Some of Tony Abbott's comments aimed at Julia Gillard were inexcusable.
Some of Tony Abbott's comments aimed at Julia Gillard were inexcusable. Rick Rycroft

Bullying pollies deserve our 'pity and scorn'


I had hoped we had, as a society, come a long way from my days at school when a head teacher might have chosen to remain inactive towards the playground bully because he didn't want to shed a bad light on the school.

Perhaps it is a problem we'll never eradicate.

Sadly, there'll always be those in school, in the workplace and in positions of authority who get their kicks from making someone's life miserable.

I think they deserve our pity as well as our scorn.

Clearly, their lives are so barren of anything worthwhile.

But if we are to have even the slightest hope of combating the problem, we need our legislators to at least be on board if not showing leadership on the issue.

So it is very disappointing that we have been confronted with the fact that some of us have elected bullies to our parliament.

History dictates that the political world has always been a testosterone-fuelled place.

Women only started making a presence less than a century ago.

And it's obvious that more than a few male MPs still neither know how to behave in a lady's presence nor are prepared to accept that parliament is no longer an old boys' club.

And perhaps even a couple are of the same mindset as that recently deported NZ pentecostal pastor, who believes that women should not be allowed to vote.

The leadership spill that resulted in Malcolm Turnbull's demise has exposed a truly ugly side to politics.

A side we last saw during Julia Gillard's term.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Marsden State High School's Biggest Morning Tea. Photo: Inga Williams / The Reporter
STANDING TALL: Some of the comments aimed at Julia Gillard when she was prime minister are inexcusable. Inga Williams IR080513JULIA8

Who should ever forget the behaviour of Tony Abbott or Alan Jones's "drown her in a hessian sack" comment.

What is most telling is the swiftness this time with which some MPs declared that they heard or saw nothing or that there is nothing to see here.

Ignorance and denial never solved the problem of bullying.

They only serve to encourage it.

What's that old saying? "Those who bury their heads in sand leave their vulnerabilities exposed."

As much as some in both parliament and the media might wish this issue to leave the public consciousness, that serves only as a reason to keep it in the public gaze.

What is now alleged to have transpired is clearly something that needs to be exposed and dealt with in the openness of the public forum.

Some intolerable behaviour is alleged of some MPs.

Not by their political foes but by members of their own party.

The Liberal Party needs to address this and not pretend it either didn't happen or hope it gets shoved into the bottom drawer.

In the wake of Julia Banks's decision to not re-contest her seat because of the intimidation she was subjected to, we have to seriously question what sort of characters have some of us elected to that place?

South Australia Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi has warned she will use parliamentary privilege to name those MPs who bullied colleagues.

I sincerely hope she isn't got at between now and parliament resuming. We deserve to know who the contemptible sods are so they can face the electoral consequences.

Bullying in the workplace is the subject of penalties under the law.

So why should politicians believe they should be free to bully and harass work colleagues?

As Julie Bishop said this week, during her time in a major legal firm such behaviour would never have been tolerated.

These are our lawmakers.

It is beholden upon them to be of better character.

This behaviour cannot be dismissed as just the rough and tumble of politics.

MPs should not be excused by arguing that female MPs need to roll with the punches.

Some of the shouty types on Sydney radio must not be excused for suggesting that women need to take cement pills and harden up.

Women particularly have a hostile time in politics. If they display femininity, they're called soft little princesses.

If they display strength, they're referred to in quite unflattering terms. This has to stop.

MPs who skulk about the halls of parliament like street thugs running their territory need to be exposed and thrown out.

If this is the sort of thing people are forced to face, then why would anyone want to put their hand up to serve?