Politics

Kevin Rudd declares that the 'age of male sexual entitlement' must be ended in Australia

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Source: AAP

Kevin Rudd has declared the "age of male sexual entitlement is over" calling for women to be safe from sexual harassment and assault in all workplaces.

Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the "toxic culture" of sexual harassment against women and the "abuse of power" by men in authority must change in Australia.

He addressed the issue at the National Press Club on Tuesday while launching an essay focusing on the need for more courage in response to prevailing political challenges in Australia.

In his speech, Mr Rudd pointed out women had recently displayed this bravery in a "much greater" capacity by coming forward to shed light on the "predatory sexual behaviour of men".

0:00

He went on to declare "the age of male sexual entitlement is over", saying Australian women must be allowed to feel safe in all workplaces.

"Let me be plain: sexual harassment and sexual assault in the parliament are an abuse of power, position and authority by my gender – the male gender – by men," Mr Rudd said.

"It’s not a problem caused by women or by the clothes they wear, or by how much they’ve had to drink. It’s a problem caused by men."

His comments come after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public alleging she was raped by a male colleague inside a ministerial office in Parliament House.

The allegation has sparked a review by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, which will investigate how complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault have been handled in Canberra. 

It has also prompted a movement of students sharing their own experiences with sexual harassment and rape in Australian schools.

Mr Rudd said action must be taken to change the "toxic culture" of sexual harassment perpetrated by men in positions of authority. 

"It is wrong that women should have to fear such behaviour in any place, let alone the parliament, which makes laws to protect all of us," Mr Rudd said.

"It is wrong that female staff should fear being set upon by colleagues. It is wrong that young women should fear being set upon or harassed by male members of the parliament."

Mr Rudd also said the inquiry should be resourced to hold further inquiries across other workplaces, such as large corporations.

"Let the sunshine in. That's the way we begin to fix this. The uncomfortable truth for all Australian men is this - the game is now up," he said.

"The age of male sexual entitlement is over. Australian women must be safe in all workplaces, led by the Parliament, itself."

Mr Rudd has also backed calls for an independent inquiry into a historical rape allegation against Attorney General Christian Porter, who has emphatically denied the accusations. 

“I think that the appropriate course of action under these circumstances is for that to occur,” Mr Rudd said.

"If I were Christian Porter, this would probably be the best opportunity to clear your name through such a judicial inquiry at arm’s length, short duration, defined terms of reference."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed the need for such an inquiry - saying the process would be contrary to the "rule of law".

'Genuine, deep anxiety for Australia's future'

In his speech, Mr Rudd also addressed the current climate of political challenges facing Australia in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I now have a genuine, deep anxiety for Australia's future," Mr Rudd said.

"Australia is now facing the most profound challenges to our domestic and international circumstances since the Second World War."

He pointed to what he called the "slow and steady decay" of "critical" national institutions.

Mr Rudd also took aim at the role of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in Australia democracy, saying the media empire has had a "sustained impact" on diluting, diverting and redirecting national debate.

"Murdoch has skewed the national policy debate away from the genuinely big decisions we need to take to secure our nation's future," he said.

The newspapers owned by Murdoch's media empire include The Australian, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, and the Courier Mail. It also owns TV channel Sky News.

Overseas, it owns publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the United States, and The Sun and The Times in Britain.

Mr Murdoch also controls Fox Corp.

Mr Rudd said the media empire amounted to the "greatest cancer of all on our democratic institutions."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch