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‘Not my experience’: Liberal MPs say they haven’t witnessed sexism

Federal and state Liberal MPs say they have not witnessed the culture of sexism and misogyny within the party portrayed by former federal MP Julia Banks in her new book, in which she alleged she was inappropriately touched by a male Coalition minister.

Victorian federal MP Katie Allen, who is in her first term, said she felt “very supported” by her federal Liberal colleagues, but more support was needed for politicians and their staff to deal with the high-stakes environment of Parliament.

Former Liberal turned-independent MP Julia Banks has written a book detailing her distressing time in federal politics.

Former Liberal turned-independent MP Julia Banks has written a book detailing her distressing time in federal politics.Credit:Simon Schluter

“Certainly my experience has been very different from Julia’s but that’s not to say it didn’t happen,” Dr Allen said. “But there is no doubt politics is contested and the outcomes can be brutal.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt, who has served in federal Parliament for two decades, had not read Ms Banks’ account when asked about her allegations on Saturday, but said he hadn’t seen a culture of sexism within the government.

“That’s not one of the things I’ve witnessed,” Mr Hunt said on Saturday. “I can only speak to my own practices. For me, my practice since I have been there is that Canberra is a place for work.”

In an extract from her book, published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, Ms Banks elaborated on her experience of harassment, ageism and sexism within the Liberal Party while she was the federal member for Chisholm in Melbourne’s east from 2016 to 2019.

These occurred from the outset of her political career, including during her 2015 preselection when party members told her she was too old at 52 be in politics and suggested she should be looking after her children.

On one occasion, while at a gathering in Parliament House, she said an unnamed cabinet minister, whose breath smelled of alcohol, slid his hand up her thigh in a brazen, unwanted advance. After she decided to leave politics, she claimed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office attempted to background media that she was “a weak, over-emotional woman” who had not coped with the ousting of Mr Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Morrison’s office has rejected the claims.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Women Marise Payne said everyone had a right to feel safe in the workplace and the government had agreed to, or noted, all 55 recommendations from the Human Rights Commission Respect@Work report.

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