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Mr De Domenico: I did not say that at all.
MS FOLLETT: Mr De Domenico, I genuinely apologise if that is not what you said, but that is my recollection of what you said. In any case, Mr Speaker, the statement that it may have been only inappropriate language, in my view, in no way lessens the gravity of the allegations.
Mr Speaker, I turn to one of Mrs Carnell's more bizarre and defensive statements about this matter. She has said that Ms Marshall's allegations should be given less credibility because so far they have been made by only one person. She said, “To start with, all we have got here are allegations by one previous employee”. I would ask: What kind of a message does this send to the many women who, we know, are putting up with sexual harassment on a daily basis but are too frightened or too intimidated to do anything about it? What Mrs Carnell is saying is, “Do not come bleating to my Government if you are the only person who has been harassed. If there is only one of you, then you have no credibility”. I would ask, Mr Speaker, whether Mrs Carnell has put a figure on the number of women it takes before there is credibility in an allegation. Does it take three women to match the denials of one man? What is the figure?
Perhaps, Mr Speaker, we should not be surprised about this approach. In the last session, Mrs Carnell arrived in this place bearing and lauding the Government's new code of conduct for Ministers. Ms Tucker has referred to that document as well. Clearly, that document is completely phoney. It actually made no mention of the personal standard of conduct required of Ministers, as I have said previously in this place. As Ms Tucker said, even the very thin guidance that is offered to Ministers has, in fact, not been adhered to; so that document is a totally phoney one.
Mr Speaker, if you look at the statistics on sexual harassment - we have looked at the statistics from Victoria's Commissioner for Equal Opportunity - you see that they do show that there has been a 65.8 per cent rise in complaints from the previous year. I think that, rather than demonstrating an alarming increase in the incidence of sexual harassment, this is much more likely to be evidence that women - and 94 per cent of victims are women - are at last finding the courage to stand up and to say, “We will no longer tolerate this offensive and humiliating behaviour”. That is a very good message to be sending out. I think it is about time women felt that they could have the courage to come forward with allegations and have them heard objectively and fairly.
Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Ms Follett is referring to women having the courage to come forward to make allegations about offensive and humiliating behaviour. We are having a debate about Mr De Domenico. To make those comments in the context of this debate is to attribute in a subtle but effective way that kind of behaviour to Mr De Domenico. It is unbecoming of Ms Follett in this debate to prejudge the issue in that way. What she says about the need to attack sexual harassment in the community is very valid. To suggest, as she is doing, that this has anything to do with Mr De Domenico, in these circumstances where no claim has been proved against him, is offensive, and I would ask her to reconsider her remarks.