"Misogynistic bullying is alive and thriving unchecked at the Shoalhaven City Council" and must change, said Country Labor Councillor Annette Alldrick.
Cr Alldrick's comments come after four female councillors walked out of the Shoalhaven council chambers after "derogatory" comments were directed towards councillors and Mayor Amanda Findley during the ordinary council meeting on Tuesday, March 2.
Cr Alldrick said this was an ongoing issue in the chamber.
"The meeting had run the way it always does, with a particular male councillor making constant derogatory comments about the mayor about everything," says Cr Alldrick.
"By the end of it, we were so sick of it that we just left. I've walked out once before for similar reasons and by the grace of God I haven't walked out more times.
"It's been going on the whole time I've been at council."
As well as Cr Alldrick, Independent Cr Nina Digiglio, Independent Cr Joanna Gash and Greens Cr Kaye Gartner walked out of the meeting on Tuesday evening.
Councillors were debating a motion raised by Cr Greg Watson.
When Cr Watson said "if anyone behaves like Cr Gartner over there, after being in Queensland for the last 12 months", the four councillors left the room.
He repeated "I'm not finished" a number of times as they were leaving.
Cr Alldrick said she sometimes felt "threatened and very uncomfortable" by the behaviour.
"One councillor actually changed her seat to sit in a seat where she felt more comfortable away from a male councillor. Had I been in that position, I would have been doing the same thing," Cr Alldrick said.
"They might say they can't help it if they've got a loud voice, but they need to recognise it's yelling and it's overbearing."
Cr Gash labelled Cr Watson's behaviour as "inflammatory" and said it was the first time she had walked out of a council meeting.
"I've had five years with Wingecarribee Council, 17 years as the federal member for Gilmore, and nine years on this council, and I have never, ever walked out on a council meeting before," said Cr Gash.
"I'm pretty thick skinned, but when it comes down to attacking your credibility, then we have to stand up for ourselves."
Cr Alldrick said it was a "shame" to see councillors behave in such a manner and said it might deter women from a career in politics.
"It's such a shame because for women looking at entering politics at all levels, we need to stop this," said Cr Alldrick.
"I've got a 22-year-old daughter...I would hate to see her put off in the future if she decides that's what she wants to do, because it is actually a great position to make change in the community."
Cr Alldrick said "a big change is needed" to address the behaviour.
"I know there have been code of conduct complaints that have been put forward," said Cr Alldrick.
"But I think the only thing that will fix it is for the makeup of council to change. I think voters need to take this seriously.
"They need to look at what has been happening in council through the videos of council meetings to see the behaviour that is happening so they can make an informed decision about who they're voting for."
Cr Watson maintains that in the meeting, he did not raise his voice.
"I don't raise my voice, I'm always very subdued in what I say unless something is very offensive," said Cr Watson.
"I can't be accused of being overbearing because they were the ones who were totally out of control and hurling abuse because they didn't like the debate."
Asked whether there was an ongoing issue of misogyny in council he said: "I've had a lot of feedback from some of the Greens associates and that's their election campaign.
"They're trying to make out the male councillors aren't even-handed. But we are even-handed. Now there's an old story. If it's too hot in the kitchen, you shouldn't be in there.
"And for some reason or other, they seem to think they should be able to get away with saying and doing anything. But we're not even allowed to indulge in vigorous debate."
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