New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has once again launched an unwarranted verbal attack against a female colleague.
The incident occurred earlier this month during a meeting of the Covid and economic recovery committee, when cabinet ministers were discussing Covid-19 restrictions in New South Wales.
It has been reported that at least three cabinet members disagreed with a proposal by Mr Hazzard, but when National Party deputy leader Bronnie Taylor offered her view, the Health Minister launched what’s been called by witnesses as a “humiliating” verbal attack on Ms Taylor, well beyond what would normally be considered robust discussion or debate.
The Premier ‘counselled’ Mr Hazzard.
Ministers in attendance were so concerned about the outburst, they contacted Ms Taylor after the meeting to offer support.
Ms Taylor subsequently complained about the incident to Premier Domenic Perrottet, who then ‘counselled’ his Health Minister over the incident.
Not the first time
This is not the first time Mr Hazzard has been cautioned or had to issue apologies for his behaviour towards females.
Late last year, he was heavily criticised for mocking a female journalist during a press conference when she asked what most considered to be fair and reasonable questions about various regional health matters.
Not only are such outbursts unprofessional and disrespectful, they also disrupt and potentially derail what should be open political discussion.
They have also led to claims the Health Minister shows less respect for females who raise questions or disagree with him, then he does towards males who ask similar questions or raise similar issues.
There should be no excuses
There should be no justification for such conduct, whether or not in circumstances of heightened stress and tensions.
Perhaps if it only occurred once, it could be put down to an aberration or momentary lapse in judgment – but it seems to be a constant theme with Mr Hazzard.
Most psychologists will attest to the fact that repetitive patterns of negative behaviour have the potential to be seriously detrimental over the long term.
Allowing this type of behaviour to continue without serious repercussions is akin to condoning it and many continue to hide behind ‘confidentiality’ as an excuse not to call out such behaviour.
Certainly, as has been discussed many times before, the potential for defamation, can be a serious hindrance in such matters. That said, certain standards should be expected, particularly of our politicians who accept a wage paid by taxpayers.
Because politicians are elected officials, it’s not simply a case of suspending or firing rouge MPs, but the Premier does retain the power to remove portfolios from Ministers.
In March last year hundreds of thousands of women protested across Australia, angry at the general treatment of women.
This was, in part, precipitated by the story of Brittany Higgins who alleges she had been sexually assaulted in Parliament House. But, along with sexual harassment and discrimination, the protests also aimed to highlight women’s safety generally, in their homes, at work, in social settings, the epidemic levels of violence against women.
Meanwhile, the PM continues to do nothing.
Twelve months on, little has changed. It is natural to wonder whether or not those in positions of power and authority have even been listening.
The allegations made by Brittany Higgins set in motion a series of investigations and reviews into workplace misconduct and the toxic ‘boys club’ culture within policitis at both state and federal levels.
The most important of these reviews was conducted by Sex Discrimination Minister Kate Jenkins, who delivered her findings in relation to Federal Parliament and it’s associated workplaces to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in December. Her review found that one in three workers at Parliament House were sexually harassed, and one per cent had been sexually assaulted. The majority of victims are women, and the figures back up what other similar reports with regard to private businesses and the wider community have concluded.
Despite this, and a number of previous awkwardly made public promises to set things right, the PM did not immediately adopt all of the reforms outlined in the Jenkins report.
Many argue he should have immediately done so, as an act of good faith – as a step towards remedying a very serious offence that is alleged to have occurred during his watch, and as an acknowledgement of the startling statistics which showed the alleged assault of Ms Higgins was not an isolated incident.
Many also argue that this has been a pivotal opportunity for the Morrison Government to set the workplace standard for sexual misconduct, bullying, assault and gender inequality, and to put appropriate policies and procedures in place that other businesses can emulate.
By the way Prime Minister, women vote too
But, since December, the PM has done little to progress the issue. In the meantime, as far as the Higgins allegations are concerned, a police investigation has since concluded and charges have been laid. The case will be heard in court later this year.
Figures from the last election show that the Liberal Party attracted the lowest number of votes from female voters since 1987.
Studies of voters suggest that women tend to vote with high regard for the social issues of the moment. Right now across the nation women’s safety and economic security and the impact the pandemic has had on both, leaving hundreds of thousands of women vulnerable – to financial instability, to homelessness, to having to stay in violence relationships, are issues that are paramount.
It stands to reason then, that Mr Morrison may well regret his inertia come election time.