At a time when we need unity and inclusion more than ever, it’s disconcerting to see that the NSW Treasurer is advocating the exact opposite. In fact, Dominic Perrottet seemed to be channelling Donald Trump when he was interviewed by Ben Fordham on 2GB yesterday.
Asked to comment on an official message which was sent by NSW Treasury’s Economic Strategy Deputy Secretary Joann Wilkie to all staff imploring them to “create a safe space” in the workplace, Perrottet concluded that the appeal went “too far”.
The message reportedly advised that employees should not assume colleagues are heterosexual, cisgendered or endosex, and to exercise sensitivity when speaking about their partners so as not to cause offence. It also suggested adding a pronoun preference to their email signatures as is commonly done across several large organisations and agencies today.
“Good grief!” was the utterly predictable response from Ben Fordham, who suggested the “politically correct brigade” were infiltrating the NSW government.
But rather than support his colleague’s motives and the necessity of promoting such practices, Perrottet scoffed in agreement, humouring Fordham about not knowing what ‘endosex’ meant.
Then, in the most patronising response ever recorded, Perrottet suggested that Wilkie had “worn her heart on her sleeve” but that staff simply couldn’t be told how to conduct themselves over email in this way. He labelled the message “completely unacceptable” and suggested he speak with Wilkie (one of very few women in NSW Treasury higher ranks) about it.
“We can’t have people get rid of their own identities for other people’s inclusion”, the Treasurer garbled on. “We wouldn’t have Father’s Day if we keep going down this path!”
Earlier this week, we mocked Donald Trump’s attempts to ban diversity and inclusion practices across federal government agencies. It’s the type of baseless, backward and paranoid behaviour we expect from the US President. But we don’t expect it here, in our own backyard. Particularly when countless organisations (and indeed government agencies) have worked tirelessly over the last decade to foster greater inclusion in the workplace.
Perrottet described Wilkie’s actions as “completely unacceptable”, but what’s truly unacceptable is watching a government fail to recognise the criticality of inclusion in light of what’s occurred this year. Coming out of these dark days, will require strength in numbers and diversity. Women like Joann Wilkie, who are prepared to front up and prompt tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations, are an important part of that equation.
It might be hard for the NSW Treasurer or Ben Fordham to see or understand that. But I implore them to venture out of their privileged man cave and see the light.