Like many members of this House, I have the privilege of speaking with lots of primary school students who are learning about parliament and about our democracy. Almost every time I do this, I am asked by them what it’s like to be a woman in parliament. I tell them that it’s different to what it’s like for men but that that’s why it’s really important that women are here and that we’re represented. I’m always reassured by how many young girls are keen to be part of our democracy.
But this week I worry that the message being sent from this place to young, middle-aged and older women is that they are not welcome here and that a number of sensible women would look at what’s been reported this week and think that this is an environment they don’t want to be part of. So I’m using this time to do a symbolic shout-out. In some ways, it seems amazing that I still have to do this in 2020. I’m 33 weeks pregnant and I’m here. Women should be in this place and we are in this place. We should be MPs and we should be staff. Women should be safe in this place, particularly women working as staff. It’s clear from what we hear this week that we still have structural work to do to make sure that everyone who works here feels safe and is treated appropriately. I know that on the Labor side of the House we’ve been doing this work and we are committed to doing more, so that we do have the structures and the culture that mean women want to work here and are safe when they do so. I urge every member of the House to do their part.