SUBJECTS: March 4 Justice; Need for an independent inquiry into allegations against Christian Porter; Behaviour in Parliament House.
MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Lets go back to news of the day and hundreds of protesters are expected to descend on Parliament House in Canberra today, as the March 4 Justice takes place. This morning, the woman behind the rally has rebuffed an invitation to meet personally with the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. The Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles joins us now from Parliament House. Richard Marles, good morning to you
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
ROWLAND: Very good, thank you. So, Janine Hendry, the organiser was on our show half an hour ago telling us that no, she’s rejected the Prime Minister’s offer to come inside Parliament House to meet him personally. She wants him instead to go outside to meet the women. What should the Prime Minister do in your view?
MARLES: Well, ultimately, it’s a matter for the Prime Minister. But I think he would do honour to this event, if he attended. This is a really significant moment, I think, in the gender relationships within our society. And what’s clear is that women around Australia are wanting their voice heard. We’re seeing marches of this kind happening everywhere. And I think this is a profoundly important moment. And I think for all of us in Parliament House, across the political spectrum, this is not a partisan issue, need to be making sure that we are supporting the voice of women who are speaking through these marches. And I’ll be there, I think that it is important that people attend. And obviously, it is a matter for the Prime Minister but I think the most senior figure in the nation being at this event would do it honour.
ROWLAND: Okay, is your Leader, Anthony Albanese, going to attend?
MARLES: He will.
ROWLAND: Okay, will he be speaking? Will you be speaking? Or just there as attendees?
MARLES: Look, I think that our role is to be there. The speaking list has been put together by those organising it, and as I understand it, they don’t have any politicians speaking, and that’s fine. I think that that makes sense to me. But what I think matters is that across the political spectrum, we are giving support to these rallies and to this moment, and acknowledging that this really is a very significant moment in the gender relations of our society. And I think to miss the mark is actually, for us, not to be doing what we should be as public representatives.
ROWLAND: These marches, they were triggered by the outrage, the perceived outrage about the lack of reaction to the rape allegation by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and the rape allegation- the historic rape allegation levelled against Christian Porter. Christian Porter won’t be there this week as Parliament resumes. The Prime Minister continues to insist there will not be an independent inquiry into the Attorney-General’s fitness to be a Cabinet Minister. Is that where the matter is going to rest? Or will you pursue it in Parliament?
MARLES: Well, if that is where the matter rests, then I think that’s going to be a very unsatisfactory outcome for the nation. We’ve got a shadow which is now hanging over the first law officer of the land, and that’s the point here. Christian Porter is not just a private citizen, he is the Attorney-General of this nation. And it’s really important that these allegations don’t just linger. I think it’s actually important for Christian Porter. An independent inquiry of some form is needed here to make sure that the first law officer of our nation is able to continue that role without there being this shadow. And so, that’s what should happen here. It’s clearly what should happen here. And again, ultimately, all of this rests with the Prime Minister. But it’s really critical that the Prime Minister actually takes charge of this issue. Really, from the start, we’ve seen him ducking and diving and not being at the centre of the matter, as he should be as the Prime Minister of our country. And there does need to be a process here which both allows the treatment of the allegations to be dealt with in a serious way, but which also makes it possible for the first law officer of the country to continue with his work, without a shadow being over the role.
ROWLAND: I want to turn to the revelation by Sam Maiden in news.com over the weekend, this private Facebook page, by female- former and current Labor staffers making all sorts of disgusting allegations about sexual harassment and abuse. I am going to read out a couple of the breakfast TV- friendly allegations. These are from current and former female Labor staffers. Quote; “he’s a man who calls his female colleague a pig dog when she disagrees with him.” Quote; “He’s a man who says he’d never sleep with a woman without a thigh gap.” And quote; “he’s a man who is some 40 years my senior, groped me and tried to stick his tongue down my throat in a lift at work.” What do you think of this?
MARLES: Well it’s appalling. And the first point to say is that for all of those women who are having the courage to tell their story, I believe them. And we all need to be standing with them. And the details which are articulated here are terrible. And it’s an indictment on all of us in Labor. And on behalf of the party, I am deeply sorry for the experiences that these women have had. And what matters now is going forward that we do everything we can to ensure that this behaviour stops. And there are internal processes within the party, but there are now processes which have been established with the Parliament. And I think it’s really important that all of us are doing everything we can to support people to- women to come forward, and to work through those processes.
ROWLAND: And I hear what you say about it being an indictment- it being an indictment on all sides of politics and inquiries are under way-
MARLES: But, Michael, on this one, it’s an indictment on us. And Labor can’t duck away from this, in the sense of pointing the finger anywhere else-
ROWLAND: And based on that-
MARLES: This is our house which we need to get in order, and these really are appalling allegations.
ROWLAND: So just before we go, viewers therefore, and we’ve heard all of these allegations concerning the Liberal Party. The viewers could easily get the perception that the building you’re sitting in is nothing more than a sexual assault factory?
MARLES: Well, if that is ultimately where we’re at, it is clearly where we should not be, and it is an indictment on everyone here. And I’ve made this point a lot; this issue is not partisan. And a building which is so important in the life of the nation, which is an exciting place to work. I love working here and I know that many people do- it’s a very privileged place to work- but none of that equals a licence to behave badly. In fact, all of that is a reason why this building should be the exemplar for the nation. And it should be the role model as a workplace for the country. And it’s not. And I think that there is a cultural problem in here, as I think that there is across politics. And we need to fix it.
ROWLAND: Need to fix it indeed and fix it quickly. Richard Marles, thank you for joining us.
MARLES: Thanks, Michael.