Sex, Lies and Question Time

Kate Ellis

Sex, Lies and Question Time
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Sex, Lies and Question Time

Kate Ellis

In Sex, Lies and Question Time, former MP Kate Ellis explores the good, the bad and the ugly of life as a woman in Australian politics.

Seventy-seven years after the first woman entered Australian parliament, female politicians are still the minority. They cop scrutiny over their appearance, their sex lives, their parenting and their portfolios in a way few of their male colleagues do. It’s time to call bullshit on the toxic Canberra culture.

Alongside her own experiences from fifteen years in parliament, Kate Ellis reveals a frank and fascinating picture of women across Australian politics, including Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Linda Burney, Sussan Ley, Penny Wong, Sarah Hanson-Young and Pauline Hanson. Kate explores issues like sexism, motherhood, appearances, social media, the sisterhood and, of course, sex. But she also celebrates everything Australian female politicians have achieved.

Wry, candid and provocative, Sex, Lies and Question Time is a powerful call to demand more of our leaders and our institutions. It reminds us we need greater diversity to shape a fairer Australia, where ‘women’s issues' are everyone’s issues. A better parliament means a better Australia. The stakes are high, and the standards should be too.


Well, this book could not have come at a better time, could it? Sex, Lies and Question Time came to me for review hot on the heels of International Women’s Day, allegations of horrific sexual assaults at the heart of the Government, and the nationwide protests that occurred these Ides of March. Former MP Kate Ellis’s book – and yes, this is a ‘must read’ – offers a unique insider view of what life is like for women at the seat of power in Australia. It is frank and revealing.

The responses from the wide-ranging interviews conducted with a gamut of sitting and former MPs and senators seek to get at the heart of the culture in this messy, adversarial workplace. From ‘slut-shaming’ to hateful innuendo, to being ‘briefed against’ from within your own caucus, Ellis lays bare the toxic culture of Parliament House. You may not like what you read, but for several women, then and now, this is what they experienced and continue to experience. It’s clear that this culture has been festering for some time, along with the deeply entrenched practices and procedures that present logistical nightmares to parliamentary parents, mainly women. None of it is OK. It’s disgraceful that those who are best placed to enact meaningful change often fall far short of doing so, particularly when such changes directly affect colleagues within their caucus, or across the political chasm.

Happily I can report that Ellis devotes chapters to the positive, progressive changes to better the lives of sitting women parliamentarians, but there’s clearly much room for improvement, on several fronts. The refusal to take any of these issues seriously has resulted in the we’ve-had-a-gutful-Nancy-and-Ann- Wilson-Barracuda rage manifesting in these recent protests. This book calls for sweeping change: because we do ‘all deserve far better than the manner in which our parliament currently works’.

Julia Jackson is the assistant shop manager at Readings Carlton.

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