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Brittany Higgins has savaged Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a speech to the National Press Club.
Ms Higgins, who was appearing with 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame on Wednesday, criticised Mr Morrison’s actions after she came forward about her alleged rape while working as a Liberal staffer in Canberra in 2019.
Her experience, and that of Ms Tame who is also a survivor of sexual abuse, led to the March 4 Justice across the country last year, including outside Parliament House in Canberra.
However Ms Higgins told the National Press Club of her personal dismay 12 months on.
“If you go back and read articles from March 15, there was a sense of a national moment of reckoning. A feeling of unstoppable momentum,” she said.
“An irresistible force. A raging current that would not be turned aside by tired old platitudes from fathers of daughters.
“But I stand here today fearful that this moment of transformative potential, the bravery of all those women who spoke up and stood up and said ‘enough is enough’ is in danger of being minimised to a flare-up, a blip on the radar, a month-long wonder in the national conversation.”
'Platitudes from fathers of daughters'
The “platitudes from fathers of daughters” was ostensibly a reference to Mr Morrison’s much criticised comments from last year.
"Jenny and I spoke last night and she said to me, you have to think about this as a father. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?" he told reporters last year.
“Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so, as I’ve reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say.”
In her speech, Ms Higgins referred to the PM’s comments as “shocking” and “a bit offensive”.
“But his words would not have matter if his actions had measured up,” she said. "Then, or since.
"What bothered me most about the whole ‘imagine if it were our daughters’ spiel wasn't that he necessarily needed his wife's advice to help contextualise my rape in a way that mattered to him personally.
"I didn't want his sympathy as a father. I wanted him to use his power as prime minister.”
Ms Higgins’ criticism comes just a day after the PM issued an apology to her in parliament.
She acknowledged the Jenkins review, released last year, which found more than half of parliament's staff members have experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault but said she wants to "see action".
"If we truly want a gender-inclusive society, we need more vocal women in rooms where key decisions are being made to ensure that there is a gender lens placed over national policy," Ms Higgins said.
"This starts with the implementation of the Jenkins review. The question is, if this moment doesn't spark change in our parliament, what will?"
Criticism of PM continues ahead of election
Ms Higgins' criticism of the PM comes after a fortnight of attacks on Mr Morrison's character.
At the National Press Club last week, he was asked about text messages between a member of cabinet and former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian which referred to Mr Morrison as "a complete psycho".
Those text messages were obtained by journalist Peter van Onselen.
There were claims from former NSW Premier Bob Carr the source of the text messages and the member of cabinet Van Onselen mentioned was Defence Minister Peter Dutton – a claim Mr Dutton vehemently denies.
Another text messaging saga also emerged in which Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce referred to Mr Morrison as a "hypocrite and a liar".
Mr Joyce, on Saturday, told reporters he was responsible for the texts and offered an apology. He clarified he was a backbencher at the time the text messages were sent.
The latest Newspoll released last week found Labor ahead 56-44 on a two-party-preferred basis, the coalition's worst polling performance since September 2018, the survey conducted for The Australian newspaper showed.
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