Interview – Sunrise, Channel 7

Monique Wright and David Koch, Sunrise, Channel 7
Conduct in Parliament House

Monique Wright: Well, joining us now is the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews. Good morning to you, Minister, thanks for being with us. How widespread is this problem, do you think, in Parliament House? Have you heard of this happening before? I heard, Tanya Plibersek, last night saying she was absolutely shocked by it, she had no idea this was going on. Did you?

Karen Andrews: Look, I certainly didn’t know about the instance that was reported last night, where that individual was behaving absolutely inappropriately and disrespecting, quite frankly, the female member that he worked for. I hadn’t heard of that before. Look, this is an environment that – there’s a lot of rumours, there’s a lot of speculation about things that happen and you do hear lots of things that go on in this building. None of which are acceptable, quite frankly. I didn’t know the details of that particular instance. I have heard lots of stories and I guess, along with many of the other women in this place, we’ve had to do extensive workarounds over time, to make sure that we’re not involved in the entirely inappropriate behaviour that has happened here.

David Koch: Okay. But, what are you going to do about it? This is a question every Australian’s asking. This is a culture that seems to be endemic, it’s been going on for years. There’s got to be a line in the sand, there’s got to be lateral thinking here. How do you change such a disgraceful culture?

Karen Andrews: Look, you’re right. There has to be, absolutely, a line in the sand on this. But, I think there’s probably three specific areas that we need to be looking at. Now, firstly, the work that Kate Jenkins is doing, I think is actually really important to uncover the extent of the issues here at Parliament House. I think we need to look at more broadly how we actually deal with some of those issues. Some of the things that are unique to this workplace need to be addressed, which includes the time away from home, the extensive hours that people work, and that’s not an excuse at all, because people should still behave appropriately, and many people travel for work. But there is a broad issue, right across Australia, of women who are not treated appropriately in a workplace and Parliament House is one of those. It’s the highlight at the moment, as it should be, but there is a broader issue that we need to address which is the disrespect for women in the workplace. Now, having said that, I think it’s also important to say that in every workplace there are good and decent people who try every day to do the right thing, and it’s appalling the behaviour of some, however many that might be, tarnishes the reputations of the good people that work there.

David Koch: Well, all of Australia’s going to be watching to see what’s done about this. Appreciate your time, Karen Andrews. Thank you.
Karen Andrews: Pleasure.