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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7166

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:04): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by ministers to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

If ever there was an example of how out of touch the frontbench of the coalition are, it is the response that Senator Brandis gave to the questions about the male-only Savage Club. Senator Brandis joined a club where women are excluded. Senator Brandis has a responsibility as the Attorney-General to make sure that there is no discrimination, yet he joined a club that is based on discrimination. He joined a club that has some bizarre rituals that are unbelievable in a modern country. They are bizarre rituals that require members, when they are greeting a new member or when a new member is being initiated, to make guttural noises and to beat their chests.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron, resume your seat. Senator Heffernan!

Senator CAMERON: Thank you. There is also some bizarre behaviour on the other side of the chamber from time to time especially from Senator Heffernan. In relation to these bizarre rituals, they do chest beating and they make guttural noises when they are beating their chests. This is what the coalition frontbenchers are engaged in. It is like Tarzan calling on Jane. It is like the silverback gorilla dominating his territory. The only problem is that there are no women there. There are no women in the place. It is male only.

What a bizarre proposition this is for a senior member of a government which has presided over the lowest number of women ever on the cabinet frontbench of any government in recent history. This is just bizarre. To go to a club based on privilege, a club for the big end of town, and simply ignore the right of women to join clubs or to engage is absolutely bizarre. In 2011 there was a big controversy at the Savage Club. The handrail at the Savage Club had to be raised by four inches and there was a huge argument within the Savage Club about it. It was reported in the media that one of the members said: 'Club president Jerry Ellis thinks raising a handrail by four inches to grind his personal axe will stop drunken imbeciles launching themselves over the railing. A drunken moron who is sufficiently sentient to climb over a balustrade is unlikely to find Jerry’s four inches of protection particularly daunting.'

The Savage Club has also said that it is 'the more sozzled alternative to the genteel Melbourne Club'. That is why they have got to lift the handrails up! This is really bizarre. It is a club that is based on 'bohemianism, free love, frugality and voluntary poverty'. I will not go into the first point in relation to Senator Brandis but I certainly know that frugality is not one of his main games. And they all have their own titles when they go to the club. Senator Brandis has picked 'Lord Brandis of the Bookshelf'! That is his title when he goes to the club. He will be beating his chest and making guttural noises and making sure women have no place at the Savage Club. What an absolute disgrace from a frontbench minister in this government. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I ask senators to come to order. I am quite distressed about some of the behaviour that has taken place at the commencement of this debate, and Senator Heffernan has indicated that he will return to the chamber to apologise to the Senate for that. I call Senator Birmingham.