In a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison engaged in a heated discussion with Sky News journalist Andrew Connell, ultimately alleging that there was an ongoing sexual harassment complaint within Sky News.
News Corp (the owner of Sky News) then released a statement saying that no such sexual harassment complaint existed.
The press conference was about new allegations of sexual misconduct in Parliament after 10 News First and The Australian released stories showing Coalition staffers taking inappropriate workplace pictures, with one videoing himself masturbating on a female Liberal MP’s desk.
These new reports have surfaced after Attorney-General Christian Porter was accused of an alleged rape in 1988, an allegation he has vehemently denied, and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins accused a fellow staffer of raping her in Defense Minister Linda Reynold’s office.
These incidences led thousands of women across Australia to join protests last week. In Tuesday’s press conference, Morrison said, “women who have put up with this rubbish and this crap for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did.”
However, in the Q+A portion of the conference, the Prime Minister became heated when Sky News reporter Andrew Connell asked, “Prime Minister, if you were the boss of a business and there’d been an alleged rape on your watch and this incident we heard about last night, on your watch, your job would probably be in a bit of jeopardy, wouldn’t it?”
“Doesn’t it look like you’ve lost control of your ministerial staff here?”
Morrison then replied, “right now, you’d be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet. And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.”
The Prime Minister’s comments drew quick criticism as many pointed out that if there was an ongoing allegation, the complainant had not consented to the case being made public at a national press conference.
Approximately 15 minutes between almost crying on national TV about sexual assault allegations, to angrily outing details of a woman’s sexual assault allegations on national TV.
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) March 22, 2021
How horrific for the woman who made a HR complaint about being harassed by someone in her workplace, to have it used as a comeback by the PM to a journo in her organisation. That is not keeping the politics out of it.
— Sally Whyte (@sallywhyte) March 22, 2021
After Morrison’s comments, News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman, Michael Miller released a statement flatly denying that such an allegation exists.
In the statement, Miller said the Prime Minister was “wrong today to claim an investigation is underway into a complaint accusing an employee of harassment against a woman in a female toilet.”
He said that no complaint had been recieved and that News Corp and Sky News were not dealing with a complaint.
Miller then said that while News Corp usually has a policy of not commenting on private matters, “given the Prime Minister’s extraordinary public claims made at a press conference broadcast live across the nation, I want to put to rest any suggestion that an employee of our company is being investigated for conduct suggested by Mr Morrison.”
He asserted that during conversations by News Corp HR with staff after the reporting of “sexually inappropriate behaviour at Parliament House”, individuals were given the opportunity to “talk to us in confidence about their wellbeing”.
“During these proactive conversations, the News Corp’s HR team learned of a verbal exchange between two News Corp employees in Parliament House in Canberra last year. The exchange was about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint.”
“Following those inquiries, our HR team wrote to one of the people involved and the matter was resolved. The Prime Minister appears to have joined these two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment in a toilet that is under current investigation.”
Morrison apologised last night via his Facebook page.
He said, “in the course of today’s media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company. I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.”
“I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission.”
“What matters now is doing everything in my authority to take the actions that are needed to fix the culture in our Parliament and work to make Australia a safer place for women.”
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