By Tanya Plibersek

16 March 2021




SUBJECTS: March for Justice; Marise Payne.

JIM WILSON, HOST: I'd now like to bring in our political influencer on each and every Tuesday, Tanya Plibersek, who is the Shadow Spokesperson for Women. Tanya, welcome back to the program. 


WILSON: I'm just going to play you some audio from my chat with Marise Payne a short time ago. The Minister has been slammed for not attending yesterday's march. But as she says, she hoped a private meeting with organizers would be more constructive. Let's JUST have a listen to Marise Payne.


WILSON: Tanya, you're the Shadow Minister for Women. What did you make of Marise Payne's comments?

PLIBERSEK: I guess whether the Marise goes or not is a decision for her. But I think what the organisers really wanted was for Members of Parliament to be able to hear the speakers who were sharing their stories. So we heard really powerful speeches from Brittany Higgins, who's the young woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted here in Parliament House. We also heard powerful speeches from Saxon Mullins who is doing amazing work to try and change the laws around consent in New South Wales coming out of her experiences. So there was a series of really great speakers. And I think the Members of Parliament who did go, and there were some Liberals down there, really benefited from hearing those speeches firsthand. 

WILSON: Do you agree though that a meeting with the Prime Minister and with the Minister for Women Marise Payne would have been far more constructive in the circumstances?

PLIBERSEK: I think it would have been really helpful if the Prime Minister and the Minister had been able to listen to more of the speeches. And I guess what the organisers said yesterday is that too much of these conversations about sexual assault and sexual harassment happen in secret, behind closed doors, and they're sick of the silence. So, as Marise said, it's up to them to accept or refuse that meeting as they wish. I think their point, that they wanted Members of Parliament to hear first-hand from survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment, is a pretty powerful point though. 

WILSON: Going back to the private meeting though. It's not often you get a one-on-one meeting face-to-face with the Prime Minister and one of his most senior ministers, and I mean the door was open basically all day to those event organizers. But I know, I can tell you, that the protest organisers turned down these opportunities, and the reason being they had to go and fulfil media commitments. They should have accepted the meeting Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: I think, you know, ideally the Prime Minister would have heard from the series of speakers who were talking about sexual harassment and sexual violence. Like the difference between hearing from Brittany Higgins first-hand, from hearing from Saxon Mullins, from hearing from the other really powerful speakers – in the end it's up to the organisers to make their decision. I'm not going to second-guess what they should or shouldn't have done. But I was there, I stayed for as long as I could, and I got an awful lot out of hearing very powerful cases for change, first-hand, from people who had experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

WILSON: I just want to play a bit more audio from my chat with Marise Payne who said the poor treatment of women isn't just restricted to just the Liberal Party. Just have a listen to this. 


WILSON: Has Labor politicised it Tanya? 

PLIBERSEK: Not at all. I've said from the very beginning that this is a problem that affects the Liberal Party, the National Party, the Labor Party, the Greens. It's across the board. And we all need to do better. We all need to provide a safe workplace here in Parliament House, and more importantly we need to work together to make sure every workplace in Australia is free of sexual harassment and sexual assault. It's not just about parliamentarians and their staff. This is about every worker in every workplace, right across Australia. In some ways I suppose, people think it's worse when it's in Parliament House, because they expect better from us. They're more disappointed when they hear of bad behaviour in Parliament House. But sadly we know from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's report, Respect @ Work, that in the last five years 40 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. That report has 55 recommendations. The Government's had them for a year. I would like to see work begin to implement those recommendations, so that every workplace across Australia is is safe.

Like, I can't believe it Jim, that in 2021 we still have to say, it's not okay to sexually harass your colleagues or your junior staff at work. Oh my goodness. I've got a 20 year old daughter. I thought after the decades that I've been working on this stuff, it would be a better world for her and her friends. And I think the reason there was so many sad and frustrated people turning up at these rallies yesterday, right around Australia, is because we wanted to be better by now. We really want it to be better. 

WILSON: Yeah, it's not the not the Australia that we want in 2021. I mean as I said, I've said plenty of times on the program, I was brought up in a strong household of women. And the key thing here, which I think is respect. And that's been lost. And that is a serious, serious issue. 

PLIBERSEK: I think respect is so important. We need to be teaching our kids about respectful relationships. But the other thing we need to do is fix the system that is broken. It is a broken system. If you are a victim of sexual assault in New South Wales, only about one in ten get reported to the police. And of those one in ten, the conviction rate, the guilty findings, about three per cent. So there is something wrong with a system where three per cent of the cases that the police take up actually end in a guilty verdict. That's a busted system. 

WILSON: Yeah, it's telling. And it's seriously concerning. That's why I've said that meeting yesterday would I think would have been a constructive meeting with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women with those event organizers. Tanya, thanks for your time this afternoon.

PLIBERSEK: It's always a pleasure to talk to you Jim.

WILSON: Thank you.