SUBJECTS: March 4 Justice; Behaviour in Parliament House; Newspoll; Need for an independent inquiry into allegations against Christian Porter;
JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s appropriate that the Prime Minister and Marise Payne actually go out and address the women at today’s march?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I think what we’re seeing is a really significant moment in the gender relations of our society. And that’s been given expression by the marches around the country and the one here in Canberra. That’s ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister, but I think it would honour this event, if the most senior figure in the country were to attend. I’ll be there. Anthony Albanese will be there. It matters that those of us across the parliament are supporting those who are organizing the event, but the event itself by supporting women across Australia and having their voice heard. And I think we do that by attending.
JOURNALIST: The article yesterday published by Sam Maiden, detailing potential allegations similar to that inside the Labor Party. Does that need to be addressed?
MARLES: It certainly needs to be addressed. And the answer to that question is I’m appalled. The allegations in that article are completely shocking. And the allegations which are in that article are completely shocking and firstly, it needs to be made clear that all of us stand with those women who have had the courage to articulate their story. But this is an indictment on all of us in Labor. You know, on behalf of the Labor Party, I am deeply sorry for what has occurred and this needs to change.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy with the lead over Scott Morrison in the latest Newspoll. Is Mr. Morrison’s pandemic halo over?
MARLES: I’m not going to comment on polls. They really do come and they go. We’re just focused on doing everything we can to present the best alternative government possible for the people in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Richard, you describe the allegations detailed in the in the story yesterday as shocking. Have you ever been made aware of any allegations surrounding any men in the Labor Party and their mistreatment of women?
MARLES: I’ve not been specifically made aware of details. Over a life in this building, you hear rumour, I guess. The extent of what is detailed, though, in the article yesterday is shocking to me. I believe it, let me say that. And it really matters that it changes. And it’s an indictment on us in Labor. And we’ve been saying for- since the beginning of this, that we don’t see this as a partisan issue. This is a matter which goes across the parties. But in this one, it’s about us, it’s about Labor and we can’t be hiding from this. You know, there are internal processes within the Labor Party which we seek to make the best that they can be. I think it’s important now that we are doing everything we can to support, you know, those women to avail themselves of those processes, but not only the party’s processes, but now the processes that are available across the parliament.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, Richard, if there are allegations that arrived specifically from this Facebook group, should people who those allegations are levied against lose their jobs or stand down?
MARLES: Well, I think what matters is to see how this unfolds. Right now what we’ve got is those allegations that are being made, and they are shocking. And what they detail is, you know, I think a culture which is completely unacceptable. And it’s one that we need to own and take responsibility for within Labor. And we do. And we’ve got to make sure that it is fixed.
JOURNALIST: But again, should people be standing, or stepping aside if there are specific allegations?
MARLES: We need to wait until, you know, if and when there are any specific allegations and we get to that point. What is clear, though, from what is detailed in yesterday’s article, it’s that there is a real issue. And we have a significant cultural problem and it’s one that must change.
JOURNALIST: Has the PM’s attitude here kind of poured fuel on the fire? Is he not done enough to address this and to bring gender relations in this country forward?
MARLES: Well, the Prime Minister is the senior figure in this country. The Prime Minister in this moment needs to show leadership. The Prime Minister actually needs to take charge of this issue. And I think women of Australia need to hear the Prime Minister’s voice. For so many of the moments that we’ve seen over the last few weeks, it seems to me the Prime Minister has not been any of those things. We obviously do need to see some form of independent inquiry in relation to the first law officer of the nation. We can’t continue to have this shadow hanging over that role. It’s obviously not good enough to assert, as the Prime Minister has, that his office wasn’t aware of the allegations of Brittany Higgins until earlier this year. That’s patently not true. It’s not true. It’s beggars belief. So it really does matter the Prime Minister stands up and takes responsibility.