  March4Justice

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel, Liberal MP Katie Allen and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister. Jenny, why did you decide to attend the march outside Parliament House?
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE:  This is an incredibly important feminist moment and women are really wanting to be heard. I think it was important that my Labor colleagues and I went down to the lawns and heard what those women had to say, heard what those survivors had to say and sometimes people who had been silenced for a long time and have now chosen to speak and find their voice. Very important that we were there to listen to it. I also just want to observe that this is something that has been building for a long time. My mum went to the march in Lismore today and she was a woman who in the 70s raised her voice for a more equal future for her daughters. I think she has been waiting a long time and a lot of women in her generation have waited a long time to be listened to properly. Now is our moment, now is our political moment as a group of political leaders to really listen to what the women of Australia are telling us.

KARVELAS: Katie, why did you decide to skip today's march? Do you regret it? I spoke to one of your colleagues a little earlier, Jane Hume, she did go. Do you regret it?

ALLEN: Well regret is not the right word because I’ve fought a long time to be inside the tent and that is where I am. And I've been fighting inside the tent. In fact, I was on the floor of the house in parliament from 12-1 doing house duty and then I gave a speech about women for justice march straight afterwards and now I'm here on the media speaking about this incredible
movement and I was talking about it this morning as well. So, I’m contributing in my way, it is a small way, I am a backbencher, but I think it is very important, this issue. And I think Jenny is right. I think there are Australian women, all around Australia who care deeply about this issue, and there are men who care deeply about this issue as well. It is a moment in time and in fact I said it on television a couple of weeks ago. I think this whole change the last few weeks is a Me Too moment for Parliament and we’re seeing change now happening, and you’re saying not fast enough, but I think there is real momentum to that change. I think change has been happening but it is far too slow and we need to move it up a significant gear to get change happening more quickly, and really, you can see it being tapped into by women right around Australia. People are so angry about the millennia of inequity and it’s being really demonstrated very clearly in the anger these being felt. It is palpable now that people don't want to see the sort of behaviour continuing and they want to see leadership with regards to that.
KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, if I can ask you, I spoke to Tony Burke who are course is a senior frontbencher on your side of politics about all of these complaints that are being made about anonymous members at this stage of the Labor Party, even perhaps frontbenchers, and he says he does think that if they are named, they should stand aside to stop is that your view, too?
MCALLISTER: These are horrible stories and we have be very clear that if this behaviour is happening at the moment in this building, it needs to stop. It can't continue. I would encourage the women who have those complaints to bring them forward through the process, so we can deal with them properly. We need to be able to make this a safe workplace. It is totally unacceptable. I have another observation which is that if you are a man in this building, and you recognise yourself in those stories, it is a good time to think about the fact if that some of your behaviour is making women around you very uncomfortable, it might be time to think about how to change. It might be time to think about how to apologise. Your apology might not be accepted. And it might not save you from the consequences of the decisions you have made in the past. But it would be the right thing to do. This is a moment when we all need to reflect on our personal behaviour and on the systems here in the building. It is moment of absolute moral clarity and we need you to act on all of those things.
KARVELAS: So, Jenny McAllister, that’s a pretty powerful statement you’ve just made to your male colleagues in the Labor Party. You’re saying that they should essentially self-identify if they feel that this is probably about them, change, apologise, be accountable?
MCALLISTER: We all need to be accountable and we need to reflect on our own behaviours. I think that the most important thing is that when women come forward, they are supported with the complaints, and to proceed with their complaints in a way that they choose. But I do observe that it is an opportunity for everyone in this building, including my male colleagues, to reflect on their own behaviour and to think about what we are all going to do to make this a safe place for women to work.
KARVELAS: Katie Allen, do you have the same message for your Liberal colleagues?
ALLEN: When I came to this place from a different professional environment, I felt that there needed to be of more professionalism and I've being saying this for a while now, and I’ve said it in the Party room.  I’d like to see more professional processes put in place. It is important that when you change a culture and transition it, you bring everyone with you. What I would like to see, and we have now got a 24-hour 1800 number in place, I think we need to have ongoing training and we need to change the culture in the here and now and the going forward. That means that we need to have a safe environment for people, particularly women, but also men, to be able to say what they need to state in a private and confidential way so they don't have a character assassination or in fear of potentially not being promoted or losing their job. We need to change the culture in Parliament. But this is the messy bit. How do we do that? Do we go back and look over the last hundred years or move forward? And what I think we need to do is put in things in place to move forward. If you look at the respect at work report, it identifies the sort of workplaces that are very exposed to sexual harassment and allegations and violence. When there are places of work that are very hierarchical, where people are unaware of their behaviour and how it can be offensive to other sexes, and when there is alcohol involved. I think that is a very interesting concoction of issues that can make sexual harassment and sexual violence more likely to prosper, you could say. There is a lot we can the report…
KARVELAS: Should Parliament House be a dry place?
ALLEN: Well, I don't drink alcohol and I do think we should impose that on everyone
KARVELAS: Why not though?
ALLEN: I think that there is a component outside Parliament in particular where alcohol can play a role and I would like to see more safer drinking practices.
KARVELAS: Sure. So, you don’t think there should be a ban on alcohol in Parliament House though?
ALLEN: Well, I have to say I have been Chairman of a school and there has been, interesting to see a transition in the school environment I worked in early banned alcohol...
KARVELAS: Yes, from parent events, right?
ALLEN: Yes, there was no alcohol. First, they were very appalled by it, but it does actually work and it is an interesting change to a culture.
KARVELAS: So, maybe it should be considered? Is that what I’m getting from you?
ALLEN: You are getting a breaking story right here PK. When I get outside, I think people are going to have my neck on the line, but I think we need to think very hard about the type of responsible drinking that happens in high stress places. People use alcohol sometimes to destress and people like to enjoy a nice glass of wine as well so I'm not saying to ban drinking, but we need to really think about it. I have to go because there is division.
KARVELAS: See you. Jenny McAllister, I’ll give you the final word on drinking. Should Parliament House? I mean, there are Aboriginal communities that declare themselves dry. Why doesn't Parliament House do it?
MCALLISTER: Honestly, I think we have a lot of questions to ask about culture, Katie has posed one. The Jenkins review will be enormously important because need to look at all the factors that are driving behaviour and culture here. It was something Labor called for. I'm really pleased were having an independent review. We just want to make sure that all of the participants in the building have the chance to take part in it in a way that makes them feel comfortable and have their say about what the future here is, because this is one of the nation's really important places for all sorts of symbolic reasons.
KARVELAS: Thank you to both of you.

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