As thousands of March 4 Justice protesters gathered in Canberra, and then in locations all over Australia on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison took the opportunity to not so much address their concerns, but instead to celebrate their very ability to protest.
“Not far from here such marches, even now, are being met with bullets,” he said during his out of Question Time parliamentary speech.
Just prior, he’d also used the moment to highlight the current stats: the one in four women who have suffered violence at the hands of an intimate partner since the age of 15 and the one woman who is murdered every nine days.
But he didn’t outline anything his government would actually be doing to address such concerns.
Instead, he pushed for gratitude, for patriotism, for pride in our country. How good is Australia!
Scott Morrison has been ducking these concerns since Brittany Higgins went public alleging she was raped on a couch in Parliament House, and then later as historical rape allegations against the Attorney-General Christian Porter emerged.
As much as he may have hoped the March 4 Justice would just be a hashtag or a minor annoyance that could be avoided, it quickly became clear that these protesters were making noise, even some of his own Liberal colleagues wanted to join them.
As such, parliament on Monday was always going to be awkward for him. His last-minute offer to have a delegation from the March 4 Justice movement meet him in the office was rejected by the organisers, they asked the Prine Minister to attend the rally instead.
And so Morrison reached into his bag of marketing tricks looking for another diversion wand.
It’s his preferred tactic on these things, and he has been making good use of it in recent weeks — the hastily organised press conference announcing the Aged Care Royal Commission Report, the conveniently timed big tourism stimulus package.
But this time, faced with thousands of protesters literally just outside, he reached to celebrate the magic of democracy instead — comparing Australia to one of the most dangerous places in the world right now to protest. Be grateful, he implied, that you’re not getting shot because right now in Myanmar, that is exactly what’s occurring, where activist groups says 38 protesters were killed on Sunday, during the military crackdown.
“It is good and right that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations,” Morrison said.
“This is a vibrant liberal democracy. Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets – but not here in this country. This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.”
A triumph of democracy. How?
The concerns that led to the March 4 Justice continue to go ignored.
A full independent inquiry investigating all cases of gendered violence that are alleged to have occurred in Parliament or involved current sitting members is not yet happening.
Only a handful of the 55 recommendations the Australian Human Rights Commission came up with following the Government’s own National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, have so far been considered — more than a year since the landmark report was released.
And there have been no announcements regarding public funding for gendered violence prevention in order to meet international best practice standards. As for a Gender Equality Act, which the protesters have also demanded? You won’t even hear the Prime Minister mention or hint at such a possibility.
A triumph to not be met by bullets. How good is Australia!
Photo above courtesy of Dr Blair Williams.