Politics Opinion

The men have spoken, now it's time for action

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Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese made a formal apology to Brittany Higgins in Parliament (Screenshots via YouTube)

Following the parliamentary apology towards survivors of sexual abuse, it's time for real change from the men in government, writes Melissa Marsden.

* CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse

THE PRIME MINISTER and Leader of the Opposition have made a historic apology to the survivors of sexual assault and harassment in Parliament House.

Speaking of the courage of Brittany Higgins, who “called out” the behaviour of men in parliament, Scott Morrison said he believes the culture within parliament of sexual harassment “will change”.

Morrison said “we must, we can and we will do better” to improve the standard of behaviour within Parliament House by implementing all 28 recommendations of the Jenkins Review.

He said he wanted parliament to be a place where women, “especially young women, are included.

This remark made me smirk just a little.

Because there are women included in politics. It's just that when they are, they tend to be treated badly by the men in power.

Brittany Higgins was included.

Then she was taken advantage of.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, too, joined the apology, noting the failure of the Parliament to lead by example on sexual harassment and workplace bullying.

Mr Albanese thanked Brittany Higgins and acknowledged those who had experienced similar experiences but were not present in the chamber.

He apologised on behalf of the Australian Labor Party but said it “will take real and lasting change to make a difference”.

He added:

“These aren’t only women’s issues, men need to stand up.”

Listening to this, I was reminded of Emma Watson’s famous 2014 #HeForShe speech that emphasised the need for men to be involved in changing how women are treated.

Hearing it from the Leader of the Opposition did very little to make me believe it.

Men have known they need to stand up.

Men have known they can be change-makers for this issue.

They clearly just don’t want to.

No, not all men are like this, but hearing Mr Albanese say “these aren’t only women’s issues” just made me a little annoyed.

Sexual harassment, rape and what has so often been referred to as “slut shaming” aren’t women’s issues.

Because clearly, it is the men involved with the issues.

Some might say this is a question of semantics. But language really does matter.

And it shouldn’t have taken the Brittany Higgins allegations or Grace Tame being made Australian of the Year last year to bring this to light.

The Government’s “all words no action” routine seems almost symbolic of its past and present inability to address men’s sense of entitlement over women’s bodies and beliefs.

Grace Tame echoed this, tweeting during the address and criticising the Government for the timing of the apology:

‘How about some proactive, preventative measures and not just these performative, last-minute bandaid electioneering stunts?’

Indeed, it really did look like a stunt.

Perfectly timed, each word perfectly chosen, measured and dispassionate.

The day before Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins’ National Press Club address.

So, let’s not talk about how women should be included or treated.

Let’s talk about how men should act.

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online

Melissa Marsden is a passionate advocate for social justice and a self-confessed political junkie. You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelMarsden96.

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