Tracy’s tough question for PM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled about how he could not have known the depth of the issues faced by women during a heated interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair.
During the 30-minute sit down aired on Thursday night, the Prime Minister was questioned about the government's handling of allegations involving former Liberal Staffer Brittany Higgins and historic rape allegations made about Attorney-General Christian Porter, which are strongly denied.
When the PM said he had been working to understand the outrage being felt by women Grimshaw bluntly asked him: "where have you been?"
"If you are saying you have been aware of the enormity of this issue preceding Brittany Higgins coming out a month ago, if you'd been aware of it," Grimshaw began to say.
"At a different level," Mr Morrison said.
"This has taken me deeper into this issue than I have appreciated before."
He then continued: "You have lived with it every day, you have lived with it I'm sure your whole life."
"But you're not on an island," Grimshaw responded.
"Or maybe you're in a bubble, you must know, you've got a wife you love, you've got daughters … how did you not know the depth of it?"
Mr Morrison said he, like many men in the country, had a different experience with the issue.
"This is the difficult part of this. You understand it in a way that only you could. I have a different experience to yours as do many men in this country."
"It was truly shocking that this could take place here (in Parliament House) to a young woman who had worked so hard.
"We look at these things and go 'how could such acts of (alleged) violence take place?'
"We are now starting to get beyond this issue where we see it most, in the most violent and other most obvious forms.
"I may not have always got it as much as people would like me to, but I assure you, I am doing everything I can to understand it as best I can."
Ms Higgins claimed she was raped by a colleague in Minister Linda Reynolds office at Parliament House in March, 2019.
The former staffer lodged a formal complaint with the Prime Minister on Thursday, accusing his office of "backgrounding" against her partner.
She raised the claim earlier this month when she addressed protesters outside Parliament House for the March 4 Justice rallies.
Thousands of people across the nation called for action against gendered violence in parliament after Ms Higgins came out about her alleged rape.
"I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his team actively discredited and undermined my loved ones," Ms Higgins told the crowd.
The Prime Minister did not attend the historic rally but said he would meet organisers "in private".
"I treated that protest the same way I have treated other protests and provided respectful opportunities for people to meet and talk seriously about this issue in the office of the Prime Minister," he told Grimshaw.
He revealed he had not directly been in contact with Ms Higgins since she had spoken out but insisted his public apology was sincere.
Mr Morrison told Grimshaw he would be willing to meet with Ms Higgins but she had not asked to speak with him.
"She hasn't expressed an interest in doing that with me but she is very welcome to," he said.
The Prime Minister also said Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' comments calling Ms Higgins "a lying cow" were "disgraceful" and "out of character".
When asked if Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds would be moved from their portfolios, he said he was "working through those issues now".
"One is on mental health leave and the other is on physical health leave. Linda in particular, had a very serious coronary condition. She is being seeking help for that for the past month, as you can see in the chamber, that distress she was under.
"There is a further effect on her physical health. We are still talking to her doctors and her and with her permission, we are working through that with Linda now in terms of what duties she can perform."
Mr Morrison said the Attorney-General and Defence Minister would continue to play a "very important role" in his cabinet but could not say if they would remain in their current roles.
He again defended Mr Porter, and said the police had decided there was no further investigation that would take place into the historical allegations against him.
"What I have done is to respect the rule of law in this country and how people need to be treated under that rule of law," Mr Morrison said.
"The only system we have when it comes to understanding, and for treating these issues fairly, is to do its job.
"The police have decided that there is no further investigation."
Originally published as Tracy's tough question for PM