In recent news, Karen Andrews- Australia's former home affairs minister- is the latest woman in politics to share her story of harassment in the Australian parliament, adding to the growing movement question Australia's political culture.
Now a senior conservative politician in the Liberal Party of Australia, Andrews detailed how a male colleague used to breathe down her neck as she spoke in parliament. When she brought up his questionable behaviour with others, she was told, "can't you take a joke?"
Australia's Political Culture
Australia's political culture in recent years has been seen as patriarchal, machoistic, and problematic, with former prime minister Julia Gillard's calling out misogyny and sexism in the Australian parliament in 2012 going viral.
In 2021, a government-backed inquiry found that Australia's parliament was rife with heavy drinking, bullying, and sexual harassment- apparently, one in three people currently working at the parliament had experienced some type of sexual harassment whilst at work there.
Karen Andrews Story
Andrews, who will reture at the next Australian election, shared her story in support of all those who have spoken out against Australia's problematic political culture. In an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC, when asked if she had experienced sexual harassment in parliament, she replied, "I did have one of my male colleagues who used to breathe on the back of my neck in question time."
She further shared how she'd be sitting on her own, not disturbing anyone, and her unnamed male colleague would breathe on her neck, making her uncomfortable. If she ever asked a question, she said it would be, "'That was a great question, thrusting and probing'... that sort of stuff."
In her interview, she also described how Australian political culture was centred around socializing, and fraternizing after work hours, in a very inappropriate way. When she first started her parliamentary career in Sydney, she, along with many other women, weren't invited to these social events, which were integral to Australia's political culture and were attended by the most powerful men.
Although Australia had the 15th highest ratio of women to men in its parliament in 1999, by 2022, they had slipped down to 57th place, according to rankings compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. These numbers and these stories are worrying, and highlight a deep-rooted issue that remains in most government cultures, not just Australia- that of misogyny.
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