NSW Liberal MP unleashes on Scott Morrison over PM’s sex harassment scandal response

Scott Morrison has been rebuked as out of touch with women by members of his own party after yet another disastrous response to a political sex scandal. 

The prime minister made an emotional speech on Tuesday in response to Liberal Party staffers sharing lewd photos of sexual acts inside Parliament House. 

He choked back tears sharing how his wife Jenny, two young daughters, and widowed mother motivate him every day to improve the treatment of women.

But the emotional address didn’t pull the heart-strings of millions of women around Australia and even some MPs in his own party who believe he ‘doesn’t get it’.

NSW upper house MP Catherine Cusack was particularly incensed and tore into her party’s federal leader in an extraordinary series of tweets.  

Mr Morrison was also forced to make a late-night apology after incorrectly claiming Australia’s largest media company was facing a sex harassment scandal of its own.

NSW Liberal upper house MP Catherine Cusack (right with NSW Premier Gladys Berjiklian) is disillusioned with her party’s treatment of women and has slammed the Prime Minister 

‘Dear Prime Minister I am not your wife/mother/daughter. I am a female Liberal MP,’ she said on Tuesday night.

‘I know you love family as do I – and mean well but you clearly do not understand anything about our political experiences. 

‘Please talk your women MPs. If they feel safe – they will tell you!’

Ms Cusack slammed Mr Morrison over his lack of understanding of women’s political experiences, many of whom have detailed sexual harassment in recent days.

‘Let me put it bluntly. I would not even be in parliament but for the heroic efforts of feminists before me,’ she said.

‘So why did they make so much effort? What is my responsibility here? Is a no brainer we must stand with women of Australia be true to them and ourselves.’

The first female president of the NSW Young Liberals claims there has never been a worse time in the party’s history for Liberal women. 

She pleaded with federal Liberals to show the character and guts that got them to parliament by standing up to Mr Morrison. 

Ms Cusack said that Scott Morrison's (pictured with wife Jenny) love for his family doesn't make him an icon for women's rights

Ms Cusack said that Scott Morrison’s (pictured with wife Jenny) love for his family doesn’t make him an icon for women’s rights

Scott Morrison takes a few moments to reflect before his  emotional press conference to address the latest scandal to rock Parliament House

Scott Morrison takes a few moments to reflect before his  emotional press conference to address the latest scandal to rock Parliament House

Ms Cusack later tweeted that federal females MPs are furious and embarrassed but refused to speak out due to ‘party loyalty’.

‘I have personally passed my tipping point. I can’t defend the indefensible. If he empowers his female MPs to publicly state their thoughts – then we have the revolution we need,’ she said.

The state MP was questioned by followers for implying women needed Mr Morrison to empower them to speak up.

‘He is their boss. Like any workplace the boss sets the tone. I obviously have not waited for permission but I understand why others have,’ she replied.

‘My colleagues feel constrained by loyalty to the Party that put them into Parliament. I urge them however to find their voices.’

Ms Cusack pleaded for federal female MPs to ‘step up’ and make the prime minister more aware of the issues facing women in the party.

‘We don’t get to be MPs because we are shrinking violets,’ she tweeted.

‘I am asking my federal women colleagues show the character and guts that got you into the role – just tell the PM the problem. Silence inappropriate on this great issue at this great moment. That’s my message.’ 

Mr Morrison on Tuesday expressed his disgust with Liberal Party staffers sharing lewd photos of sexual acts inside Parliament House (pictured)

Mr Morrison on Tuesday expressed his disgust with Liberal Party staffers sharing lewd photos of sexual acts inside Parliament House (pictured)

The staffer who was fired (left, pictured with Julie Bishop) allegedly filmed himself performing a sexual act inside a female Liberal MP's office

The staffer who was fired (left, pictured with Julie Bishop) allegedly filmed himself performing a sexual act inside a female Liberal MP’s office

Ms Cusack admitted she was not confident Mr Morrison would step up and effectively lead on the issue, and so called on female MPs to put party lines aside and band together to push for change.

‘I am really appealing to my female colleagues in Federal Parliament to give it a go. On this issue. Now. Just tell him because he doesn’t get it and they really can make a difference,’ she said.

‘I am calling on my female Liberal MP colleagues to rise above the usual business of politics and have courage. 

‘It’s no use being privately furious. More is needed. I can only ask. I am guessing there are women in my party who can.

‘I am beyond embarrassment and I hope others pass their tolerance points too.’ 

Finally, Ms Cusack stressed eradicating misogynistic parliamentary culture was also a men’s issue and they also needed to get involved.

‘Good men are as repulsed by these behaviors as women. I have sons in their 20s – loyal Liberals and they want to see this addressed as much as I do. The culture is toxic for everyone irrespective of gender,’ she said.

‘The behaviours repulsing women are also repulsing good men we need in Parliament to help the change. This is not up to women alone we need good men too.’ 

A man is pictured pointing at a female Liberal MP's Parliamentary desk in a still from a video. He goes on to commit a lewd sexual act on the desk

A man is pictured pointing at a female Liberal MP’s Parliamentary desk in a still from a video. He goes on to commit a lewd sexual act on the desk

Ms Cusack also told the Sydney Morning Herald that loving his family didn’t make Mr Morrison an icon for women’s rights.

‘When I heard the Prime Minister say that, I wanted to scream ‘I am not your wife’ but that does not mean I do not matter, we all matter and Scott Morrison does not seem to get it,’ she told the publication.

‘Federal Liberal women need to band together and explain to the Prime Minister just how serious this has become because he is living in his own bubble.’

She was so disillusioned about her party’s treatment of women that she has indicated to Premier Gladys Berejiklian that she will not attend parliamentary party room meetings.

‘I intend to take some leave and while I won’t be leaving the Liberal party, I will no longer be listening to the [Berejiklian] government,’ Ms Cusack said. 

Federal science minister Karen Andrews has since also vowed to speak up.

‘I have had an absolute gutful, and my conscience will not allow me to remain quiet. There are some specific instances in this building that are absolutely unacceptable,’ she told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

‘The point that I’m at now is our processes to attract more women into my party and into the parliament have not been as successful as they need to be, and we can’t continue doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.’ 

Federal minister Karen Andrews (pictured on Tuesday) has since vowed to speak up

Federal minister Karen Andrews (pictured on Tuesday) has since vowed to speak up

Mr Morrison’s emotions got the better of him during Tuesday’s press conference as he made a sudden allegation about News Corp.

‘Right now, you would be aware in your own organisation, there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet,’ he claimed while being grilled by Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell. 

‘And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department. So let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that.’ 

The outburst sparked a angry response from News Corp Australasian executive chairman Michael Miller insisting there was no such complaint and the PM was dead wrong.

‘Prime Minister Scott Morrison was wrong today to claim an investigation is under way into a complaint accusing an employee of harassment against a woman in a female toilet,’ Mr Miller said in statement.

‘No complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint.’

Mr Miller said the PM appeared to have conflated unrelated non-sexual matters within the media company and come up with something that never happened.

Some staffers have used a small prayer room on the upper level of Parliament House to have sex, a whistleblower said in bombshell revelations

Some staffers have used a small prayer room on the upper level of Parliament House to have sex, a whistleblower said in bombshell revelations

A remorseful Mr Morrison backtracked on the claims in a grovelling apology late Tuesday night, saying he deeply regretted his ‘insensitive response’. 

‘I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.’

However, Mr Morrison then further confused matters by appearing to imply an incident did actually occur – even after accepting it didn’t.

‘I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse,’ he said on Tuesday night.

‘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. I owe it to all women in this country, not least the women in my own life so precious to me. I owe it to them to do better.’ 

Mr Morrison was forced to address the media after a disturbing report on Monday night showed images allegedly shared by senior staffers of solo sex acts inside Parliament House, and allegations of parties involving escorts and ‘rent boys’.

The report came just weeks after political staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped inside Parliament House as further revelations of the mistreatment of women came to light – prompting the Prime Minister to hold a press conference.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison choked back tears as he spoke about his wife Jenny and daughters Abbey and Lily (pictured)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison choked back tears as he spoke about his wife Jenny and daughters Abbey and Lily (pictured)

He called on politicians and staff to ‘get this house in order’ and choked back tears as he spoke about his daughters, wife and mother – adding ‘I say to you girls – I will not let you down’.   

‘They motivate me every day on this issue,’ he said. ‘And to them, I say to you girls, I will not let you down.’ 

The Prime Minister declined to attend last weekend’s March For Justice rally which called for stronger action against a perceived sexist culture in Canberra, and told protesters that they were lucky to live in a country where such rallies could be held.

However the latest allegations prompted a more forthright stance.

‘I am shocked and disgusted – it is shameful,’ Mr Morrison said.

‘We must put the politics aside of these things, and we must recognise this problem, acknowledge it and we must fix it.’

Statement from Michael Miller 

 Prime Minister Scott Morrison was wrong today to claim an investigation is under way into a complaint accusing an employee of harassment against a woman in a female toilet. 

No complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint.

News Corp and Sky News take seriously any issues raised by staff and our utmost priority is to respect their privacy and confidentiality. 

This is standard business practice and because of this, we do not normally comment on private matters.

However given the Prime Minister’s extraordinary public claims made at a press conference broadcast live across the nation, I want to put to rest any suggestion that an employee of our company is being investigated for conduct suggested by Mr Morrison.

News Corp Australasian executive chairman Michael Miller has denied the explosive claims

News Corp Australasian executive chairman Michael Miller has denied the explosive claims

In recent weeks, following the reporting of matters of sexually inappropriate behaviour at Parliament House, our HR team proactively gave our staff the opportunity to talk to us in confidence about their well-being. I thank those who did so.

During these proactive conversations, the News Corp’s HR team learned of a verbal exchange between two News Corp employees in Parliament House in Canberra last year. 

The exchange was about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint. Following those inquiries, our HR team wrote to one of the people involved and the matter was resolved.

The Prime Minister appears to have joined these two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment in a toilet that is under current investigation.

This is simply untrue and it undermines the principle that people must be able to raise issues safely and in confidence.

News Corp has no further statements to make on this matter.

Mr Morrison broadened out his response, citing not only sexual misconduct allegations but other impediments he said women faced in the workplace, where many complained of being under-valued and underpaid.

‘Whether this is unconscious deafness and blindness, or whether it is wilful malevolence that is behind all of this, it must be acknowledged, it must be called out, and it must stop,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘That is all our job, it is my job, it is my ministers jobs, it is my members and senators jobs, it is your job.’ 

He said he was aware many Australian women were not happy with his government’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct in Canberra.  

‘I acknowledge many have not liked or appreciated some of my own personal responses to this over the course of the last month, I accept that,’ he said.  

‘Whether that was seeking to openly share how I try and deal with such dramatic events, people might like the fact that I discuss these with my family – they are the closest people in my world to me.’ 

Mr Morrison was criticised when Ms Higgins came forward with her allegations for saying his wife Jenny had given him new perspective by asking him ‘what would you want to happen if it were our girls?’ 

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, tasked with an inquiry into workplace conditions in Parliament House, will address the Coalition party room. 

Brittany Higgins at the March 4 Justice on March 15. She shocked Australia when she came forward with allegations she was raped by a male colleague in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds

Brittany Higgins at the March 4 Justice on March 15. She shocked Australia when she came forward with allegations she was raped by a male colleague in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds

Mr Morrison hit out at News Corp in the question-and-answer session after his press conference - saying there were new allegations being investigated by the organisation involving the harassment of a woman in a woman's toilet

Mr Morrison hit out at News Corp in the question-and-answer session after his press conference – saying there were new allegations being investigated by the organisation involving the harassment of a woman in a woman’s toilet

Industry Minister Karen Andrews says other individuals involved in the scandal should stop hiding and leave.

‘I have had an absolute gutful and my conscience will not allow me to remain quiet,’ she told reporters.

‘There are some specific instances in this building that are absolutely unacceptable. What does it say about an individual that thinks that sort of behaviour is okay?’

The sexual acts – some of which took place on the desks of federal female MPs – were carried out more than two years ago but only came to light after one of the staffers dobbed the rest of them in.

A government source told ABC News on Monday evening one of the staffers was sacked as the bombshell allegations came to light. 

A whistleblower shared footage of a staffer performing a sex act on himself inside a female Liberal MPs office.

MR MORRISON’S SPEECH IN FULL

‘We must put the politics aside of these things, and we must recognise this problem, acknowledgment, we must fix it.

‘This has been a very traumatic month. It began with Brittany Higgins and her revelations of what took place in this very building.

‘I remember that day very well, I was equally shocked and stunned at receiving that use also.

‘These events have triggered, right across this building and indeed right across the country, women who have put up with this rubbish and this crap for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did.

‘It has been going on, we have been talking about it in this place for a month, they have been living with it for their entire lives.

‘The women listening to me today know that to be true, so as much as it has been a topic of discussion here, and around the country specifically in relation to these disgraceful acts, it is something that has been the lived experience of Australian women for a very long time, and I welcome the spotlight that has now been placed on this.

‘I acknowledge that many have not liked or unappreciated some of my own personal responses to this over the course of the last month, I accept that.

‘Whether that was seeking to openly share how I try and deal with such dramatic events, people might like the fact I discuss these with my family, they are the closest people in my world to me.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny at the annual Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House in September 2019. He told his family emotionally during Tuesday's press conference: 'They motivate me every day on this issue'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny at the annual Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House in September 2019. He told his family emotionally during Tuesday’s press conference: ‘They motivate me every day on this issue’

‘But is how I deal with things, I always have. I have grown up in a loving and supportive family, and I discussed this is my family and those who are closest to me – no offence was intended by me by saying that I discuss these issues with my wife.

‘Equally, that is in no way indicated that these events had not already dramatically affected me already at that point. Equally, I accept that many were unhappy with the labels that are used on the day of the protest. No offence was intended by that either.

‘I could have chosen different words, I have already explained those matters in the house. 

‘What I am even more concerned about, even more importantly, I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them, and that greatly distresses me.

‘I have been doing a lot of listening over this past month, not for the first time, now is not the time for me to run over whether as a Minister for immigration or a Treasurer, or a Minister for Social Services, the keen interest I have shown in these issues, I’m not going to do that today.

Brittany Higgins (pictured) went public with the allegation she was raped by a male colleague inside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' office in 2019

Brittany Higgins (pictured) went public with the allegation she was raped by a male colleague inside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019

‘Particularly on these issues over the last because of mother I have been listening carefully, I have had many colleagues, I have had many friends and others that I have regular contact with, talk with me openly about the issues, other traumatic things that they have had to deal with over their lifetimes and members of their family.

‘Let me tell you what I have heard. Women are too afraid to call out, bad behaviour for fear of losing a job for being intimidated in the workplace.

‘That is not OK, it is not their fault, it is the environment we have allowed to be created. Women who are afraid to walk to their car from the train, and they carry their keys in their hand like a knife for fear of being attacked. That is not OK. That is not acceptable.

‘In this country, our country as great as Australia, women walk daily that fear.

I have heard that women are overlooked, talked over, by men, whether it is in board rooms, meeting rooms, rooms, media conferences, cabinets, or anywhere else.

‘Overlooked and treated like they have nothing valuable to contribute. I have heard about being marginalised, women being intimidated, women being belittled, women being diminished, and women being objectified. That is not OK.

‘I have heard that women, when offered a job, take the salary offered because they do not feel they can ask for more. Whereas the blokes do. And they get it. That is not OK.

‘Whether this is unconscious deafness and blindness, or whether it is wilful malevolence that is behind all of this, it must be acknowledged, it must be called out, and it must stop.

‘That is all our job, it is my job, it is my ministers jobs, it is my members and senators jobs, it is your job.

‘This is not something that is of a scale that any government can simply change, it is something we must change as a society because we know it happens all over this country, but for me and my house, the house I work in here, then we must take responsibility, it is our problem here, it is our responsibility here, and I’m committed to dealing with that.

‘We must do better in this place. All of us, and in our country we must do better.

Mr Morrison was visibly emotional on Tuesday morning as he called on Canberra to 'get this house in order'

Mr Morrison was visibly emotional on Tuesday morning as he called on Canberra to ‘get this house in order’

‘Now, forgive me this indulgence, I want women to have at least the same opportunities and the same voice and the same safety as men in this country.

‘I have the deepest of vested interest, criticise me if you like for speaking about my daughters, but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My mother, my widowed mother is the centre of my life.

‘They motivate me every day on this issue. They have motivated me my entire life, they have taught me the values and the faith has sustains me every single day in this job.

‘Which is why I am here, I owe them everything. And to them I say to you girls, I will not let you down.

‘To the many other women who are in this place, who have shared their stories with me, I thank you for your feedback, your honesty, your support, your council, and your courage.

‘I know there are plenty of women who work in this building today, whether they be members or senators, investors, shadow ministers, staff, journalists, who say why should I bother? Why should I bother? Why should I not just walk away?

‘There has never been a more important time for women to stand in this place.

‘I want to see more women in this place, I have done anything to get more women in this place and I intend to do more. I have put more women in my cabinet than any other Prime Minister has before, and I look forward to doing more. 

‘I need women to stand with me as we go about this, as we stand together, I needed that you stated this place, I need them to stand right where they are, I did that to continue to blaze the trail right here this place, by their courage and I call for question.’

The anonymous source also told Ten News MPs and government staffers used a small prayer room on the upper level of Parliament House to have sex.

‘I could probably say there’s very little meditation or prayer going on in that room,’ he said. 

He also claimed prostitutes and ‘rent boys’ were brought into Parliament House for the pleasure of Coalition MPs.

‘Having sex, procuring rent boys… in Parliament House, procured by staffers for MPs,’ he told Ten News.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham condemned the behaviour on Monday and said those involved would be sacked.

‘I am disgusted and appalled,’ he said. ‘It shows a complete disregard for all that our parliamentary democracy stands for.’

‘It also demonstrates an enormous disrespect for the employing member or senator in relation to those staff and those officers.

‘It equally shows a complete contempt for the Australian taxpayers who have paid the wages for such staff and, in my opinion, any individuals who engaged in such activity ought to prepare to pack their bags and leave the building for good.’

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins (pictured in 2018) will hand down her final report on inappropriate workplace culture in Parliament House in November

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins (pictured in 2018) will hand down her final report on inappropriate workplace culture in Parliament House in November

The whistleblower told The Australian there was a culture of men who thought they could do ‘whatever they want’. 

‘I don’t think they’ve broken any laws — but morally, they’re bankrupt,’ he said.  

Ten News and The Australian obtained some of the lewd videos and images filmed inside Parliament House.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the behaviour in the strongest possible terms and urged anyone who knew of more to come forward.

‘Everyone has a right to feel safe at work. The reports aired tonight are disgusting and sickening,’ he said.

‘It’s not good enough, and is totally unacceptable. The people who come to work in this building are better than this.

‘The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in parliament, and for the ideals the parliament is supposed to represent.’

Mr Morrison said he had identified the staff member at the centre of the allegations and terminated his employment immediately.

One staffer was confirmed to have been sacked on Monday. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham (pictured)  said the others would also lose their jobs

One staffer was confirmed to have been sacked on Monday. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham (pictured)  said the others would also lose their jobs

Parliament House, Canberra, has been rocked by fresh allegations of sexual depravity as senior Coalition staffers allegedly filmed themselves in sexual acts on female MP’s desks and in the Parliamentary prayer room – and shared them on Facebook Messenger

‘I urge anybody with further information to come forward. There is also the serious incident support line that we have established that staff and former staff are encouraged to use,’ he said.

‘I will have more to say on this and the cultural issues we confront as a Parliament in coming days.’ 

Senator Birmingham said it further demonstrated the need for the inquiry by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins into parliament’s workplace culture. 

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is leading a review of workplace culture in Parliament House in the wake of the Brittany Higgins rape allegations.

Ms Higgins says she was raped by a former colleague inside Parliament House in March 2019.

Ms Jenkins’ review is expected to issue a final report in November.      

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