Access to reproductive healthcare in Tasmania - Senator Statement

Wednesday 22 August 2018

I rise to speak about the extraordinary story of a young Tasmanian woman, Ms Angela Williamson, who was sacked by Cricket Australia because of her advocacy for women's health. In January this year, Will Hodgman's conservative Liberal government let the only Tasmanian abortion clinic close. This meant that Tasmanian women who made the difficult decision to seek a legal abortion were forced to travel to Melbourne to have a termination.

Ms Williamson was one of the first women to have to make that trip, which she did at her own expense. It cost her thousands of dollars and meant leaving her family behind. She has expressed how she felt:

I wouldn't have had to do this if abortion was accessible in Tasmania …

On my way home on the plane I was so upset I decided I couldn't stay silent about this injustice. I took to Twitter—on a personal account—describing the turmoil I went through as a 'disgrace'. Then, because I spoke up for women across Tasmania, Cricket Australia fired me.

Is this Australia? Is this 2018?

Being frustrated and upset, she made some criticisms on Twitter of the Hodgman government's disgraceful and sluggish response to the lack of abortion services, including its rejection of a motion to re-establish those services through public hospitals. A senior staffer of the Hodgman government, whether of her own volition or following a direction, used a fake identity to send screen shots of Ms Williamson's tweets to Cricket Australia.

Just days after an appointment with Michael Ferguson, Tasmania's health minister, to privately discuss her experience, Angela's tweets were examined, her employer was alerted, her private health information was disclosed and she was fired.

At the end of June, two weeks after being the beneficiary of a $240,000 grant from the Hodgman government that was negotiated by Ms Williamson in her role as Cricket Australia's government relations and infrastructure manager in Tasmania, Cricket Australia sacked Ms Williamson.

Ultimately, Angela Williamson's offensive comments amounted to advocacy for women's health. No due process, no appeal, no review—sacked. As John Birmingham pointed out, Cricket Australia:

… has no legal authority to decide what makes a comment offensive, and it has never even tried to explain how Williamson contravened any written policy of her employer.

Angela was sacked for having an opinion that had nothing to do with her job. Ms Williamson has rightly taken Cricket Australia to the Fair Work Commission to seek restitution for her unfair dismissal and I hope the outcome will disclose the truth of this shocking saga.

The role of both the Hodgman government and its conservative health minister in this abuse of power should not be ignored. It is well known that Michael Ferguson has very conservative views on women's health, and it's fair to ask whether his actions have been motivated by that ideology. Ms Williamson campaigned for women's health and called out poor government decision-making for all Tasmanian women and girls.

Angela knows she is not alone in this fight, and, like so many people, I stand with Angela.