(Image: Tom Red/Private Media)

The Morrison government has turned its back on women, men and even their own voters by refusing to front the thousands of women and allies marching today demanding change to Canberra’s culture of sexual harassment and violence.

The excuses for not meeting organisers at the march are absurd. It wouldn’t take very long to stroll down the steps at Parliament, wave at the crowds and wander back in. I should know: I did the walk this morning.

Instead, the government is using its usual tactics of deny, distract, and deflect. This morning Attorney-General Christian Porter also announced he is launching defamation proceedings against the ABC.

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Who are the snubbers?

Minister for Women Marise Payne — and her inactive and underfunded Office for Women — has refused to meet with organisers today. She has told them to “email or post” their petition, “as consistent with protocol”.

Morrison, who hasn’t had enough time to plan a strategic photoshoot, instead sent in Superannuation Minister Jane Hume to try to convince March 4 Justice organiser Janine Hendry to meet him privately.

Smiling for the cameras in the hallways of Parliament, Hume stopped Hendry and said: “The fact that you’ve been invited is really, really exciting.” Hume is planning on attending the march.

On ABC’s Insiders yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he doesn’t have a spare 10 minutes to address the largest feminist social movement in recent decades. Hendry bumped into McCormack this morning and pushed him to respond to the landmark Respect@Work report into workplace sexual harassment which came out 14 months ago.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said he wouldn’t be joining, while Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he is waiting for a personal invitation from members of his Victorian electorate.

NSW Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Jodi McKay have all refused to attend the march in Sydney.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and shadow minister for women Tanya Plibersek will be attending the march, as will Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson.

Snubbed right back

This morning Hendry announced she would not privately meet with Morrison.

“I read the room. I’m here representing the voices of tens of thousands of women across Australia and, unlike our prime minister, I’ve heard what they’ve said. In reality, we’ve come to the prime minister’s front door. I’d like to see him walk across the threshold and come see us,” she said.

A petition with 10 demands, ranging from launching an investigation into gendered violence to implementing the full 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work report, will be delivered to women members of Parliament. It calls on the prime minister “to act against gendered violence in Parliament and all workplaces”.

A poorly planned strategy

The backlash against the government’s “hear no evil, speak no evil” approach is growing.

More than half of Australians support an independent inquiry into whether Christian Porter is a fit and proper person to be attorney-general. Just 20% oppose the inquiry. Even among Coalition voters support for an inquiry is high, at 54%.

Support for Scott Morrison, meanwhile, hasn’t been this low since he took off on holiday while the country was on fire in 2019.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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