Before Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his braying band of born to rule big mouths get too comfortable up on their freshly saddled moral high horses, they might do well to consider this: Speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper has a history. The LNP is aware that this history includes, according to this account, alleged sexual harassment and sexual behaviour that some of their number found unacceptable enough to complain about:
According to the court documents, the Howard government was aware of Mr Slipper’s sexual relationship with another young male adviser – and other allegations of sexual harassment – as early as 2003.
Megan Hobson, a former adviser to Mr Slipper, approached John Howard’s then senior adviser Tony Nutt after she – and two other women – had viewed a video featuring the Speaker and the young male adviser.
According to the court documents, the video included footage of Mr Slipper lying on a bed with the male adviser and hugging him in “an intimate fashion”.
After hearing her concerns about the video, Mr Nutt allegedly told Ms Hobson to “forget all about it”.
The Coalition has overnight moved from “forget all about it” to “he must step down these are serious allegations.”
While the staffers Slipper allegedly harassed are adults, the Howard government’s attitude reminds me of the church officials who, when informed of the sexual predilections of some of their priests, simply shuffled them around from parish to parish, rather than call them to account and deal with the damage done to children in their care.
Sexually harassing an adult in your employ is an abuse of power. It’s against the law. It can cause a great deal of distress, sometimes long-term, for the unwilling recipient. It’s not a situation anyone should have to deal with when they arrive at their workplace every day. What the Howard government did, and what the Coalition has continued to do ever since, is cover-up serious allegations made against Slipper because it was expedient for them to do so, in spite of these alleged actions being against the law.
It’s a given that sexual abuse of all kinds perpetrated on both adults and children can only continue to the extent that it does with the collusion of others. Institutions look the other way, or actively cover up and repress allegations. It’s a given that we aren’t going to make big inroads into sexually abusive behaviours until institutions cease to enable the alleged perpetrators by protecting them from scrutiny. This is everyone’s problem. Politicians need to be leaders in this. They need to take action and be seen to take action when allegations of this kind are made against one of their number.
The Coalition doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the Slipper scandal. The way the situation was initially handled by them is disgraceful. They covered up allegations of a crime. They told complainants to “forget all about it.” They showed utter disregard for staffers who had allegedly suffered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is sickening. No less sickening are those who hold positions of power that permit them to do something about it, and instead choose to cover it up for their own gains. Get off your moral high horse Mr Abbott. It’s really just a braying donkey.