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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 May 1995) . . Page.. 517 ..


MR SPEAKER: Whilst, as I understand it, the matter before the Discrimination Commissioner is not subject to the sub judice convention, I would ask all members to recognise the importance of exercising some restraint in this matter when it comes to commenting on the situation of individuals. It is an important issue. I do not wish to prevent the matter from being debated. Indeed, the Assembly has agreed that it should be debated. But I do believe that the point of order raised by Mr Humphries has validity, and I would ask all members to exercise some restraint when it comes to commenting on the situation of the individuals concerned in this matter.

MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, with respect, the statistics that I was referring to are from the Victorian Commissioner for Equal Opportunity. I made the general point, based on those statistics, that I applaud women coming forward and actually making complaints about sexual harassment. I believe that that is in no way consistent with the inference that Mr Humphries has drawn. I have made no allegation against Mr De Domenico but rather a general point on the need for women to have courage to come forward and for governments - proper governments - to support them in that. That was my point.

MR SPEAKER: As long as we are aware, Ms Follett, that no implication is to be made in relation to any member, I am happy to allow you to continue on that point; but I would remind all members, not just the Leader of the Opposition, to be careful in their remarks in this debate. Please continue.

MS FOLLETT: Thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker; but I repeat that I made no implication, and I will not withdraw any implication. Mr Speaker, it is very hard for anybody to come forward with an allegation of sexual harassment. Very often those who do so have to bear the brunt of embarrassing publicity and attack on their own character. That is a very common occurrence. Unfortunately, it is my view that the complainant in this matter, Ms Marshall, has found that that has been exactly the result of her coming forward. It is my view that that situation must be redressed and other women should not be deterred from coming forward when they have a need to.

It has also been my experience, Mr Speaker, that the number of women coming forward with vexatious or spurious complaints of sexual harassment has been nil. I make that also as a general comment simply because the experience of making a formal complaint - members opposite, including Mrs Carnell, can chuckle away merrily, but I know what I am talking about - and going through the formal process is a quite daunting one. As Ms Marshall has found, the victim can be a double victim by coming under attack herself.

Mr Speaker, Mr Moore has argued that there would be a precedent set here if a Minister were to stand aside on an allegation. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. There are numerous precedents for Ministers standing aside while investigations are carried out. They do not have to be criminal matters, as Mr Humphries has said they have to be. Neville Wran - people remember Neville Wran - stood himself aside on the basis that there was one allegation. Just the name Neville was used - not Neville Wran, just Neville. He stood himself aside and a royal commission was held. Alan Griffiths was stood aside on the complaint of one woman. He was later exonerated on that matter.


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