Tearful, chastened Morrison admits he’s failed women, vows to ‘get house in order’

Scott Morrison has pledged to “get this house in order” in an extraordinary media conference after weeks of pressure over rape allegations in federal parliament.

Mar 23, 2021, updated Mar 23, 2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is frustrated with half of the nation in lockdown. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is frustrated with half of the nation in lockdown. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

One week after refusing to meet thousands of women protesting outside Parliament House, the prime minister pledged to do better and admitted some of his responses had fallen short.

He tearfully defended focusing on consulting his wife Jenny and speaking “as a father” when responding to sexual assault.

Morrison’s government is under colossal pressure after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was raped by a former colleague in Parliament House in 2019.

That triggered a wave of revelations about harassment, assault and sexism and a national protest movement calling for more action.

“I acknowledge that there have been people who haven’t been happy with how I have responded in every single way over the course of this last month. I acknowledge that absolutely,” Mr Morrison said.

“I am setting about to put that right.”

His sombre tone evaporated when Mr Morrison launched an extraordinary attack on a Sky News journalist after he questioned if his job should be in jeopardy over the myriad issues.

“You are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal, but be careful,” he said.

The prime minister claimed he knew about a person at the news organisation who had a complaint against them relating to harassing a woman in a toilet.

“You are not aware of it. So let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that,” Morrison said.

Morrison will address coalition staff later on Tuesday, while Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is set to speak to Liberal and Nationals MPs.

After cabinet minister Karen Andrews suggested quotas for the Liberal Party, Morrison said he had been open to the idea “for some time”.

“We tried it the other way and it isn’t getting us the results so I would like to see us do better on that front,” the federal Liberal leader said.

Morrison admitted his responses to the furore around the treatment of women in Australia had fallen short.

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“These events have triggered, right across this building and indeed right across the country, women who have put up with this rubbish and this cloud for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did,” he said.

“It has been going on, we have been talking about it in this place for a month, they have been living with it for their entire lives.”

He said it had been a traumatic month.

“We must get this house in order,” Mr Morrison said.

A guard on duty the night of the alleged rape of Higgins in a parliamentary office has questioned the prime minister’s claim the accused man was sacked because of a “security breach”.

Morrison said the accused man was sacked because he had “form”, including accessing classified documents in the then defence industry minister’s office.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham insists attending the office out of hours for a non-work purpose while drunk did amount to a security breach.

“In relation to ministerial offices and sensitive ministerial offices, there’s another level of protocols that exist,” he told the ABC.

Birmingham said security did nothing wrong in allowing them access to Senator Reynolds’ office.

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