By Tanya Plibersek

24 March 2021




SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison; sexual assault and sexual harassment; Royal Commission into veteran suicide. 

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: Now the Prime Minister had made a very emotional speech yesterday, almost tearful, talked about the issue of women in Parliament, in the Parliament House area as well. But a lot of focus went on then to the question and answer session afterwards, where he made accusations regarding a harassment, sexual harassment case apparently within News Corp. Now later News Corp did say nup, that is completely incorrect, and the Prime Minister in a statement very late last night had to apologise both for the factual error, but also for raising the issue itself – almost weaponising that – that would be the way I would describe it in terms of how he used that case in that that clash with Andrew Clennell from Sky News. I'm joined now by Tanya Plibersek. She's the Shadow Minister for Education and the Shadow Minister for Women and always joins me regularly every Wednesday here on 4BC Drive. Tanya, thanks for being on the show.


EMERSON: Now the Prime Minister's address yesterday, a lot of focus on that, the address itself, and the question and answer session afterwards. Can I just ask you about the address itself and what he said initially in the press conference, before we got to the Q&A session there. He was clearly very emotional. He did raise again the fact that his daughters, his mother, his wife are at the centre of his life and the focus. He got criticism earlier when he raised the issue about talking to Jenny his wife about these issues, how did you see that speech yesterday?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think the way the Prime Minister started was exactly right. He is right to be upset about what we're discovering about the culture here at Parliament House, and more importantly the huge levels of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence we still see across the Australian community. And these are serious issues, and it's right to take them seriously. Words matter, but of course it's the actions that come from those words that matter much more. And I guess that's what we are yet to see.

EMERSON: Alright then, and then obviously a lot of focus had been – was on the question and answer session afterwards and that Q&A with Andrew Clennell from the Sky News. The Prime Minister clearly got that wrong – last night in a statement he apologised about that. Is that apology good enough?

PLIBERSEK: The sad thing about that apology is that it only came after he got the overnight examples of what the front pages were going to look like the next day. So as the front pages of all the News Limited papers started coming in, giving the Prime Minister a hard time about getting this so very wrong – that's when he apologised. That's terrible. Actually, yesterday in Question Time when I asked him questions about weaponising this claim, he was still defending his right to do it. So he only apologised after News Limited called him out on it. And I think the real key here, right, is we've got this inquiry starting in Parliament right now that's supposed to look at some of the terrible culture here. Our staff are already quite nervous about coming forward. Former staff might be quite nervous about coming forward, if they think that the Prime Minister is going to grab hold of an allegation and use it in this way in the Parliament without the permission of the person who's, you know, gone to the inquiry – that's really going to stop people coming forward. And that's the last thing we want. We actually want people talking about their experiences. Because it's not until we really face up to what's been going on that we can seek to change it. 

EMERSON: What are you seeking out of that inquiry? Are you looking for scalps, or you're looking for actual change?

PLIBERSEK: I think it has to be about change. And the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, who's conducting this inquiry, has made it really clear that this isn't about investigating individual complaints – you go to the police for that, or you go to the department, you know, to complain about it. This is about looking at the whole culture of the Parliament. And it follows on from a really important report that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner gave the Government more than a year ago, that looks at sexual harassment in all Australian workplaces and found, shockingly, that over the last five years, two in every five women – so 40 per cent of women – have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years. And if you look longer term, if you look at a lifetime, pretty much every woman you'll ever meet, Scott, has experienced sexual harassment at one time or another in the workplace. We need to change that. We need to make every Australian workplace safe for every Australian worker. No one should be subjected – no woman, no man, should be subjected to sexual harassment in any Australian workplace. 

EMERSON: Let me turn to the issue of veterans’ suicide now. There's calls for a royal commission into veteran suicide. Do you support that? 

PLIBERSEK: I do, 100 per cent. The families of veterans who have suicided have made it very clear that they want a royal commission, and nothing less. They say that their loved ones have fought for their country, and it’s time that their country fought for them – and really looked at the way our veterans have been let down when they return home. 

EMERSON: Look, I'm a son of a veteran. I'm fortunate. My dad's still alive, 93. But I know a lot of people in the military, I grew up as a RAAF rat on many bases there. It must be terrible for these families to see their loved ones take their own lives in these circumstances. But shouldn't this have been, this kind of royal commission, it's been talked about I think for probably three years now, it's taking a very long time for it to happen. 

PLIBERSEK: I don't understand why it's taking so long. We've now- both the Senate and the House of Representatives have voted in support of a royal commission. It's up to the Prime Minister now to get on with it, and announce it, make it happen.

EMERSON: Alright Tanya Plibersek, I appreciate talking you today, we’ll catch you again next week.

PLIBERSEK: Always a pleasure Scott. Thank you.

EMERSON: And that was the Shadow Minister for Education, the Shadow Minister for Women in the Federal Parliament, Tanya Plibersek.