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Liberal Party Misogyny

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Tags: Women, Sexism

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, on Monday this week the women and girls of Australia marched for justice. On the streets outside parliaments we channelled our incandescent rage over the sexism, misogyny and rape culture so entrenched in this nation's culture, so obvious in the nation's capital, so diminished, almost dismissed by men in power, by our Prime Minister. Our sadness and rage have not subsided. Our resolve to force change is like steel.

For those left wondering why Scott Morrison has been found so tragically lacking and absent for women and girls of Australia, just have a look at the culture inside his Government, indeed inside the Liberal Party. The alleged rape of Brittany Higgins by a Liberal staffer, the accusations of historical rape levelled against the nation's highest law officer, Christian Porter, the Prime Minister and men in his Cabinet who turn their backs on women in the Chamber as they rise to speak, a party that not only excuses sexism and misogyny but cultivates and nurtures it.

The latest story of misogyny out of Canberra was on the ABC online today. It sure rang some bells for me personally and for our senior adviser, Alice Giblin. I will quote from that story now:

Three women who spoke on condition of anonymity to the ABC due to fears of career repercussions say during their time in Canberra they witnessed several instances of men behaving badly and being moved to different roles to avoid scrutiny. They allege one staff member in particular, who is currently employed by a Coalition minister, was known for repeatedly making inappropriate comments to and about women when he was employed in a previous role. 'I haven't met anyone under the age of 70 who held such terrible views about women', one of the women said.

The article does not name this Liberal ministerial office male staff member but I have joined the dots and I will. I know who this sexist pig of a man is. It is former Hodgman Government media adviser Andrew Hudgson, who was hired after he left Senator Cash's office, by former premier Will Hodgman, and who now, as I understand it, works in the office of the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar. That is who these women are referring to.

I have a personal story to tell about a vile insult Mr Hudgson directed at me which was heard by Alice Giblin during a media interview on the lawns of parliament on 1 February 2019. As he and his colleagues walked across the lawns not far from us Mr Hudgson called me a 'meth-head c-u-n-t'. Imagine, Madam Speaker, hating women so much that you would say that audibly about a woman you do not know who also happens to be an elected representative. I was doing an interview at the time and did not hear the insult, but Alice did. I believed her without question because in the decade I have worked with Alice she has always been honest with me. Alice is steadfast and true. Others who were with Mr Hudgson at the time heard it too. We know this; we have had it confirmed.

Alice made detailed notes of her recollections and reported this incident to the then Premier's office. Later that afternoon premier Hodgman's then chief of staff told Alice he had asked Mr Hudgson if the allegation was true and he had denied it. The chief of staff said, 'Well, you can see how it's a tough position. You're saying one thing and he's saying it didn't happen.' A male Liberal staffer was believed over a female Greens staffer. The then chief of staff tried to convince Alice that no more could be done because it was a 'he said, she said' scenario. We have heard that one before.

Alice was adamant and persisted to the point that the matter was subsequently referred to DPAC for investigation. In the end Alice was not believed. I received a letter from the Premier on 14 February that said:

Dear Ms O'Connor

I write further to my letter of 4 February 2019 in which I advise that I had authorised a formal investigation into your allegations against Mr Andrew Hudgson in my office. The investigator has now completed his investigation and provided his report and findings to me. I can confirm that the investigation process is founded in the principles of procedural fairness.

In conclusion he says:

With respect to the specific allegation that Mr Hudgson yelled out and directed profanities towards you, the investigator has found the allegation to be not substantiated and that Mr Hudgson did not yell out or direct profanities towards you.

The Premier concludes:

Now that an independent and appropriate investigation has been conducted and concluded, I advise that it is my intention to take no further action in relation to this letter.

So, Madam Speaker, here we are. Andrew Hudgson's story was believed and to this day we have not seen that DPAC report. He went on to work for the Morrison Government. It reminds me a bit of the Catholic Church of old, shuffling people around but keeping them on the books. Now the Canberra Press Gallery is hearing and believing women who worked with Mr Hudgson who tell a similar tale of a palpable hatred of women. It just reaffirms the truth to me of what happened on parliament's lawns two years ago.

The take-home from this is that Mr Hudgson has been protected by the Liberal Party, state and federal. He left here and went on to insult and denigrate other women in their workplaces and he is still employed today. This is the standard our current Prime Minister walks past because it becomes clearer by the day that he accepts it. The women and girls of Australia have long memories, Mr Morrison. We see you, we hear you and we believe you are a big part of the problem.