I walk into this Parliament each and every working day with a sense of pride and humility—humility because of the enormous privilege each and every one of us holds as representatives of our communities and, amongst other things, immense pride to be one of the 33 women elected to this, the Fifty-sixth Parliament. It is the highest number of women elected in the history of the New South Wales Parliament. Although I am sure it will be disputed, it is a fact that election to this place as a woman is harder than it is for a man. It is a simple fact that there are more barriers for women seeking election, and even more so for women who are further marginalised by race, sexual orientation or disability.
It is also a simple fact that once they get here, even in this place, women face sexism and discrimination. Whether it is the member for Castle Hill saying we would never get anything done here if women were given additional bathroom space in the Parliament, or the appalling questions asked of our new Premier by her party room on the day she was elected to lead New South Wales. It cannot be denied that women in this place are subject to the same rank sexism and discrimination that women across this State experience each and every day. Women in New South Wales experience discrimination in the shameful persistence of the gender pay gap. They feel discrimination in the Government's failure to invest properly in childcare services or to deliver adequate maternity leave.
Women feel it in the inexcusable way that we fail to protect those exercising their right to a termination. Women feel it in the closure of women's refuges, in the gendered violence we see in our homes, in the failure to protect young women from sexual harassment and rape on our university campuses.
"Let us Talk About It", a recent National Union of Students report, indicates that up to 72 per cent of female students experienced sexual harassment, assault, unwelcome sexual behaviour, stalking or rape at university. Astoundingly, 94 per cent of those women did not report the incident. That young people feel safe at university or TAFE should be a given. Still, we have seen high-profile incidents at residential colleges, including the near-death of a female student at St John's College after drinking a toxic cocktail of shampoo, dog food, tabasco sauce and rancid milk. And there is also the unseen: the stories of abuse and harassment we have not learned about. Women have been subjected to the most horrific, degrading and dangerous behaviour possible, and have been let down by university administrations, by residential college boards and by governments that refuse to act.
Women on campuses across New South Wales have had enough, and NSW Labor stands with them. This week, I joined the shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Shadow Minister for Women in launching a new campaign to end sexual assault on campus. Students are calling for mandatory consent training for staff and residents of residential colleges. They are calling for a move towards a standard sexual assault reporting model that recognises the rule of law. They are also calling for specialised services for victims of sexual assault on campus. These are all seemingly obvious provisions that you would think were already in place—but they are not. I say to those women and to the countless young people who have been victims of sexual assault and rape on our campuses, NSW Labor stands with you. You are not alone. We see the pain you have experienced. We see your courage and your determination. We will do our very best to match that courage and determination.
We in this place would also do well to show courage and determination when it comes to protecting a woman's right to choose. Like many women across New South Wales, I was dismayed to hear the new Minister for Women express that she is pro-life in her very first statement in that role. A number of women in my electorate contacted me to let me know of their concern. In almost all cases, they did not object to the Minister's personal right to an alternative view—and nor do I. What they did object to, however, was a Minister opposed to a woman's right to choose being appointed the Minister for Women. While the Minister has indicated she will not move backwards on this issue, it is not enough. The fact is we have to move forward.
Women seeking a termination in New South Wales are forced to run a gauntlet. Protesters are allowed to gather around the entrance to clinics, often waving placards with images of aborted foetuses in their faces. These women, in a moment of intense vulnerability, are not protected by our laws. The truth is they are looking to women in this place to protect them and to act in their interests. We owe them nothing less.