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While her outburst was deplorable, it seems that Cash might have been on the money. A true cultural change is in order.
Yesterday, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash took aim at the opposition’s female staff in the latest round of Canberra’s private-life mud fight.
Michaelia Cash threatened to name young women “rumoured” about in Bill Shorten’s office. Penny Wong heard, walked straight into the committee, and dropped a mic. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/g5jWrVUryx
— Alice Workman (@workmanalice) February 28, 2018
Former Minister for Women Michaelia Cash remarked that she would “sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten’s office about which rumours in this place abound.” It’s another game played in the literal and figurative “race to the bottom” – by exposing rumours about intimate relationships on the other side of politics, the focus is diverted from nightmarish retellings of The Barnaby Affair.
What is deeply unfair is the former Minister for Women singling out of females as the bearers of scrutiny and victims of gossip. It takes two to tango. This sexist dialogue highlights that even when attempting to smear Shorten, the Liberals still focus on the women.
Cash’s threat serves to frame the Labor party as hypocrites for morally capitalising on Joyce’s stunning fall from grace – but what it shows is that this is probably symptomatic of a broader culture in the federal parliament offices, and Joyce was merely the sacrificial lamb. Turnbull’s recent amendment to ministerial standards banning sexual relationships between ministers and staff turns Cash’s comments from slander to a legitimate enquiry.
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- Why do we out sexual harassment everywhere but parliament?
- The obvious double standard we have for Joyce and other philandering politicians
And while Joyce argues for privacy, the lack of prudent employer/staff relationship management becomes a public interest when taxpayer-funded jobs and benefits muddy the waters. While the ministerial code of conduct forbids frontbenchers to employ partners, at what point does the office fling between boss and assistant become nepotism? Where is that line, and who else has blithely trundled over it?
It remains to be seen if Turnbull’s “bonk ban” brings cultural change, when grey areas still exist in classifying partnerships – such as when Julie Bishop declined to disclose the financial interests of her long-term boyfriend on the parliamentary register (after enjoying $32,000 in taxpayer-funded travel) because he is not technically her ‘spouse’. It’s fair to say that the parliament is suffering from an image problem. If Turnbull wants to show leadership, he can start with running a tighter ship – just don’t take inspiration from the Titanic.