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Tuesday, 23 March 2021
Page: 3120

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (12:13): I second the motion. Time really is of the essence. We need to debate urgently the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Prohibiting All Sexual Harassment) Bill 2021 that has been brought forward by the member for Warringah. We must send a very clear message to the Australian community that we believe we need to change in here. As long as it's just words and it's not action, nothing will change in this place. All that's happening is that the whole of the Australian community has even less respect for us as members of parliament. What this piece of legislation will do is say to the Australian public that we believe that we are all the same before the law. Right now, members of parliament and judicial officers are exempt from the legislation. We could sexually harass our staff or other people in the workplace and we are exempt, and that is outrageous. I can't believe that, when this was first brought to their attention more than a year ago as one of the recommendations in the Respect@Work report, the government did not walk into this place and immediately change the laws. But they didn't, and we still haven't. What we have for today's debate list is the appropriations bill, for the entire day. It's not as if we have a huge legislative agenda to get through. We have time in this place. Our first job in this place is that of legislators. What we need to send to the Australian community is, firstly, that none of us will tolerate any longer the behaviour that's been happening in this place, that we will hold a mirror up to ourselves first and foremost, and, secondly, that we will address this straight away. We need to show that we all recognise that this is a matter of urgency in this place—not just words but actions.

We need to close this loophole. There were 55 recommendations in the Respect@work report and hardly anything has been addressed. Enough is enough—that's what the women, and good men, said last Monday when they came to the front lawns of the parliament. They said, 'Enough is enough and we need change.' Well, I'm sure that we have plenty of time today to address this in this place. When there were needles in strawberries, my goodness, did we address that quickly in here! It flew through both chambers. Let's do that with this. This is a critical issue; the Australian public wants better of us and are demanding change, and we must be the change.