Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Adjournment Speech - March4Justice

15 March 2021

Today, on the lawns outside this parliament and in demonstrations across our nation, tens of thousands of women and their supporters marched and spoke for justice. They were powerful, they were eloquent, they were courageous and what they said needs to be heard, which is why the decision of the Prime Minister to refuse to come out of hiding and walk the short distance to hear directly from the thousands who came to this place to call for justice tells us so much about what kind of leader he is.

MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 ADJOURNMENT SPEECH - MARCH4JUSTICE

 15 MARCH 2021

Today, on the lawns outside this parliament and in demonstrations across our nation, tens of thousands of women and their supporters marched and spoke for justice. They were powerful, they were eloquent, they were courageous and what they said needs to be heard, which is why the decision of the Prime Minister to refuse to come out of hiding and walk the short distance to hear directly from the thousands who came to this place to call for justice tells us so much about what kind of leader he is.

This Prime Minister thinks he should be thanked because the women marching for justice today were not shot. If this Prime Minister, his Minister for Women, his deputy and all the other senior members of his government had any courage at all, they would have gone out to hear directly from the thousands of women who came here to speak to them. They would have seen what real courage is from these women—women like Brittany Higgins, who has done so much to expose the toxic culture towards women in this place at great personal cost to herself. But, because this government refused to even listen to what those at the March 4 Justice were saying, I want to recount inside this place just a few examples of what was said outside so that those powerful words spoken outside this place, which this Liberal government refused to hear, can be permanently recorded in the official record of this parliament and perhaps one day Liberal Party ministers might think to read them.

Let me start with what was written on just a few of the placards outside today. On one were the stark words, 'Stop raping women,' on another, 'Enough is enough,' on another, 'Women should be safe in the House,' on another, 'My story is not your sideshow,' on another, 'I'm female, I'm angry and I vote,' on another, 'Stop making excuses,' and on another, 'I don't hold an inquiry, mate.'

It's also clear that this Prime Minister did not want to hear from Ms Higgins, so let me repeat a little of what she said outside today. Ms Higgins said:

I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague and for so long it felt like the people around me did not care about what happened because of what it might mean for them.

It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them. They were my social network, colleagues and my family. Suddenly they treated me differently. I was not a person who had just gone through a lot of changes, I was a political problem.

…   …   …

My story was on the front page for the sole reason that it was a painful reminder to women that it can happen in Parliament House and can truly happen anywhere.

Ms Higgins is right. If a woman cannot feel safe from rape in Parliament House, a veritable fortress ringed with security cameras, with entrances protected by armed guards and with Federal Police officers on duty inside, where can women feel safe? How strong is the rule of law if it isn't able to protect a young woman working in the ministerial wing of Parliament House?

This Prime Minister has become increasingly hysterical in invoking the rule of law in his attempts to prevent an independent inquiry into the allegation of rape against his Attorney-General. It is particularly galling that the same government that has undermined the rule of law time after time now seeks to hide behind that doctrine. Until a few weeks ago, I can't remember this Prime Minister having any great interest in the rule of law. To the contrary, in September 2018 the Prime Minister was trying to define what he stood for and he said:

Remember, my value is: we look after our mates.

It's very clear the Prime Minister has made looking after Liberal Party mates his main focus—not looking after women, not looking after the country and not looking after the rule of law or justice but looking after his political mates

ENDS