FEDERAL Member for Mallee Andrew Broad personally stepped in to deny Mildura Deputy Mayor Ali Cupper an audience with Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud at a formal breakfast event today.
It is understood Cr Cupper, the highest-ranking available councillor while Mayor Mark Eckel visits China, was the only councillor told she could not attend.
This was despite earlier receiving an invitation to the breakfast, held on International Women’s Day.
In an email to a Mildura Council staff member last week, Mr Broad asked for Cr Cupper to be told she was not invited due to her past criticisms of him.
On November 15, the day the same-sex marriage survey results were announced, Cr Cupper made comments to Sunraysia Daily calling on Mr Broad to “do a bit of soul-searching and maybe relax his opposition”.
In response, Mr Broad sent a late night text message to Cr Cupper, which stated: “My office will have no further contact with you.”
Cr Cupper said before this text exchange, Mr Broad had also taken issue with a story in which she was asked about her intentions at this year’s state election.
She said the response to these stories and decision to cease contact with her showed Mr Broad was thin-skinned and unable to take criticism.
“That’s how things work around here, obviously,” Cr Cupper said.
“If you critique one of our elected MPs on their policies, or on their character, then you get shut out.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are democratically elected yourself to be a leader, there seems to be an issue with some fairly thin skin on the political front here in the Mallee.”
In a response to a series of questions from Sunraysia Daily today, Mr Broad’s office responded: “The electorate of Mallee is one third of the state of Victoria. Mr Broad has a professional working relationship with all of the nine shires and councils in Mallee.”
Cr Cupper said she felt her role meant it was important to be across the issues being discussed during Mr Littleproud’s visit, given the impact of agriculture and water on the community.
As one of two female councillors, Cr Cupper said there was “symbolism” attached to her being denied a seat at the table on International Women’s Day.
“We’ve got our male Member for Mallee, we’ve got our male Minister for Water and Agriculture and then we’ve got our most senior councillor, who is a female, excluded from a meeting on International Women’s Day,” she said.
“We are trying to promote a culture in our community where young women and girls can see that there is a place for female leaders, that they will be respected, that they will have the same access as everyone else, that it’s not a boys’ club.
“This sort of stuff promotes the opposite.
“I don’t know whether Andrew Broad would be as offended if his character or his policies were being critiqued by a man, but I suspect he might want to have a bit of a think about that as well.”
Cr Cupper said she herself received a lot of criticism for her political positions but accepted this as part of being a leader.
“There’s always references made to me as being a ‘snowflake’, those sorts of references that are used against people who promote human rights and things like that, for being overly sensitive,” she said.
“But I would suggest in this case this is an example of our federal MP being overly sensitive.”
Mr Littleproud was asked about Cr Cupper’s exclusion during a press conference after the breakfast.
He said he was “unaware who was invited and who wasn’t”.
“What I’m proud to say is that in the Agriculture Department, we employ over 50 per cent women, and this is an outstanding effort,” Mr Littleproud said.
“It’s important for me to put (in place) an environment where women can reach their full potential.”
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