What happened today, 15 March 2021
After quite a day, I will leave it there. Here’s a recap of today’s news:
- Thousands of people across the country attended the March 4 Justice rallies, calling for an end to gender-based violence and workplace harassment.
- Brittany Higgins, the former Liberal party staffer who was allegedly raped inside Parliament House, spoke at the Canberra rally in front of that same building, saying that the “system was broken” and that there were still “significant failings in the power structures within our institutions”.
- The Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, also gave a speech at the rally in Hobart, calling for people to speak out, and saying that “Evil thrives in silence”.
- Christian Porter announced that he had opened defamation action against the ABC and a journalist, Louise Milligan.
- Porter will also return to parliament on 31 March. There will not be another sitting of parliament until 11 May, when the budget will be handed down.
- Labor today pressed the prime minister on opening an independent inquiry into the Porter allegations.
- NSW has recorded one new local Covid case, a security guard in the hotel quarantine facility, which has been traced back to a guest.
There were many important, powerful, sobering moments from today’s marches. From the speeches to the signs and the bravery of those speaking out, it would prove difficult to try and capture it all.
In saying that, I felt the Guardian’s gallery of pics does capture the essence of the day and the moment we find ourselves in:
And to start, James Glenday, a political journalist for the ABC, was just speaking about the consequences to the PM’s comments earlier today, saying that it was a positive that protesters didn’t get shot.
It appears the comment may linger for some time:
Quite a lot of people walked away from today with the impression that the message was, well, at least you didn’t get shot.
It does kind of feel like this might be a phrase that lingers for some time over our political discourse. A lot of people are quite upset about it and a couple of Liberals as well say it is a sign that, on this issue at least, Mr Morrison doesn’t quite get it.
Good evening everyone on what was and still is a momentous day.
A quick thanks for the tireless brilliance from Amy Remeikis, for guiding us not just through today’s news but through this entire discussion.
There is still much to get through today, so let’s dive in.
I am going to hand the politics live blog over to the lovely Mostafa Rachwani, who will take you through the evening.
It’s been A day, in a long run of pretty terrible ones. Please, take care of you and those around you. None of this is going to get any easier, and there is going to be a lot more frustration ahead. And remember those who need your support, but might not be obvious about it. Choose your words carefully, and make sure you are being inclusive – this isn’t an issue that impacts just one cohort of people.
Marise Payne is the guest on 7.30 tonight. We’ll cover that, and of course, I’ll be back with you tomorrow for another day of politics live. It’s party room meeting day. Let’s hope the prime minister doesn’t choose to tell his team the government “won’t be distracted” from its goals (economy, vaccine, etc), because this isn’t a distraction. It’s real life. And it deserves to be treated with respect.
Take care of you.
Four Corners has announced its program for tonight:
For those who missed it earlier, here is where LNP senator Amanda Stoker told the ABC the rallies had “partisan” elements:
Q: Should the prime minister have attended, and should the organisers have taken this chance to speak with him in his office?
Prime ministers don’t go to protests and marches. Prime ministers run the country*. Marches happen outside when people want to say something different to what’s going on. And to be offered the opportunity to critically and constructively engage with an interested prime minister on the issue about which they were concerned. Well, Minister Payne offered as well, I might add. The fact that they weren’t prepared to so engage, I think highlights the partisan politics that drove the establishment of this group. I acknowledge there are many good people with great intentions who participate, but there is a partisan element to this, and I think it’s very important that we examine the refusal to take a meeting with Minister Payne or the prime minister for the reflection of their partisan objectives that they truly had today, and as I said before, those in glass houses, politically, can’t throw stones.
Q: Can you expand on that? What do you see is the partisan element of this?
Well, the partisan element is demonstrated when the people who have organised the protest don’t actually want to engage with the people who have responsibility for making this right, who are doing so in good faith, who have announced an inquiry, they’ve set up a counselling line, they’re implementing the reports. There’s progress here that could very well be the subject of constructive engagement, but they weren’t interested in that**.
*John Howard famously addressed a rally that was against the changes in gun laws. It’s not unheard of.
**Every single element mentioned here has been discussed in the media, in press releases and in the prime minister’s own statements both publicly and in the house. It is not new.
The minister for the status of women posted this on 12 March:
The minister’s account has tweeted today. But from what I can see, there has been nothing on the marches.
Paul Karp has reported on the statement of claim a little bit earlier – but for those who missed the details, here is what AAP has put together on the main points from the claim lodged with the court, which was signed yesterday, Sunday 14 March.
Attorney general Christian Porter’s statement of claim lodged with the federal court:
- On 26 February an article was uploaded on to the ABC website headlined “Scott Morrison, senators and AFP told of historical rape allegation against Cabinet Minister”, and republished via Twitter and Facebook by reporter Louise Milligan.
- The article “was defamatory of Porter” in that it imputed he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 and that it contributed to her taking her own life.
- Porter was obliged to publicly identify himself on 3 March as the subject of the article because of a series of consequent articles, social media postings and interviews which effectively pointed to him being the minister mentioned in the original story.
- “By reason of the publication and republication by the ABC and Milligan of the article and the grapevine effect of those publications and republications, Porter has been gravely injured in his character and reputation, and has suffered substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment and has and will continue to suffer loss and damage.”
- Also, Milligan did not disclose her friendship with friends of the alleged rape victim and “acted with malice knowing of the impossibility of any finding of guilt or civil liability and believing that a public campaign designed to damage his reputation would be a more effective substitute against Porter in replacement of the process of the justice system”.
- Porter is seeking aggravated damages, costs and removal of the article and related material on the web.
Rex Patrick has released a statement after his Senate motion on the Chinese Communist party’s genocide against the Uighur people in China’s Xinjiang province was blocked by Labor and the government:
It is most regrettable that Coalition and Labor senators combined to block a vote on a motion that recognises the incontrovertible fact that the Chinese government is engaged in a campaign against the Uyghur [sic] people that constitutes an international crime within the scope of the 1948 genocide convention.
This grim reality has been publicly recognised by the United States administration of President Joe Biden, by the Canadian parliament and the parliament of the Netherlands.
I warmly thank the Greens, Senators Lambie and Griff who voted in support of the Senate holding a ballot on the motion. However the Chinese Communist party will no doubt regard the stance taken by the Coalition and Labor as a victory in that the Australian parliament has again decided to self-censor on the subject of human rights in China.
While a number of Coalition and Labor members have self-styled themselves as “wolverines” on the issue of China, today they have proved to be all huff and puff and nothing more when it came to calling out what is an immense crime against humanity.
Remarkably the Coalition and Labor couldn’t bring themselves to allow a vote on a motion which called on the Chinese government to immediately end torture and abuse in detention centres; abolish its system of mass internment camps, house arrest and forced labour; cease all coercive population control measures; and end the persecution of Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in in China.
Independent senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick have just lodged a sheet of amendments knocking out almost everything in the government’s industrial relations omnibus bill except changes on enforcement including criminalising wage theft.
One Nation has released one of their twelve amendments - on casual conversion. It’s unclear whether the government will agree to these.
This is very un-ABC-like – the national broadcaster doesn’t usually do forward sizzle in this way:
Stuff.co.nz has reported New Zealand has deported its first Australian citizen back to Australia:
The Australian government has deported a 15-year-old boy to New Zealand, understood to be the first minor to be sent back across the Tasman. But New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern was in the dark about the removal until calls from the media. The touchdown of a flight from Brisbane to Auckland last week reignited a row over Australia’s hardline enforcement of a populist immigration policy that has dogged diplomatic relations since 2014.
It has been quite the day in the national capital – and the rest of the nation.
It’s not a day of celebration, no matter how powerful it has been for some people. It’s been a day of anger, frustration and hurt – and I don’t think any of those emotions will be going anywhere, anytime soon.
Nor should they.
It’s been a traumatic day for a lot of people as well. So for those who have hurt, are hurting, or are pushing hurt down – please take a moment for some quiet today, and to process. It’s a lot, and it always has been – and people talking about it may see some change (I’m hopeful but not confident) but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scrape wounds raw along the away.
When politics attempts to deal with very human issues, it tends to get murky. And the point is sometimes lost in attempts to spin it politically. But these are human issues we are talking about, with humans at the centre. And that means it comes with pain. If you are feeling it today, I’m sorry.
For those who didn’t see question time, here is where Scott Morrison – for reasons unknown to anyone – seemed fit to raise that it was great no one got shot during March 4 Justice.
Australia is proceeding with its challenge against China’s tariffs on barley imports through the World Trade Organization, after the first phase failed to resolve the dispute between the two countries.
The trade minister, Dan Tehan, announced this afternoon that Australia would request the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel, marking the next phase of the process in an attempt to overturn anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on Australian barley by China.
Tehan said there had been dispute settlement consultations between Australia and China in late January:
While there was constructive engagement on both sides, these consultations did not resolve our concerns.
In a carefully worded statement, Tehan portrayed the decision to proceed to the next stage of dispute resolution as simply exercising a WTO mechanism “designed to allow members to settle their differences over trade matters in a respectful manner”.
This decision is an appropriate use of an established system to resolve our differences and is consistent with action Australia has previously taken to address concerns with measures imposed by other trading partners.
Tehan said the government was committed to defending the interests of Australian barley producers, arguing the anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by Beijing were “not consistent with China’s WTO obligations”.
Australia strongly supports the multilateral rules-based trading system, with the WTO at its core. We will continue to work within that system to stand up for the rights of Australian exporters.
Mark Dreyfus has responded to Christian Porter’s decision to launch defamation action:
Mr Porter is entitled to launch defamation proceedings – that is entirely a matter for him.
But it remains the case that Mr Morrison needs to assure himself, and the Australian people, that Mr Porter is a fit and proper person to hold the position of attorney general. That is not an issue that can or should be resolved in defamation proceedings and Mr Porter must stand aside pending an inquiry into his fitness to remain in his position.
Patricia Karvelas: So you’re saying that should be the protocol, that you step aside if there is an allegation that is made? Do you understand there to be any complaints that have now been made through your process?
I don’t know the answer to that.
PK: Should that be disclosed? Obviously anonymity if the person wants it is key, no one is debating that, but where there have been complaints that the Labor party now dealing with?
I think that’s very much for the complainant to have control over that, and if the complainant is choosing to want to do it through the party rather than other processes, but is a path I have chosen and I think it would be really problematic if we took that level of control.
PK: But, with respect, that was the kind of argument government made about Brittany Higgins, that she did not want to make the complaint and they have consistently been arguing it was about her and her power or her autonomy. The “agency” is the word that is used ...
I think one of the things you really need to make sure you get absolutely right here is not simply the letter of the rules in the processes but also the tone in which things are explained and the expectations that are given.
Brittany Higgins has made claims and I don’t want to misquote her but essentially believing that there was a level of pressure on her to do the right thing by the party. What I’m wanting to make clear is that there is nothing other than a desire that people come forward and that their complaints are dealt with appropriately. That is what we want them to do and they will be supported in that.
Tony Burke says Labor MPs accused of serious abuse should stand aside
Tony Burke handles this a lot better than Anthony Albanese did when asked the same question today:
Patricia Karvelas: And if they do come forward and make a specific allegation about a particular frontbencher, for example, should that frontbenchers step aside?
As a general principle, my view ... if it is of the gravity of some of what I’ve seen that the answer is yes. And can I give a simple example that I saw a long time ago?
[Bulldogs player] Hazem El Masri, when there was an accusation against him and he stood aside from all of his roles. And on that occasion it happens to be something that was not, you know, the allegation had a particular circumstance to it, but in every point, he said he was standing aside because he wanted people to have the confidence to come forward.
And he never wanted anything to get in the way of people having the confidence to come forward. And I think that needs to be [the standard].
We cannot have this immediate knee-jerk reaction ... that our sympathy goes to whoever the allegation has been made against.
And a knee-jerk reaction that people are not believed.
Christian Porter to return to parliament on 31 March
The attorney general will return from his mental health leave at the end of the month.
There will not be another sitting of parliament until 11 May, when the budget will be handed down.
Tony Burke is next up on Afternoon Briefing.
He is asked about the story Samantha Maiden broke yesterday, about the current and former female Labor staffers telling their stories of abuse and harassment within the party.
So first of all, in terms of that group, it is a closed group, so I don’t get access to it. But in terms of people, Jenny Macklin – from the reports I’ve seen – has specifically come forward into that group, asking people that they will be believed, that they will be supported, and recommending different places they can go to.
It’s also the case now that we have a system of people wanting to make the complaint within the party itself.
There is an external process that was settled on a few weeks ago, it has been more than one year in the making and the timing of it was not related to everything that’s happened in this building over recent weeks. But that was settled a few weeks ago so there’s all of those processes available.
That’s all been made clear within that particular group. But can I also say because they may well be somebody who has made one of those complaints watching, what has been described in those posts is completely unacceptable. Those individuals, they are believed. We want them to come forward and they will be supported.
That interview continues:
PK: Just moving on, what did the prime minister mean when he said that countries not too far away from here with similar protests are being met with bullets – was that a bit tone deaf?
I wouldn’t want to over-interpret that. One of the most important parts about liberal democracies [is] we have the right to protest, and we have the right to protest, whether it be at Parliament House or capital cities like Melbourne or Sydney or Perth, as it was, on the weekend.
And that is a good thing that we have been protesting, particularly the women’s movement, have been protesting for over 100 years. And look, we have made quite significant change just in a short space and time.
But there is still a long way to go. And I think the frustrations women have felt for so long now wheeled over in that protest and some of them came because they still don’t have equal pay, and some of them came and protested because violence is unacceptable towards women ... and some of them came and protested because harassment in the workplace is unacceptable.
And some of them protested because Covid-19 had a disproportionate effect on our female population to our male. But whatever the reason was that they protested, every single perspective is entirely justified, that frustration could be felt, it was palpable and ... powerful and heard.
Jane Hume is on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing and is attempting to defend Linda Reynolds and it is not going well.
Patricia Karvelas: Do you still believe your party handled Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape as well as they could have?
I do believe that at the time, that those who were involved believed they were doing all that they possibly could in the circumstances. I know where ... I know where you are leading on this ... Linda Reynolds, as you know, is a very good friend of mine.
Not only that, I know her to be a very loyal and valiant and instinctive champion of women in this place.
Indeed, she keeps tallies on gender equity issues around the parliament and around the party – always has.
PK: She probably shouldn’t have called an alleged rape victim “a lying cow”, right?
I think that you know, as do I, that the reason why Senator Reynolds’ frustration spilled over was she felt the way that she had handled the situation back then had been misinterpreted and misrepresented.
But I also think that Senator Reynolds has apologised for inappropriate language there and that issue has been settled.
PK: Settled is one thing but this is the day the story broke. But that was her instinct, wasn’t it? To think of this alleged rape victim as “a lying cow”.
I think her instinct was to be horrified that anyone had interpreted her actions at that time as inadequate because I know her to be a person, a very instinctive and empathetic nature. And certainly, I think that there is more to this story that perhaps isn’t public and should never be public and that’s because Brittany’s story is the one that is important here.
PK: What are you suggesting?
I’m not suggesting anything to do – in fact, what I can tell you, Patricia, is Linda Reynolds is my housemate, along with another minister, and at the time this was all going on we were living together and we were talking about all sorts of things.
She never mentioned this issue ... We knew that she was having a staffing problem but she maintained Brittany Higgins’ privacy through the entire period and I think that speaks volumes of the loyalty that she had towards her staff member at the time.
PK: With respect, minister, because she is your housemate and friend, is there a chance, and I’m saying this as respectfully as I can, because she is your housemate and your friend, that you are running defence for her because of that relationship rather than seeing the facts as they’re unfolding?
I think running defence for her is a really inappropriate way of describing the way ...
PK: You are defending. She called this woman a lying cow, right? Yes, she has apologised [but] that it is so toxic to use that language!
I think that toxic culture around workplaces and parliament is exactly what we’re trying to address here through all the means and measures I have already described. And there is more to come.
What we saw today in that march was that there is a spirited cry for change here and people are listening. People in this building are listening.
Adam Bandt is the first MP to respond to Scott Morrison’s comments on the march (I am going to take a wild guess and imagine it was the “police weren’t ordered to shoot protesters, isn’t that great” comment that hs caused the snap press conference).
Mike Bowers was at the rally in Canberra. There are a lot of shots from today – these are just some of them.
Zali Steggall is making a statement – she says she has been misrepresented by the prime minister in his answer to her question.
He said that my efforts go beyond the law Council of Australia’s recent national action plan. This is not correct.
While I acknowledged that the amendments go beyond Respect@Work in only that they deal with all aspects of public life, not just the workplace, they do not go beyond the recommendations of the Law Council of Australia’s national action plan to address sexual harassment in the legal profession. And they are aligned with the recommendation of the 2008 Senate inquiry committee inquiry to include a general prohibition against sex discrimination and sexual harassment in any area of public life.
Singapore’s ministry of affairs has responded to the story that it would be a quarantine hub for people wanting to enter Australia (the travel bubble stuff is not being disputed).
We refer to the Sydney Morning Herald’s report “Australia and Singapore plan for travel bubble and quarantine hub by July” on 14 March 2021.
Australia is a key partner of Singapore in the region. We are in discussions on how to cooperate in opening our economies safely, taking into consideration the Covid-19 situation in both countries.
Thus far, Singapore and Australia have been able to control the Covid-19 pandemic. Singapore is currently in discussions with Australia on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resumption of travel with priority for students and business travellers.
We are also discussing the possibility of an air travel bubble which will allow residents of Singapore and Australia to travel between both countries without the need for quarantine. We are not in discussion on the concept of a quarantine centre or vaccination hub. Australian nationals can transit via Singapore without quarantining to return home if they travel on approved transit routes and if they comply with our public health protocols while in transit.
One Nation will move an amendment to the government’s industrial relations bill so that casuals are offered a right to request conversion to permanent work after six months, not 12.
Senator Malcolm Roberts said:
Our principle concern is that the employee should be able to exercise their right to a conversion conversation with their employer sooner than 12 months.
Employees need to feel empowered to explore work arrangements that better suit their changing needs and when it suits their lifestyle, for example, when looking for a loan.
Six months is long enough for an employer to get to know their employees, so it is reasonable that an employer will be in a good position to have that discussion.
The final vote is being held on this division.
The government have it on the numbers. From the divisions so far, though, most of the crossbench have voted with Labor.
Tanya Plibersek speaks next on the motion:
“The prime minister doesn’t hold a hose and apparently he doesn’t hold an inquiry either...” as Sussan Ley steps up.
She moves the member be no longer heard.
This morning Anthony Albanese said he wasn’t aware of any complaints against members of the Labor caucus and encouraged complainants to come forward to the party’s new process for harassment and bullying.
But it seems the party won’t even say whether it has received any complaints under the new process – not without the complainant’s say-so.
A party spokesperson told Guardian Australia:
Our process is complainant-centred and must ensure confidentiality. We would only ever make details public with the permission of complainants, including confirming whether complaints have been received.
Scott Morrison left the house as Anthony Albanese was reading out that motion to suspend standing orders.
Albanese was able to continue his speech for a few minutes before Peter Dutton declared he had been given “a fair go” and moved that he no longer be heard (to be fair, Dutton allowed a lot longer than Christian Porter ever allows)
The bells ring for the division and Morrison and co returns. Morrison sits with his back to Labor as the bells ring.
I move so much as the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the leader of the opposition be moving the following motion immediately.
The house calls on the prime minister to immediately, one, commission an independent inquiry into the sexual assault allegations against the attorney general.
Two, provide a full explanation of his government’s response of the reported sexual assault of Brittany Higgins in the defence minister’s office in March 2019.
Three, act on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report.
And, four, improve support programs for that, that prevent gendered violence.
Anthony Albanese moves to suspend standing orders.
Scott Morrison leaves the house. He is followed by Michael McCormack and a large group of the front bench.
To be clear - they have to return for the divisions. They are choosing to leave so they don’t have to listen.
Scott Morrison ends question time after 35 minutes
Because of the condolence motions, Scott Morrison declares an end to QT at 3.15pm.
It started questions at about 2.40pm.
Usually, when there are condolence motions, questions get extended.
But not today.
The prime minister can declare an end to question time at any time he wants.
Sharon Claydon to Scott Morrison:
My question is to the prime minister. When deciding whether the attorney general was a fit and proper person to remain in his role, why did the prime minister listen to the attorney general but not bother to read the alleged victim’s own words?
I thank the member for her question because the events of that work were as follows.
On the Wednesday of that week, I became aware that an anonymous set of allegations had been forwarded to a number of members, two members of this house, the member for Curtin and myself, and to Senator Hanson-Young and to Senator Wong. Mr Speaker, on that Wednesday those documents had not arrived at my office.
They arrived at my office late on the Friday afternoon here in Canberra. They were not electronic documents.
They were formal documents. Those arrived in Canberra on Friday afternoon.
I was in Sydney on Friday afternoon.
On the Wednesday I contacted at the suggestion of the department secretary and the deputy secretary of the department, I contacted the commissioner of the Federal police because I’d been advised the member for Curtin had passed these documents to the AFP liaison officer and this was now a matter with the Federal police, and for that to be referred as necessary to which ever jurisdiction may be involved in any investigation.
Mr Speaker, I sought from the commissioner a briefing at that time on what the contents of those allegations were.
I did not have them. They were not things that I could read at that time.
And I asked the commissioner whether it was appropriate for me to now raise those matters with the attorney general, which I did, and he vigorously denied those allegations on the matters that were raised in those documents.
Mr Speaker, in addition to that, the commissioner of the Federal police advised all members of this place that where we receive such documents, Mr Speaker, they should be forwarded to the Federal police because they are the appropriate and competent authorities to determine the veracity of any allegations.
That’s what I did. I believe the police are the appropriate authorities to test such materials.
I did not have a formal copy to read on the Wednesday. And on the Friday my formal copy was immediately forwarded to the Federal police, where it should have been forwarded. I have been briefed. I have made no copies of these documents, Mr Speaker.
The documents were provided to the Federal police. And I was briefed on the contents of those documents by the Police commissioner. Based on that, I raised the matters with the attorney general and that’s where the matter stands.
Oh lookie here.
We finally get some questions about women.
Sussan Ley takes two dixers in a row – one on how the government is helping women economically and one on how the government is keeping women safe.
Can I start by recognising every woman in every town gathered around Australia demanding change? Whether it’s on the lawns of Parliament House, in my own home town of Albury, at the school gate, at the water cooler, traditional owners caring for country. This parliament has heard them. Their voices have been heard, change is happening. And the Morrison government is helping to drive that change.
In the Senate, the Labor senator Katy Gallagher has raised the comments made last week by the former solicitor general, Justin Gleeson, about the government’s handling of allegations against Christian Porter (which he strenuously denies). Gallagher told the Senate chamber the former prime minister John Howard had no issue with twice asking for solicitor general’s advice regarding allegations against his workplace relations minister.
Gallagher asked: “Why has the prime minister failed to listen to advice and refer the allegations against his attorney general to the solicitor general?
Simon Birmingham, the government’s Senate leader, told the Senate chamber in response:
The allegations in question are allegations of and relating to an alleged criminal event dating back to 1988. The solicitor general, or indeed any other individual office holder, outside of a court and its legal process, is not in a position to be able to determine the veracity of those allegations - that is what we have courts for.
Gallagher then asked why the government was not prepared to establish an independent inquiry, promoting Birmingham to say:
We have established legal processes to handle such allegations.
Labor presses PM on independent inquiry into Christian Porter allegations
Tanya Plibersek to Scott Morrison
My question is to the prime minister: why won’t the prime minister establish an independent inquiry into the sexual assault allegations against his attorney general? Which would consider the alleged victim’s own words and the testimony of James Hook and others.
There was one rule of law for every single Australian in this country.
Those opposite may jeer about that. They may heckle about that. This is a fundamental principal that every single Australian faces the same law as any other Australian, Mr Speaker.
Now, I’ve heard the arguments that have been put by others as to why there may be an inquiry here when they refer to the Dyson Heydon case.
That was regarding a justice while they were in that job and relate to a workplace issue that wasn’t even considered by the police.
So there is no parallel between that situation and the alleged actions of something that occurred over 30 years ago. Now, Mr Speaker, those opposite, if they believe that allegations that have been closed by police should be the subject of an extrajudicial inquiries, then I am puzzled as to why they’ve never suggested that one be made against one of their own members of their own frontbench*, Mr Speaker.
I’m puzzled about that and I’m puzzled about the double standards.
The government at the time sought no such inquiry. And nor did the opposition suggest one.
But that individual indeed put himself forward to be the prime minister of this country on two occasions.
And I stand by the word of the then-prime minister Abbott when he dealt rightly with that issue at that time.
So, Mr Speaker, those opposite may want to suggest there should be one rule of law for one Australian and a different rule of law for another. That trial by media should be the way this country should operate.
The attorne general, Mr Speaker, has announced that in private capacity he is pursuing a defamation action against those who have raised those issues. That matter will be considered where it should, in a court of law.
The arguments we made, the evidence will be presented. And that matter can be rightly addressed through our courts, where it should be, and that’s the approach which I think best addresses the matter.
*Police investigated this for 10 months. Bill Shorten was interviewed by Victorian police. Police determined there was not enough evidence to move forward with a prosecution. There has been no police investigation in the Christian Porter allegations.
As Samantha Maiden points out:
Greg Hunt takes a dixer on the vaccine roll out.
It was only a matter of time - but Scott Morrison gets to the allegations of abuse in the Labor party ranks in response to this question from Anika Wells:
Today Brittany Higgins said the media exposed a long list of people who knew what happened to me; a list that seemed to grow by the day. How can the prime minister maintain that he didn’t know about a reported sexual assault just metres from his office for nearly two years when so many other people inside this government knew? And Malcolm Turnbull, Peta Credlin and Julie Bishop all say it is implausible that the prime minister didn’t know.
I could say I wasn’t aware of this until February 12 because it is true, Mr Speaker. That is the simple truth of the matter.
We have already heard today in reports that have been printed in news.com.au of any number of what seems events that may have occurred in relation to members opposite that they apparently don’t know about.
I can simply say this about these very sensitive matters. They are sensitive matters and they are traumatic matters.
And we see that evidenced in the great frustration and anger that is outside of this place today and so many other places.
That is genuine and accepted. But in this place, in this place if we are to take successful action to address the very issues that are being raised, then the way that that is achieved is not the political weaponisation of these things.
But dealing with them honestly and sincerely and together and I would invite the opposition to take that course rather than the alternative which seems to be the approach that they are going down. People in this place live in glass houses.
Zali Steggall has the independent’s question today. It’s to Scott Morrison:
To quote Brittany Higgins, the system is broken. In your own words just now you want to see people safe. You Hof the power being in government today make all Australians, especially members of parliament, liable for and protected from sexual harassment in the workplace by supporting the sex discrimination amendment bill introduced to the parliament this morning. Will you do so? If your answer is we’re working on it, that is not good enough.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for her question. The Government is committed to ensuring Australia’s legal frameworks are effective in preventing and responding to sexual harassment.
The question of how best to address sexual assault which is the subject of your bill should be informed by the findings of the inquiries into sexual assault allegations that have been announced.
The issue of sexual harassment was also, as has been noted earlier today, the subject of the suspected work report and Law Council of Australia’s recent national action plan.
Although the Government appreciates the member’s efforts, we note it goes beyond the recommendations of those documents and we’ll be happy to keep the member informed on the Government’s process on this.
Josh Frydenberg once again forgets how microphones work (it’s a sad, sad syndrome) as he takes a dixer on the economic recovery
For those counting, that is no questions from the government on today’s march. None.
Catherine King to Scott Morrison:
Today Brittany Higgins said, “I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his media team affectly undermined and discredited my loved ones.”
Prime Minister, is this true?
I have no knowledge of that and would never instruct that, Mr Speaker. I would never instruct such a thing, Mr Speaker. I would never do that, Mr Speaker. The apology I offered to Brittany Higgins in this place was sincere and was genuine and I’m happy to restate it.
(He does not restate it)
Michael McCormack, who is back to his beige complexion after reaching the hues of his predecessor after McCormacking his way though an interaction with Janine Hendry this morning, talks about planes in the air being jobs on the ground.
After Larissa Waters successfully sought leave to table the “70,000-strong petition” arising from the March4Justice, the Greens’ Senate leader criticised the prime minister for offering a “closed-door meeting” rather than coming out to meet the protesters.
Waters also asked Simon Birmingham when the government would finally act on the 55 recommendations of Kate Jenkins’ landmark Respect@Work report released a year ago.
Birmingham, the leader of the government in the Senate, said the government was “acting on a number of those recommendations already”.
Birmingham said he wanted to acknowledge those who rallied in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia today. He said Scott Morrison’s invitation to representatives of the march to “come and to meet with him” and other senior members of the government “continues to stand”.
I would encourage those organisers of this event to reconsider their refusal to accept the prime minister’s invitation and to have those meetings.
Waters had a follow-up question: “When will the prime minister order an independent inquiry into minister Porter’s fitness to be attorney general?”
The right and appropriate way for criminal law allegations to be investigated in this country is through the appropriate legal channels and the government absolutely stands by and supports all of those independent law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.
In the Senate chamber, Waters asked a third question which included: “Did the prime minister ask minister Porter to launch the defamation action and was it so the government could try to brush aside further questions by arguing this matter was before the courts?”
In relation to whether the prime minister requested any such action, I’m confident the answer to that is no ... All Australians are treated equally before the law - that includes the rights of all Australians not to be defamed and, if they believe they have been defamed, to take action in relation to those matters. That’s what Mr Porter is doing.
Julie Collins to Scott Morrison:
How can the prime minister maintain confidence in the defence minister when she called Brittany Higgins “a lying cow”?
Thank you Mr Speaker. I’m pleased that the matter that she has referred to, the disgraceful slur on Brittany Higgins, Mr Speaker, as I called it at the time, that has been apologised for, that it has been withdrawn, and there’s been a formal settlement I understand between the parties. Of course she should never have said it and I challenge anyone in this place, and those who are putting these matters forward here in this place...
If those opposite want to provide a Hansard of what is said in their offices on a daily basis, they may be in a position to cast stones ...
But I would simply say this: this was a statement that should never have been uttered, whether in a private office or elsewhere*. And I’m pleased the minister saw to it that that statement was unconditionally withdrawn, Mr Speaker. Unconditionally withdrawn. Apologised for. And that apology has been accepted.
*And finally we got there.
The government’s first dixer is on the vaccine roll out and economic recovery.
Linda Burney to Scott Morrison:
Why did the Prime Minister refuse to attend the Women’s March for Justice, addressed by Brittany Higgins, outside the Parliament today?
I thank the member for her question. Mr Speaker, I refer the member to my remarks earlier before Question Time formally commenced today. I set out that I was very happy to meet with a delegation of those who were attending here in Canberra today and they would have represented the views more broadly of those who are attending marches around the country today. Very happy to have met them in my office.
That offer to meet them was provided in good faith but I respect their right to decline that invitation and I’ve set out as best as I can in this place the issues that I would have referred to and advised those who came but principally I would have welcomed the opportunity to have listened to the issues they would have liked to have raised directly.
Christian Porter's statement of claim released
The federal court has published Christian Porter’s statement of claim in the defamation suit against the ABC and Louise Milligan.
The claim argues that the ABC article “Scott Morrison, senators and AFP told of historical rape allegation against Cabinet Minister” contained defamatory imputations that Porter “brutally” anally raped a 16-year old girl, and that this “contributed to her taking her own life”. Porter strenuously denies the alleged incident.
A number of readers have questioned how Porter can sue despite the article not directly identifying him. The statement of claim essentially argues it wasn’t very hard to put the pieces together.
It notes there are 16 male members of cabinet, only six of who are about the same age as the alleged victim and only three of who are senior cabinet ministers. It says there was a surge in traffic to Porter’s website, and that Porter was identified on social media and trended on Twitter after the article was published on Friday 26 February. Subsequent stories added details that helped identify Porter including on 2 March, when it was noted the alleged victim participated on her state’s debating team.
Porter is seeking aggravated damages, on a number of grounds including that:
- Milligan acted with “malice”, publishing the story despite knowing of the impossibility of any finding of guilt or civil liability against Porter
- Milligan republished comments from Malcolm Turnbull calling on Porter to identify himself
- The ABC and Milligan were “frustrated” at being unable to publish the allegations in the November 2020 Canberra Bubble Four Corners episode, so “disingenuously” published the article without naming him
- Milligan engaged in public commentary that the complainant should be believed and deserves justice
- There was no warning to Porter to give him an opportunity to respond to the allegations
- The story selectively quoted the dossier
- Milligan did not disclose “her close friendship with a friend or friends” of the complainant
It has to be noted that in Anthony Albanese’s speech he did not mention the allegations of abuse Labor women have said they have experienced in the party.
This is not an issue limited to one side of politics.
Anthony Albanese speaks about the impact of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins and finishes with:
Just listen to what they’re saying. Forget about the political management, just listen to what they’re saying and then act because we are in a position to act – not abolishing the family court, not moving backwards, but moving forwards, to give proper funding to organisations that deal with family violence, to make sure that women can be protected at work, to have industrial relations policies that defend the rights of women at work.
Women should be safe in this house but they should be safe wherever they are, whether it’s at work, recreation activity or of course in the home.
One thing that these tragic circumstances should do is ensure that every member of this house do that – do their best to act in order to make a difference. We’re a great country. But the stain of violence against women and children is one that is on all of us. But we are in a position of power. We can use it to make lives better and we should do just that.
The prime minister correctly points out that this has been an issue for a long period of time: respect and treatment of women. And he’s right at that. He raised the issue to the Australian Human Rights Commission. They produced a report, Respect@Work, more than a year ago, and the government hasn’t even both respond to the recommendations.
You wonder why people are frustrated and came all the way to Canberra to demonstrate that anger. What happened during that week was on the Thursday the government gagged debate to get rid of the family court of Australia.
What priorities were there that said at the time gender violence was an issue and family violence was an issue and you get rid of the court designated to deal with those issues? How has it been helped by that?
But that was this government’s priority. Its priority throughout all of this, as with everything, is political management.
I don’t hold a hose has become I don’t have an inquiry. Never taking responsibility for the high office that the prime minister holds.
Women are asking that he fulfil that responsibility. And this parliament deserves it. Women need to feel as though they can come forward, come forward with complaints that they have. The fact is, though, that the prime minister has made statements like, ‘At this stage there are no matters that require my immediate attention.’
Really, prime minister? Nothing to see here, just move on.
And they’re entitled to get it. We had outside of this chamber a magnificent speech by Brittany Higgins. I say to the prime minister: listen to it. Listen to what Brittany Higgins had to say.
But because he wasn’t there, I’ll help him out.
She said this: “I watched as the prime minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media while privately his team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones.”
She went on to say: “I have read the news updates every day at 5am because I was waking up to new information about my own sexual assault through the media; details that were never disclosed to me by my employers, information that would have helped me answer questions that have haunted me for years.”
A reported sexual assault happened just metres from the prime minister’s office. We know that multiple ministers were informed.
We know, for example, over issues like the special minister of state would have been informed at the time that something had happened in that office. We know that one member of the PM’s staff knew two years ago.
A second member of his staff said it would be raised with his chief of staff two years ago. A third member of his staff knew the alleged perpetrator was dismissed two years ago.
A fourth member of his staff checked in with Ms Higgins after Four Corners last year. We know that a former prime minister and former deputy leader of the Liberal party have said very clearly it’s not credible this information wouldn’t have flown up the chain.
And we know that the prime minister, when I have raised questions in this house about these issues, has appointed his former chief of staff to do an inquiry about what his staff knew.
All he had to do is just ask them. All he has to do is just ask them, but we had an inquiry by the same person into the sports rorts fiasco that took a couple of weeks. It’s now been more than a month and we haven’t had any information here.
Anthony Albanese now speaks on the rallies “on indulgence”:
Not so much a tin ear as a wall of concrete.
We had today women gather around Australia with a few very clear and unambiguous messages, hear us roar.
The Prime Minister needs to listen.
To listen to what women are saying about what is happening in this building, and outside.
They said enough is enough.
And what I saw outside was passionate women who are angry, they are angry about what has happened to them, they are angry about what has happened to their mothers, their grandmothers, their sisters, their daughters and their granddaughters. And they’re crying out that this is a moment that requires leadership.
And it requires leadership from this Prime Minister. it requires leadership from this Prime Minister.
And we are not getting it, Prime Minister. We need an independent inquiry into the allegations that have been made against the Attorney-General. We know from the former Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson, that would be an entirely appropriate thing to do.
And, frankly, for a government that had an inquiry into a kitchen renovation of a former Prime Minister long before she was in parliament, I find it quite frankly incredible some of the arguments that have been used by this government to reject that proposition.
The fact is that day after day more information has come out. Over recent days James Hookes made references about what he said with the woman at the centre of the allegations and conversations that he says he had way back in the early 1990s with the current Attorney-General.
These are all issues that require examination. Because the idea, as the Prime Minister has said, that we can just move on, that what has been happening over recent days and weeks can be unseen and unheard is just not fair dinkum.
It can’t be, which is why people are angry and frustrated, which is why we need to do better. All of us need to do better.
All political parties, all businesses, all workplaces, our entire society. Because sexual assault and these issues are about the power imbalance in society. That’s what it’s about. And that’s why women are demanding change.
Larissa Waters successfully sought leave, just now, to table the “70,000-strong petition” arising from the march for justice
Scott Morrison runs through the laundry list of things the government is doing and then ends with :
Mr Speaker, the government understands and shares the frustrations of women and men across this country..who want to see women safe in their workplace, want to see them safer in our community, they want to see them safer in this building and want them to see all of their aspirations achieved in this country as they should.
This is a...Australia’s ambition, this is my government’s ambition, Mr Speaker, and I look forward to achieving a unity of purpose across this chamber and the other, to those ends, working also with our state and territory governments.
I acknowledge the frustration and share the disappointment of what has not been achieved. Those who gather outside this place today, an invitation was offered to them for a meeting with me today. A good faith action, but I respect the right of organisers to choose not to meet.
That is their right and I respect the right. If we were to meet, I would advise them of the following of the matters raised in virtue of the petition.
We all agree that all cases of gendered violence should be referred to the authorities.
Police are the appropriate independent authority. As terribly difficult as it must be, going to the police and making a statement is the only way to achieve justice and to ensure the perpetrator can no longer harm anyone else.
The Australian government is committed to ensuring all Australian workplaces are safe and free from sexual harassment and assault. The government commissioned the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work [report] in the women’s economic security statement in the budget*.
*The government has had that report for just over a year and is STILL to respond.
I am still processing the “be grateful you didn’t get shot protesting” line.
I mean ... wow
This is not to suggest that good faith and genuine efforts are not being made, whether by this government or the many governments that have proceeded us, Mr Speaker. Those efforts are being made.
But the outcomes still elude us. Those efforts are right and they have been made right across the public spectrum with great support across this chamber and the other.
And an agenda for the advancement of women, in particular taking in account action to prevent violence against women, is a common cause of this parliament, I believe, Mr Speaker.
It was the Gillard government that commenced the first national action plan to reduce violence against women, and their children. That plan was supported by the Coalition in opposition and has been taken up in government.
Since 2013, Mr Speaker, we have committed more than $1 billion to reduce violence against women and their children in the action plans that have followed.
Boosting frontline services, providing safe places, prevention strategies for implementation in communities and workplaces and homes. Targeted support for Indigenous communities. Counselling services provided through 1800 RESPECT. There are many more initiatives, Mr Speaker.
And we’re now working together on the fifth national action plan, with funding and effectiveness increasing as each plan moves through the agreement process.
These plans, Mr Speaker, not only draw in unity, I would hope, this parliament as it has, until now, and I hope into the future, but it also draws together the unity of the state and territory governments themselves, working now through the national cabinet process and previously through Coag to draw together the actions of the national action plan.
This is a common cause, and we must not let our frustration with the failure to achieve so many of the results we would hope for to undermine the unity needed to continue our shared progress.
This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.
Mr Speaker, those who gather here today and around the country do so out of a sense of great frustration and great concern... And Mr Speaker, that’s deserved production and concern and concern that I share and I believe the members of this House share.
One in four women, Mr Speaker, have experienced intimate partner violence since the age of 15. One woman dies every nine days, Mr Speaker, at the hand of a current and former partner. Indigenous women, Mr Speaker, are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised than non-indigenous women.
Now, Mr Speaker, notwithstanding the many achievements of our nation over many, many years, including in relation to the advancement of women, as a nation, we must continue to take up this cause. Here at home, Mr Speaker, our job is still not yet done. It is far from done, on all of these matters.
Scott Morrison speaks on the rallies “on indulgence”
Not sure “no one shot you” is the tone which was needed here.
Today here and in many cities across our country, women and men are gathering together in rallies both large and small to call for change and to act against violence directed towards women.
It is good and right, Mr Speaker, that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations.
This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker. Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr Speaker.
Peter Dutton is the acting leader of the house.
In the Senate, Penny Wong quotes Brittany Higgins’ comments to the rally a short time ago. Labor’s Senate leader asks when the Morrison government will stop treating this as a political problem “and start listing to the Australian women who are saying, across this country, enough is enough”.
The minister for women, Marise Payne, begins her reply by saying:
I have had the opportunity to scan Ms Higgins’ remarks today and there is a range of those statements she has made today with which I agree.
Payne said the government had worked with those opposite and around the chamber in support of establishing an independent review of parliament’s workplace cultures.
We do take this very, very seriously. We have heard those concerns.
We must own, as parliamentarians, all of us, these problems; we must own the failings that have enabled these events to occur and we must own the solutions.
Checking in with Spring Street.
Meanwhile, Daniel Andrews will be taking six weeks off to deal with some of the injuries following his fall.
In Senate question time, Penny Wong begins by asking why Marise Payne sat in this chamber for debate on a bill for which she was not responsible while the rally was under way out front.
“I welcome the exercise of open democracy,” Payne, the minister for women, replies.
Payne says the government and parliament will “give appropriate consideration” to the march for justice petition. She says the process of parliament and of being a minister means they meet with hundreds of people every year in the parliament.
Payne says the PM’s offer of a meeting with organisers “still stands”.
Wong follows up by asking why the PM didn’t visit the rally to meet with organisers. Payne says the PM has made clear it’s not his usual approach to engage in an action such as that outside the chamber. “That is not his usual approach.”
While Christian Porter is entitled to bring a defamation suit against the ABC, it may necessitate a little reshuffle of responsibilities in the attorney general’s portfolio to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Porter is responsible for defamation law reform. Stage 1 of the process has resulted in a list of changes states and territories must make to their own laws (ironically, to make the law a little less plaintiff-friendly). There is also “a second-stage reform process focusing on the responsibilities and liability of digital platforms for defamatory content published online”.
It seems ... not the sort of thing you want a current defamation litigant to be in charge of.
I’ve asked Scott Morrison’s office how that will be managed.
The assistant minister to the attorney general, Amanda Stoker, told Guardian Australia the government was “in the process” of determining how to manage “any potential conflict of interest”.
Question time begins
The MPs are in the chambers - although in the house it is delayed for a condolence motion for Sir Michael Somare - the first prime minister of Papua New Guinea after it gained independence.
The Christian Porter v ABC defamation matter has been allocated to Justice Jayne Jagot.
Jagot was appointed to the federal court in 2008 by the Rudd government.
A federal court spokesman said:
Justice Jayne Jagot has been allocated this matter. In view of the public interest, the court is in the process of establishing an online file on to which material will be placed once deemed publicly available ... A date has not yet been set for the first case-management hearing.
Ramila Chanisheff, president of the Australian Uighur Tangritagh Women’s Association, is one of the about 150 community members who rallied outside parliament. Some of them travelled from Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
She says she hopes the Senate passes the motion that independent senator Rex Patrick has placed on the notice paper for after Senate question time today. That motion would follow the Dutch and Canadian parliaments in recognising China’s actions in Xinjiang region as genocide (but it’s entirely possible that the major parties will deny the motion formality).
Chanisheff told Guardian Australia she was worried that the motion might not pass the Senate, noting that Australia was dependent on China for trade. She said passing such a motion would be one step along a “long journey” of holding China to account:
We are still hopeful … We know that Australian government and Australians will not stand for genocide.
Chanisheff said she hoped to meet with staff from Marise Payne’s office tomorrow.
For more on the motion, see our story from two weeks ago:
Prime ministers don’t go to protests and marches. Prime ministers run the country.
Marches happen outside when people want to say something different to what’s going on.
And to be offered the opportunity to critically and constructively engage with an interested prime minister on the issue about which they were concerned, well, Minister Payne offered as well. The fact they weren’t prepared to engage highlights the partisan politics that drove the establishment of this group.
I acknowledge there are many good people with great intentions who participate, but there is a partisan element to this.
And I think it’s very important that we examine the refusal to take a meeting with minister Payne or the prime minister for the reflection of their partisan objectives that they truly had today. As I said before, those in glass houses, politically, can’t throw stones.
The offer to meet a delegation was only made yesterday - in a media press conference. Previously, Marise Payne had offered to accept submissions from delegates by email or mail. This wasn’t a long-standing offer which was made as the march was announced – it was made once it became evident of how big the march was, not just here in Canberra, but across the country.
So if we are going to play partisan politics, let’s make sure both sides are clear
Amanda Stoker told the ABC about her “conscious decision” not to attend the March4Justice rally.
Every person – male or female, but importantly women – need to be able to go to work and participate in our community safely.
But when I looked at the petition that is the basis for the marches, it called in no uncertain terms for the pre-judgement of cases where complaints are made.
And it’s very important we don’t compound one potential wrong with another by abandoning important principles like the presumption of innocence and the rule of law. It’s important that we act and hear and respect people with complaints without jumping to conclusions that can do another injustice.
Asked about the broader issues people are protesting, Stoker says:
I share many of those concerns and I’m somebody who meets with people to talk through and work through those issues all the time.
But there was a very real risk associated with going to that protest that someone whose job is all about the rule of law in this country could be perceived to be abandoning something very important, and that is the idea that in this country we are innocent until proven guilty.
In this country we act on complaints. We act on evidence.
And we have a good process for making sure [of] procedural fairness and justice. It’s important principles are upheld.
There was a much smaller protest attempting to raise awareness about what is happening to Uighur communities in China. The March4Justice crowd was bigger in numbers. A father and his young children handed out fliers to those at the march, before joining it.
Three Indigenous people died in custody in the last week in Australia last week. Three.
Women of colour are much more likely to be victims of violence and sexual assault than white women. Trans women are under attack by a section of society which is arbitrarily attempting to define what a woman is.
There are many, many, many issues which need attention in Australia, and don’t always get it. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t have the power to stand up as a group, because they don’t have structural power. Sometimes it is empathy fatigue. Sometimes it’s because we just don’t think about it.
This isn’t a “whaddabout” post. It’s just a reminder that there are a lot of injustices in this world, and not everyone is heard the same. Where you can, amplify
The agreement to not hold any divisions ended at 1.30pm.
Question time begins in just under 30 minutes.
Any questions on Christian Porter will most likely remain unanswered, given he has now started defamation proceedings. On March4Justice day.
This is a lot of papier-mâché.
Former MP Julia Banks has addressed the crowd in Melbourne. She said she was initially scared to speak today for fear of repercussions.
Banks said federal parliament was “dominated by men in power”.
But there’s something more powerful than the people who hold power. It’s this – it’s the people.
She said Australia had reached a moment for change.
Enough with the internal reviews, that stay internal to the big boys in power who do nothing with them except hide them ...
This is our collective voice. It is a roar. It is a roar which says to men in power: if you turn your backs on women, we will turn our backs on you.
Anne Ruston, the minister for families and social services, didn’t have a clear answer on when the federal government would formally respond to Kate Jenkins’ 55 recommendations that were spelled out in the landmark Respect@Work report released a year ago.
Ruston was interviewed live in Sky News’ Parliament House studio while the rally was under way out the front of parliament (as Amy mentioned on this live blog a little earlier). Many of the questions were different versions of why wouldn’t you pop downstairs, hundreds of metres away, and meet the #March4Justice protesters.
Ruston said she believed there were “really important things I can do in terms of developing policy” and that “My door’s always open”.
She was asked what she would say to women who had been harassed in the past year about why the government was yet to act on the Respect@Work report. She said:
I’d say I have done a lot in the last year and a half since I’ve been minister for social services.
Ruston said she had been working on a range of initiatives in her portfolio area, and that “many of them reflect the recommendations or the intent of the recommendations out of that report”.
Ruston said the formal response to the Jenkins report was “not a matter for me” but she was working with Jenkins about implementing measures against domestic violence. On the broader movement for change, she said:
I really welcome the fact we are having this national conversation … It is time to actually make sure that we’ve got the appropriate processes, not just so that they are safe at work but they feel safe at work.
When we share with each other, we heal. Not just as individuals, but therefore as a collective. It’s so powerful. And from the conversations, like I said, we have education, and the education we can use to properly inform structures and create actual concrete change. We’ve already done that.
Anything that we can rethink and reimagine can be actually redefined and reformed. Nothing is fixed.
(From the crowd: RECLAIM!)
Yes, reclaim, I like that. I’ve seen a lot of great words here today. Every woman has a story. Every person has a story. The pursuit of progress does not have to be adversarial. That’s why we’re here.
But men are not the enemy.
Behaviour, corrupt behaviour, always has been and always will be the enemy.
Grace Tame, the Australian of the Year and a sexual assault survivor who has worked to change laws and make sure other survivors are heard, has addressed the Hobart rally:
My heart is going to beat right out of my chest for all the love that I feel here today.
It’s incredible – seriously! You know, as is often the case when an issue that has been shrouded in darkness for such a long time is suddenly thrust into the light, there’s widespread shock and disbelief over how something so evil could happen, and not just happen, but happen so ubiquitously.
And the answer is plain and simple – silence.
Evil thrives in silence. Behaviour unspoken, behaviour ignored, is behaviour endorsed.
But if one of these barriers to progress is silenced, like I’ve just identified, which is quite simple, it gives me hope. Because the start of the solution is also quite simple – making noise!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
I feel like I’ve been bashing my head against a wall recently, because these are not explosive revelations.
These are commonsense ideas. Whatever happened to connecting with our fellow human beings and supporting each other and empowering each other and listening? It’s not that hard to love.
It starts with conversation, and from conversation, education is born. We’ve seen a lot of focus in our governments on responses to child sexual abuse and sexual assault and violence against women, as if we just have to accept it as a fact of life in our society. And I do not believe that that is right.
Brittany Higgins finishes and walks through the crowd.
Speaking out, as she has done, it takes a toll. It keeps placing you back there. To do, as she has done, takes a piece of you. But it’s given in the hopes others will never lose a piece of themselves.
But – and it is a huge but – people who stay silent about their abuse and hold their own stories tight are no less courageous. Just surviving takes courage. Your story is your own, and you owe no one else anything. When something has been taken from you in the most violent and brutal of ways, you take back control any way you can.
If you have never told anyone your story, please don’t feel any shame. Please don’t be watching what is happening and seeing people being praised for courage as a comment on what you should be doing. It is your story. Your life. Your decision. There is no playbook here, no rules about what you should be doing. There is no right or wrong.
There are so many reasons people don’t come forward – including but not limited to safety, blowback, mental health concerns, impact, wanting to move on, lack of support, community expectations or just processing.
Your stories are valid. Your response is valid. We stand with you, and we are so, so sorry it happened.
I came forward with my story to hopefully protect other women.
By staying silent, I felt like it would have made me complicit, and if something of this nature had ever happened again, my ongoing silence would have inadvertently said to those people in charge that you can treat people in this way and it’s OK.
I want to be clear: it’s not!
... So I have spoken out with what little I have to say: this isn’t OK and they need to do better. We all need to do better.
I encourage each and every one of you to set boundaries for yourself and be ruthless in your defence of them. Speak up. Share your truth and know that you have a generation of women ready, willing and able to support you.
Take ownership of your story and free yourself from the stigma of shame. Together, we can bring about real, meaningful reform to the workplace culture inside Parliament House – and, hopefully, every workplace, to ensure the next generation of women can benefit from a safer and more equitable Australia.
I hadsuspicions confirmed when the media exposed a long list of people who knew what had happened to me; a list that seemed to grow by the day as truths about internal reviews, Senate committee submissions, office cleans and witness accounts were all unearthed.
These are the people making our laws in governing the country. As our leaders, they should be the exemplar – the gold standard.
Sadly, this just isn’t the case. If they aren’t committed to addressing these issues in their own offices, what confidence can the women of Australia have that they will be proactive in addressing this issue in the broader community? (CHEERING)
This isn’t a political problem. This is a human problem.
We’ve all learned over the past few weeks just how common gendered violence is in this country.
It’s time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and side-stepping accountability. It’s time we actually address the problem.
I decided to resign and share my story because I felt it was the only thing that I could do to say that I didn’t co-sign this behaviour ... That I don’t believe what happened was right; that I don’t believe a brochure is adequate support; that I don’t believe people should be isolated, intimidated and ignored after traumatic incidents inside the workplace.
These past few weeks on a personal level have been extremely difficult.
Like many of you, I have watched this all play out in the media. I watched it happen from a laptop in a spare bedroom in my dad’s apartment on the Gold Coast.
I watched as the prime minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately the media team actively undermined and discredited my love ones.
I tuned into question time to see my former bosses, people that I had dedicated my life to, deny and downplay my lived experience.
I have read the news updates every day at 5am because I was waking up to new information about my own sexual assault through the media.
Details that were never disclosed to me by my employers, information that would have helped me as questions that have haunted me for years. I watched as people hid behind throwaway phrases like due process and presumption of innocence while failing to acknowledge how the justice system is notoriously stacked against victims of sexual crime.
I read the advice from defence chief Angus Campbell, who advised women on how not to fall prey to those who have the proclivity ... (BOOING) ... to harm others; advice aimed solely at modifying the behaviour of victims and does nothing to address the actions of perpetrators.
I was dismayed by senior male journalists who routinely implied that my partner was pulling the strings behind the scenes –the sudden inference being that a traumatised woman wasn’t capable of weaponising her own story.
I watched as advocates on the macro level disappear when the issue hit too close to home at the micro level.
Thanks to Chanel Contos we now knowhow [of how widespread this sort] of behaviour is our schools.
There is a confronting sense of finality about sexual violence in our community.
I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague, and for so long it felt like the people around me neither cared because of what happened for what it might mean for them.
It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them. They were my social network, colleagues and my family. And suddenly they treated me differently.
I was not a person who had just gone through a lot of changes event, I was a political problem. Amanda Vanstone, a former Liberal minister, summed it up the other day: if there was a young girl alleging she had been raped in a different office, would it be on the front page?
No it would not. I think Miss Vanstone is missing the point.
There is a horrible societal acceptance of sexual violence experienced by women in Australia. My story was on the front page for the sole reason that it was a painful reminder to women that it can happen in Parliament House, and can truly happen anywhere.
I speak to you today out of necessity.
We are all here today not because we want to be here – because we have two be here.
We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institution.
We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight. As it has been said ... before, time can be used constructively or destructively.
Human progress rarely rolls on inevitability. It is through dedication and effort that we move forward.
When we fall asleep at the wheel, what has to happen is that tide becomes an ally of those who seek stagnation. We regress.
It is the custodians of the status quo keeping the existing order alive. To see a real progress, we must seek it out.
I am cognisant of all the women who continue to live in silence; the women who are faceless; the women who don’t have the mobility, the confidence or the financial means to share their truth; those who don’t see their images and stories reflected in their media; those who are sadly no longer with us; those who have lost their sense of self-worth and are unable to break the silence. All of which is rooted in the shame and stigma of sexual assault.
One out of every five women in Australia will be sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetime. If you are a woman of colour, the statistics are even higher.
Brittany Higgins addresses crowd
Brittany Higgins takes the stage.
The cameras are told to back off and the crowd is asked for a little bit of quiet.
Higgins thanks everyone for attending, saying:
We are here not because we want to be here but because we have to be here
... We are here because it is unfathomable we have to fight this same tired, stale fight.
Lisa Wilkinson, who, along with Samantha Maiden, first told Brittany Higgins’s story, is addressing the crowd.
Wilkinson says that if what Higgins says is true (she says if because it has not been proven in a court, not because she doubts her story), “the easiest way to rape a woman and get away with it is [at] Parliament House”
Brittany Higgins attends Canberra rally
Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash’s former staffer Brittany Higgins has walked into the rally outside Parliament House.
She hugs founder and organiser Janine Hendry as she walks into the crowd.
As she walks in, a woman is speaking about men keeping their hands off women.
“No more,” the crowd starts cheering.
In terms of the political make-up of the Parliament House march, obviously there is a very big progressive crowd there.
But I also met women who were in their 60s and protesting for the first time in their lives; women who had driven from Melbourne to attend because they no longer know “where the line is”; women who said they voted Liberal but couldn’t understand the government’s response on the issue.
To claim it is all one side of politics protesting on this would be wrong.
To ignore them would be detrimental.
Back in the building now and Anne Ruston is in the middle of a very, very awkward interview with Sky News about how she did not have time to go to the march at the front of Parliament House today.
Ruston supports everyone’s right to protest and does not diminish the importance of the issue, she says. But she is unable to attend. Presumably because she needs to spend time explaining on Sky News why she does not have time to attend.
The metal detectors that everyone has to go through on their way into a Parliament House entrance have had their sensitivity ramped wayyyy up – the security passes we are issued are causing it to go off. That’s not happened before in my time here.
The MPs came down as a group – most of the Labor caucus is there, along with the Greens and the crossbench. There are also a handful of Coalition MPs, including Dave Sharma. He was asked by one woman where his flowers were. (He handed out flowers to women on International Women’s Day. Not sure he’ll be living that one down any time soon.)
The march opened with a performance of I Am Woman. There has been a welcome to country, followed by news of Christian Porter’s legal action. It has not been as welcomed as the rest of the news.
Well, there are so many people at the Canberra march, reception is down – I just saw none of my posts have gone live.
MPs are gathering in the marble hall preparing to walk down to the march out the front of Parliament House.
There’s about 4,000 people here.
(I walked down with my fly undone – so thank you to the very lovely woman who let me know about that.)
The mood is ... determined.
We’ll be heading down to the march for the beginning proceedings in Canberra.
You can also follow along with marches across the country, with Matilda Boseley, here.
The official event doesn’t start until midday, but people have been gathering since before 9am.
What else does the defamation action do?
It can end the calls for an independent inquiry. Because if the matter goes to court and Christian Porter gives evidence under oath, that is a legal action examining the claims.
And that means, the government can point to ‘not influencing legal proceedings’ as a reason to not hold any inquiry of its own.
NSW records one local Covid case
NSW has recorded one community acquired case in the last 24 hours – it is the security guard in the hotel quarantine facility we have already reported.
Their infection has been traced back to a guest.
There has been no question of any sort of breach of standards or procedures – it’s just a really contagious virus.
Liberal MP Celia Hammond has delivered a speech on a motion recognising the 100th anniversary of Edith Cowan’s election to the WA parliament – the first woman who was elected to an Australian parliament.
It’s interesting, because Hammond identifies the gap a lot of complaints can fall into:
Changes to our processes and systems, and even dare I suggest it to our criminal justice system [are needed] because it is clear that the status quo is inadequate in dealing with complaints and crimes of sexual assault and harassment.
We must preserve the pillar of our justice system that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
But we need to ensure that in so doing we do not read traumatise victims, survivors that we do not send mixed messages about whether they should come forward with their stories.
There is a vacuum at the moment, and one which is being filled in the most vile and unsatisfactory way, one which neither helps victims, survivors, nor those who have been accused.
And most importantly we must change the types of behaviour and attitudes that lead to harassment and assault.
I recognise that in in workplaces and particularly in politics, where the power hierarchies are so deeply embedded, it may be easier said than done to change the culture.
This is why we as members in this place have to lead by example and reflect on our own behaviour.
It is why we must listen to the voices of others, put aside our own inherent biases and prejudices and ways of thinking and engage in a truly genuine nonpartisan process, not one that is carried out via a polemical tit for tat, or the vile anonymous sewer, which inhabits vast portions of social mediums.
We must refuse to accept that just because it has always been this way that it should continue that way.
And personally, I refuse to accept that an acceptable response to all of this is to ‘suck it up, toughen up, move on’.
That may have been the way that I and others learned to deal with things. And while this may work for some and on some issues, it does not serve everyone and it certainly doesn’t need lead to the change we need.
So to the next person who thinks about telling me or someone else to toughen up, suck it up or move on, I say, just don’t.
Christian Porter’s lawyers say in that statement, that the attorney general will be happy to answer questions under oath – which, if it came to it, would also mean he could be cross-examined. The relevant paragraph from his lawyer’s statement is here:
Over the last few weeks, the Attorney-General has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations. The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings. The claims made by the ABC and Ms Milligan will be determined in a Court in a procedurally fair process. Mr Porter will have and will exercise the opportunity to give evidence denying these false allegations on oath.
Christian Porter starts defamation action against the ABC and a journalist
Here is the statement from Christian Porter’s lawyers:
Today the Attorney-General the Hon Christian Porter MP commenced proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and journalist, Louise Milligan, for defamation.
The article that he sues on made false allegations against him in relation to a person who he met when he was a teenager.
Although he was not named, the article made allegations against a Senior Cabinet Minister and the Attorney-General was easily identifiable to many Australians as the subject of the allegations.
Over the last few weeks, the Attorney-General has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations. The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings. The claims made by the ABC and Ms Milligan will be determined in a Court in a procedurally fair process. Mr Porter will have and will exercise the opportunity to give evidence denying these false allegations on oath.
The ABC and Ms Milligan having published these allegations have damaged the reputation of the Attorney-General. This Court process will allow them to present any relevant evidence and make any submissions they believe justifies their conduct in damaging Mr Porter’s reputation.
If the ABC and Ms Milligan wish to argue the truth of the allegations, they can do so in these proceedings. Under the Defamation Act it is open for the ABC and Ms Milligan to plead truth in their defence to this action and prove the allegations to the lower civil standard.
Now that this matter is in the hands of the Court, the Attorney-General will not be making any further comment.
There were a lot of babies at the Anthony Albanese press conference. It was originally about paid parental leave. It became about the allegations of abuse and harassment women staffers in the Labor party say they have experienced.
For more on the Queensland situation:
Annastacia Palaszczuk on the PNG concerns:
I think, it’s a serious situation up there, so I think we need to look at what is our coordinated response, I think there is an issue therefore the federal government, I understand that they are providing some assistance into Papua New Guinea, but maybe we need to look at a vaccine rollout program there as well.
It is right on our doorstep and it is a real risk, and as you know that is why we are getting our Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Zali Steggall has spoken to the media about amendments she, Helen Haines and Rebekha Sharkie want to make to the sexual discrimination act – under the current act, members of parliament, judges and other statutory appointees are not clearly protected from, or liable for sexual harassment in their workplace.
It seems crazy that we would be in 2021, having to present an amendment to a legislation that is vital to ensure all workplaces in Australia are safe and secure and respectful.
I went to the prime minister and the government about this several weeks ago, urging the government to introduce this legislation. Silence. Now, it is absolutely time that we move this amendment.
Probably not reading the room.
Queensland has 'major concerns' about Covid cases in PNG
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says health authorities have “major concerns” about the Covid situation in Papua New Guinea.
We have been assisting with some tests in Papua New Guinea and out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for Papua New Guinea, 250 positive. This is a real concern.
Queensland records six new Covid cases in hotel quarantine
Queensland has recorded six new cases of Covid – but all are in hotel quarantine.
There will be 11,000 Queenslanders vaccinated this week.
AAP has some more on Daniel Andrews being released from hospital:
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is out of hospital and starting a “significant” period of rehabilitation.
Andrews is recovering from a broken vertebrae and several cracked ribs after a fall a week ago.
The Alfred hospital said in a statement that he is making good progress, but again warns that he faces a lengthy time in rehabilitation.
James Merlino is acting premier in his absence.
“Mr Andrews has responded well without surgery so far, and the work to improve his strength and mobility must now begin,” The Alfred’s director of trauma services Prof Mark Fitzgerald said.
“As the rehabilitation journey gets underway, we will watch closely for any signs of worsening spinal stability or alignment, as well as the development of other complications.”
Michael McCormack can’t attend today’s march, because he has people living in his diary or something.
The Nationals whip might need to work a little harder – Barnaby Joyce appears to not know that the parliament will be suspended from midday until 1.30pm today, after a request from the Greens and crossbenchers, so MPs who want to attend the march, can. (That was announced yesterday.)
Lots of white people looking very flushed today. It’s almost as though they ... are having to think about something and it’s making them a little uncomfortable?
The bells are ringing for the beginning of the parliament session, but as always, the action is happening outside the chambers.
A little tidbit to note though – the seating arrangements are currently marked with stickers with the MPs names on them (socially distant arrangements are still in place).
Peter Dutton has had his seat moved, as acting leader of the house in Christian Porter’s absence.
But they haven’t removed Porter’s name sticker, or moved another minister to a front bench spot – instead, they have left Porter’s name on the front bench.
It’s hasn’t been done accidentally – there are procedures and thoughts behind this stuff – it’s a message from the government that they stand behind him, and he is coming back.
Anthony Albanese leaves the press conference after he was asked about the allegation he did know about – as he mentioned earlier in one of his answers.
He was asked whether it was an allegation of sexual assault or harassment and says:
The woman has asked that it be dealt with confidentially. It was dealt with at the time to the satisfaction of the woman concerned and she, certainly, was satisfied with the way that it was dealt with. It was dealt with very directly.
He then leaves.
Anthony Albanese is again asked if he knows of any specific allegations against any members of the Labor caucus:
I have not seen any allegations against any specific individuals. What we have here is a very specific allegation against Christian Porter with a name attached, with documentation, with people coming forward, saying that they had knowledge at the time of those issues.
What we have is a prime minister whose response to that consisted of having a discussion with Christian Porter and saying that he believed the words that Christian Porter said, but a prime minister also who didn’t bother to read the documentation that was forwarded, including the documentation that directly came from the woman concerned.
Anthony Albanese was also asked if he would expect any men named as allegedly having harassed women within the Labor party to stand down and said:
Let’s be very clear about what I said about Christian Porter and what I said on the record.
We release transcripts and I have been asked about this and I have been consistent. My consistent position is this.
There needs to be an independent inquiry into Christian Porter because there has not been any examination of the allegations that have been put forward.
The police said that they were not able to further investigate.
We now know that in the last few days that the New South Wales police were not forwarded the document that was given to the prime minister and that he forwarded to the AFP.
We also know that somebody has come forward who knew the woman at the centre of these allegations at the time and someone who knew Christian Porter, and that person has said that they had discussions with the woman about what she has alleged at the time, or just a year after.
We also know that this person has said they had discussions with Christian Porter. What we also know is that Christian Porter is the first law officer of the land, the country’s attorney general and he is in charge of our legal system.
One of the things that I have said is that it is in my view just not realistic to do what the prime minister has said, which is to say that everybody should just move on and unsee and unhear what they now know has been suggested without any examination.
Daniel Andrews released from hospital
The Victorian premier has a long road to recovery ahead of him, but he has announced he is out of hospital.
Has Anthony Albanese read the allegations of abuse from within his own party?
I am happy to listen. There are processes that are always available to deal with these issues. I was not aware of a couple of issues. I was aware of an issue last year that was dealt with to the satisfaction of the woman involved.
Q: You say you are not aware of the people behind these allegations. Do you want to know who they are? Do you want to deal with this?
Yes. But that is a matter for them in terms of the way that this has occurred. There is a Facebook group where people are able to talk anonymously, I think, is the way that I understand it.
I am not a member of that group.
It is there for women to be able to talk with other women about these issues. I am certainly available to talk to anyone in the caucus who has any complaints, and indeed, I would say that we have published a process including a complaints procedure process as part of what the national executive adopted just a month ago.
Asked if he would expect men to step down if they are named, he says he will not be dealing with hypotheticals.
I believe women who come forward.
...I will not deal with things hypothetically in advance. If there are positions put forward against anyone in the Labor party, that should be dealt with at the time.
He says he is not aware of any allegations against any member of his caucus.
Anthony Albanese on the process Labor has established to deal with complaints (it is internal, not an independent process outside the party).
We have had a process established, not by me, led by the women in the Labor party, including the caucus chair.
They made recommendations after consultation with both former and current staff.
There are processes there that are available, and I would encourage women to come forward.
I encourage women to speak out. I encourage men to listen to those concerns and to respond.
Asked if he believes the allegations, Albanese says:
What we have is the terms of allegations, no names have been put forward in the documentation that I have seen that has been reported by Sam [Maiden]. But I encourage people to come forward. We have a process.
Will he act proactively to address the allegations:
It is hard to look into anonymous suggestions. That is the truth. If people have ideas about doing that, I would be happy to hear them. We have discussed it with ... I have spoken to a range of women leaders in the caucus yesterday and again today.
Anthony Albanese press conference
Anthony Albanese is surrounded by babies as he holds this press conference.
The Labor MPs who have welcomed children in the last year are back, with their children, and standing behind their leader as he addresses allegations from women staffers, former and current, about abuse and harassment they said they had experienced from men in the party.
The patriarchy doesn’t exist just on one side of politics, that exists throughout our society.
We need to make sure we listen to the concerns that are put forward and respond. In fact, it is a good thing that women in the Labor party have this Facebook site that they have through the Elizabeth Reid Network.
I’m obviously not a member of that network, but I certainly have read what was said, and it is of real concern. That’s one of the reasons why we put in place a range of mechanisms with the process shared by Sharon Claydon as our woman’s chair, but also with organisational representatives of the national executive and adopted at our last meeting four different policies, one a code of conduct, a sexual harassment policy, a bullying policy, and as well a complaints process so that we have transparency, so women need to feel safe.
You know, every workplace and, indeed, every part of society. And what we need to do is make sure we listen to those concerns and respond. That’s what today’s rally outside is about. I will be participating and listening today to what women in their many thousands around Australia will be saying.
Love that we are at the point that it’s new members of the Coalition who will be attending a march which is in support of action to address harassment and abuse of people in their workplace.
I am getting reports some Coalition staffers have been overheard complaining that “none of the Coalition women were invited” to the March4Justice. I don’t know which office they are from – that’s not the point.
It’s a rally. You don’t get a personal invitation. You just show up if you want to. The news that there is going to be a rally is the invitation.
The point is this is not a political issue. It’s a human one.
Just like it’s not “exciting” to be invited to talk to your elected official about important issues. It’s their job, not an honour they are bestowing upon you.
Here is a little more of that interview between Simon Birmingham and Fran Kelly today:
Kelly: Wouldn’t it be a great statement if the government’s leadership team walked out and listened?
Birmingham: I think it would also, in terms of actually advancing the type of issues, is best done by sitting down and having detailed, proper discussions around the types of things that people are asking for and the change they’re calling for–
Kelly: But both things can be true.
Birmingham: Some of that we are already acting upon. I would encourage, as I said, those organisers who have refused the prime minister’s offer to meet with him to reconsider that, and that it would be in the best interests of getting the depth of understanding that I’m sure they want to achieve for that meeting to occur.
Kelly: If not you, why not Marise Payne, the Minister for Women? She’s not going to meet the organisers of the rally, but at the front, out the front, she originally her office said she’d received the petition via correspondent. She’s since offered to meet them in her offices, but she’s not going to go to the rally either. I mean, you know, why are you here talking today? Shouldn’t this be a job today for the Minister for Women?
Birmingham: Well, I usually front up and speak with you at this time at the start of the sitting fortnight.
Kelly: We did ask the minister as well.
Birmingham: Fran, Marise Payne as our foreign minister has been, I think, both leading work in terms of the engagement in the responses to the very difficult issues, recently. She worked very closely with me and with Kate Jenkins, the sex discrimination commissioner, in establishing the broad independent review into parliamentary workplaces that Kate is going to undertake, which has received bipartisan or indeed multi-party support in terms of the way in which Kate will undertake that work. And I thank all of those different parties and independents and others who engaged with me, with Marise and with commissioner Jenkins to establish those terms of reference in that approach.
Simon Birmingham, who is leading the reviews into the culture at Parliament House, also won’t be attending the March4Justice today.
He told the ABC’s Fran Kelly:
I’ve been here for many years and through that time, I have met with many hundreds and hundreds of organisations that have come to Canberra. Some of them have protested and rallied outside the building. Some have held events inside the building, I’ve facilitated meetings with them to talk about the issues and concerns that they’ve brought. But I haven’t gone outside the building and joined in protests or rallies.
That’s not been the way I’ve conducted my business. I’ve always sought to engage in the discussions with representatives to understand the issues and to talk through specifically what it is they’re calling to happen.
And I would encourage the rally organisers to reconsider their refusal to meet with the Prime Minister. He’s extended that offer to meet with him.
And it really would be in the best interests of advancing the issues that the people are here to talk about to facilitate those discussions.
Jane Hume momentarily seems to forget that the prime minister is not a king, or a celebrity, and is in fact an elected official, and it is his literal job to meet constituents and Australians to discuss issues.
She claims it is “really, really exciting” the prime minister has issued a (last minute) invitation to delegates of the March4Justice to meet with him.
At 9.30am Zali Steggall, Helen Haines and Rebekha Sharkie will hold a press conference to introduce an amendment to the sexual discrimination act, to address workplace harassment.
You may remember Bridget Archer as the Coalition backbencher who spoke AGAINST the cashless debit card and the plans to expand it (her own side’s policy) but who, when it came down to it, abstained from the vote instead of voting against it.
Wait – looks like one Coalition MP will be at the Parliament House march
Michael McCormack Michael McCormacked his way through an interaction with Janine Hendry this morning, when she asked him for action – and for change.
He “can’t give that assurance”.
Janine Hendry, a founder and organiser of the March4Justice, explained to the ABC this morning about why organisers turned down Scott Morrison’s offer of a private meeting with a small number of march delegates:
I think it is really quite disrespectful to the women whose voices need to be heard to have a meeting with our prime minister behind closed doors.
I have invited the prime minister, as I have all other sitting members of parliament, to come and march with us, to come and listen to our voices. I don’t think it is really a big ask – we have come to Canberra.
I think the prime minister, if he really cared about women, really cared about our voices, then he could open the door, walk across the forecourt and come and listen to us.
Australia's domestic borders fully open for first time since start of pandemic
We have been living with the pandemic for a year – but for the first time in quite some time, all of Australia’s domestic borders are open.
As AAP reports:
Australians are free to travel across all interstate borders without undergoing quarantine for the first time since the coronavirus arrived.
Domestic borders are now fully open after Western Australia eased restrictions with Victoria overnight.
It is the first time WA has had no quarantine requirements for any state or territory since border restrictions were introduced last April.
All states are now classified as “very low risk” under WA’s controlled border system.
That doesn’t mean they’ll stay open though – the federation means the states are in charge of their borders, and they’ll close them again if necessary.
In case you missed it, a NSW hotel quarantine security guard has tested positive for Covid on Saturday night (and again on Sunday) – he received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 2 March and was due for his second dose this week. It’s a reminder of how even with the vaccine, there are still going to be impacts to the way we live for a while longer.
NSW health wants anyone who attended Pancake on the Rocks in Beverly Hills on King Georges Road between 10.45am and midday on Saturday to immediately get tested and self isolate for 14 days regardless of the test outcome.
NSW tests its hotel quarantine staff very, very often – so there are not too many days they are worried about.
I know that a lot of you miss being able to comment below the line – we miss it too.
But we are dealing with complex legalities. Courts have ruled comments are the responsibility of the mastheads which publish them – that includes social media – and so, given how labour intensive pre-moderating can be (we are still a small team) it is better to have comments switched off. It protects us – and you.
The same goes for social media – it has been ruled a publishing platform by the courts, so when you hit ‘post’ you are publishing. Just a reminder to be smart about what you write. There is a lot of understandable emotion about a lot of the issues we have been dealing with. Defamation law though, doesn’t tend to care about emotion.
So what does Dan Tehan have to say about the worst Newspoll result for the Coalition since the 2019-20 bushfires?
He tells ABC News Breakfast:
Well, Newspolls as you know come and go each month. The most important thing that any government can be doing is focusing on the important issues that are facing this nation.
Now, we’ve come through a pandemic. We’re now rolling out the most complex vaccination program that this nation has ever seen. That is an absolute key focus. Making sure that we deal with the economic recovery is a key focus, and then dealing with these very important issues, as they arise – like the making sure that all of our workplaces are as safe as they possibly can be.
That will be a priority of the government. So these will continue to be our focus – the things that really matter to Australian people on the ground.
Anthony Albanese has announced a door stop (quick press conference) for 9.15am today.
Dan Tehan also won’t attend the march:
I’ll be following the normal processes that I follow. If there’s anyone from my electorate who is up here for the march and wants to meet with me, I will do so.
And that’s the process that I follow with any of these types of marches.
If anyone from my electorate is here and wants to meet with me, I will do so. So far, I haven’t heard from anyone. But if in the next few hours, I do, I will sit down, meet with them and talk to them about this issue.
I had a mother who created workplaces. Someone who was very much a trail blazer when it comes to these things, and I want to make sure that I’m doing everything that I can in my power to make sure that the workplace here is an exemplar and I will continue to work with my colleagues across the political divide to make sure that it is.
Dan Tehan has defended the prime minister for saying he will not attend the March4Justice, and meet with organisers outside the building, after they turned down his last-minute offer to meet with a delegation inside his office:
Well, the prime minister has said that what he normally does, and it’s the normal way that he does these things – is that he offers an invitation to meet with people who are marching, and so, if they want to come and meet with him, they can. He can’t be running his diary in a way that he has to be going in and out of the building the whole time.
Richard Marles was on ABC News Breakfast this morning, where he was asked about the allegations of former and current female Labor staffers about some of the abuse they say they had and have experienced:
It’s appalling. And the first point to say is that for all of those women who are having the courage to tell their story, I believe them.
And we all need to be standing with them. And the details which are articulated here are terrible. And it’s an indictment on all of us in Labor.
And on behalf of the party, I am deeply sorry for the experiences that these women have had.
And what matters now is going forward that we do everything we can to ensure that this behaviour stops. And there are internal processes within the party, but there are now processes which have been established with the parliament, and I think it’s really important that all of us are doing everything we can to support people and women to come forward, and to work through those processes.
Marles says Labor can’t “duck away” from the allegations.
Welcome to the beginning of another sitting week – and the last joint sitting before the budget is handed down in May.
To say it has been a huge fortnight since we last gathered for Politics Live would be an understatement. Thousands of women are expected to march on parliament house, and around the nation, after an idea from Brisbane woman Janine Hendry took hold. The parliament will be suspended from midday to 1.30pm so MPs who wish to attend the march, can – but don’t expect too many Coalition MPs to be seen outside the building. The minister for the status for women, Marise Payne said she would accept the March4Justice submissions by email or post. Michael McCormack said he was too busy with “meetings all day”. Scott Morrison said he didn’t make a habit of attending marches, but would meet a delegation privately in his office. Hendry, speaking to ABC radio this morning, said no. Asked why, she said she had “read the room”.
“We have already come to the front door, now it’s up to the government to cross the threshold and come to us,” she said.
“We will not be meeting behind closed doors.”
Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds both remain on sick leave. Reynolds last week retracted an offensive comment she had made about her former staffer, Brittany Higgins, as part of a confidential legal settlement, which also included paying Higgins’ legal costs and making a donation to a charity, at the behest of Higgins’ to a Canberra group which helps sexual assault survivors.
Porter, who denies all allegations against him, is not expected to return from mental health leave during this sitting. Morrison has refused to consider an independent inquiry into Porter’s fitness to sit as first law officer of Australia, saying it would impact “the rule of law”. Morrison hasn’t sought advice from the solicitor general as to whether that would actually be the case (other legal experts have said it is not). Morrison also did not read the allegations levelled against Porter, and instead was briefed on the contents of a document sent to his office.
The latest Newspoll has the government losing two points, putting Labor ahead 52-48. The Coalition and Labor both stood on 39% in the primary vote in the poll, which is Labor’s best result since the election. Morrison is still way ahead in the preferred prime minister stakes, but the drop in the two-party preferred poll will cause some angst in the Coalition party room.
Meanwhile, former and current female Labor staffers have come together to say they will no longer keep the secrets of men in the Labor party they say have abused and harassed them. The women posted in a closed facebook group detailing some of the abuse they say they have experienced, without naming names (for legal reasons). Tanya Plibersek, Sharon Claydon, Katy Gallagher and Anika Wells have responded and said they believe the women and want action. But no one seems to know what that action will be. Former Labor staffer Anna Jabour, who went public with her experiences as a young staffer in the Gillard and Rudd governments last week, says there needs to be accountability. Anthony Albanese planned on attending the March4Justice today. We’ll see what he has to say.
We’ll bring you all of that and more as the day rolls on. You have Amy Remeikis with you for the day, with Mike Bowers as well as the entire Guardian Canberra team – Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst at your service.
It’s going to be a five-coffee day. At least.
Ready? Let’s get into it.