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An Open Letter to Mike Baird MP – Actions Speak Louder than Words

Dear Mr. Baird, this is NOT OK.

Your behaviour in Parliament yesterday cannot be condoned, and will not be condoned. Blatant sexism and bullying will never be considered OK, especially in a professional environment. Your belittling and degrading comments referring to Jodi McKay and “calendar shoots” will not fly under our radar, and we hold you, our Premier, accountable for your comments. 

We work closely with women in organisations to strengthen them to find their unique voice, allowing them to feel that they have a safe platform to bring their true personality to work. However, mornings like this one when I see video like the one below, I am almost without words. It’s very hard to not question what it’s all for?

This is not just a Minister making these comments. This is the elected leader of NSW. Further, he is using our tax-funded Parliament as his platform. How on earth do we as a society move forward and reap the benefits of true diversity and equality when this is considered acceptable in our Parliament?

This is not unconscious bias. These are not embedded values or language that we can all work towards eradicating. This is overt bigotry. His actions are disrespectful to the Shadow Minister they were directed at, women everywhere, and the Australian people that Mr Baird is claiming to represent and act on behalf of.

So Mr Baird, quite simply, shame on you. It suited you on International Women’s Day, only a few short weeks ago, to post about gender inequality in regards to pay scale. It suited you to wax lyrical about how we need to close the gap.

It forwarded your agenda to support women then. However, you have now shown blatant hypocrisy in your actions, in a parliament where you should have been at your most respectful. We expect politicians to carry on to a certain extent outside of Parliament. It is the circus of all our creation.

Mike Baird MP’s Facebook and Twitter posts emphasise his apparent perspective on the importance of gender equality.

However, inside the Parliament is different. We expect our representatives to conduct themselves in that sacred space in a way that honours the power and responsibility you hold. You are responsible for maintaining our way of life, determining the things we can and can’t afford, and whether we will have a job to go to tomorrow. And yet, you chose to carry on like a schoolboy surprised to have an audience after having too much red cordial. This is so far beyond disgraceful that the English language cannot adequately convey the level to which you have sunk.

And Mr Baird is not alone. To each and every person who was in the room who laughed at that, who sat back and said “that’s so funny”, or indeed who didn’t agree with it and did nothing – you are just as a much to blame.

Social norms are formed by what we say is OK, even if that assent is through inaction. You have participated in setting a social norm where it is OK to launch into a personal parody centred on something completely unrelated and personal to the Shadow Minister, instead of rebutting a reasonable point raised by the Opposition. You have participated in cementing a parliament filled with slapstick humour and cheap magic tricks. And worse, you have told your kids that it is OK to speak to another human being that way. Shame on all of you.

This display of the true culture of Parliament in NSW is a discredit to yourselves and to the people you are responsible for representing. This incident of blatant humiliation and unnecessary sexualisation of another parliament member for the purpose of cheap laughs is not isolated. The use of crude and belittling descriptions of female colleagues should NOT be considered acceptable. We firmly believe that no women in Parliament should be put through the same degradation.

We as a society need leaders that consistently stand up for their genuinely held beliefs, not just jump on a popular bandwagon when it suits their agenda.

We need leaders that are capable of rebutting arguments and developing their ideas through considered examination of all information available. And we need leaders who stand for the best interests of the people they represent.

Equality is a real concept that is so relevant in current times. Each and every person has every right to be exactly as they are, free from fear of humiliation. And we will all be better for embracing that diversity.

So, on this morning, when we have been so profoundly let down by our elected officials, let’s all stand together and do one thing – just one thing – that embraces difference and reduces discrimination. Let’s show our leaders how it’s done.

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