Scott Morrison has fought back tears as he admitted many women “believe I have not heard them” after facing criticism for his response to men’s mistreatment of women in parliament.
The prime minister has come under fire for his response to a series of revelations which have rocked parliament, ranging from rape allegations to sex scandals.
The prime minister acknowledged it was the latest scandal in a “traumatic month” within parliament, beginning with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegation she was raped by a colleague in the building in 2019.
He admitted many people were disappointed by the way he had responded to that allegation.
“I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them. That greatly distresses me. I have been doing a lot of listening over this past month, not for the first time,” he said.
Mr Morrison did not read an historical rape allegation levelled against Christian Porter, which the Attorney-General vigorously denied, when it was mailed to him.
He also declined to meet with March 4 Justice protesters in person, causing outcry by suggesting it was a good thing marchers weren’t “met with bullets” as they were in other countries.
It came after he was criticised for saying he had viewed Ms Higgins’ allegation through the prism of his own daughters.
He accepted he could have “chosen different words” but said the comments were made “in the best of faith” and no offence was intended.
Mr Morrison choked up as he defended the comments, saying his family were “the closest people” in his life and claiming that was “how I deal with things”.
“Criticise me if you like for speaking about my daughters, but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My mother, my widowed mother is the centre of my life. They motivate me every day on this issue,” he said.
“They have motivated me my entire life, they have taught me the values and the faith has sustains me every single day in this job.”
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally told Sky News the press conference was a “mea culpa” but said Mr Morrison had “got it wrong” for weeks.
“He got it wrong in his language. He got it wrong in his failure to respond. That is what he said and I acknowledge it,” he said.
“How have we gotten to a point where it’s taken a prime minister, five weeks to acknowledge that, and more?”
Senator Keneally said Mr Morrison needed to match his rhetoric with action on domestic violence leave, the gender pay gap, and superannuation inequities between men and women.
“If we want to believe that the Prime Minister has heard Australian women. We now need to see it in his actions,” she said.
A Liberal staffer was sacked on Monday after Channel 10 aired revelations he had sent an image of himself performing a lewd act on a female MP’s desk to a group of fellow staffers.
Mr Morrison said he was “shocked and disgusted” by the “shameful” revelation, but insisted the mistreatment of women was not confined to one side of politics.
He also became prickly when pressed on how he could have only been informed of the incident last night, warning the media had skeletons in its own closet.
“Let’s not all of us who sit in glass houses here start getting into that,” he said.