SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 16 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: March 4 Justice; Need for an independent inquiry into allegations against Christian Porter; Labor allegations; workplace culture in Parliament House.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live is Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Local Government, Regional Services. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning. I noticed you were at the march in Canberra yesterday. Labor, in fact, was pretty well represented. What did you get out of it?
JASON CLARE: There are very few moments in this building where you feel like what's happening here is something that you will remember for the rest of your life, and yesterday was one of those moments. Not just all of the people outside Parliament House, but all the people gathering right across the country. People, men and women, that have just had a gutful of the way women are being treated, what women are experiencing. There were people who've been campaigning, hoping for women to be able to be safe on the street, in the workplace, in their home for years, for decades, and still this is still happening, and that frustration was palpable yesterday, and people were calling out for leadership. We got leadership yesterday. It was from Brittany Higgins on the stage out the front of Parliament House. Not from the Prime Minister.
STEFANOVIC: The Government was represented to an extent but the Prime Minister wasn't there, the Treasurer wasn't there, even the women's minister didn't go, Marise Payne. There had been an offer for a private meeting but that was rejected. Was that a missed opportunity?
CLARE: I think it was a missed opportunity by the Prime Minister to not go down there. The “busy guy” excuse just doesn't cut it. This is the biggest issue in Australia at the moment, not just the biggest issue in this building, it's the biggest issue in the country. And the Prime Minister should have marched down to the march and spoken to the people that were gathered there. Think about this, John Howard, when he changed gun laws, put on a bulletproof vest and fronted up in front of a group of angry farmers telling them that he was going to take his guns off them. He wasn't afraid to stand up and talk to people who may not have liked what he had to say. He had guts. I think Scott Morrison missed a big opportunity to show that he cares, that he understands, and that he's going to act, that he's going to act like a leader. Instead he cowered here in the building and then when he did speak about it in Parliament yesterday, he basically said, "Well, you know, how great is Australia? You can have a protest out the front and you don't get shot."
STEFANOVIC: Should the organisers, though, at least taken him up on that offer to at least have a private meeting? Would that have been better than nothing?
CLARE: I think the Prime Minister should have gone to them. We had thousands and thousands of people out the front. The least he could have done is take a few steps out of his office and gone down to see them.
STEFANOVIC: Do you suppose that the fear would have been the ambush and the spectacle that that would have created?
CLARE: Australians are respectful people. There would have been a hush there waiting to see what the Prime Minister had said and hope that they would have heard a little bit of leadership. People are angry, they're frustrated, no doubt. Someone was raped 50 metres from the Prime Minister's Office and it was covered up for almost two years. People want action, they want results, they can't believe that nothing has substantially happened here. I think there is a lot of faith and hope placed in the Kate Jenkins independent inquiry to fix the culture in this building that desperately needs to be fixed. But it starts at the top, and we need leadership from the Prime Minister. For the life of me, I can't understand how Linda Reynolds hasn't been sacked. Keeping this information from the Prime Minister for two years and then when it breaks out, calling Brittany Higgins a "lying cow". What does it take to get sacked in this building? And Christian Porter should be stood aside. They're two obvious things that the Prime Minister should have done by now.
STEFANOVIC: I'll get to Christian Porter in a second. But the Minister for Women surely should have gone yesterday. I've spoken to quite a few people, and just ordinary folk around town, and they all said to me, "what's the point in having a Minister for Women and if she's not going to be a minister for women?".
CLARE: You and I are on the same page on this, Peter. This is not political. It shouldn't be political. That there are there are problems in this building that needs to be fixed. And all of the politicians, whether you're Labor, Liberal, or anything else, should have been down there to listen. To listen, and then to come back in and act.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, so Christian Porter, he's suing the ABC for defamation. So now it looks as though he is going to to be on the stand and defending himself so all the allegations are going to be put out there. Does that put to rest the push for an independent inquiry?
CLARE: I don't think it does, Pete, I don't think it's a substitute for an independent inquiry for a couple of reasons. One: there's no guarantee that this would ever get to court. Think about it, most defamation cases never end up in court. Most end up getting settled out of court so people may never get to have their say, may never appear in a witness stand giving evidence. So, that's the first thing. The second is that even if there is a court case, it may not focus on whether what was written is the truth or not, whether Christian Porter allegedly raped this woman or not. If you read Christian's statement of claim, it all focuses on whether the ABC identified him in their original story. So we may end up with a court case that just focuses on whether Christian Porter was defamed because he was identified or not. The ABC say that they didn't identify him.
Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister. Under the code of conduct, he has the power to stand ministers aside if he doesn't believe that they're a fit and proper person to do the job. And Scott Morrison should think what would John Howard do? We've got an example of this, Peter. Go back to 2003 and Peter Hollingsworth, the Governor General at the time, was accused of rape. An historical rape that allegedly occurred in the 1960s by a woman who took it to court and then subsequently died. What did John Howard do back then in 2003? He met with the Governor General, and the Governor General agreed to stand aside. That's what Scott Morrison should do now with Christian Porter. Stand him aside and allow an independent investigation to take place.
STEFANOVIC: It's not just the Liberal Party, but it's the Labor Party as well that are facing sexual harassment allegations, and quite horrendous ones, that were levelled at the Labor Party over the weekend. Had you known about them before they were published?
CLARE: No, I didn't but it doesn't mean they're not true. These are serious allegations that we've got to face up to. I was heartened to hear what Albo said yesterday, what Tanya said, what Richard Marles said. They said that we're sorry, but also that we need to act. We need to we need to make real change happen here in this building. There are important reforms happening in the Labor Party, but as I said earlier, I put great stock in the work that Kate Jenkins is going to do leading that independent inquiry to make real cultural change happen in this building. It's easy to be cynical, and to think, "well, this stuff always happens and nothing ever changes". I am very hopeful that that could be the catalyst for change. That everything we're seeing across the country here at the moment, people marching in the streets, is going to resonate in this building and that we're going to get reforms from that work that are going to make real change here happen finally in this building.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Jason Clare. We're out of time, but appreciate your time as always. We'll talk to you soon.
CLARE: Thanks, mate.
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