The former deputy leader of the Western Australian Nationals says she has been subjected to “bullying, threats and intimidation” from within the party.
Jacqui Boydell said she felt compelled to speak out about a “culture of silence” surrounding the treatment of women in politics after Four Corners this week reported on allegations of inappropriate conduct by two senior Liberal party ministers in the Morrison government.
In a late-night speech to the WA parliament, Boydell said on Tuesday she was “exceptionally disappointed” with Scott Morrison’s response to the Four Corners allegations after the prime minister ruled out taking any action against the two MPs.
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“The issue about consensual relationships etcetera is a matter for the people involved and the prime minister to work out, but the prime minister cannot ignore the distress of those women and the description of the events that have happened to them in that parliament and those political organisations,” she said.
Boydell, who plans to retire from parliament at next year’s state election, said she regretted remaining silent about the treatment of women in politics “in the interests of the party”.
“I, too, as a senior member of the Nationals WA, a former deputy leader, a female state director, and a deputy leader and leader of the Nationals WA in the Legislative Council, have to, unfortunately, declare myself as one of those women who has stood by and remained silent when I have witnessed, at times, actions that I have not thought to be acceptable,” Boydell said.
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“Indeed, there have been situations in which I have found myself subject to bullying, threats and intimidation.”
Boydell told the parliament she had “failed” in her attempts to tackle issues surrounding the treatment of women internally and said political leaders needed to accept there was a system of “unconscious bias in dealings with women in political organisations”.
Her speech comes after Rachelle Miller, a former media adviser to cabinet minister Alan Tudge, lodged a formal complaint accusing him of engaging in workplace bullying and intimidation.
Miller, who had an affair with Tudge while working in his office, lodged the complaint with the finance department last week before she revealed the relationship on Four Corners on Monday. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, it accuses the minister of “belittling” and “humiliating” behaviour while she worked in his office.
While she says the affair was consensual, Miller in her complaint states that Tudge’s treatment left her feeling “anxious and afraid”.
Miller also reportedly wrote that there was a “strong expectation and culture”