Lord Mayor Of Sydney Sexual Harassment Allegations



About this Item
SpeakersHannaford The Hon John
BusinessAdjournment

LORD MAYOR OF SYDNEY SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS

The Hon J. P. HANNAFORD [10.01 p.m.]: Today the Attorney General tabled in the House a letter which was directed to the Lord Mayor of Sydney Frank Sartor. The question that has to be asked in relation to that letter is: Why is the date cited in a request for a report from the Anti-Discrimination Board [ADB] related only to 1995 when Lord Mayor Sartor became mayor in September 1991? The reason for that is clearly that the Lord Mayor was not prepared to have the ADB reveal that there were a number of complaints lodged with the ADB before 1995. I have in my possession a letter directed to the president of the ADB, which states:
      I wish to register a complaint of sexual harassment and discrimination that was directed at me physically by . . . Frank Sartor.

Page 87
      The incident occurred at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Monday June 29 1992 after . . . Frank Sartor asked me into his office on the pretext of discussing professional matters . . .
      After commencing discussions over these matters alone with Mr Sartor for five minutes, he sat down next to me and suddenly grabbed my hand and arm in a firm, locked position and proceeded to lean across and started kissing me, saying he had wanted to do this for three years.
      He told me details about the loneliness of his personal life and his need to be close to me.
      I was completely taken aback by such obnoxious and demeaning behaviour and pushed him away immediately, and I made it clear in no uncertain manner that this repugnant behaviour was not acceptable in any manner or form . . .
      Mr Sartor must have realised I was distressed by his actions towards my physical being and offered to walk me to the basement carpark . . .
      On the walk back he asked me not to reveal this incident to anyone for my own good. I detected a directive turn by this statement.
      I reported this incident to my supervisor, Mr Vic Smith, the manager of community services, the next day . . . who made no attempt to take any action.
      I regard this behaviour . . . as a serious breach of professional and ethical trust by an elected public official, and morally reprehensible.
      It was a dehumanising experience for me, particularly being a professional female working in such a male dominated, chauvinistic and sexist environment.
      I am registering the complaint now as I have been recently made aware of another unwarranted advance by Mr Sartor on one of my female staff members . . .
      She was physically and emotionally surprised and affected by this unsolicited sexual advance . . .

This is but the tip of the iceberg. As late as this year I have been made aware of two approaches made by the Lord Mayor to an unmarried woman on his staff, seeking personal contact with her and asking her out, despite her obvious discomfort. These are not isolated events.

The Lord Mayor's staff turnover is extraordinarily high. Several senior staff have quit during this current term rather than be exposed to intimidating and unwarranted situations, including having to work late at night and on weekends at the personal request of Frank Sartor. What makes the Lord Mayor's behaviour even more unacceptable is the fact that he intends to cover up the complaints against him by bullying and intimidation, coupled with conciliation and confidentiality agreements in the Anti-Discrimination Board.

I accepted the Attorney's good intentions in regard to tabling the letter, but the question must be asked: Why has the council limited the request? I challenge the Lord Mayor to release full details of all other complaints held by the council in respect of which payments have been made by the council since 1995. I also challenge honourable members who are aware of these incidents - and I know that some members of this House are aware of these incidents - to publicly acknowledge that they have received complaints of the type I have described. Honourable members will recall that Terry Griffith lost his ministry and eventually his seat as a result of disturbingly similar complaints. Terry Griffith's demotion was fully supported by the then Leader of the Opposition, Bob Carr, in 1994. At that time Mr Carr stated:
      That is what sexual harassment is all about - the exploitation of the power enjoyed by some to the disadvantage of those who have no power.

That is exactly the nature of Frank Sartor's repeated abuses of his power. In the Griffith case, the Labor Party voted to censure the former Minister for his behaviour; yet in this instance the Australian Labor Party is fully endorsing Frank Sartor in the forthcoming council and mayoral elections. Labor and, indeed, the Premier are fully endorsing someone who is still in office and who is seeking a new term. [Time expired.]