The Transcript: Greens MP Jenny Leong Slams Colleague Jeremy Buckingham Over Sexual Assault Allegations

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A complete transcript of the speech delivered earlier today by NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong, calling for colleague Jeremy Buckingham to stand down after allegations he sexually assaulted a former Greens staffer in 2011.

Up front let me apologise for not saying any of this until now. I cannot stay silent anymore.

The Greens are respected by many people as a party of principle, a party that holds ourselves to high ethical standards… our response to recent allegations about one of our own MPS has to date been completely unsatisfactory.

It is for this reason that I am calling today in this place for Jeremy Buckingham MLC to resign from his position as a member of parliament, and take himself off the ticket for the 2019 state election.

If he doesn’t do this then I am urging the party to act so that he is no longer a representative or member of the Greens, because we cannot advance our agenda for a more just, more sustainable or more equitable world when so much energy, effort, time, resources and pain has been exhausted trying to manage one man and his unacceptable behaviour.

There is a need for decisive action to bring this to an end, which is why NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi and I have now issued a joint statement calling for Jeremy Buckingham to step aside and to not contest the next election.

This morning we informed our parliamentary colleagues of our intentions and urged them to support us or for Jeremy to step aside. I hope they do that, and hope he does that.

To Ella Buckland who has shown strength by speaking out publicly about Jeremy’s act of sexual violence towards her, and his subsequent disgusting behaviour she has endured, let me say on the record that I believe you.

Let me acknowledge that while I know there have been some good people trying to work in good faith with the best intentions to resolve this, it is true that we need to do better and our party has failed you.

I also wish to apologise for my silence and inaction until now. This has been my first opportunity to speak out with the protection of parliamentary privilege, and I wish to acknowledge that I do have that privilege.

The fact that I felt compelled to wait is a clear indication of the urgent need for defamation law reform in this state and country, something that I support.

While we must continue to respect the presumption of innocence, this cannot be used as a shield to protect male violence against women. Despite the risks, brave women are standing up and speaking out. But brave women are also hurting, hurting because we know that almost always, and right now in this situation, no matter how it plays out, we are the ones who are further vilified, further harassed, further intimidated, further criticised by our actions or inactions.

I have known Jeremy Buckingham for close to two decades. First as a friend of a friend, later as a fellow traveller in the Greens, then as an MP when I was employed on the 2013 federal election campaign, and most recently as a colleague once I was elected.

I know what he’s like. I used to consider him a friend.

Jeremy’s actions and behaviour, some widely reported and documented, and some still held in confidence which must be respected, have had a real and lasting consequence on individual women, members and former members of our party, as well as active volunteers in our party.

I do not wish to go into the details of the experiences of others here, but let me say this. Beyond what has been articulated by Ella Buckland about how Jeremy behaved towards her, I know that there have been active volunteers who have stepped aside or resigned as members as a result of Jeremy’s behaviour.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, some constituents raised with me the fact that they had seen Jeremy behaving badly in a manner that they didn’t think acceptable at a Greens event.

It is unclear to me the seriousness of the nature of these events, but they obviously certainly crossed a line, which meant that the active volunteers and members chose to disengage from the party.

I know how they feel.

On two occasions earlier this year, Jeremy behaved in an aggressive and intimidating manner towards me. Once in a public place and once in the corridors of this place.

I have spent many days in this bear pit and I know that politics can be an intense place. But as too many women know, you can feel the difference.

You can feel the difference when a man is in control, and when he is not. And let me be very clear, I am in no way comparing my experiences or the experience of other volunteers and members to that experienced and articulated by Ella. But I am sharing this information because I think it goes to character.

For a male Greens MP to behave in an aggressive manner, and an intimidating manner towards a female Greens MP in the heart of her own electorate while people are passing by, is clearly a sign of someone not being able to control their behaviour.

Jeremy, you have had countless opportunities to take responsibility for this. To apologise to those impacted and to seek to address them. Instead, you have followed with further aggressive tactics.

I know you feel like you are the victim of internal party attacks, but you must acknowledge your role in this and stand aside before more damage is done.

As I said on the day Luke Foley’s actions were exposed, women need to be free to participate in politics and media, in their workplaces and in society, without fear of harassment or intimidation. We cannot do that if those that behave badly are allowed to get away with it.

Jeremy Buckingham must step aside because we won’t be able to resolve these or other issues in our party or to address the problematic behaviours of losing trust, while the perpetrator of serious harms continues to remain in our party. And believe me, there are other issues we do need to resolve internally.

And while I might be fearful of the reactions and repercussions of doing what I am doing right now, it is nothing felt compared to the feeling felt by those that are survivors.

Let me be clear, this is not a Greens problem. This is not a Labor problem. It is not a Liberal or a Nationals problem. It is not even a problem just for this parliament or for politics.

It is a societal problem.

I acknowledge that I am in a position of power and influence and can do more to speak out and to make it stop. And I can give my commitment today that I will.

I am no longer going to be part of a system that runs a protection racket for badly behaved men in this place, or in society. It has to stop.

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