'SO SUBTLE': Backlash over Jenny Morrison's Grace Tame comments

Jenny Morrison, the wife of the prime minister, has criticised former Australian of the Year Grace Tame for not smiling when she met the couple in a now infamous moment at The Lodge.

During a morning tea to celebrate those who had carried the honour for 2021, the visible disdain Ms Tame displayed for Scott Morrison drew countless headlines and divided opinion.

Speaking during a 60 Minutes interview which aired on Sunday night, Ms Morrison lamented the lack of manners from Ms Tame, who has been highly critical of the PM's handling of women's issues.

"I just found it a little bit disappointing, because we were welcoming her in our home,” she said.

“I just wish the focus had been on all the incredible people coming in. I respect people that want to change things, stand up for their beliefs, and are strong, but I still think there are manners and respect."

Promoted by Channel Nine as the prime minister's "secret weapon" amid a number of public failings and lagging poll numbers, Ms Morrison went in to bat for her husband as the PM tries to re-launder his image ahead of a likely May election.

Ms Morrison's comments about the infamous exchange quickly lit up social media. Source: Nine News
Ms Morrison's comments about the infamous exchange quickly lit up social media. Source: Nine News

Ms Morrison said she was "sick to her stomach" about leaked text messages from a Liberal colleague who allegedly called Mr Morrison "a complete psycho" and expressed regret for holidaying in Hawaii during disastrous bushfires across NSW and Victoria in January 2020.

"I am more than sorry if we disappointed ... not if ... we did disappoint," she said.

"Obviously it was wrong."

Backlash over Grace Tame comments

While the outspoken Grace Tame – a survivor and advocate for sexual abuse victims – has not commented following the interview, she previously explained her actions by saying: "The survival of abuse culture is dependent on submissive smiles and self-defeating surrenders."

But moments after the interview aired, social media was quick to support Ms Tame, saying it was not an issue of a lack of manners.

"Grace Tame Does Not Lack Manners!" tweeted the editor of Women's Agenda, Georgie Dent.

"She rejected the deeply ingrained and toxic expectation on women to smile even when they’re deeply uncomfortable and she acted with integrity."

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, the founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre was even more critical of the prime minister and his wife.

"It’s so subtle isn’t it, having Jenny tell us it’s about manners, so that we think Grace Tame is the problem, the uncivilised one," he wrote.

Former Morrison government minister Julia Banks also hit out at the 60 Minutes scene, saying she knows Grace Tame, but suggested people should instead be questioning the prime minister's actions.

"I know & have worked with Scott. I know a lot of people who work[ed]with him.

"To Jenny (who I’ve met briefly) - I say 'with manners & being polite' ... Everyone I know is disappointed in him."

Julia Banks walks in front of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the House of Representatives. Source: AAP
Julia Banks walks in front of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the House of Representatives. Source: AAP

Others on Twitter expressed anger about the couple taking offence about Ms Tame's lack of deference at their "home", pointing out it is a taxpayer-funded residence, with one woman calling Ms Morrison's comments "Entitled, tin-eared, and self righteous."

When asked on Monday morning about Ms Morrison's comments, federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg said her words were "measured".

"I don't think anyone has to smile, but you only have to look at the camera, only have to look at that scene to realise how uncomfortable it was," he told the ABC.

Confidence in government at new low

A Newspoll published overnight by The Australian shows the Liberal-led coalition's primary vote remains on a post-election record low of 34 per cent.

Meanwhile a study by the Australian National University has found the country's confidence in the Morrison government is at its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

The ANU study of 3,472 people in January found only about a third had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the government.

That is down from 60 per cent of people in May 2020 and only slightly above confidence levels of 27.3 per cent during the Black Summer bushfires.

"Clearly the handling of the pandemic and the ongoing wave of Omicron infections is starting to take a real toll on how all major institutions are viewed by Australians," study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said.

Between October and January, satisfaction with the direction the country was going dropped.

The proportion of people satisfied or very satisfied with the country's direction went from 69.8 per cent to 63.6 per cent.

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