Politics

People Are Criticising Scott Morrison’s “Misogynistic” Response To Parliament Rape Allegations

Anyone who needs to imagine his wife or daughter experiencing misogyny before he can empathise is part of the problem.

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Yesterday, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins made a formal complaint about how her alleged rape was handled by Parliament House. Today, our PM, Scott Morrison, is being criticised for his tone-deaf response.

Brittany Higgins, a former adviser to two Liberal cabinet ministers, aired claims on Monday. Firstly, that she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in Parliament House. Secondly, that no one in the parliament offered support while her alleged rapist suffered no consequences.

Ms Higgins originally stated her claim for News.com.au, alleging that she was sexually assaulted back in March of 2019 in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office at Parliament House. In another interview for The Project on Channel Ten Higgins further elaborated on the incident.

“I woke up mid-rape, essentially,” she said. Higgins explained that on the night the incident occurred, herself and a male colleague had been drinking in Reynold’s office. She fell asleep and woke up with her colleague on top of her, asking him “at least half a dozen times” to stop.

Despite the incident happening in Minister Reynold’s office, Ms Higgins is also alleging that she did not get enough support from Reynolds or the minister’s acting chief of staff. Even after footage of the incident was viewed by staff and the AFP, Higgins tells the project, “it was dismissed, it was played down and it was made to feel like it was my problem.”

Scott Morrison’s response to Higgins’ allegations was, at best, unhelpful.  The PM grounded his response to the allegations in an anecdotal conversation with his wife, saying, “Jenny and I spoke last night ..she said to me, “You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?”

This statement may seem innocuously sympathetic. However, journalists, activists, and Twitter users were quick to question the underlying misogyny of the statement.

Tegan George, a federal politics reporter for Channel Ten, was quick to post a video of her questioning Scott Morrison almost immediately after his statement. In the video, she asks the PM: “Shouldn’t you have thought about [the allegations] as a human being? What happens if men don’t have a wife and children? Would they reach the same compassionate conclusion?”

As First Nations writer and activist Nakkiah Lui also pointed out: “Scott Morrison’s qualifying of his empathy in relation to things he views as his or that he cares about, is…indicative of his lack of empathy for anyone who isn’t a powerful, white cis-hetero Christian male.”

The notion that Scott Morrison cannot act on, let alone sympathise with, the assault of a woman without imagining that the woman in question is his wife or daughter is an ideology inherent to benevolent misogyny — a type of misogyny in which men refuse to see women as their fellow human beings unless they’re women they personally care for.

Other federal politicians who are women also called out Morrison’s lack of humanity and empathy, including Senator Jess Walsh, activist and author Sally Rugg also aptly tweeted, “Daughters don’t exist to teach the men who father them that rape is bad.”

Many were also quick to point out too, that Morrison imagining his own family members in such horrors doesn’t apply to families of colour, and Aboriginal families separated by detention centres, and prisons. Morrison has since announced he will address the systemic culture of misogyny in parliament house via a structural review of staff conduct.

The Morrison government’s policies on Jobkeeper, Indigenous deaths in custody, and the federal government’s history of treating women disrespectfully in parliament prove how much empathy Morrison and his government lack.

Ms Higgins, women in parliament, and the marginalised peoples of this country deserve better than a condescending PM who cannot muster empathy for a single woman without his wife advising him to imagine this woman is his daughter.


Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian writer, critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. If you want, check out her podcast, GayV Club where she gushes about LGBT rep in media with her best friend. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.