“Ridiculous” and “scandalous” are among the most common adjectives being used to describe the incident that saw Australia’s reputation for conservatism, despite being such a young nation, reach new heights.
On Monday ABC Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas was kicked out of Parliament House for showing “too much shoulder,” according to a speaker who deemed the Greek Australian had breached the dress standards.
The ‘controversial’ outfit in question was a white “half-sleeve” pantsuit, which resulted in Karvelas being requested to leave the press gallery during Question Time by an attendant.
Shocked by the incident, Ms Karvelas took to Twitter to post a photo of the outfit, tweeting: “I have just been kicked out of #QT because you can allegedly see too much skin. His insane #Auspol”.
The general sentiment has been one of shock among politicians and the wider community, with Ms Karvelas’ tweet being liked over 3,000 times and shared by over 1,500 accounts, with an outpouring of support.
Sky News political reporter Tom Connell said the rules were “crazy” when it came to both men and women through personal experience.
“Also for blokes though — we are not allowed to go in without a jacket,” he tweeted. “Takes about 15 seconds for someone to tap you on the shoulder”.
In true Australian style, many used humour to show their support, with a number of women tweeting photos of themselves wearing sleeveless shirts, among them Labor MP Emma Husar.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek made light of the situation, tweeting “With the right to bare arms you can show your guns”. While fellow Greek Australia, founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Kon Karapanagiotidis said: “So you got kicked out simply for looking like a total boss #sexism #auspol”
The following day, Ms Karvelas suggested “I should have worn my traditional Greek costume which I still own and was forced to wear as a child”.
The standard of dress, according to the Australian Parliament House website “should involve good trousers, a jacket, collar and tie for men and a similar standard of formality for women” – but is up to the discretion of the speaker, which would explain the lack of consistency, with former foreign minister Julie Bishop having attended the House of Representatives in a pink, sleeveless dress just one week prior without anyone batting an eye.
The Greens’ Adam Bandt tweeted a formal letter from 2017, which revealed that he had in fact “tried to get this ridiculous ‘bare arms’ rule changed last year. Sadly, it didn’t succeed then. I hope this time things are different”.
Though many would say 24 hours too late, it didn’t take long for the government to issue a formal apology to Ms Karvelas in parliament.
“I would like to apologise on behalf of this side of the House to Ms Karvelas for being ejected yesterday from the press gallery,” Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said.
Commenting on the apology, Ms Karvelas took to Twitter: “pleased that female journalists will be free to wear professional clothing that reflects what politicians wear”.