'I was wrong': PM's 'deep regret' over false harassment claim

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for claiming a News Corp staffer was at the centre of a harassment complaint.

Mr Morrison said he regretted making the comment after News Corp's HR department completely dismissed claims there was a complaint a woman was harassed by the staffer in a female toilet.

The Prime Minister made the bombshell claims on Tuesday during a press conference addressing the "absolutely shameful" behaviour of coalition staffers who reportedly shared images and videos of lewd sex acts performed in Parliament House.

It comes in the wake of rape allegations that have rocked Parliament House and an emotional Mr Morrison said he was "greatly distressed" some women believed their concerns were ignored.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was distressed some women felt their concerns had been ignored. Source: AAP

But when he was asked by a News Corp journalist about whether his job was in jeopardy and if he lost control of his ministry, Mr Morrison turned the tables.

"If anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own workplaces as comparison, I would invite you to do so," he said, before the journalist added they seemed better than what was standard in Parliament House.

"Let me take you up on that," Mr Morrison responded.

"Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women's toilet and that matter is being pursued by your own HR department."

Mr Morrison admits 'I was wrong'

Following the press conference, News Corp chairman Michael Miller completely rubbished Mr Morrison's claims of harassment within its own office.

"No complaint has been received and News Corp and Sky News are not dealing with a complaint," Mr Miller said.

In response, Mr Morrison issued a statement of regret on Tuesday night regarding the comments made during the press conference.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he regrets claims a News Corp staffer was at the centre of a harrassment complaint. Source: AAP

"In the course of today's media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company," he said.

"I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.

"I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission."

Former PM hits out at Morrison

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he is disappointed improving respect for women is not a priority of the coalition government after Mr Morrison promised to "get his house in order" following weeks of protests and allegations about rape, harassment and abhorrent work culture in Parliament House.

Mr Morrison will soon announce an interim complaints mechanism for members, senators and staff, while awaiting the results of a review headed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

But Mr Turnbull noted a previous report into workplace sexual harassment by Ms Jenkins, which he commissioned as prime minister, had sat on the shelf since it was given to the government last year.

"What it tells you is that ensuring that women are respected in the workplace is not a priority of the government – it was a priority of my government which was why the report was undertaken and written," Mr Turnbull told the ABC.

He said Mr Morrison's media conference was "too much about him".

"It really should have been about the women who have been the victims of discrimination and disrespect, sexual harassment, and indeed of rape."

Mr Turnbull said it was wrong to claim the corporate sector had the same problems as the political sphere.

"It is not. I mean, the truth is, I had to change the ministerial code to say that ministers must not sleep with their staff," he said.

"That has been out of order in the corporate world for decades and yet I had to change the rules because frankly far too many of my colleagues thought that it was not OK."

with AAP

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