Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a staff member involved in “disgusting and sickening” behavior in Parliament has been fired, in the latest blow to his conservative government that’s already been roiled by rape allegations.
The Ten Network on Monday night broadcast allegations that a group of male government staffers had shared images and videos of lewd acts for two years, including photos of one of them masturbating on the desk of a female lawmaker.
“The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in Parliament, and for the ideals the Parliament is supposed to represent,” Morrison said in a statement. “It’s not good enough, and is totally unacceptable,” he said, adding that the staff member at the center of the allegations has been fired.
The latest incident comes a week after thousands of women rallied across Australia to protest against sexual violence and Morrison’s handling of decades-old rape allegations and a separate alleged sexual assault in parliament in 2019. Support for Morrison’s government fell to a 13-month low in the latest Newspoll published March 15 and it is now trailing the main Labor opposition, 48% to 52%.
The government is under fire for refusing to hold an inquiry into claims that Attorney-General Christian Porter raped a fellow member of a school debating team in 1988 — allegations he denies.
There’s also been a growing criticism of Morrison’s handling of allegations that former government media adviser Brittany Higgins was raped by a fellow staffer in a minister’s office in 2019.
In response, Morrison has ordered an independent inquiry into workplace culture of Parliament House to be conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
Morrison said Tuesday he was greatly distressed that many women believed he had not heard their calls for change.
“These events have triggered, right across this building and indeed right across the country, women who have put up with this rubbish and this cloud for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did,” Morrison said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne, the most senior woman in Morrison’s 22-person Cabinet in which 16 are men, told a parliamentary committee on Monday night that the latest allegations revealed by the Ten Network were “appalling.”
“The degrading nature of those actions, which were shown in the media, is beyond disappointing,” she said.
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