Please don't wet yourself with excitement at the release of Set the Standard, Kate Jenkins' thorough report on all that is wrong in Parliament House, its environs and culture.
Yes, the report shows us the possibilities of a better future, rising from a terrible past. Thank god for former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins speaking fury to power. Too many of us leave our hurt and anger in drafts, but Higgins sent hers with receipts.
Yet we have been here before. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Jenkins released Respect@Work not two minutes ago, and so far nothing has changed. We still have sexual harassment at work. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Some of you do it, and others of you condone it, women among you. All the reports in the world won't fix the problem, although it is important to acknowledge they are a start. We have Jenkins' instructions and we have the tools. Now we must smash the House in order to rebuild. That will include dismantling the current government, and hoping any future government has the guts to remove anyone found to have committed sexual misconduct from its ranks.
On Thursday we heard from Rachelle Miller, the staffer who had a consensual affair with the former Minister for the Right Kind of History, Alan Tudge. She said: "I was so ashamed, so humiliated, so scared. I was exhausted. I told a small part of the story." When I first heard their relationship described as consensual, my immediate response was: "Are you kidding me?" Imagine what would happen if staffers said no. Their very jobs are about saying yes.
Let's have some good news though, shall we? Flawed former attorney-general Christian Porter will not recontest his seat of Pearce in Western Australia, and his political career is over (it does not pain me to say I told you so). Porter was burnt beyond repair for many reasons - mostly of his own doing. He decided to sue an ABC journalist, Louise Milligan, for doing her job. Then when he didn't have the moolah to pay his extensive, expensive legal bills, someone rustled it up for him. When it became clear he couldn't have his trust (or ours for that matter) and wield it too, he reluctantly pulled out of his ministerial responsibilities.
That's before we even deal with the alleged rape (with strenuous denials), his unfortunate term as minister for social services, and his behaviour in a Canberra bar. Oh yes. I am moralistic. Look, to all of you men in Parliament who can't control yourselves, either don't be married or be married and don't give anyone rubbish about how your wife understands. She doesn't.
How do we stop women from falling victim to what Monash University's Jane Kenway, emeritus professor of education, describes as a misogyny pipeline? Her thesis is that dominant boys from expensive private schools attend elite universities, participate in similar clubs and societies and connect with others who share the same misogynist values they learned at school. Misogyny deepens, spreads and reproduces. That's the misogyny pipeline, and we have heard evidence this year of men (politicians, staffers, journalists) who brief and background against women. That feeds the pipeline. As The Sydney Morning Herald's Daniel Carter and Noah Yi wrote this year: "In some ways, the Parliament is unrepresentative, elite, and homogenous: it is stacked with private school graduates."
"In some ways." Snort. We need to choose better and more diverse candidates who look like us. We could all do a better job of sending people to Parliament in the first place, whether they be parliamentarians or staffers. This brings us back to Porter's Pearce, which Poll Bludger's William Bowe describes as "loseable". The West Australian's Annabel Hennessy has already named Miquela Riley as a possible candidate, with former WGEA director Libby Lyons not far behind. Only women on the list (good), and women with expressed Liberal values (not good in the current climate). Not sure that will fix the problem in the party, as we can see from Jane Hume, who said - and I kid you not - significant changes had been made already. One of this government's many ministers for women who won't come out roaring to defend the broken and damaged. All of you should be ashamed of yourselves.
This is the real challenge for the Liberal Party. Jenkins says one way to fix the culture problem in Parliament House is to get political parties to address their own gender imbalance. In real life, we call them quotas. Decide you will preselect women in winnable seats. It is a struggle for the Liberal Party, where the preselection process is degraded and vulgar. Even if women want to put up their hands, the entire vibe of the party is ruling class, ruling culture (yes, I'm pinching the name of the book by genius Australian academic Raewyn Connell to explain the problem).
At a recent preselection process, one candidate reportedly slammed the Child Support Agency. Look, I wasn't in the room where it happened, but a couple of people told me the expression "man-hating women" was used. If you can say that in public, imagine what you can say in private.
This week alone, we've had the details from Set the Standard with horrific stories of constant abuse and harm by men who ought to know how to behave well, at least according to the promotional material of the schools they went to. But that is only part of the problem. We should want Parliament House to be a great place to work for politicians and staffers alike. Proximity to power can be thrilling for some but in this case the power is only used to punish.
Do not for one minute think that it is only Liberal and National men who behave like this, or Liberal and National women who enable this behaviour. When I wrote earlier this year about the "three amigos" in a Labor minister's office, I had contact from many who wanted to know who they were (including a proxy). Let's hope Labor weeds them out before they, too, have a chance to further destroy democracy.
"So I'm speaking to all Australians through the media: the appalling treatment of women that happened in the early '90s when I was a teenager is still happening today," said Rachelle Miller.
"Remember that when you vote."
And that, my friends, is only the beginning of the answer.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.