Sexual harassment called out as parties unite over attitudes
Queensland's leaders have shared harrowing stories of sexual harassment in an emotional sitting of state parliament as their male colleagues stood beside them to assert "real men" don't disrespect women.
In powerful scenes that transcended politics yesterday, MP after MP stood to give their support to a motion moved by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in support of all women and their right to be safe at home, at work and in the community.
In another harrowing revelation by Health Minister Yvette D'Ath, who was the first of a string of MPs who went public last week with personal stories of sexual harassment, revealed she had been groped by an international judge at state parliament just two years ago with the Attorney-General, declaring: "This is still happening today (and) it has to stop."
An emotional Melissa McMahon revealed she had been asked if she was a "dyke or a bike" in the police force.
A tearful and angry Joan Pease apologised to her "darling" daughter who had experienced devastating sexual harassment in the workplace that "nothing has changed" 40 years after she had too.
And Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki said the important debate had led to his wife sharing tales of workplace harassment to him she had previously been ashamed of, despite them being "best friends".
As the women bared their painful experiences in the hope it would give strength to others, their male colleagues said too many men were still not listening.
LNP frontbencher Tim Nicholls said being a man did not mean objectifying women, but treating them with respect and decency.
"Being a man means standing up and being counted in this debate," he said.
"And finally, being a man means setting the example and not denying the problem."
Treasurer Cameron Dick said the problem was not something for women to fix.
"Men committed the assaults," he said.
"Men wrote the laws.
"Men orchestrated the cover-ups.
"And men dictated the language to doubt or downplay or disregard women."
A defiant Ms D'Ath stunned many when she read out a raft of vile comments were made online after she shared her stories last week of being harassed as a child and then as an 18-year-old worker by much older men.
They included, "No way, she's way too ugly for this to be true"; "Must have been a blind man"; and "D'Ath is a waste of space".
Ms McMahon said she could speak about the issue for an entire sitting week.
"I put on a uniform at the age of 18 and I thought I was prepared," the Macalister MP said.
"After all I'd already learnt at far too young an age that no good comes from being a female or appearing feminine."
Ms McMahon said her senior male training officers would ask "whether I was a dyke or a bike".
"In that first year I knew my place, how I was regarded by some of my colleagues," she said. "I was an object of disdain or otherwise."
The MP said she had internalised the harassment and "outright expected it".
LNP backbencher Laura Gerber said she wanted to give a voice to those who couldn't speak.
"I have this story and I have felt shame for not sharing it," the Currumbin MP said.
"But I can't and that is part of the problem.
"I want to give a voice to women that have not felt like they can share their story," she said, adding they were no less important in this debate because they couldn't speak.
Lytton MP Ms Pease said she had been smacked on the bottom by a senior law partner when she was 16 and that it only stopped after she told him she was only three years older than his daughter.
Ms Pease became emotional when she revealed to the parliament that her daughter had been sexually harassed at her Northern Territory workplace decades later.
"So to my daughter, and to the women that have experienced this harassment, I believe you and I support you and, my darling, I am so sorry, sorry that change has been so slow, sorry that this behaviour still happens and sorry that I couldn't stop this happening to you," she said.
Labor Member for Pumicestone Ali King said it was time for me to "stop saying you're shocked".
"Women aren't shocked," she said. "This is our experience. This is our lives."
LNP frontbencher Amanda Camm said she was appalled at the behaviour of staffers that had been uncovered in Canberra.
"And it is not acceptable, it's not acceptable as a Conservative woman, it's not acceptable as a woman and it's not acceptable as a human being," she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said change needed to come now.
"It is a time where we must stand united," she said.
Originally published as 'She's too ugly for it to be true': Parties unite to call out vile sex assault attitudes