In a sensational end to a sensational final 2021 sitting week, former Liberal staffer Rachel Miller’s claim that a minister acted violently towards her was carefully timed to underline Kate Jenkins’s scathing indictment of the parliamentary workplace Was.
Education Minister Alan Tudge was forced to stand aside after Miller – who returned to Parliament House to give his statement – accused him of kicking him out of bed when his phone rang at 4 a.m.
She said it happened during a 2017 work trip, when she and Tudge were at a hotel in Kalgoorlie, where then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was also staying.
Miller was Tudge’s media advisor. Both had what Miller described as a concussion, but now says it was more complicated. “He was [an] emotionally and on one occasion, physically abusive relationship.”
It’s notable how different Scott Morrison’s response to Miller’s allegation has been when compared to his previous complaints about Tudge made last year on ABC’s Four Corners.
Morrison pushed them aside, dismissing them as history that had been dealt with. In this instance, he immediately referred the case for an investigation, which was to be conducted by Vivienne Thom, the former Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.
Miller is now believed to have gone a step further in accusing Tudge – who flatly denies the claim – of violence.
But the political difference is of time. Miller’s allegation has come to the fore about bad behavior in Parliament House this year, starting with Brittany Higgins’ allegation that she was raped in 2019, and now documented in the 452-page Jenkins report.
Morrison walks among the landmines on issues related to women. Miller’s claim on Thursday showed just how dangerous and unexpected a person can explode.
It is difficult to know to what extent Morrison’s so-called “women’s problem” in the election will cost him votes. But one seat where women’s power may matter is Wentworth’s Sydney marginal electorate, where independent candidate Allegra Spender (the daughter of the late Carla Zampatti) is being supported by female corporate high-flyers, including Christine Holgate, Australia’s former Post Boss included.
Holgate accused Morrison of bullying with his extravagant parliamentary attack on rewarding employees with Cartier watches. What goes around comes around.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s description of a harmful political workplace was appearing at every turn this week.
Soon after his report was released on Tuesday, the opposition and the government skirmished during the Question Hour.
In the Senate, Victorian Liberal David Vans was accused of making dog sounds when independent Jackie Lambie was speaking. He apologized for interfering but denied that he had made any animal noises.
On Wednesday, Greens senator Lydia Thorpe made a particularly offensive remark to NSW Liberal Holly Hughes, during a brawl, saying “at least I keep my feet off”.
Hughes said Thursday that he took it from “that if I had kept my feet shut, I wouldn’t have had a child with autism”. Thorpe, who apologized, denied the suggestion that she was referring to Hughes’ family.
Hughes told Sky: “Everybody – lawmakers, senators, staff, everyone – needs to take themselves to account. We’re adults. It’s a professional working environment and that’s how people should behave.”
To which one might say, “If only.” And, at most, one might ask: “Well, why don’t they?”
Read more: Standing on probe into claim of kicking ex-employee
The Jenkins report has several recommendations based on a forensic review of the culture of the parliamentary workplace.
Both the government and the opposition vehemently lamented the situation recorded by him, but did not commit to full implementation of what he proposed.
Jenkins digs into the many drivers and risk factors that contribute to bullying and sexual assault, which she identifies as power imbalances, gender inequality, lack of accountability, poor leadership, confusion about standards, long hours, stress, alcohol, travel and a does as work. -Tough-playing-tough mentality.
Miller’s account of Kalgoorlie Night seems to contain many of these.
But explanations are not excuses, and it is difficult to go beyond a very basic point.
While many MPs – who are at the heart of the Parliament House “ecosystem” – behave well, many do not believe they need to adhere to the standards that the community has a right to expect of them.
If they behave properly and set high standards for their employees, Parliament House will be on the verge of becoming a half-baked workplace.
One thing that has been pointed out is that politicians, in taking on employees and running their offices, have their own small businesses, but they do not have the skills to run these businesses.
The task may be unfamiliar to them, but it is certainly not that difficult to reach the top. At least that may be the view of many small-business people across the country, who face their own (albeit different and often more difficult) challenges.
And for bad conduct in the chambers, there is no excuse. This shows widespread disrespect towards those who pay the salaries of MPs.
The past fortnight has been disappointing, as well as politically risky, for Scott Morrison.
Coalition rebels helped disrupt the government’s legislative program, as it were.
The House of Representatives vote on the Religious Discrimination Bill had to be postponed to prevent rebellion by moderate liberals. The bill will now face two inquiries over the summer.
Read more: View from The Hill: A Study in Contrast, Porter and Hunt to Leave Parliament
The government’s promise to introduce legislation for an integrity commission has been turned into a joke by the PM. Morrison has dug behind the unrevised model, behind the ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berijiklian, indicating he will not bring legislation because Labor will not agree to the model, which is widely criticized as flawed.
After all that has happened this week, and what hasn’t happened, you have to wonder why the government wants Parliament again before the election.
Sitting has never worked out politically for this government, and unless it can get its two rebel senators and two Hanson senators to lift its boycott over government legislation – they end the state’s vaccine mandate. are opposed to refusing to – and are pacifying the other rebels, who the law had struggled would not get through.
Queensland Liberal Gerard Reinick, asked on Thursday whether he would continue his boycott next year, said it would depend on what the federal government did on the mandate between now and then. Hanson’s spokesperson had a similar message.
The draft sitting calendar for 2022, released this week, features the return of parliament in February and the budget for March 29. Morrison could always tear it down in favor of the March election but he would clearly prefer a budget to prepare him for the May election.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt and former minister Christian Porter were taking no chances, this week both announcing they were not running again.
It could be an important week – in a bad way – but talks will suddenly change on Friday, when Labor finally releases its much-anticipated climate policy.
It’s clearly saying it’s a big day for the opposition, which has sparked internal debate over whether to make policy a smaller target (only slightly different from government) or to do something bold, increase discrimination. for the climate issue.
On Sunday, Anthony Albanese will hold a rally with a potential and a policy announcement.
“We’ll make sure we’re kicking off with the wind in the fourth quarter,” Albanese likes to say. Between now and mid-December, when he intends to go on vacation, the crowd will be watching how well the opposition leader juggles boot and ball.