Media Release : Thursday 6 October, 2016
I have taken legal advice in relation to an incident at an evening social event at Parliament House on 20th September 2016.
The decision I have taken reflects my commitment to speak out against any act of intimidation, bullying and/or violence, particularly when women are the target. I support the view of the Australian of the Year, David Morrison, that the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I believe all behaviour within the Parliament and outside the Parliament needs to reflect this standard. Robust debate is important and necessary and can be undertaken in a respectful manner without the need to resort to such behaviour.
The incident that has resulted in my decision to pursue a Code of Conduct complaint against Minister Rene Hidding occurred during the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Annual Dinner that was held in the Reception Room in Parliament House, a venue often used for public events. It involved Minister Rene Hidding MHA moving from his seat to a vacant chair beside me whereby he engaged immediately in conversation in a loud, aggressive and persistent manner. This event was not part of the Parliamentary Session. It was a social function with some members of the public present.
The conversation concerned the passage of the Strategic Infrastructure Corridors (Strategic and Recreational Use) Bill 2016. He was advised during the course of the conversation that his verbal aggression and personal attack was not appreciated. Nor did I appreciate his derogatory comments about a community key stakeholder with a strong knowledge and interest in this Bill.
The derogatory tone, the loud, intimidating, aggressive and personal nature of the conversation was in my view, designed to inappropriately influence or coerce my vote in relation to the Bill and its progress through the Legislation.
Independent eyewitness accounts of the conversation verify the incident had caused me distress at the time it occurred.
I have today written to the Premier asking that a potential Ministerial Code of Conduct breach by Mr. Hidding during the incident be investigated. I have requested that this investigation be undertaken using an open and transparent process. I have not received or had any communication from the Premier since the incident occurred.
I am also considering as a result of legal advice whether I will report the matter to Tasmania Police for investigation.
In addition, as the Premier, Minister Hidding and other Members present are White Ribbon Ambassadors, I have written to White Ribbon Australia alerting them to this incident, seeking that they review the accreditation and training requirements of these Parliamentary Ambassadors in light of this incident and the Government’s handling of it.
As an Independent Member of the Legislative Council I am not aligned with any Political Party and take my role very seriously. Accordingly inappropriate approaches designed to curtail my independence and seek to inappropriately influence my vote on important legislation, need to be investigated through appropriate channels if and when they arise.
Hon Ruth Forrest MLC
Independent Member for Murchison