Eric Abetz
Senator Eric Abetz (Image: AAP)

Aid for Abetz The brewing storm around allegations that Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said Brittany Higgins was “so disgustingly drunk” on the night she was allegedly raped in Parliament that “[she] would sleep with anybody” should reveal a few things. (Abetz denies he made the comments.)

First, it provides extra evidence that despite his rhetoric, Prime Minster Scott Morrison’s kneejerk response to these situations is to side with the bloke (although in Abetz’s case it did land as a little equivocal, with Morrison simply stressing that Abetz denies the claims and “will continue to serve in the roles that he now serves within the Senate”).

It will also reveal the balance of power in Tasmania Liberals. The allegations were made under parliamentary privilege by Tasmanian state Liberal-turned-independent Sue Hickey, a match tossed over her shoulder two days after the party told her she wasn’t going to be endorsed in the next election.

Given it was Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein who had personally told Hickey she was out, what happened next came as a surprise. Gutwein, apparently concluding his enemy’s enemy was now his friend, publicly backed Hickey, and wrote to Morrison asking him to “consider” the allegations.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial and get Crikey straight to your inbox

By submitting this form you are agreeing to Crikey's Terms and Conditions.

Abetz’s Christian right faction has long been the dominant force in Tassie conservative politics. But is he more powerful than the state’s premier? Gutwein, who is now dealing with minority government, is about to find out.

Teflon treasurer With Morrison flailing to the point he may have even put News Corp offside, keep an eye out for more coverage of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg — famously assiduous about his media profile — like the weekend piece in the Nine papers, describing him as “now the undisputed heir to the Liberal Party leadership”, and a Monday CDB item describing his Teflon-like abilities to sail unscathed through a hazardous political environment”.

Meanwhile, given this really would be a capital time for the opposition to put forward a woman as leader, we’ll continue our watching brief on Tanya Plibersek’s appearances in the conservative media.

Has anybody seen the minister for women? It’s a point we’ve made before and it’s a point we’ll keep making: what is the point of having a minister for women if the specific events of 2021 have not elicited a single media statement from her office?

The allegations of rape in Parliament, staffers masturbating on female politicians’ desks, and a major rally dedicated to eradicating harassment and assault against women have assailed Parliament in recent weeks. In that time, Minister for Women Marise Payne opposed an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter (allegations Porter denies), defended the pause of investigation into the handling of Higgins’ rape allegations, and declined to attend the March4Justice.

She and Senator Anne Ruston also launched the third phase of the government’s “Stop It At The Start” campaign targeting domestic violence, an ad series encouraging people to speak out against the disrespect of women: “If you see disrespect, unmute yourself.”