Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit out at a line of questioning about parliament’s “bonk ban” as two of his ministers became embroiled in scandal.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has denied allegations of misconduct in an episode of ABC’s 4 Corners on Monday night. The allegations were from 2017.
A former staffer also spoke about an affair she had with Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge. He’s since apologised.
All the allegations fuelled a narrative of misogyny and sexism in Australian parliament.
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston was asked during a press conference on Tuesday about whether culture had improved since former PM Malcolm Turnbull introduced a “bonk ban”.
But before she could fully answer - Mr Morrison told reporters how the ban is referred to is “dismissive of the issue”.
“I would ask media to stop referring to it (as the ‘bonk ban’) in that way,” the PM said.
“We took it very seriously and I think constantly referring to it that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue. It’s a very serious issue.”
Ms Ruston added she could only reflect on her own experiences since 2012.
“And I have to say that I have always felt wholly supported while I’ve been here and I particularly note that since becoming a member of the cabinet and a member of the ERC (Expenditure Review Committee) there is nobody who has provided me more support and shown greater respect towards me as an individual than the prime minister,” she said.
The PM was asked whether Australians believed Mr Tudge and Mr Porter were fit to continue as ministers, to which he replied: “I think Australians understand more about human frailty than perhaps you are giving them credit”.
“You know, family breakdown and individual decisions of people, and there is also no suggestion here of anything unconsensual, I should stress,” he said.
“These things happen in Australia.
“They happen in people’s lives and people greatly regret them and they do tremendous damage to people’s families and the lives of many others, and I know there would be deep regrets about that.”
— Olivia Leeming (@olivialeeming) November 10, 2020
Mr Morrison said he supported Mr Turnbull’s introduction of the “bonk ban” at the time.
“And I believe that was a very important step in changing a culture,” he said.
“And that culture, you will all know, is not restricted to government or opposition, to Labor or Liberal, or frankly, the media. In this building. It is important that everyone should feel safe in their workplace.
“That everyone should have proper channels through which they can deal with any issue about which they are uncomfortable.”
Mr Morrison reinforced that the complaints surrounding the Attorney-General were dealt with by the Turnbull government.
Mr Porter said he is considering legal action following the report.
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