When Heritier Lumumba's Collingwood teammates called him 'Chimp', it showed a lack of respect. When the Prime Minister referred to Brittany Higgins by her first name in parliament, it showed a lack of respect. When senator Bill Heffernan referred to then prime minister Julia Gillard as 'deliberately barren', it showed a lack of respect. When the federal government refused permission to fly the Indigenous flag in the Senate, it showed a lack of respect. When Bettina Arndt defended a 56-year-old man who had repeatedly raped fifteen-year-old Grace Tame, now the 2021 Australian of the Year, it showed a lack of respect.
So when did respect disappear? When did we agree to abandon our respect for expertise, for other people's experience and history, for the boundaries between the personal and the public, for facts as well as feelings? In a civil society, respect is a fundamental principle.
Should the government of the day legislate respect? Should it lead the community or follow it? Victorian MP Jill Hennessey, in a passionate argument, exhorts us to reclaim the empathy that respect depends on.