Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ MPs (from left) Phil Donato, Roy Butler, Robert Borsak, and Helen Dalton. Picture: Liam Driver
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ MPs (from left) Phil Donato, Roy Butler, Robert Borsak, and Helen Dalton. Picture: Liam Driver

‘That time has come and gone’: Backlash to MP’s ‘barren’ slur

A state MP has been accused of making politics more difficult for women, after declaring the actions of a female ­opponent as "barren of any consideration of children".

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Phil Donato on Tuesday accused the Nationals' Steph Cooke of "playing politics with children's lives" in a debate over a supervised school crossing in his electorate.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke during a press conference at Parliament House on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke during a press conference at Parliament House on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

The Orange MP said Ms Cooke's amendment to the school crossing plan was "not noble, not conscionable and barren of any consideration of children - those who are the most precious and vulnerable".

Fighting back tears in ­parliament, Ms Cooke on Wednesday said the word "barren" was a deliberate attack on her personal life.

"As a woman, particularly one in their mid-40s without children, you don't want to have to explain yourself as to why that is," she said.

"It does make it very difficult for women to want to step into a place like this, knowing that they could be interrogated, or (have) things said about them in relation to those matters."

Premier Gladys Berejiklian comforted Ms Cooke after her parliamentary statement on Wednesday.

Minister for Women ­Bronnie Taylor condemned Mr Donato's language, saying it "absolutely crossed the line".

"Any woman who has struggled to have a family would understand how deeply and intensely personal this is," she said.

Shooter, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Phil Donato in his electorate of Orange. Picture: Graham Schumann/The Australian
Shooter, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Phil Donato in his electorate of Orange. Picture: Graham Schumann/The Australian

Mr Donato's comments come almost 13 years after ­former senator Bill Heffernan said then-prime minister Julia Gillard was unfit for ­leadership because she was "deliberately barren".

"You'd think in 2020, that time had come and gone, and that line was drawn in the sand," Nationals leader John Barilaro said.

Mr Donato issued a qualified apology in parliament, saying he was taken out of context.

"But I do apologise if she has taken offence," he said.

Originally published as 'That time has come and gone': Backlash to MP's 'barren' slur



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