I won’t pretend to be an expert in political messaging, or the nuanced rhetoric a nation’s leader may deploy to present their point. But it doesn’t take a genius to recognise that Prime Minister Scott Morrison interrupting his colleague, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, who was asked a question specifically about her experiences as a woman in Parliament, is a little bit suss.
Speaking in Canberra this afternoon to announce a shake-up to the JobSeeker payment, Morrison and Ruston were soon flooded with questions pertaining to last night’s edition of Four Corners, which questioned the personal conduct of male MPs towards their female colleagues.
Ruston was asked to outline her experiences as a woman in Parliament over the ‘Bonk Ban’ era, when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull installed a new code of conduct forbidding politicians from intimate relationships with staff.
As she launched into her response, Morrison cut her off.
Only then did the line of inquiry return to Ruston.
“I can only reflect on my own experience, since I’ve been in this place since 2012, and I have to say I have always felt wholly supported while I have been here,” she said, adding nobody had personally shown her more respect than Morrison himself.
You can watch the moment unfold below.
— Olivia Leeming (@olivialeeming) November 10, 2020
Last night’s Four Corners broadcast aired an allegation that Attorney-General Christian Porter, who was married at the time, was spotted in a bar being “very intimate” with a staffer – a claim Porter has totally denied, calling it a misrepresentation of events.
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has also spoken out after the broadcast alleged he was party to a consensual affair with Liberal Party staffer Rachelle Miller. Tudge has since issued his own statement, apologising to his family and Miller for any hurt caused.
But the Four Corners report wasn’t just about alleged cheating: it was about the damaging ways in which power imbalances can play out.
When pressed on those particulars, and whether those allegations should exclude them from high-ranking positions within his government, Morrison more or less today said bygones should be bygones.
He then chastised the media for asking questions about pollies who have previously presented voiced support for ‘traditional’ marriage.