Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia—Assistant Minister for Home Affairs) (15:36): I seek leave to make a personal explanation resulting from some of the debate at question time.
Leave granted.Senator REYNOLDS: On 23 August this year, I rose in the Senate to address my concerns about the behaviour of some in parliament during our leadership challenges. My speech then was in response to questions without notice by members of the opposition at question time that day. Despite significant discussion in this chamber and in the media, I stand by my comments on that day.
Today I did comment publicly for the first and last time on these stories of bullying and intimidation which continue to be aired, sadly, by Labor women in this chamber and also by the media. A number of my colleagues have also addressed these issues—very senior colleagues in my party. The Australian people have made it abundantly clear to me and, I’m sure, to all people in this chamber that they are sick and tired of hearing politicians talk about themselves. I share their sentiments. I strongly believe that the correct forum to address these concerns is via robust and constructive discussion within the Liberal parliamentary party processes, not in the media and not in this chamber. I am very confident and very comfortable that the Prime Minister and our whips are taking the appropriate action in this process, which, again, I firmly believe is something that is best dealt with internally, because (1) the Australian people deserve better and (2) if we are to seek genuine outcomes, like in any other organisation, we need to deal with these matters ourselves.
I’m incredibly honoured to have been appointed as the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs in the Morrison government. Over the past two weeks my focus has been on my new responsibilities and seeing firsthand the amazing work that the men and women of the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Emergency Management Australia have been doing. These men and women, many of whom are serving the nation in uniform, are serving with distinction. They are securing our borders; they are keeping Australians safe, and they are ensuring that, as a nation, we are well prepared for a challenging upcoming emergency-management season. The last thing those men and women need is their ministers sitting there, in the public, talking about themselves and not addressing the important issues that they are dealing with.
As I said, it was extremely disappointing to see the Labor Party again making very cheap political capital out of this issue in this chamber, criticising the way that we, as Liberal Party women, choose to deal with this issue and exploiting it in this chamber. What my colleagues and I are doing is exactly what we have done in relation to the Labor Party. When the Labor Party has exhibited appalling behaviour towards people on my side of the chamber, we haven’t done what those opposite have been doing in this chamber today and to Minister Nash last year. When these issues have arisen on occasion, in terms of bad behaviour by those opposite, on our side—I certainly have not ever publicised the issues or brought them into the political arena here in this chamber. In fact, sitting here today and listening to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong, I was incredibly disappointed because, when issues have happened and she has had cause to apologise to me and others for the behaviour of her team, we have dealt with it privately, not publicly.
When it has been public, Senator Cameron, we have discussed it publicly but we have not brought it into this chamber. I firmly believe that in politics in this chamber and in any organisation in Australia, if we are truly to deal with the issues faced by many women in the workplace then cheapening them through theatrical politics here in question time doesn’t assist the women in my party, doesn’t assist the women in this chamber and it certainly does not assist the women in any workplace in this country. This is the last time I will be discussing this publicly. I want to make it very clear that it is not because I am giving up the fight; it is because I believe the appropriate way to do that, to get meaningful change, is within my party. Those opposite, I would ask and I would plead: if you want to see a better future for women in this chamber, stop politicising it and making it even harder for us on this side to deal with it. Thank you, Mr President.