By Tanya Plibersek

16 March 2021



SUBJECT: March4Justice.


JOURNALIST: Just quickly on the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday about the protest out here and, you know, in other countries people being shot for it. Do you think that was insensitive and out of line? 

PLIBERSEK: I think the Prime Minister just continues to miss the point. You’ve got thousands of women, tens of thousands of women around the country, who are sad and frustrated by the lack of action on sexual harassment and sexual assault. Women around Australia know that the system is stacked against them. If you look at sexual assault figures in New South Wales about one in ten victims of sexual assault report to the police. And of those who report to the police around 3 per cent get a guilty verdict. There is something profoundly broken about a system where this crime can happen right across our communities, in our homes, on our streets, in our workplaces, and the likelihood of anyone actually being made to answer for it is so very slim. Women know that, and they are sick of it. And I think the marches yesterday, while so many people who were there were sad and frustrated by the fact that we're still having this discussion in 2021, that we haven't progressed more, there was also a feeling of collective strength for women to demand better laws that will keep them safe, and also demand culture change. 

We've got to raise our kids in a way that means that violence in their personal relationships is completely unacceptable. We've got to be teaching our kids from the earliest ages in an age-appropriate way, what respectful relationships look like. At the moment in Australia, the average first age of viewing pornography is 10 years old. So our kids are getting a sex education from somewhere, and what they're learning is that sex is violent, that it's dominating, that it's demeaning and degrading of women. Instead we need to be giving them healthy models in our own relationships as parents, as aunties, as uncles, as grandparents. And in our schools we need to be explicitly teaching about issues like consent when children are old enough to have those conversations. Chanel Contos' petition shows that we are completely failing a generation of young men and women when it comes to teaching consent. What we should be teaching them is "hell yeah." That's what I've talked to my 16 year old boy about all the time. How can you tell if a girl's consenting? She says "hell yeah". If you say: 'Do you want to try this? Do you want to kiss me? Should we? Do you want to?" If she's not saying "hell yeah", she's saying no. That's what we need to be teaching our teenagers. 

JOURNALST: No Government frontbenchers rocked up including the Minister for Women at the march yesterday. What sort of message does that send? 

PLIBERSEK: I think that the women of Australia will make up their own mind about what message it sends that thousands of them travelled to Parliament to tell their stories, to tell very moving and profoundly difficult stories, and the Government can't be bothered going out to listen to them. We can't change this culture until people in a position with authority and power to change our laws are prepared to listen to what needs to change. We’ve had reports, we've had inquiries. We've got the Respect@Work report has been sitting on the Attorney General's desk for a year, with 55 recommendations that the Government hasn't even begun to implement. But that's not the only report. We've had years of investigation into how we strengthen laws around domestic violence. What's this Government done? It's got rid of the Family Court, a court that has specialist expertise in dealing with families where there is domestic violence. We've had years of reports about how we strengthen laws and policing responses to sexual assault. Action is too slow and there were a lot of women out there yesterday who are older, who have been campaigning for years, women in their 70s and 80s, who are so profoundly saddened and frustrated that their daughters and granddaughters have to have the same fights that they've been having for so long. 

What gives me hope is that we have this new generation of amazing, articulate, young women. We heard yesterday from Brittany Higgins about her experience here in the heart of our nation's democracy. We've heard from Grace Tame this year. We heard from Saxon Mullins yesterday, who's leading a charge to change laws around consent in NSW. We are hearing the voices of these young women, loud and strong. Scott Morrison needs to listen. Yesterday, instead of saying that we were lucky not to be shot for marching in the streets of our great democracy, he should have been out there listening to the women. In fact, yesterday's comment reminded me of when women were complaining about their maternity ward being shut down and having to give birth by the side of the road on their way to hospital, and he said “what are they complaining about? We built them a better road.” It's just not good enough. Thanks.