Sydney, Australia – When Julia Banks arrived in Parliament five years ago after a successful career in law and business, she felt as if she would return in the 80s. The liquor flowed freely. He sometimes smelled male MPs when he breathed.
Many men in Australian politics also thought nothing of women, he said, or were spreading sexual rumors. More playthings than some treated junior employees. Once, Ms. Banks said, a fellow MP introduced a new intern by slowly raising her hand and rubbing the woman’s back.
“I could see her visually,” Ms. Banks said. “He and I have closed eyes, and I’m sure the nonverbal sign for me was’ Don’t say anything, please don’t say anything, I’ll lose my job.”
“This is the most unsafe workplace in the country,” she said.
Australia’s #MeToo Moment Like the tsunami directed at the political foundations of the country has arrived late, but strong. Six weeks after former legislative staffer Brittany Higgins, Accused a senior colleague In the defense minister’s office she is raped, thousands of women stand to share their stories, march for justice and demand change.
The conservative coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, now faces a historic conflict that has begun to suppress its voting numbers, with one scandal facing another.
While the wrong problem is widespread, the focal point has become politics – an area that more and more women describe as Australia’s most sexist backwaters, where many men have long believed they were acting like kings Can. Women of every party say that over the years, they have been frustrated trying to do their work. He has been evasive and insulted, ignored and obstructed – and has faced attacks whenever he has questioned such behavior.
“There is too much anger and hurt,” says Labor Party leader Tanya Plibersek, who is the minister of opposition for women. “Once people start telling their stories, it’s hard to stop.”
In many ways, Australia’s political class is playing catch-up. The country’s corporations and other institutions have gradually turned towards gender equity, but men continue to reestablish through the halls of privilege power. The reasons are both common (refusal to give power) and parochial (failing to realize that Australian culture can be sexist).
“They won’t see it,” said Lewis Chappell, a political scientist at the University of New South Wales who has studied gender and Australian politics since the 90s. “And they won’t see it structurally.”
Many women said that they had to face chowkism as soon as they entered politics.
Soon the Labor Party calls for Kate Ellis to be federalized A candidate for the 2004 election, she said, she overheard her campaign team discussing the photo for her poster. “No, she looks like a bimbo in that one,” she recalled hearing someone say.
“You will have that kind of moment on a daily basis,” she said.
Ms. Banks, who left Parliament in 2019 and is Finishing the book Regarding prejudice, she said she faced humiliation in her first fund-raising, where she found she was not on the list of speakers. It was all men.
There must be some mistake, he told the official in charge of the Liberal Party.
“‘You are not worried about it, dear,'” she replied to him, “we will trick you in the end.” ‘
Parliament proved worse. “Tampering with women, inappropriate jokes, inappropriate touching – that was all,” Ms. Banks said.
In interviews, several current and former MPs described the Parliament House as a testosterone-fueled bunker. Its hallways are wide, the offices have thick walls, and every minister’s suite includes a full kitchen and enough sofas to sleep. Most refrigerators are available with beer and wine.
The majority of Members of Parliament are male, as are most of the staff. In the last 20 years, Australia has fallen 15th to 50th in the world For parliamentary gender diversity. The parliamentary delegations of conservative Liberal and national parties, which govern with a majority, are more than 80 percent male.
Contributing to the fraternity vibe, Canberra is a part-time capital. Votes are often called after 6 pm, and families are left behind in local districts, as the legislature only sits for 20 weeks. When it is busy, Parliament is often compared to a gentlemen’s club, although for some, it is more Peter Pan in the pub.
Stork Hanson-Young, the Greens party senator, said male competitors often shouted at the Chamber, the names of the men with whom they were falsely accused of sleeping.
“It was like a game, these blokes were only playing with the most intense level of scars,” she told Ms. Ellis for her book, “Sex, Lies and Question Time.”
Ms. Hanson-Young sued a Senate co-worker, David Leonzellam, for defamation in 2018 after shouting “stop the men shaggy” on the floor of the Chamber. He recently won a $ 120,000 judgment Against him, he faced death threats on the way.
Abuse, many said, is a top-to-bottom deception.
Former Sydney Member of Parliament Emma Husser said, “It’s a permitting system where men are misbehaving, and their young staff is watching them get away with it.”
While alcohol is not the primary reason in Parliament, she said, it is a contributing factor.
“There are a lot of blurred boundaries,” she said. “From about 5 o’clock, boiling water is poured in plenty.”
In a day-long ceremony without alcohol in 2017, she said, she was caught by a member of the Liberal Party. When she went to her Labor Party boss, she said, they told her not to say anything. His political career came to an end after the Buzzfeed article claimed that he threatened to intimidate staff members and once opened his legs to not wear underwear in front of a male colleague.
He and the man denied it ever happened. When Ms. Hussar sued for defamation, Buzzfeed Apologized and deleted the article. But the story went viral, and Ms. Hussar said she was forced by her party to step in again in 2019 and not to run again.
Ms. Ellis told the story about Ms. Hussar. She said she had a recollection when a reporter almost wrote about lying, that she and her Chief of Staff were sleeping with the same man.
The women said that the message of their mentors was always clear: the secrets are for insiders, and don’t bother trying to find the truth.
“Professor Chappell at the University of New South Wales said,” Such information is there, don’t tell the policy ‘. “The bubble analogy works – everyone who keeps secrets there.”
Initially, Ms. Higgins, the woman whose rape allegations have rocked the country, agreed to remain silent.
On the night of March 22, 2019, she said, she was drinking alcohol with friends in Canberra and accepted a ride with a senior male colleague, who instead of taking her home, directed a taxi to Parliament House. There, he said, he woke up “mid-rape” and asked the man to stop.
She said she reported the attack, informing the Minister of Defense, Linda Reynolds, and more than a dozen others. The 24-year-old Ms. Higgins accused the police, but said she released them due to pressure from leaders of the Liberal Party. She said that she was made to feel that she had to choose: her job or justice.
All of this remained private until last month, when – after the Prime Minister stood with the Australian podium, Grace Tamm, a sexual assault survivor – decided to speak.
“In my mind his government was complicit in silencing me,” he said. “It was a betrayal.”
Ms. Higgins goes back to the police to open an investigation. Many other women Have come forward since With allegations in the news media against the same man. (He was fired after the alleged assault on Ms. Higgins, but has not been publicly identified.)
The collective claims of women broke the deadlock. Women in Parliament and others who were recently called for accountability. Thousands of women Marched On March 4 across Australia to demand justice, inspired by Ms. Higgins and Christian Porter, then angered by the allegations against the Attorney General.
Just a day earlier, when there were reports that an unknown cabinet minister emerged as accused of sexual harassment, Mr. Porter described himself as a suspect. He Publicly denied The charge was leveled by a woman who said that when she was a teenager, she raped her and refused to resign.
Mr Morrison, a career politician, has recently seemed to overcome the extent of misunderstanding in Parliament. Nearly three weeks after the protests, she admitted that “many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them, and it makes me very upset.”
“We should get our house in order,” he said.
Meanwhile, bad behavior continues to surface from recent times. Last month, nightly news channels led their events in Parliament with videos and photos of male Liberal Party staff members Masturbate on desk Of women ministers. One of them has been removed.
The Liberal MP was accused of harassing two female constituents. He agreed not to walk again and apologized, but Mr Morrison set him on fire for not resigning.
Many women are angry at the Prime Minister for the safety of Mr. Porter, whom he recently gave were taken From his role as Attorney General in a new cabinet post.
More women are protesting their return to business as usual.
Last week, new members of parliament along with the conservative National Party, Drs. Annie Webster said she was sexually assaulted by a male legislator. That sort of thing may have been ignored once, but he lodged a formal complaint with the party leadership, prompting the man to apologize.
“That’s what Australians expect from us now,” she said.
“Inch by inch, culture changes,” she said. “We are all learning; We are all adjusting to a new platform. “