Being admitted to the Order of Australia is one of the greatest honours an Australian can receive.
As always, inner west residents made a mark on this year's Australia Day list of honours, including Michael Tyack, awarded an AM for the pivotal role he has played in the performing arts; Janine Sergeant, awarded an AM for her contribution to medical administration; Bobby Mahlab, awarded an AM for her work protecting vulnerable women and for her contribution to publishing; Dr Stephen Bourke, awarded an AM for his work in archaeology; Professor Richard De Dear, awarded an AO for his work in education; Dr Sarah Midgley, OAM, for her support of the LGBTIQ+ community; and my very good friend the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, AM, recognised for her contribution to the people of New South Wales and to this Parliament.
Each of these inner westies has served their community with distinction and has made a lasting impact on our State and on our country.
Sadly, however, their positive and constructive contribution was overwhelmed by the decision to award an Order of Australia to so-called "men's rights" activist Bettina Arndt in recognition of her "significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men".
This should be seen for what it is: a slap in the face for the countless victims of sexual assault and family violence in our community and an undermining of the good work done by activists and community leaders to wipe out violence against women and to promote gender equality.
When Ms Arndt's award was announced, I was contacted by a number of very angry inner west residents, furious that Ms Arndt's work would be validated by the Council for the Order of Australia in this way.
The member for Blue Mountains and I co‑wrote a letter to the Attorney General asking that he follow his Victorian counterpart and call on the Governor‑General to seek a rescission of the award. We have not yet received a response to our letter.
Meanwhile, however, the Australian Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan motion to call on the Council for the Order of Australia to rescind the award.
That vote followed Ms Arndt commending the response of Queensland Police Inspector Mark Thompson to the horrific murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children "for keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been driven too far".
At a time when the nation was in mourning for this young woman and her beautiful children, Ms Arndt opted to peddle her cruel and, frankly, dangerous politics.
Ms Arndt's comments come as no surprise because previously she has taken a tour of campuses across the country—the Fake Rape Crisis Tour—where she travelled around undermining evidence‑based research into incidents of sexual assault, harassment and rape.
She has claimed that young women at Griffith University were being taught to be "uncaring, demanding bitches" following the publication of a list of guidelines to healthy relationships, including advice on consent.
She twice interviewed a convicted paedophile and she has described paid domestic violence leave as a "racket given that there is no evidence required for a woman to claim she is a victim of violence and employers wouldn't dare question such a claim".
There are also live questions around whether Ms Arndt is wrongfully claiming to be a clinical psychologist given she is not registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
This kind of self-serving behaviour would not be so concerning if it did not have such a dramatic impact on the debate around domestic violence and sexual assault.
Destroy the Joint, which tracks the deadly incidence of violence against women in our community, reports that Hannah Clarke was one of nine women killed by domestic violence in Australia so far this year. That is nine women too many.
It reports that over 60 women died violently last year and 54 in the year before. Family and domestic violence is a national emergency requiring critical intervention.
We need governments to step up and take meaningful action to reduce gender‑based violence. We need comprehensive education around healthy relationships and consent taught from the earliest age possible and we need cultural change to end gender inequality and combat the toxic masculinity that often underpins much of this violence.
There can be no question that providing Ms Arndt with a further platform to spread misinformation and malice is contrary to achieving those important objectives.
On behalf of the women in my electorate who have contacted me about this issue, I reiterate my call to the Attorney General to ask the Governor‑General to advise the Council for the Order of Australia to rescind that award. I also ask the first woman to serve as the Attorney General of New South Wales, the member for Vaucluse, to rethink her congratulations to Ms Arndt.
Both attorneys general in this place have been responsible for programs that sought to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault in our community and they should stand up now for those women across New South Wales and ask that this award be rescinded.