Scott Morrison just gave a pretty extraordinary press conference in which he cried, told women he’s listened, and then popped off at a reporter who asked if he should resign. Wow.
It comes after a report exposed a senior male staffer as having wanked over the desk of a female MP, as well as multiple staffers and politicians allegedly using the Parliament House prayer room to have sex. It’s bad in and of itself, but it’s also the latest in a number of reports about a toxic workplace culture where staffers can allegedly be raped and nothing will be done about it.
“I am shocked, and I am disgusted,” he said about the most recent report.
“It is shameful. It is just absolutely shameful. I was completely stumped, as I have been on more than one occasion over the course of this last month.”
The month, of course, kicked off when former Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins went public with an allegation of rape by a fellow staffer inside Parliament House.
“These events have triggered, right across this building and indeed right across the country, women who have put up with this rubbish and this crap for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did,” Morrison said.
“It has been going on, we have been talking about it in this place for a month, they have been living with it for their entire lives.”
Morrison’s initial response to the rape allegation – where he spoke to his wife Jenny and imagined it happening to his daughters – was widely panned, and if you want to know why it was insulting, read my explainer here.
He acknowledged it hadn’t gone down well (which is a bit of an understatement) and said no offence was intended – it’s just how he deals with things.
“I have grown up in a loving and supportive family, and I discussed this with my family and those who are closest to me, no offence was intended by me by say that I discuss these issues with my wife.”
A short time later, he cried.
“Forgive me the indulgent, forgive me this indulgence, I want women to have at least the same opportunities and the same voice and the same safety as men in this country,” he said, wiping away tears.
“I have the deepest of vested interests. Criticise me if you like for speaking about my daughters, but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My mother, my widowed mother is the centre of my life.”
For what feels like the first time, Morrison acknowledged the workplace culture of misogyny and sexism that impacts women at every turn, whether that’s being underpaid, objectified, assaulted, or fired for speaking out.
Why is it that a sexual act on a piece of furniture has prompted an immediate reaction yet a sexual act on a woman did not?
— Kirstin Ferguson (@kirstinferguson) March 22, 2021
This is a pretty big thing for any Prime Minister to say, so let us just get it all out before we move on to the nitty gritty. Here’s his quote:
“Let me tell you what I have heard. Women are too afraid to call out bad behaviour for fear of losing a job for bad behaviour in the workplace. That is not OK, it is not their fault, it is the environment we have allowed to be created.
“Women who are afraid to enter their car from the train, and they carry their keys in their hand like a knife for fear of being attacked. That is not OK. That is not acceptable. In this country, a country as great as Australia, women walk daily with that fear.
“I have heard that women are overlooked, talked over, by men, whether it is in boardrooms, meeting rooms, rooms, media conferences, cabinets, or anywhere else.
“Overlooked and treated like they have nothing valuable to contribute. I have heard about being marginalised, women being intimidated, women being belittled, women being diminished, and women being objectified. That is not OK.
“I have heard that women, when offered a job, take the salary offered because they do not feel they can ask for more. Whereas the blokes do. And they get it. That is not OK.”
It seems that someone may have hired a new speech writer.
Okay, so now to the rest of it.
Remember: this is the same Prime Minister who refused to meet the Women’s March 4 Justice protesters outside Parliament just last week, who then later said at least the protesters weren’t being shot it. He’s also the same PM who didn’t read a letter sent to his office accusing Attorney-General Christian Porter of raping a woman in the 1980s. (Porter denies the allegation.)
Morrison has resisted calls for an independent inquiry. Making things murkier is the fact that Porter is on mental health leave until March 31, but has found the time and energy to sue the ABC for defamation.
When asked if he’d “rethought” his response to the Porter allegations, Morrison said he was now seeking advice on the advice he’d received from the Solicitor-General about Porter about how it sits with ministerial standards.
“I will be making further decisions on that matter [and] I will alert you to those when they are made,” he said.
Big big big.
Elsewhere, Morrison popped off at Sky News reporter Andrew Clennell for asking if it looks like he’s lost control of his own ministerial staff.
“If you’re the boss at a business and there had been an alleged rape on your watch and this incident we heard about right on your watch, your job would probably be in a bit of jeopardy wouldn’t it?” the reporter asked.
Fair bloody question, that.
Instead, Morrison issued some kind of weird ass warning about those who sit in glass houses not throwing stones. (A press gallery journalist, while an influential person within a news room, is not the boss. The Prime Minister is the boss.)
“If anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own work places as comparison I would invite you to do so,” Morrison said.
“They seem better than what is in yours?” Clennell replied.
“Let me take you up on that,” Morrison said.
“Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them or harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet. And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.”
He added: “You are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal but be careful.”
The start of the tense exchange between Sky News' Andrew Clennell and the PM: "Doesn't it look like you've lost control of your ministerial staff?"
The PM responds by referencing a HR complaint at News Corp: "Let's not all of us in glass houses get into that." #AusPol @SBSNews pic.twitter.com/BLNlgLsnGI
— Naveen Razik (@naveenjrazik) March 22, 2021
Sorry, but…. what. Fuck right off with that. For starters, it’s a reasonable question that is the role of a journalist to ask, and second of all, one alleged incident doesn’t discount another. (I’m also not sure what complaint – or if there even is one – is being investigated at Sky News and/or News Corp Australia, but I’ll get back to you on that one.)
.@aclennell confirms no Sky News employee is subject to the HR investigation referred to by PM Morrison in his Press Conference this morning.
— Thomas O'Brien (@TJ__OBrien) March 23, 2021
Anyway. That’s a press conference for the ages, or at the very least the month.