Stamping out sexual harassment and discrimination in workplaces needs to be elevated beyond the culture wars.
On that point, Chief Justice Peter Quinlan could not be more correct — lest we run the risk of distorting the public debate and the response to the problem.
But leaders from industries outside of mining, including WA’s top judge, can also make more use of their platforms to agitate for change and advocate for gender parity.
Mining bosses including from Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue have stepped up over the past year to claim ownership for their companies’ shortcomings in the wake of a damning WA parliamentary inquiry into sexual misconduct in the FIFO industry.
Granted — it is painfully obvious there is still much work to do in the resources sector, as evidenced this week by the State Government’s response to the inquiry which stopped short of backing a key recommendation for a register to prevent perpetrators from job-hopping.
But there are also longstanding issues that need to be addressed in other industries which have been somewhat overshadowed, with the exception of the Federal Parliament, by the prevalence of the problem in mining.
Case in point: a debate about whether to allow part-time judicial appointments — which would make the role more accessible to women with caring responsibilities — has been going on since 2014.
Even the Chief Justice conceded it was “unfinished business” when asked if he was pushing for change on Friday during a Q&A at Perth Convention Centre at a Women in Mining and Resources WA event.
While saying he believed the issue needed to be “properly addressed”, he noted that only a full-time position exists under legislation for each WA court.
Credit must go to the Chief Justice for calling out failures to speak up about unsavoury behaviour — including at a personal level — in an earnest speech in which he also warned against taking a “polarised” view on sexual misconduct.
But essentially saying your hands are tied because of legislation seems like something of a cop-out when you have the ability to spark a debate for change.
In their efforts to elevate workplace sexual harassment and discrimination above the noise from keyboard and culture warriors, leaders must practice what they preach and not lose sight of enduring issues in their own backyard.
And it is time we heard from more leaders outside of mining. What are they doing to protect and advance the women they represent?