Prime Minister Scott Morrison under fire on Q+A for comments relating to women’s march and democracy



Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire on Q+A from youth influencer Yasmin Poole for refusing to attend the women’s March4Justice in Canberra this week and for his labelling of the event as a “triumph” for democracy.

Mr Morrison made the comments on Monday in Parliament, and also drew a comparison between the demonstrations in Australia and those in Myanmar, where hundreds of people have now been killed by the junta, by saying it was a triumph that the Australian protesters could march without being “met by bullets”.

Ms Poole said she was “furious” at the comments and that the PM lacked “backbone” for not attending the march.

“I think it’s a fundamental flaw in our democracy if young women can’t go to Parliament and not be raped,” Ms Poole said, alluding to an allegation made by Brittany Higgins.

“I am angry that any young woman that desires or aspires to go into politics now will have to think twice.

“That is appalling and that is a shame on our democracy.

“So to think that the Prime Minister couldn’t have the backbone to even get out there and speak to all the protesters, dozens of women wearing black in mourning, to think he could hide away in his office and make those kind of statements, is something that sits so wrong with me because my work, the majority of my work, has been encouraging young women to put their hands up and run [for office], and I had to think will they be safe.”

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Ms Poole attended the rally in Canberra and said it was laying down a marker against “violent misogyny” in Australia.

“Mourning the stories of Brittany [Higgins], the stories of the women that stepped forward, some that even are not around to tell their story now,” she said.

She then questioned why no parliamentarian had been removed from their job over Ms Higgins’s rape allegation. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has apologised for calling Ms Higgins a “lying cow”, saying she “she did not mean it in the sense it may have been understood”.

“The one person that no longer works in parliament is Brittany Higgins,” Ms Poole said.

“Why on earth has no politician that was involved in this been fired or had to leave?

“That’s an example of one brave woman stepping forward and you see how those in power close ranks

“The lying cow comment, the looking to the background of her partner, even the comment of trial by media.

“These are all putting the onus back on survivors and punishing survivors.”

Former NRL player turned mental health advocate Joe Williams said he was not surprised that this was an issue, and also called for change.

He cited historical abuse of Indigenous women as his reasoning.

“We need to start to listen and collectively as a country do better.

“We need to stop men raping women.”

Legal process leaves sexual assault victims broken

While Mr Morrison’s comments drew ire, the episode was dedicated to the issue of consent and sexual assault.

Saxon Mullins opened the show by speaking about the issue of consent.

Her own five-year case against defendant Luke Lazarus saw a jury and a series of judges find that Ms Mullins did not consent to sex, but the legal sticking point was whether Mr Lazarus knew she was not consenting.

She featured during the show in a segment also involving Vince Hurley, a police officer with 30 years’ experience.

Mr Hurley spoke of how difficult the criminal justice system could be for those who make complaints of sexual assault.

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“It’s a brutal process,” Mr Hurley said, adding that he felt during his years of service that several victims were “failed”.

“People might not agree, but there are excellent police officers,” he said.

“But the reality is, as Saxon well knows, you’re sitting in that witness box alone and your reputation is being carved up and I hate to say it, there’s only two types of justice, those that can afford it and those that can’t.

“The victim will have to get in the witness box and give them evidence and you can prepare that victim, take them into the court beforehand, explain the process and explain the legal jargon, once they’re in their witness box they’re on their own and there’s nothing you can do sitting back at the court going, ‘This poor individual is being carved up’.”

Asked if she felt reporting sexual assault to the police was worthwhile, Ms Mullins said it was tough to do so and a personal decision.

“It’s really personal to every survivor what they see as justice,” she said.

“Some people might not even consider going to the police or going through the court system.

“It’s about judging what each survivor feels is justice. But if someone asks me is it worth going through the police in process, the court process, I don’t know that I can be a massive advocate for it because like you said it’s a brutal system.”

NSW Police Commissioner’s app a ‘terrible’ idea

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The panel also turned its attention to the consent app suggested on Thursday by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.

School principal Briony Scott said the app might have the opposite effect to the one desired, and could see offenders coerce victims to give consent via a swipe.

“My fear is it might protect men,” she said.

“Can you imagine the barriers that are already facing young women in establishing sexual assault and rape, let alone if you were coerced into agreeing with the app? It might produce the counter effect.”

Broadcaster Yumi Stynes said the Commissioner’s idea “stinks”.

“It’s a terrible idea. Anybody who has ever been assaulted or even been sort of edged and pushed into something knows it’s a bad idea,” she said.

“If you can be coerced into sex, you can easily be coerced into ticking a box or swiping on an app.

“By kind of intimating you can swipe and then that’s solved and you can go ahead and it’s a free for all, that’s a pretty dangerous idea.”

Watch the full episode of Q+A on iview.

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