Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for interrupting a senior minister who was responding to a question about what it’s like to be a woman in parliament. Anne Ruston, minister for families and social services, was asked if the political culture for women had improved, but she was interrupted a few words into her response.
The incident comes amid reports of sexual misconduct in parliament, an investigation by ABC News’ Four Corners looked at allegations of inappropriate behaviour by ministers within the conservative government. Mr Morrison addressed the investigation in a press conference on Tuesday, where he defended his ministers and said no action would be taken, however his interruption of Ms Ruston garnered more attention on social media, Ms Ruston was asked whether things had changed in parliament since the introduction of the so-called “bonk ban” in 2018 which prohibited sexual relations between ministers and their staff.
The ban was introduced by then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, after his deputy Barnaby Joyce was revealed to have had an affair with a former adviser. Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong wrote: “Scott, just let her speak.” Others accused the prime minister of being “tone deaf”, after being asked again by the journalist, Ms Ruston was able to respond. She said she had felt “wholly supported” during her time in parliament. The ABC investigation raised questions about the behaviour of male members of the ruling Liberal Party including that of Attorney-General Christian Porter, his alleged behaviour includes making unwanted advances to women while he was in federal office.
The investigation said Mr Porter had been warned by Mr Turnbull about public behaviour with a female member of staff in a bar, Mr Porter denies the allegations against him, the investigation also spoke with Rachelle Miller, a Liberal staffer who detailed her affair with married minister Alan Tudge. She told ABC’s Four Corners programme there was a significant power imbalance in relationships between ministers and staffers, in a statement after the investigation, Mr Tudge said: I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family i also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced. On Tuesday, Mr Morrison said he would not investigate the allegations further as they had been dealt with, he praised Mr Turnbull’s ban and said his ministers were in no doubt about what my expectations are of them, but added, i think Australians understand human frailty, and i think they understand the people who work in this place are just as human as anyone else.