Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has appeared in a press conference today to make further comments on the slew of sexual misconduct allegations against Parliament House and a number of political parties in recent weeks. Morrison was seen to be fighting back tears during his address to members of the media, citing it had been a “traumatic” month.
“I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them. That greatly distresses me. I have been doing a lot of listening over this past month, not for the first time,” he said.
It comes after a coalition staffer reportedly filmed himself performing a lewd act on the desk of an MP he worked for. The man in question has been fired and an investigation into the graphic video is ongoing. Labor’s spokesperson for government accountability Kristina Keneally, said, “It is a culture of disrespect – but it is also a culture of disrespect for any woman who works in this building.”
This has further been displayed after the Australian Government was fiercely criticised for its lack of inaction following a bombshell interview with The Project from former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, in February. She claimed to have been raped by a colleague in Parliament House in 2019. The perpetrator at the centre of the allegations has not been charged with any crime, according to the ABC.
At the time of the breaking news, Morrison apologised for the mismanagement of the assault by Parliament officials.
“Jenny and I spoke last night and she said to me, you have to think about this as a father. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?” he told reporters. “Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so, as I’ve reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say.”
His comments thereafter were considered insensitive and were berated heavily on social media. It ultimately begged the question from women: do you really need to be a father or even have wife or partner to have empathy for women?
“It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience,” she said. “And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.”
Morrison tearfully defended the aforementioned comments by citing that he could have “chosen different words” but said the comments were “in the best of faith”.
“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. They motivate me every day on this issue,” he said. “They have motivated me my entire life, they have taught me the values and the faith has sustains me every single day in this job.”
Surely, such statement could have easily and simply been replaced with, “I’m sorry”. Anything further feels unnecessary. Are you really listening to women ScoMo?
The PM finished his comments on the matter by citing he had a “traumatic month” in dealing with the allegations. I can certainly understand it being difficult navigating explosive revelations from your own office and in addition, being scrutinised so closely by the media and the public. But simply crying “trauma” feels like a slap in the face for survivors of assault.
Ask Grace Tame what trauma is. She will recall being groomed and sexually assaulted on the floor of a high school office by a trusted teacher while also experiencing anorexia. Ask Brittany Higgins what trauma is; she will recall being coerced to return to the office, after-hours, intoxicated and not of sound mind, to be assaulted by a trusted colleague.
No, Prime Minister, you’ve had a difficult month, not a traumatic one.