By Tanya Plibersek

24 March 2022



SUBJECTS: University Student Safety Survey; Labor’s plan to teach respectful relationships in schools; Kimberley Kitching.
SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: And every week we are joined by the Federal Shadow Minister for Education, and Shadow Minister for Women. How are you, Tanya Plibersek? 
EMERSON: I'm sensational today. It's a glorious day here in Brisbane, beautiful blue skies, as we expect in autumn. So that's kind of, that's my sales pitch for you in Sydney.
PLIBERSEK: You can stop showing off, the sun has finally broken through the rain clouds here in Sydney today. 
EMERSON: Yeah. Well, that's what I'm seeing. Now, let's talk about first up about universities here, a new study has found a serious issue with universities, that one in six Australian university students say they have been sexually harassed and one in twenty say they have been sexually assaulted since starting their degrees. Now those figures, I'm surprised by how high those figures are. But were you shocked by those numbers?
Look, I'm appalled and disgusted, but not really shocked or surprised because this is pretty consistent with what we've been hearing from, not just uni students, but women across the community and men as well. In recent times, we saw Kate Jenkins’ inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace showed that 40 per cent, so two in every five Australian women, had been sexually harassed at work in the last five years alone. So these rates are really high in our community. I guess what's alarming is that a lot of categories of crime have actually gone down, especially during COVID, but violence against women is one of the few areas where the crime statistics continue to go up and up. And we really need to do much better in catching people, prosecuting them, if you're talking about sexual assault, gaoling them. Only a very small fraction of people end up making complaints to the police in the first place, and despite the police working very hard to jail rapists, there's still too many walking around the streets. And, you know, one step before that, we also really need to do something about a culture that supports this. So Labor has announced $77 million to do better respectful relationships education in schools. But we also, of course, as parents need to be talking to our sons and daughters about what healthy and respectful relationships look like from an early age. We need to be modelling good behaviour as well.
EMERSON: I think that is an important point you make there about, it’s not just handing it over to say schools to always do the education of how someone should act in society. I think increasingly I'm concerned that parents feel that it's the school's responsibility, not their responsibility, to guide their children to what is acceptable behavior and that puts a massive pressure on the schools and the teachers and all the school community. 
PLIBERSEK: I think that's absolutely right. Of course, things really only sink in if school and home are working together to get the same message across. If you've got two different messages, it's very confusing for kids. The other thing that really worries me about this Scott, and I know I've mentioned this to you before, too many kids are accessing online pornography at a really early age. The average age that kids are first looking at pornography is 10 years old. Like there is something wrong with that. And while our kids are learning about sex from violent degrading online imagery, it is no wonder that we're seeing these very high rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment. We need to be teaching them about healthy, respectful relationships. Not leaving it to the internet to teach the opposite. 
EMERSON: I'm talking to Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women. Tanya, Anthony Albanese who was in Western Sydney today, it was a pretty fiery press conference. Again he was questioned about these claims of bullying towards the late Senator Kimberley Kitching. I asked you about this last week, you said look you felt it was kind of disrespectful to talk about this because the funeral hadn't even occurred yet. But obviously we saw that at the beginning of the week. Why isn't Labor holding an inquiry into these allegations?
Well, there's no complaint, there's no clear allegation here. We've had a couple of things repeated by Kimberley's friends who are very, very upset. And my deepest sympathies are with them. I saw at the funeral on Monday, when I attended, how many people loved Kimberley so much and respected her. So, we are proposing a Kimberley Kitching Human Rights Award at our national conference, to respect the memory of our former colleague, our departed colleague. And I really, I think it's important to remember politics is a line of work where there is a lot of conflict and that conflict has to be managed appropriately. It has to be respectful, it has to be sensible and, you know, we won't always agree. The fact that people don't agree, or even that they don't get along, doesn't necessarily mean that there's been bullying. 
EMERSON: Well, yes, but we know that some of her colleagues and former colleagues like Michael Danby, former Labor MP, he said she was bullied within Labor and her husband in a very powerful eulogy described this cantankerous cabal in and outside of Parliament that had basically made her life miserable. They're serious allegations being made but Labor, which would have attacked the Coalition so strongly on this, have just said look we want to depoliticize this, we're not going to have an investigation. If a lot of people there, a lot of our listeners here on 4BC say, well you’re just running away from the issue and are being hypocritical about it.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I don't think that's fair at all. I mean, people have been pointing fingers at my colleagues Penny Wong, and Katy Gallagher and Kristina Keneally. And all I can say is my interactions with them are always professional, respectful. We don't always agree on things. This is a high conflict workplace. I think without specific complaint it's pretty hard to investigate when you've got these kind of proposals that people didn't get along, rather than anything more specific than that. 
EMERSON: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there. We'll catch up again with you next week.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you, see ya.