Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly acknowledged growing anger on Tuesday with his handling of the scandal over the treatment of women in politics, after an anonymous whistleblower leaked images and videos of sexual acts performed in Parliament.
Morrison has spoken of his “disgust” and vowed to act within hours after the Australian newspaper and Channel 10 revealed photos and videos of various government personnel performing sexual acts on legislators’ desks.
The complainant told the media that government personnel used the parliament’s prayer room for sex and that they had brought sex workers into the building.
The videos and images were shared in a Facebook group chat, where employees exchanged explicit photos of themselves in a daily routine.
The prime minister has referred to the group chat at the center of the scandal as “absolutely disgraceful” and said he was “completely stunned.”
He has called for an increase in the number of women joining politics after the latest revelations rocked Australia’s political scene.
“I have done many things to bring more women in this place and I intend to do more,” Morrison said, referring to the House of Parliament. He admitted that his party must “do better.”
A government staff member has been removed from office following the allegations. The government has promised new measures.
A ruling coalition under sustained pressure
In recent weeks, the ruling Liberal-National coalition has come under constant pressure, as former political adviser Brittany Higgins said in February she was raped by a high-level colleague in a minister’s office in 2019. Higgins said that he did not go to the police for fear of losing his job.
“This is a realistic fear as they can be fired at any time if they have lost the trust of their deputy or senator,” Maria Maley, senior professor of politics at the Australian National University, told Euronews.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Christian Porter stood as cabinet minister at the center of a rape charge against a 16-year-old girl in 1988.
He refused to resign and denied the accusations made against him. Morrison supported Porter and declined calls to suspend him.
Australia’s prime minister struggles to tackle the problem in a “convincing or authentic way”
Morrison has been criticized for his handling of the matter.
Maley said Morrison is “repeatedly misunderstanding the situation” and “then has to retract some of his comments and apologize.”
“At a press conference yesterday, he lashed out at the media and claimed that there was a case of sexual harassment against a journalist; this was false and he had to apologize,” Maley added.
Morrison was also criticized for not leaving his office to meet with the women who gathered at Parliament House in Canberra to protest against gender-based violence on March 15.
“This could affect his chances in the election as it can undermine his image as someone extremely confident and in control. Voters have long suspected he lacked substance, and this is exposing him,” Maria Maley said.
It is believed that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s investigation into Parliament’s culture and employee misconduct will bring to light many more revelations.
Australia has a large number of political staff compared to other countries, with more than 600 in the House of Parliament.
“Many of them are young and inexperienced, they are recruited not on merit but on political networks and patronage. Their names are kept secret from the public and are subject to little scrutiny and no scrutiny,” Maley revealed.
Proposals have been made to make training on sexual harassment mandatory for all staff and parliamentarians, as they have not attended the training provided in the past.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism