'We want change': Rally organiser in fiery clash with deputy PM

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·4-min read

The organiser of a rally seeking justice for women has rejected the prime minister's offer of a "closed doors" meeting and instead wants him to face thousands of woman when they arrive outside his office today.

Women's March for Justice founder Janine Hendry has spoken on behalf of more than 100,000 women who are expected to march in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane today.

The Melbourne academic said Monday morning she rejects Scott Morrison's offer to meet behind closed doors and called on him to face the women of Australia.

"I read the room, I'm here representing the voices of tens of thousands of women across Australia and unlike our prime minister, I've heard what they've said and in reality we've come to the prime minister's front door, I'd like to see him walk across the threshold and come see us," Ms Hendry told ABC radio.

The rallies are being held to protest the "unacceptable" treatment of women in the workplace and community, and the right of women to feel safe.

March organiser Janine Hendry has rejected an ultimatum from Scott Morrison.
March organiser Janine Hendry has rejected an ultimatum from Scott Morrison. Source: ABC/AAP

"I think it's important that the prime minister listens to those women," she told ABC Breakfast. "This issue started because womens' voices weren't being heard ... I'm not sure me having a closed door meeting with the prime minister is going to solve that issue.

The federal Minister for Women Marise Payne also declined to meet with those marching outside of parliament.

The march comes as the Morrison government deals with Brittany Higgins' allegation she was raped by a colleague in the defence minister's office in 2019, and also a historical rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter, which he has categorically denied.

The prime minister invited up to four march delegates to meet with him and Senator Payne on Monday afternoon after the rally, set to begin at 12pm. Senator Payne also offered a separate meeting earlier in the day.

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Fiery clash with Deputy Prime Minister draws press

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had a chance encounter with Ms Hendry in a Parliament House hallway Monday morning, and found himself on the end of a heated confrontation.

He maintains he is too busy to attend the rally.

"The Australian Human Rights Commission report [on the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment] landed on the Attorney-General's desk over 12 months ago, and we have not seen any implementation of the recommendations that were in that report, and it was pretty scathing," Ms Hendry said, referring to one of the protesters' demands.

"It was pretty scathing. So when you tell me that you are willing to look at it, I am going to tell you I want some action. The women of Australia want some action. We are drawing a line in the sand right here, right now."

Mr McCormack responded saying "OK" and "alright", but Ms Hendry hounded the evasive deputy PM, demanding meaningful action.

"I am certain that we will absolutely look at it. I can't give you the assurance," he said.

Ms Hendry was not impressed, hitting back saying the evidence had been with the government for too long for it to not take action.

"I am not interested in 'looking at it'. You have been looking at this for years. I am sorry, it is time and it is time now. We don't want any more reports. We want change and we want change now. You have had that report for 14 months. It is time," she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said he was
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said he was "too busy" to meet the women. Source: Getty

Lisa Wilkinson, co-host of Channel 10's The Project, will speak at the Canberra event and deliver a message from Brittany Higgins, who spoke out about her alleged rape at Parliament House in 2019.

"We are women and women have had enough with not being heard," Ms Wilkinson said in a statement.

What is the march demanding?

A petition addressed to Scott Morrison with more than 93,000 signatures calls for "an independent, far-reaching inquiry into the culture in parliament and the public service which allows men to exploit women."

Those marching want to see Christian Porter stood aside until an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegation can be held to address whether he is a fit and proper person to hold the office of attorney general.

The petition asks for a commitment from Scott Morrison to "stop using language which trivialises rape and excuses the perpetrators" and commit to showing respect and believe women.

Organisers are also calling for the government to act and implement recommendations from an Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual harassment in the workplace.

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