NSW backbencher accuses MP of sexism over use of word ‘barren’ during debate

A NSW Government backbencher has accused another MP of sexism over the use of the word “barren”.

Nationals MP Steph Cooke said Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Phil Donato deliberately used the term to allude to the fact that she does not have children.

Mr Donato was criticising the MP’s stance on a pedestrian crossing being discussed in Parliament.

“The amendment by the member for Cootamundra was not noble, not conscionable and barren of any consideration of children — those who are the most precious and vulnerable,” Mr Donato, the member for Orange, said in the Lower House.

Ms Cooke raised the matter, saying it was time to call out sexist behaviour.

“A fish rots from the head and if we can’t get it right in this place then what hope have we got of getting it right in our communities,” she said.

“The member for Orange is a former police prosecutor, they know how to choose their words very carefully.”

woman smiling in front of the camera
Steph Cooke said the term alluded to the fact that she doesn’t have children.(Facebook: Steph Cooke MP)

Mr Donato responded in Parliament to the allegation saying his use of the word barren was not a criticism of Ms Cooke’s personal circumstances.

“I’m sincerely sorry that you’ve taken offence to that,” he said.

“That wasn’t the intention.”

Ms Cooke was supported by her Nationals colleagues including Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor.

“It stops now, it stops today,” she said.

Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro agreed.

“It’s almost 13 years since Julia Gillard was called barren,” he said.

“There is still a fundamental shift required in society in the way we respect women in their decision making when it comes to the family.

“For Steph, the reasons are real, private and very sensitive.”