Outgoing federal government MP Nicolle Flint has wept on the floor of Parliament while describing the harassment and stalking she has endured during her time in politics.
An emotional Ms Flint called for the safety of women to be “above politics”.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Senate leader Penny Wong have hit back at Ms Flint’s claims the opposition was involved in the campaign against her, saying the ALP was also targeted by the same groups, and that they didn’t know the full extent of the abuse.
Ms Flint, the Liberal member for the marginal South Australian seat of Boothby, announced in February she would quit politics at the next election.
In her farewell speech to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Ms Flint criticised her political opponents, including Mr Albanese and lobby group GetUp!, which campaigned to unseat her at the 2019 election.
“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, I will not be lectured by you, I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place,” she said, echoing the famous phrase used by former PM Julia Gillard against then opposition leader Tony Abbott.
On Tuesday, Mr Albanese condemned Prime Minister Scott Morrison for refusing to attend the March 4 Justice protest against gendered violence and for telling Parliament it was a triumph that protesters outside had not been “met with bullets”.
But Ms Flint began crying as she accused Mr Albanese of crawling “down into the gutter” with his words.
“The safety of women in this place, of female staff and female MPs and senators should be above politics,” she said.
“The need to change the culture of our parties and of this place should be above politics.”
The second-term MP has been vocal about the treatment she has faced since entering federal politics, including being targeted by a stalker and having her campaign office defaced with offensive graffiti.
Please watch this brave, powerful speech by @NicolleFlint
No woman should endure the systematic abuse, harassment & misogynistic attacks to which she was subjected by Labor, with @SenatorWong in charge, Getup & the unions.
We’ve lost a first class Liberal MP.
This must stop. pic.twitter.com/XNMFEzP70s
— Senator Sarah Henderson (@SenSHenderson) March 16, 2021
During her speech, she suggested Mr Albanese and his frontbench should have defended her in the last election campaign.
“Where was he and where was his predecessor and where were the senior Labor women when GetUp!, Labor and the union supporters chased, harassed and screamed at me everywhere I went in the lead-up to the 2019 election?”
She started to cry again as she accused the opposition of failing to support her.
“They may not have held the spray can to vandalise my office with sexist slurs, they may not have held the camera pointed at me by the stalker or called me evil in GetUp!’s phone calls, but they did create the environment in which hate could flourish,” she said.
“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, this can’t be about politics anymore.
“We all bear the responsibility for change.”
On Wednesday, Mr Albanese – who wasn’t Opposition Leader at the 2019 election – said he wasn’t aware of the full extent of the abuse Ms Flint had suffered.
“It shouldn’t have happened. Full stop. It shouldn’t have happened to anyone in any campaign, full stop. I condemn,” he told the ABC’s Radio National.
“I wasn’t visiting Boothby in those last couple of weeks. Anytime that I got asked about behaviour, I would have said exactly the same thing.”
Mr Albanese claimed the same progressive campaign groups that Ms Flint criticised, including GetUp! and Extinction Rebellion, also campaigned hard against him and other opposition members.
“Certainly, the women staff who worked for me – and my electorate office is all female staff – felt intimidated by occupations of the office. It shouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” he said.
“I stand with Nicolle Flint. [It] is appalling that that sort of behaviour was directed at her.”
Labor’s Penny Wong says harassment and abuse reported by Liberal MP Nicolle Flint was “utterly unacceptable” but calls it “unfair” for Flint to criticise ALP women over it
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) March 16, 2021
Senator Wong, Labor’s opposition’s most senior SA member, said she was appalled by the abuse aimed at Ms Flint, but said it was “unfair” to blame Labor.
“What Ms Flint reports happened to her is utterly unacceptable,” she said on Wednesday.
“I would say to Ms Flint, I agree with you, let’s try to make this a better place for women, let’s use our positions to make things better.”
“Women have the right to be safe.”
Senator Wong said she didn’t learn the full extent of the abuse until after the 2019 election, and also flatly ruled out any involvement. She also invited Ms Flint to meet her and other Labor women to discuss the issues.
“Let’s have a discussion about how we can work, use our positions of privilege to improve the situation of all women,” she said.