After months of workplace sexual harassment allegations lobbied against Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet, the ABC has made a controversial decision to include Waterstreet on its upcoming Q&A special. The episode will discuss the direction of the social media campaign #MeToo — an online trend involving women highlighting personal experiences of sexual harassment and assault in the workforce.
Waterstreet was embroiled in controversy last year following allegations from a USyd law student that he sexually harassed her during an interview for a paralegal position and on the first day of work.
The student, 21 year old Tina Huang, wrote in New Matilda that “[Waterstreet] showed me photos of naked women and a video of someone receiving a handjob… I answered emails for him about missed payments for sex toys, and organised dates with women.”
“He talked about attending sex parties, having many girlfriends and enjoying threesomes.”
Huang was alerted to the position through a paid advertisement on the University of Sydney’s CareerHub website. Shortly after her allegations were made public, the USyd Wom*n’s Collective staged a snap protest, following which the University banned all future advertisements of work in Waterstreet’s office.
In an email sent to the National Union of Students, the ABC revealed the panelists of its #MeToo special will also consist of Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, Macquarie University Professor Catharine Lumby, and employment lawyer Josh Bornstein.
Griffiths faced controversy last December for publicly defending fellow actor Geoffrey Rush, who was accused of inappropriate behaviour during the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015 production of King Lear.
Huang provided the following statement:
“I would like to take this opportunity to remind Q&A of their own editorial policy and their promise to provide, ‘a safe place for Australians to discuss their differences.’ I do not believe that inviting an alleged perpetrator of harassment and assault ensures a ‘safe space’. Q&A’s decision to platform of [sic] Waterstreet during their special #MeToo episode ensures only the legitimisation of the ‘other’ side of the #MeToo movement; the perpetrator’s side.
If Q&A are having difficulty finding qualified panelists, I suggest they contact Nina Funnell – a Walkley Award-winning journalist with over a decade of experience covering feminist issues in Australia and the person who (in conjunction with New Matilda) broke the initial allegations against Waterstreet.”
Nina Funnell echoed Huang’s disappointment with the ABC’s decision to Honi. “The panel [was meant to be] about promoting a more healthy conversation around sexual harassment… [it] should have women and victim survivors and yet what the ABC is doing is once again giving a platform to a man.”
Funnell has since requested to sit on the panel so as to directly confront Waterstreet, citing that many women have come to her with allegations, a number of whom, she says, have signed statutory declarations. “I think that it’s outrageous that they are offering Charles Waterstreet a platform and particularly on the #MeToo special when the woman won’t even be there to defend themselves.”
The episode will be broadcast live from Southbank, Melbourne on Thursday February 15.