Anika Wells MP on The World Today with Sally Sara

SUBJECT: Jenkins report.
SALLY SARA, HOST: So what is the reaction to the Jenkins report from young women in the federal parliament? Labor MP Anika Wells is the youngest female member of the House of Representatives representing the Queensland seat of Lilley.
ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: I think statistics are devastating. I was surprised that they weren't worse to be honest with you based on sort of my experiences in the building. But if you think about how bad those numbers are, and each statistic represents a person who was brave enough to come forward and speak with Kate Jenkins and her team, and tell their story in the hope of a better democracy and a safer workplace. if you think about each of those statistics, representing one of those people doing that, it really is a devastating thing.
SARA: Why is it so bad?
WELLS: I think power has gone unchecked for too long. And some people seem to think that rules don't apply to them. And I think in some parts, that's because they get to make the rules. They and their friends get to make the rules.
SARA: What do you think about the some of the recommendations that have been put forward?
WELLS: I think they're good. And I know that some of my colleagues who contributed, like I did, we're glad to see discussion of actual tangible consequences for parliamentarians who do the wrong thing. Because we have to shift the culture. And one of the worst statistics in there was how many people be that other MPs, be that staffers, be that librarians, be that janitors had been harassed by a parliamentarian themselves. It is extraordinary that the heart of Australia's democracy has a real cancer upon it, and that it has been left unattended to this long.
SARA: The kind of incidents and situations that are being described. Are they things that you have seen or experienced?
WELLS: Yes. And I made a contribution to the report. I was saddened, I think the report says only 16 or 17 current or former parliamentarians did out of 1700 submissions. But for me, I mean, this is all tied up in with how…why I decided to run for parliament in the first place.
SARA: We've had some reaction to this report from Members of Parliament, but for a whole lot of reasons, It's difficult to get first hand reaction from staffers because they're not allowed to often speak out. What do you think about that?
WELLS: My first thought, watching the Prime Minister's press conference yesterday was that there was no mechanism for staff to respond to the report. parliamentarians like myself can speak to you, Sally. Parliamentarians can speak in the parliament itself. But at the moment, I can't see any mechanism for staff who read the report yesterday and would have their own views about what was missed and what needs the most urgent action. There's no way for them to contribute. So I think that is why you're seeing Labor parliamentarians like Tanya Plibersek and myself say now that we want to consider the report and we just have to consult with our staff about what they want to see as well.
SARA: One of the interesting aspects of the report was talking about sexual harassment mostly coming from male perpetrators, but much of the bullying coming from females. What did you think about that?
WELLS: I thought it was well put by Amy Remekis yesterday who talked about the crumb maidens. Something needed to be done about the chrome maidens who contribute to these power structures and uphold these power structures and defend the offenders, whilst living off the crumbs that they get for their efforts. There is that in the building. And what ultimately I'm glad about is that my crew want to do something about it. I feel very supported as a new female MP on my side. And I feel like there are people that I can go to when I've got problems. There are people that I can go to when I need to call something out. And I worry that that doesn't exist for too many people outside the Labor Party.
SARA: That's Anika Wells. The Labor member for the Federal seat of Lilley in Queensland. She is the youngest female MP in the House of Representatives.