Prime Minister Scott Morrison skirted around the ‘s’ word again today, but then did everything possible to avoid it.
This time it was in relation to Christine Holgate, the former CEO of Australia Post, who Morrison effectively fired on the floor of Parliament late last year.
More than fire her, he humiliated her. He said he was “appalled” by Holgate’s actions signing off on four watches worth around $20,000 — given as gifts to four executives after they just closed a $200 million plus deal.
He said the purchases would not pass the “pub test” and that if Holgate did not want to stand aside then “she can go”. He made all of these comments without speaking to Holgate first or being fully briefed on the situation. Perhaps, most tellingly, he made all these comments at a time when several members of his own party had their own questions to answer regarding the potential misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
Yesterday, during a parliamentary inquiry, Holgate shared her side of the story, including how at one point the experience had left her “suicidal”. Last night in addition to that hearing, Holgate shared an interview with the ABC’s 7:30, again reiterating how the Prime Minister had “humiliated her”.
“So maybe if the PM is watching, he could give me a call. I would love an apology,” she said.
But the word ‘sorry’ — or even any kind of attempt at an apology — is not coming. Rather, Morrison said he “regrets” any distress his language may have caused.
“It’s a government company. It’s taxpayers’ money. And it should be treated with the same level of respect across government organisations,” he said. The hypocrisy in his double-down never seeming to faze him.
As Holgate herself outlined during the Senate inquiry on Tuesday, there’s a dire lack of “respect” that Morrison’s own ministers have applied to their spending of taxpayer dollars, of which Morrison has failed to personally address.
Morrison’s admission of regret puts the responsibility again on the individual impacted — something he’s developed a habit of doing in expressing such regrets and has likely done his entire career.
In Holgate’s case, his regret came down to the manner in which Holgate had received what he’d said about her in parliament.
“The language in Parliament was very strong,” Morrison said Wednesday morning. “It was not my intention to cause distress to Ms Holgate and I regret any distress that that strong language may have caused to her, and indeed did cause to her. That was not my intention.”
Morrison added that the words he had said were “not about gender”. Rather it was about the Cartier watches that he said had gone to “well paid executives.”
But this “strong language” the PM alludes to, that he regularly employs, has a habit of causing distress.
Last month, the PM told parliament that we should be grateful that protesters participating in the #March4Justice events were not “met with bullets”– comments which triggered swift backlash.
When he stood in front of journalists a week later to declare he had been “hearing women”, he stopped short of apologising for the bullets comments. There was certainly no ‘s’ word shared. Instead, he “acknowledged” that such a statement may have come off as offensive.
He also failed to apologise for comments he made in response to rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins, in which he said it took a conversation with his wife who urged him to consider how he’d feel if it had happened to one of his daughters, in order to appreciate the enormity of the situation.
Back in 2019, The Saturday Paper revealed that Morrison paid an empathy consultant $190,000 for his team to learn to compassionately liaise with drought-stricken communities across Australia.
$190,000 in taxpayer funds to learn what any leader in his position should have figured out by now.
Morrison reverted back to this empathy training “quick fix” most recently, by ordering backbencher Andrew Laming to take a course, in order to understand how his constituents might feel about his actions— and his propensity to bully women.
But let’s be clear. Such training is a waste of time — and a waste of money. No amount of training will teach our PM and many of our MPs how to show true remorse. No amount of training can teach them how to say sorry.
Apparently, there’s only one place it works, and that’s when it comes to dealing with News Corp; a company which controls 59% of newspaper readership in Australia, including 17 of 31 metropolitan newspapers according to a new report by GetUp.
Morrison’s biggest and best apology this year came late one night on his Facebook page, in which he shared his deep regret over his insensitive approach to a question from a News Ltd journalist, referencing an anonymous incident of sexual harassment at News Ltd which the company rejected.
“I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.
“I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission.”
It’s interesting who and what Morrison reserves his best (and only) apologies for.