MORRISON ATTEMPTS TO REPAIR HIS GLASS HOUSE

Scott Morrison has issued a late-night apology over Facebook for publicly and apparently falsely invoking a sexual harassment claim against News Corp in a tense exchange with Sky News’ Andrew Clennell, in which the prime minister alleged the news giant’s HR department was investigating a staff member “who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet”.

The ABC explains that Morrison’s statement, issued at 11pm AEDT, appears to concede to News Corp’s chairman Michael Miller’s claim that no complaint existed and that the prime minister may have “conflated” an incident with a verbal exchange that was not of a sexual nature, did not take place in a toilet, and did not result in a complaint:

In the course of today’s media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company.

I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse. I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission.

In terms of fallout, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the first female president of the NSW Young Liberals, Catherine Cusack, says Morrison has no understanding of women’s experience in politics, and that, in relation to her party’s overall treatment of women, she will no longer attend party room meetings.

Elsewhere, The New Daily reports staffers held a strike yesterday in the Parliament House prayer room, which long-standing gossip supposes their colleagues use to have sex, while current and former political insiders have told the Herald Sun ($) that that Parliament House’s reportedly toxic culture can be in part attributed to, “a high pressure work environment, boozy nights, ­insecure employment and long hours away from home”.

Additionally, The Australian ($) today leads with Morrison’s pre-clash announcement that he is “very open” to gender quotas in the Liberal Party — which is split on the issue ($) — and call to end “crap”, before later getting to his false allegations against their company.

PS: In ministerial news, ABC reports that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has withdrawn from the Raisina Dialogue, which takes place in New Delhi on April 13, while Guardian Australia notes that ABC Managing Director David Anderson has told Senate estimates the organisation will vigorously defend against Christian Porter’s defamation suit. Anderson also defended journalist Louise Milligan’s reporting as of the “highest quality” and in the public interest.

NT PROMISES

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced a series of youth crime proposals which are set to increase incarcerations rates for children.

Measures include automatic revocation of bail; more offences added to the list of presumption against bail; slashing the capacity of courts to refer youth for diversionary schemes; an expansion of electronic monitoring; and expanding police powers to breath test young people.

The ABC explains the measures follow pressure from the Country Liberal Party to ditch reforms from the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory, as well as discussions with NT Police and coverage on A Current Affairs last week on Alice Springs’ spike in overall break-ins.

The proposals are only the latest in several backflips by the Labor government following the royal commission, which, among several recommendations, called to expand diversionary schemes, close Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, and raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12.

PS: The news comes as the Queensland Labor government conducts hearings for its new Youth Justice Bill, which also includes presumption against bail and GPS-monitoring measures and has faced similar criticism from youth advocacy groups.

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY

Finally, Guardian Australia reports that the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast sunshine and easing conditions across flood-hit communities in New South Wales for the rest of the week, after the state — and most others across eastern Australia — was hit with more heavy rainfall yesterday.

However 15,000 people were on standby to evacuate as of last night, with authorities warning flood waters may not abate for days, while the Herald Sun notes that a flood warning is in effect for parts of Victoria’s east coast — namely East Gippsland and West and South Gippsland — as a low pressure system moves south from New South Wales.

For the latest updates, see BOM’s national weather warnings, ABC Emergency’s postcode/suburb guide, or NSW State Emergency Service’s interactive Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley map.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I’ll let you editorialise as you like, Andrew. But if anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own workplace by comparison I’d invite you to do so.

[Sky News reporter Andrew Clennell]: Well they’re better than these, I would suggest Prime Minister.

Well let me take you up on that. Right now, you’d be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet. And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.

[Clennell]: I am not aware of it.

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

Scott Morrison

Within minutes of “imploring” people with information of abuse “to come forward”, the prime minister attempts to weaponise a HR complaint he claims was brought to his attention late Monday night.

Morrison proceeded to defend the comments as “anonymised” in Question Time, before issuing a late-night Facebook apology following a denial of the alleged incident by News Corp’s executive chairman.

THE DIRTY COUNTRY: CORRUPTION IN AUSTRALIA

Catch up on our multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia. We’ve made it free to all readers so please share widely.

The watchdog that doesn’t bark: corruption in the Australian media

“Few media companies donate to political parties — a rare exception being the Nine Network, chaired by Liberal elder Peter Costello, which hosted a fundraiser for the Morrison government in 2019. Given most political contributions are devoted to buying advertising, there would be a certain circularity to such donations anyway.

“But media companies can offer something far more effective than advertising spots: they shape the images and words that voters are presented with about politics, particularly during election campaigns. And if newspapers can shape the terms of political debate, it is television, and particularly commercial television networks, that are the most potent shapers of what messages voters receive.”

CRIKEY RECAP

Morrison is now snared in his own lies and sordid cover-up

“First, of course, Gaetjens revealed that he had halted his investigation into who knew about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins and why, miraculously, no one of the cast of thousands who knew thought to tell the prime minister. Moreover, he said he had told Scott Morrison of that decision on March 9.

“As even the centrist, both-sides press gallery hacks pointed out, this exposed Morrison as having misled Parliament, given last week on March 18, he had responded to an opposition question by insisting Gaetjens was continuing to conduct his inquiry and that ‘he has not provided me with a further update about when I might expect that report’.”


There are so few female principals of private boys’ schools that we counted them on one finger

“Last week, Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge penned this tweet: ‘A Church which says we can’t ordain women is equally obliged to ask how we might include women in leadership…’

“Never has that need been greater. The dearth of female leaders in our all-boys schools — both in the Catholic system and the wider independent sector — is a traditional misogyny that must be addressed. And it must be addressed now, to help forge a change in a culture which has broken the spirits and futures of too many young women.”


Lunch with Spud: probe threatens to lift lid on backdoor LNP donations

“Developers have been banned from donating to political parties in Queensland since 2018. But it hasn’t stopped them attending lavish dinners and long lunches with political hopefuls.

“The latest event in the spotlight was a lunch with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and former Queensland opposition leader Deb Frecklington at Richard Branson’s opulent Makepeace Island resort on Noosa River.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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‘We are guests on their land’: Rio forms Indigenous advisory group to prevent next Juukan Gorge

330,000 people in NSW brace for end of JobKeeper as economic signs lift

Therapeutic Goods Administration approves Australian-made AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use

‘We will listen’: Police and consent activist launch operation to urge victims to come forward

‘We made a mistake’: Dark Mofo pulls the plug on ‘deeply harmful’ Indigenous blood work

Top Saudi official issued death threat against UN’s Khashoggi investigator

Hundreds missing after deadly Rohingya refugee camp fire in Bangladesh

THE COMMENTARIAT

Hypocrisy is not on trial, the behaviour of men is ($) — Clare Armstrong (The Daily Telegraph): “There are many people in parliament who have sought to apply moral relativism to the ever-growing number of shocking allegations. They argue a power imbalance between an MP and a staffer isn’t as bad as a rape, or that the response to a bunch of guys wanking on a desk should not be stronger than one to an alleged assault. Even more have been tempted to argue false equivalence – our side isn’t perfect, but neither is theirs. It was this path Morrison chose when he — completely without the knowledge or consent of the person involved — publicly aired a HR matter involving a journalist in Canberra as a ‘defence’ proving no workplace is perfect.”

How to repair aged care and heal the nation’s broken heartMike Baird (The Sydney Morning Herald): “The most insightful part of the royal commission analysis to me is the comparison to the healthcare system. ‘Under Medicare all Australians are entitled to receive the healthcare that they need. This is not the case for aged care.’ Think about this for a minute — our elderly turn up to the aged care system and will not necessarily receive the care they need or be told it could be available in three years. Not acceptable.”

Memo Liberal women: if you really want to confront misogyny in your party, you need to fix the policiesMichelle Arrow (The Conversation): “A Liberal male staffer masturbating on a female MP’s desk is merely a symptom of something very wrong in the party’s attitudes to women, not the sum total of it. Let’s start with JobSeeker. Women form the majority of 2 million JobSeeker recipients affected by the federal government’s decision to replace the $75-a-week Coronavirus Supplement with a $25-a-week permanent increase in JobSeeker. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) warned that rolling back the supplement would have a ‘devastating’ impact on women. The government did it anyway.”

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Canberra

  • Deputy Labor leader and Shadow Minister for National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills, Small Business and Science Richard Marles will present “Why we need to celebrate science…” at the National Press Club.

Australia

  • Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam and Vice President of Australians for War Powers Reform Dr Alison Broinowski will discuss “How is government accountable for what happens in armed conflict involving Australian forces?” in an Australia Institute webinar.

Peter Fray

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