SUBJECTS: March 4 Justice; Behaviour in Parliament House; Need for an independent inquiry into allegations against Christian Porter.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live from Canberra now is the Deputy Labor Leader, Richard Marles. Rich, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning, will you be going to the march?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: I will be, Pete. And I think it’s obviously a matter for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women but I think it would honour this event if the most senior figure in the country were to attend.
STEFANOVIC: The offer was for a delegation to go to his office, and as we just reported, that offer from the organisers has been rejected. They want it to be out in the open, out in public. Do you believe that that is fair enough?
MARLES: I can understand why the organisers have put it in that way, as they’ve said, they’re coming all the way to Parliament, and I think there are thousands of women who are making the journey to Canberra. And they will be as I understand it, giving speeches out the front of Parliament. I think, for those of us across the parliament, who are involved in public life and public leadership, this is a day on which we should be there listening. And, that can only be done by attending. I mean, ultimately, it’s a matter for Scott Morrison-
MARLES: But I think there is a really significant thing happening here within our society – within the gender relations within our society. And that’s being given expression by the marches that are happening around the nation, and here in Canberra. And I think it really is important that we, you know, don’t miss this moment. And that those of us who are involved in representing the public, honour these events by being there. And that’s certainly the decision I’m making, as is the decision that Anthony Albanese will be making.
STEFANOVIC: They- the government argues that there is work being done on a fifth national action plan against domestic violence, there’s a new review by Sex Discrimination Commissioner of workplace culture. Plus there’s changes to reporting of assault in Parliament. Is that enough?
MARLES: Well, I think what’s clear in the last few weeks is that it’s not enough. I mean, every step in the right direction is positive. But there’s a long way to go. And what we’re hearing from women across the country in their reaction to the events that have been playing out here over the last few weeks is that, enough is enough. And these are not isolated incidents. Brittany Higgins is not alone in – in the story that she is telling. And, people are wanting their voice to be heard. And we’ve, I think all experienced that as MPs in the conversations that we’ve had with people over the last- with women over the last few weeks. And really something’s going on out there. And that’s what these marches are an indication of, which is why I think it’s really important that we are doing what we can to make clear that we want to hear this voice, that we support it being heard, we support the expression of what women are saying, but you can only do that by attending.
STEFANOVIC: Well, Labor Party is in trouble too. There was a report over the weekend, saying furious Labor staffers which have been backed by Jenny Macklin, warned MPs and male staffers accused of sexually harassing them at Parliament House that they will no longer keep their secrets. Some of the allegations include sex without proper consent with intoxicated women, name calling, including a person referring to a female as a ‘pig dog’. And married man also harassing female staff members. I mean, what’s your reaction to these claims?
MARLES: Well I’m appalled is the honest answer to that question. And it’s an indictment on all of us in Labor. And I believe it – that’s the other point to make. I absolutely believe what is contained in these – in this article and in these – the stories that are being articulated by those on the Facebook group. And it describes a completely unacceptable culture. And firstly, it describes a whole lot of experiences that on behalf of the party, you know, I’m deeply sorry to all of those who have had them. We want to be encouraging women to be involved in the Labor Party, involved in working here in Parliament House. You know, you read all of this and this should not be a situation where women have to put up with any of this in order to have their involvement in the party. So there is a problem here. And it’s one that we need to own within the Labor Party. With everything else that’s going on, this is about our house, and we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get our house in order. There is – there is a problem here and it really, really needs to be fixed.
STEFANOVIC: Well, I mean, if these claims are true, then the Labor Party is just as bad as the Liberal Party.
MARLES: Well, we’ve never been making an argument that this is a partisan issue. Indeed, quite the opposite. We’ve been saying from the outset, that this is not a partisan issue. And this is behaviour and conduct which is experienced across politics. I mean, I think there is a cultural issue that exists inside politics and inside the workplace, which is Parliament House. But, but these particular allegations are about Labor. And so, you know, we in Labor need to own this. It is an indictment on all of us. And there’s no, you know, pushing this off elsewhere and saying that it happens elsewhere. This is, these are stories, and allegations, which are being made in respect of people’s employment within Labor. And we need to fix it.
STEFANOVIC: Christian Porter won’t be there this week, Richard, will Labor be keeping up the pressure while he’s away?
MARLES: Well, again, all of these are ultimately matters for the Prime Minister. And it really does matter that the Prime Minister stands up and takes responsibility and deals with this issue. I think, to not have an independent inquiry is to leave a shadow hanging over the first law officer of our land, which I can’t imagine is a good thing for Christian Porter. But it’s obviously completely unacceptable from the point of view of the nation. This needs to be cleared up. And matters can’t be allowed to stand where they have been left hanging right now. The very serious allegations which have been made need to be dealt with seriously. And an independent inquiry offers the opportunity to do that. But we also can’t have a situation where there is a shadow hanging over the first law officer of the nation, given the role that that is. And so that’s what needs to be done here. And it really is a matter now for the Prime Minister to take charge of this, to take charge of the whole issue, actually. Have responsibility and make sure this happens.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Richard Marles, appreciate your time this morning. As always, thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you soon.
MARLES: Thanks, Pete.