Michaelia Cash’s Slur Highlights The Toxic Culture In Australian Politics

Women shouldn't have to put up with this. It's especially said that a female minister started it.

Michaelia Cash

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Michaelia Cash’s rumour-mongering about another MP’s staff this week reinforced an insidious culture of shaming women and their personal lives.

This is a culture that our political leaders should be working to stamp out, not reinforce.

Minister Cash’s comments echoed pervasive and damaging attitudes about women’s personal choices. That she did so publicly in our nation’s Parliament is quite rightly being condemned

It’s absolutely not good enough and the Prime Minister needs to speak up and call it out, and Minister Cash should provide a genuine apology immediately, not some half-baked “if anyone was offended” salvo.

Minister Cash must also closely examine the reaction to her comments and consider the effect of a person with her power using the personal lives of parliamentary staff members to score political points.

As a parliamentary colleague of Minister Cash, I take my role as an MP and community leader seriously. The community looks to us to set the standard, and women in particular look to us to support their journey towards gender equality. Cash’s comments took us backwards, not forwards.

No person should have their personal lives and relationship choices policed in public — but it’s a reality women have faced for millennia.

Our choices of relationships and partners are examined and commented upon with much more judgement than those of our male peers, family members or colleagues.

There is disproportionate social scrutiny exerted on women’s family choices, relationship choices, and as we’ve heard inferred by the Minister this week, women’s sexual choices.

There’s no doubt we’ve made progress towards gender equality and women’s autonomy, but there is much more work to do.

We must ensure women can undertake their professional work without fear of their personal lives being dragged into the spotlight – whether that’s at the level of water cooler rumours or indeed through a publicly-aired parliamentary committee.

Minister Cash should use her role to work towards a safe, equal and non-judgemental society for all women.

Setting this example comes with the job, and I hope she has reflected closely on how she has  failed  all women this week and recommitted herself to do better. It’s International Women’s Day next week, a perfect occasion for Minister Cash to make amends by emphasising her commitment to women’s empowerment.

Janet Rice is a federal Greens Senator, and the party’s spokesperson on LGBTIQ+ and Women’s issues.