'The safety of women should be above politics': Liberal MP Nicolle Flint calls for action on gendered abuse

‘The safety of women should be above politics’: Liberal MP Nicolle Flint calls for action on gendered abuse

Flint

Two weeks ago, Liberal MP for Boothby, Nicolle Flint announced plans to step down from her role following the recent barrage of abuse claims from women. Last night, Flint addressed the House of Representatives in Canberra, recounting the years of sexist abuse and stalking she has endured.

“The safety of women in this place, of female staff, of female MPs and senators should be above politics,” she said.

The outgoing South Australian MP spoke about the “creepy old man” who stalked her, the “abusive, aggressive old man” who stalked her colleague Georgina Downer, and the “sexist and misogynist abuse” scrawled over her campaign office.

Flint criticised Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s response to recent allegations, saying that he “directed almost all of his outrage at my party and my government.”

“The need to change the culture of our parties and of this place should be above politics. It is an issue for us all to address.”

“I will not be lectured by your side of politics, about the treatment of women,” she continued. “[Albanese] decided to crawl down into the gutter and make this about politics and turn this into an ugly political fight.” 

“I ask the Leader of the Opposition, where was he and where was his predecessor and where were the senior Labor women when GetUp, Labor and the union supporters chased, harassed and screamed at me everywhere I went in the lead-up to the 2019 election?”

This morning, Albanese went on ABC Radio National to say that Flint’s treatment “shouldn’t have happened, full stop”, adding that the women in his party have also endured retaliation from activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion.

“They were at the same time… protesting against Labor MPs,” he said. “Some seats, including mine, was being occupied every week at the same time, and certainly the women staff who worked for me and my electorate officers [who are] all-female staff felt intimidated by occupations of the office.”

“So I stand with Nicolle Flint. Her story is one that is appalling, that that sort of behaviour was directed at her,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.”

“Nicolle Flint deserved to be safe as a member of parliament, and we must listen to this story and all the stories about women’s involvement and indeed people’s involvement in politics, we must learn to have disagreements in a civil way.”

Albanese said that his party’s National Executive was “working on a comprehensive plan to stamp out sexual harassment and bullying”, after reports emerged over the weekend published by news.com.au about the ill-treatment of women in the Labor Party.

“We have four policies that have been adopted,” Albanese explained. “ A comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy and anti-bullying policy, a complaint process that provides for independent processes, and a code of conduct – and it applies not just for members of Parliament.”

“It applies to any activity, where the ALP is involved. For example, any campaign, any function across the board, we need to do better.”

In her speech on Tuesday night, Flint quoted former deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and Senator Penny Wong, who have spoken out in the past about the need to end bullying and intimidation in the workplace. Flint questioned their claims they were unaware of her harassment by GetUp until recently.

“I find the member for Sydney’s claims hard to believe,” Flint said. “I was one of only seven Liberal Party members… I was the only woman.”

“What I say to the Labor Party today is they may not have held the spray can to vandalise my office with sexist slurs, they may not have held the camera pointed at me by the stalker or called me evil in GetUp’s phone calls, but they did create the environment in which hate could flourish.”

Flint ended her speech by appealing to women in the Labor Party for more action.

“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, what will you do about this. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, get your own house in order. And I say to the Leader of the Opposition, this can’t be about politics anymore.”

“We all bear the responsibility for change.”

Last July, Flint draped herself in a garbage bag for a video message calling out sexism, after Peter Goers wrote an op ed that mentioned her apparel and choice of footwear in The Advertiser’s Sunday Mail.

“It’s time women in public life are judged on what they stand for, not what they look like,” she said.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young took to Twitter to commend Flint for calling out the “constant sexism dished out to women in politics”.

“Doesn’t matter what side you are on, no woman should have to put up with sexism in the workplace,” she wrote in a tweet.

Annabel Crabb tweeted this morning: “Women’s safety at work should be above politics. That’s a full stop, not a “comma but she said X or he said Y”. Only way things are gonna change is if people put down their partisan weapons on this stuff.” 

Photo Credit: ABC News

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