Laura Tingle (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

The recent media focus on the toxic male culture of Parliament House has demonstrated something remarkable in the press gallery: the A-team is overwhelmingly women. This A-team is changing what gets considered “news” and how news events get hammered out as the political narrative.

It’s caught the government by surprise. The old tactics just don’t work; whether it’s dismissing unfortunate “one-off” events, hiding behind the “no one told me” defence, or even playing the “as a father” gambit.

The narrative is now out of their control. This is a broad-ranging critique in how patriarchy works in Australia’s parliament and elected government. As women, the members of the press gallery A-team can bring their own lived experiences to the story. And they’re not buying the lines fed out by the boys in the government.

This shift matters. It matters how the press gallery acts or reacts to the political agenda. It shapes the nationwide news agenda.

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Not so long ago, news stories like Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation would have been simply treated as a story about a crime — not a story about politics and culture in their deepest sense. It’s deplorable, sure, but it would fall too far outside the personal understanding of the gallery’s male opinion makers to be fitted comfortably into the news narrative of the moment.

There’s still a bit of a shrugging “leave it to the coppers” (safely ignoring that only one in 10 complaints results in a conviction). That was Morrison’s messaging before his “Jenny and I spoke last night” epiphany. But it’s a message that’s out of sort with the gallery leaders’ experience and understanding of sexism in workplace cultures.

Gallery leaders set the agenda, break the news and influence opinions. They scare politicians.

While there are still some blokes in the current A-team (and not just out of affirmative action!), the gallery leaders and rising stars are now predominantly women, largely working in digital and new media or the ABC.

With apologies for oversight, this includes journalists like news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden; Katharine Murphy and Amy Remeikis at Guardian Australia; Ten’s Tegan George; Karen Middleton from The Saturday Paper; Michelle Grattan from The Conversation; and Laura Tingle, Patricia Karvelas and Shalailah Medhora from the ABC.

You can see it on Insiders. When the panel features the A-team, it can sparkle. When not, well… not so much.

Partly, this reflects a broader trend in journalism. A longitudinal study of the journalism jobs crisis in Australia published last week found that a majority of working journalists are now women. (Of course, management remains overwhelmingly male and pay inequities endure.)

Newsrooms have changed dramatically. Just 20 years ago, only a third of journalists were women and they were likely to be excluded from high-status rounds like politics (although plenty of the current influencers have spent decades building their skills). This discrimination endured even though most new starters in the industry — as cadets, as students — have been women since the late 1960s.

Graph journalists (or any profession) by ability on a Gaussian normal distribution curve and you’ll see women are more likely to fall right of the average than men. Structured discrimination means women just have to be better to do as well as their male counterparts.

This experience means that just about all journalists see the overwhelmingly male-ness of the post-2013 governments — along with politicians’ apparent blindness to that culture — as, well, odd.

And this is why Morrison works so hard to bypass the gallery leaders. He uses his own personal photographer to build his daggy dad schtick on social media. When he wants to be interviewed, he’s more likely to be offered up to Sky after dark’s Paul Murray than, say, Leigh Sales. Why would he want clips shaped by the ABC’s social team rather than the more supportive News Corp?

He avoids the A-team. As Katharine Murphy reported on the weekend, his press conferences are marked by “smug silence and dogged stonewalling”.

In the midst of a workplace culture crisis, that smug silence clearly isn’t going to cut it anymore.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.