TRANSCRIPT: Jenkins Review, Parliament’s workplace culture; Religious Discrimination Bill

02 September 2022



SUBJECTS: Jenkins Review; Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins’ National Press Club Address; Parliament’s workplace culture; Religious Discrimination Bill. 

SHARON CLAYDON, MEMBER FOR NEWCASTLE: Good morning, my name is Sharon Claydon, Federal Member for Newcastle. I just want to make a few comments and add some reflections about the Prime Minister's failure to attend the National Press Club Luncheon today and the address by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins. Sadly, this is a Prime Minister that has proven himself to be tone death, and incapable of responding adequately to the issues of inequity and unequal balances of power and its impact on Australian women every day. Yesterday, we had the attempt to implement recommendation one of the Jenkins Review into the parliament. And as needed as that occasion was, the failure of this Prime Minister to actually rise to the occasion to ensure that it was a respectful and inclusive ceremony was on show for all to see. The fact that there were just six women seated in that gallery yesterday, shows to everybody that this is a Prime Minister who is always rushed to find a political fix rather than to work on a respectful compassionate and inclusive remedy. That is his go-to position each and every time. So today, he says, he is too busy, too busy to go to or tune in to what two remarkable Australian women will have to say about the challenges before this nation in order to ensure that we have a safe and respectful workplace and nation for women. This Prime Minister has got form. He has been tone-deaf on each and every occasion when we have needed him to stand up and be a Prime Minister. He didn't have time to address the thousands of women that descended on Parliament House during the March for Justice. Indeed, when we came back to Parliament House, he told us all that it was a triumph of democracy that we hadn't been shot. He was tone-deaf when it came to responding to the horrific allegations of sexual violence that have been perpetrated in this building, just metres from his office. He did not extend an invitation yesterday to all of the women who had made submissions to the Jenkins Review. They didn’t even get advice that the statement of acknowledgment was taking place. I had organisations across Australia contacting me to say they had provided a submission, but they didn't even know about the acknowledgment until after the fact. This Prime Minister never learns – he’s never there to stand up and take responsibility when we need him to. Thousands and thousands of Australian women have been perpetually disappointed by this government and this Prime Minister. The next test will be how this government responds to the full suite of recommendations from the Jenkins Report. The Australian Labor Party committed unanimously in our Party Room to work towards the implementation of all 28 recommendations. That's important because one; it's the right thing to do, two; this place needs to be a model employer, but three; Australian women are looking to this place not just to be a model employer, but to understand, are we serious about addressing the gross inequities and power inequalities that continue to exist and impact on the daily lives of Australian women? Are we serious about addressing those practices that are here in the very heart of our democracy? This Prime Minister already has duded us on his faux promise to implement the recommendations of Kate Jenkins’ first review Respect at Work. Our memories are not that short, that we don't recall the then Attorney-General sitting on that report for 12 months. And again, when the Prime Minister realised he needed a political fix, he came out quickly to say he would Implement all 55 recommendations of that report. But when the legislation came before the parliament on the very eve of the summit on women's safety, we found out that less than half of those recommendations that required legislative reform were in that bill. Australian women are not going to put up with that. They're not going to entrust a Prime Minister that fails to deliver, that doesn't keep his word, that constantly disappoints us on each and every occasion when we need him to stand as a leader. Thank you. 

JOURNALIST: On the religious freedoms, considering how divisive this topic is and how differently it will affect each person and we had a moving speech from Stephen Jones last night, should there be a conscious vote on this issue?

CLAYDON: My colleague, Stephen Jones, delivered an extraordinary speech in the Australian Parliament last night and I was deeply honoured to be there with him, as were many of my Labor colleagues. Labor has always said there should be no discrimination. We are indeed the designers of the anti-discrimination laws in Australia. We have a Party Room meeting that I'll be chairing in a matter of hours. We will see the Bill for the first time, with whatever changes have been made. That's where our party deliberations will take place. I totally respect our caucus processes.

JOURNALIST: So, would it be such a bad thing if this Bill wasn’t passed this siting fortnight given how important this issue is and considering, I’m assuming Labor would want to make sure it protects the people it was designed to protect adequately? 

CLAYDON: I think Stephen Jones made very clear last night that we should always seek to get important vital legislation right in this House. These are matters that will be subject of discussions in the Labor Party caucus room very soon, and I'm sure my colleagues will have something to say after that caucus meeting.

JOURNALIST: Do you personally have concerns that the provision would allow trans students to be expelled from schools under section 38?

CLAYDON: My position, indeed the position of many of my colleagues will be made clear within our caucus process as they have not yet completed. As I said in the beginning, I was very honoured to be present when Stephen Jones delivered that very powerful and deeply, personal speech in the Australian Parliament. It's very telling when politicians have to give so much of their private life into the public arena in order to make clear the very real lived consequences of the decisions that we make in this Parliament each and every day.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

CLAYDON: The Australian Labor Party is absolutely committed to ensuring the architecture of the anti-discrimination laws that we put in place in Australia are always practiced. We have always said that people should have the right to practice their religious beliefs, but the whole point of anti-discrimination law is that the rights given to one group, don't override the rights of others. So, that is what we are always examining in any of this. As I said, these are the subject of robust discussions inside the Labor Party caucus room, which is the place that it should happen. 

JOURNALIST: So, you’re a no to the conscience vote?

CLAYDON: These are discussions for the Party Room. We'll have more to say at the end of the caucus meeting.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition have to two party room meetings yesterday on this very issue. Do you think Labor will come to a final decision today, by the end of today? 

CLAYDON: I can’t speak on whatever happened in the government's party room. I know there were lots of government members at one point saying, they were not going to be supporting the Bill, but one by one they have all caved in. It’s a pattern I’ve seen time and time again, so I'm not sure where the government members will land at any given moment. But we have very strong processes inside the Labor Party in order to deliberate and arrive at our decisions and they'll be more to say after the caucus meeting. 

JOURNALIST: Do you those strong processes will come to a decision today?

CLAYDON: There will be more to say after the caucus meeting today. Thank you very much.