Emotional Scott Morrison addresses 'disgusting, shameful' act

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·5-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was close to tears on Tuesday as he once again slammed "absolutely shameful" behaviour of coalition staffers who reportedly shared images and video of lewd sex acts performed in Parliament House.

An emotional Mr Morrison also addressed concerns Australian women have held over his response to allegations of rape and a "toxic" workplace culture that have rocked parliament in recent weeks.

He told reporters it "greatly distresses" him some women believe their concerns have been ignored.

He vowed to do more to improve conditions for women in Canberra and across Australia.

"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," Mr Morrison said.

"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."

"We must get this house in order."

Scott Morrison again on Tuesday condemned the actions of several staffers who took photos of lewd sex acts in parliament. Source: ABC
Scott Morrison again on Tuesday condemned the actions of several staffers who took photos of lewd sex acts in parliament. Source: ABC

He also responded to criticism aimed at him for previously referencing his daughters and wife in the wake of rape allegations from staffer Brittany Higgins.

"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," he said.

He said he accepted the criticism however said it was "how I deal with things".

"No offence was intended by me by saying that I discuss these issues with my wife."

Mr Morrison rejected the assertion that it was only until he discussed Ms Higgins' allegations with his wife Jenny that he was "dramatically affected" by her account.

He also accepted criticism he received when he told Australians they should be thankful they weren't shot as they protested the treatment of women.

"I could have chosen different words," Mr Morrison admitted.

More Parliament staffers likely to be dismissed

His address came hours after Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said more sackings will likely take place over what he said was a "revolting" revelation, which thrust Canberra's "toxic culture" under the spotlight once again.

One of the Morrison government staffers involved in the group which allegedly shared the content was fired on Monday, Prime Mr Morrison previously confirmed.

"There are some people who have done some despicable things in this place," he said on Tuesday.

Ten News reported on Monday a small group of staffers had set up a Facebook Messenger group that enabled them to share images and video of sex acts.

Sharing some photos with the network, an unidentified whistleblower said at times the acts had been performed on the desks of female MPs.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said those involved have shown "complete disrespect" to those in parliament and the Australian public.

However he defended the majority of those who worked at Parliament House.

"I know that there are hundreds of people coming to work here today who, frankly, feel a sense of shame. And they shouldn't. They should feel a sense of pride, because the vast majority of them are good, hardworking people," he told ABC News Breakfast.

One of the images shared in the group. Source: 10 News
One of the images shared in the group. Source: 10 News

Yet he slammed the individuals' behaviour which he said stemmed from a "disgusting and unacceptable culture".

He vowed the government would seek to dismiss further staffers involved.

"I hope that anybody who is doing the wrong thing can see that it won't be tolerated by virtue of the fact that somebody was sacked last night and others will be sacked if they can be identified," he said.

Morrison seeks further information on 'sickening' behaviour

Mr Morrison called the behaviour depicted in the photos as "disgusting and sickening"

"I urge anybody with further information to come forward," Mr Morrison said in a statement.

He also urged staff and former staff to use a serious incident support line if they considered it appropriate.

"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," he said.

The prime minister flagged he would have more to say "on this and the cultural issues we confront as a parliament" in coming days.

He said on Tuesday it had been a "very traumatic month".

"Indeed, reports involving the conduct of staff and of a Coalition government members and ministers, but as you know reports of equally, disgraceful and despicable activities anonymised of those working in other parties.

"We must get this house in order."

MPs slam Parliament's 'toxic issue'

Mr Birmingham earlier said the matter showed "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."

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

"I want to see this sort of behaviour stamped out," he said.

Labor senator Tim Ayres responded: "It does beggar belief."

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology told ABC Radio the revelations made her "feel sick".

"There are no words to describe how bad that is."

Independent MP Zali Steggall said it was clear parliament had a "toxic issue" that needed immediate change.

With AAP

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