Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet withdrew from last night’s episode of Q&A at the last minute, after receiving counsel from the NSW Bar Association.
The ABC announced yesterday that the controversial barrister would not appear on the episode, which focused on sexual harassment and the #metoo movement.
“There has been a late change to the panel for tonight’s special edition of Q&A on the #metoo movement,” the ABC said in a statement.
“Barrister Charles Waterstreet has had to withdraw because of concerns about his appearance expressed to him by the NSW Bar Association.
“It is disappointing Mr Waterstreet will not be able to contribute to the perspectives canvassed in tonight’s discussion.”
The ABC had confirmed just three days before that Mr Waterstreet would appear on the program, following weeks of debate over the validity of his seat on the panel.
Mr Waterstreet was accused of sexual harassment late last year by a Sydney law student.
Her interview with New Matilda prompted a number of other women to step forward with similar allegations.
Mr Waterstreet rejected the claims and later said he looked forward to a “lively debate” on Q&A.
The NSW Bar Association confirmed yesterday that president Arthur Moses SC advised Mr Waterstreet to withdraw from the program.
“The Bar Association confirms that the president of the Bar Association, Arthur Moses SC, wrote to Mr Waterstreet informing him that it was his firm view that it was neither appropriate or prudent for him to appear on the Q&A television program to discuss issues concerning the #metoo anti-sexual harassment movement,” the association said in a statement.
“The reasons for that view being expressed by the president were communicated to Mr Waterstreet and it is not appropriate that those reasons be disclosed by the Bar Association.
In a tweet yesterday, Mr Waterstreet expressed his regret that he would not be appearing on Q&A but said it would be inappropriate for him to do so.
“It is with deep regret that I announce that I am pulling out of the Q&A special on the
#metoo movement,” he wrote.
“I would like to thank the ABC for inviting me to be on the panel. I was looking forward to discussing the topic from a legal perspective, sharing my knowledge of the law and past cases to broaden the wider community’s knowledge of this important subject.
“However, I must be first and foremost guided by my obligations to the NSW Bar Association and the broader legal profession.
“When considering these obligations I do not consider that it would be appropriate for me to appear on the panel, given the controversial nature of the topics. I look forward to watching the other panellists tonight.”
Leah Marrone, president of the Women Lawyers Association of South Australia, wrote in Lawyers Weekly last week that she felt “physically ill” when she heard that Mr Waterstreet was set to appear on a panel about sexual harassment.
“Q&A’s panel selection begins from the false premise that all opinions are equal and worthy of air time,” Ms Marrone said.
“Worse than this, having an alleged perpetrator on the program gives his voice a greater platform and greater weight than his alleged victims, who are not present on the panel.
“Would the show put an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence on the show to demonstrate the argument ‘for’ beating your spouse? Of course not, that would be outrageous, and I say this is equally the case.”
Ms Marrone told Lawyers Weekly yesterday she was pleased that Mr Waterstreet withdrew from the panel.
“I'm very pleased about it, especially coming from the professional body,” she said.
“I think it's a good sign, and look forward to the Bar Associations and Law Societies engaging more with the cultural factors which contribute to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.”
The Q&A #metoo panel included Maurice Blackburn employment law principal Josh Bornstein, The Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen, Macquarie University professor of media Catharine Lumby and The Preatures lead singer Isabella Manfredi, who has spoken out about sexual harassment in the music industry.