‘Shocked and disappointed’: Qld blasts PM

 

Where the Morrison government has been exposed and widely criticised for its treatment of disturbing allegations of assault against women, one Australian state has swooped in to pick up the slack.

Canberra was rocked when Brittany Higgins came forward and accused a former Liberal staffer of rape, and comments from the Prime Minister in wake of the scandal further infuriated women across Australia.

The PM has been accused of lacking empathy and basic understanding of the plight facing women in the workplace and state governments across the country have been largely silent on the issue.

Except for Queensland, where the Palaszczuk government is strongly represented by women in key cabinet positions.

Senior female ministers in the Sunshine State say they want to seize the momentum and force change to allow victims of assault to come forward and improve the working standards for women and working mums.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, March 4 Justice rally arrives at Parliament House Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, March 4 Justice rally arrives at Parliament House Brisbane. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

 

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the horrific allegations and the ensued lack of leadership has made her "angry and frustrated", labelling the various comments and actions from Canberra as "unbelievable".

"I am shocked with what I have seen," she told NCA NewsWire. "I'm disappointed in the way it all has all been handled, but more broadly, I think it's been handled poorly by the Commonwealth, and by the Prime Minister, and I do think he's trying to deflect from that now.

"I still don't know what they're doing to change that culture within parliament and within their own workforce and we have to keep having this conversation."

In the days and weeks after the scandal broke, the Queensland Premier joined the March 4 Justice, led an emotional and inspiring motion in state parliament to allow a bipartisan call for action and sharing of grief, and called on the Prime Minister to allow National Cabinet to host a Women's Summit.

But the leadership from Annastacia Palaszczuk's government has gone beyond politics, with Ms D'Ath and MP Jonty Bush empowering victims to come forward by sharing their own terrifying encounters of sexual abuse.

The premier told NCA NewsWire she has "made it my mission to promote gender equality in my government and in society".

"I'm taking a stand for women everywhere, not just here in Queensland."

The state government recently passed new consent laws and Ms Palaszczuk said it will now turn its focus to coercive control legislation, "as part of a wide ranging review into the experiences of women across the criminal justice system with an independent task force to be led by former Court of Appeal judge the Hon Margaret McMurdo AC".

"This is just the beginning," she insists.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has been a powerful voice for change. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has been a powerful voice for change. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

 

This year's movement pushing for change has been littered with inspiring figures but Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman pinpointed the exact moment it all began for her; when Grace Tame, a survivor of child sexual abuse, delivered her powerful speech on receiving the Australian of the Year Award.

"She is inspiring, and encouraging other women to come forward, and it has been an incredible building of momentum towards change," she said.

This wave is having a material impact in Queensland, where sexual assault services have had a 50 per cent uptick in women coming forward to make complaints, with 90 per cent of those coming from first-time complainants.

Women are being given a voice to share their stories and Ms Fentiman wants to improve legal frameworks to allow these voices to be heard.

"This is the time to actually deliver for the women who are being incredibly brave and courageous," she told NCA NewsWire.

"We're going to look at everything from why women don't report their interactions to police and giving evidence in court.

"They face a lot of barriers and I'm really hopeful the task force will come up with some really good recommendations for us to act on to make it so much easier for women as they navigate the criminal justice system."

Australian of the Year Grace Tame has inspired a nation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Australian of the Year Grace Tame has inspired a nation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

The Attorney-General also cited reforms to reduce family violence for Indigenous females, which has led to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women being the fastest growing prison demographic.

But none of this would be possible, Ms Fentiman says, if the state government wasn't well represented by women - a product of the party introducing quotas decades earlier.

More than half of the cabinet is now occupied by women, and the Attorney General said Queensland wouldn't have a female premier, Attorney-General or health minister if the party hadn't committed to this standard of representation.

"You get much better policy outcomes when you have women sitting around that cabinet table," she said.

Originally published as 'Shocked and disappointed': Qld blasts PM



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