politics

Last night, we watched a woman speak about Australia's reckoning. A man immediately interrupted her.

On Thursday night's episode of Q&A, a mother and her teen daughter asked the panel if Prime Minister Scott Morrison's support for women was 'genuine'.

"In a recent press conference, Scott Morrison said he believes in all the women of Australia. This is despite for months, broadly dismissing or ignoring the allegations of sexual assault and harassment made by women from within the Parliament," the audience member asked.

"My question to the panel is whether we are to believe that Scott Morrison is genuinely committed to this issue or if these are the words of a politician scrambling to find his way out of a messy predicament, largely of his own making?"

Watch: Sam Mostyn and Adam Creighton on Q&A. Post continues below video.


Video via ABC.

Chief Executive Women President Sam Mostyn said this was a question women across the country were grappling with.

She said there were many things Morrison could do right now to give his words more weight, such as accepting Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins' 55 recommendations following a national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace and promoting more women to cabinet roles.

"Do you believe him though? That he gets it?" host Hamish Macdonald interrupted.

"I think he's got it politically. This has been a week where everything has come together," Mostyn replied.

"That's a different thing. Do you think he fundamentally gets this issue?"

"I think he gets it now," she said.

"I think what was the most disturbing thing for the prime minister were those gross acts by young men inside Parliament House that said they completely disrespected women who chose to be MPs. At that point, I think the prime minister really did get it, because it was such an affront. 

"But for women, I'm sure for the women in the audience and for those watching tonight, we're so used to these behaviours that we've been 'getting it' for a very, very long time."

March 4 Justice protestors outside Parliament House on March 15, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Image: Getty. 

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She said the March 4 Justice rallies were a call for leaders to listen to women and to say 'enough's enough'.

"There's a fundamental, primary reason why these things happen," Mostyn explained.

"It's a lack of respect for us. It's our failure to have been allowed through the corridors of power in equal numbers, running things, leading things. We've been kept at bay, and I think that's why it came as such a surprise [to Morrison], because I don't think the prime minister has experience really of a community and parliament that has women in equal numbers."

At this point, Macdonald brought in comment from The Australian's economic editor, and former senior economic adviser to Tony Abbott, Adam Creighton, asking him for his thoughts on March 15's country-wide rallies.

"I walked past and I must say there were plenty of placards that were really anti-Scott Morrison other than pro-women. It was a really political march," he said.

"And the other thought that came to mind was 'what was the tangible aim?'. If you go back 120 years, obviously women wanted the vote and certainly they should've got it. Many decades later there was abortion. What is justice this time? It's like marching for happiness, of course everyone wants it but what is the tangible outcome?"

Image: ABC.

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"It was pretty clear, wasn't it?" Mostyn replied.

"Yes, but what could the federal government do about attitudes?" Creighton said. "It's the commonwealth government, it can't legislate for people to be nice."

"Well," Mostyn began.

"No matter what the prime minister says, no matter what platitudes he utters, he's not going to change people's attitudes," Creighton continued.

Mostyn said great leadership set "tone from the top".

As she explained her point, Creighton interrupted multiple times. They went back and forth over whether the general population paid attention to what the prime minister said.

Mostyn said the marches took place as women had finally had enough, to which Creighton replied: "When you say 'we' though, it was only 100,000 or so women who marched. It's not all women," he said.

"We are more than half the population and we have been held at bay. We are murdering a woman once a week in this country and have been doing that for many, many years," Mostyn said.

"What would it take to get a community and the top of our parliament to say 'we get we've got to change the behaviour of our parliament, of our leaders to actually listen to women'.

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"All the women wanted in that rally, and the men, was to be listened to," she said, to applause from the audience.

Mostyn asked Creighton if he got the sense that the latest allegations in Canberra were a breaking point for many women, where they'd had enough and were standing up after years of feeling dejected.

She said almost every woman in the country had experiences of assault, harassment and feeling uncomfortable they could share.

"Almost every woman in the country?" Creighton again interrupted. "How do you know that?"

As Mostyn gestured to whether there should be a show of hands among women in the audience, Macdonald ended their debate.

Feature image: ABC.