Scott Morrison is finding it increasingly difficult to worm his way around a firestorm of allegations, that, not only is his government rife with toxicity, but that he himself is a culprit.
Since the beginning of this year, Morrison has been losing his way with women. His handling of a litany of allegations and social protests including Brittany Higgins’ explosive story of rape inside parliament house were perceived by numerous as grossly inadequate. When he moved on to protect then Attorney-General Christian Porter from a historic allegation of rape and subsequently attempted to silence scores of women on a mission to March for Justice, it was enough for many to want him out.
Now, new sensational allegations against the PM have surfaced, likely nudging Australian women still sitting on the fence to topple over.
In a new book released this month ‘Power Play’, former Liberal MP Julia Banks recounts a government in disarray since the ousting of Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull. She courageously details events that convey a backwards era, reminiscent of a “1980s’ boys’ club” in which women, like herself, are routinely subjected to bullying, undermining and sexual harassment.
“It was very much like, it was stepping back in time,” she told ABC’s 7:30 last night. “I had worked my entire life in pretty much blokey cultures, male-dominated cultures in both the legal and corporate sector. I had seen a transformational change over the years in the corporate world. But then when I entered politics it really felt like I was going back to the 1980s. It was extraordinary” she said.
Labelling Morrison as a “ringleader”, Banks paints the picture of a man hellbent on changing the narrative rather than changing the culture. His sole driver to retain power not purpose. “It was the three months of Morrison’s leadership that … was definitely the most gut-wrenching, distressing period of my entire career”, she says.
Having previously navigated countless male-dominated spaces, Banks was shocked by the gender imbalance of power in Australia’s parliament. She reflects on an incident in which a senior male Cabinet Minister sexually violated her at a public event, running his hand down her inner thigh, surrounded by witnesses. It made her question, if he could do this to her, someone on a similar power platform to his own, what would it mean for someone lacking that same “power parity”?
“I know, worse things have happened to other women in the workplace, certainly they have to me – but what disturbed me about that was, here I was, a 50something corporate lawyer, member of parliament, and that move was made on me”, Banks noted last night, about what she describes as an “astoundingly brazen” act.
Morrison denied having known about the incident and unsurprisingly rejects Banks’s other accusations of coercion and intimidation tactics. When she made the decision to leave the party and move to the Cross-bench as an Independent, Banks suggests that the PM attempted to run her out of the country on a special convoy to the UN in a bid to stop and silence her. Her exact analogy for the PM’s conduct during their time together in the party room was that he acted at all times like a “menacing, controlling wallpaper”.
This morning the evidence shows that many other Australian women feel the same way. According to exclusive survey results for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by research company Resolve Strategic, women’s primary vote for the government has fallen from 41 to 37 per cent since the last election. It’s a considerable threat to the Prime Minister who must somehow, inexplicably, regain sure footing before an election early next year.
Labor has gained ground from the shift. Its primary vote rising from 33 to 35 per cent among women, as well as a trend of greater support for independent candidates – 4 to 7 per cent among the same group.
It’s hard to reconcile how Morrison’s government can come back from this, and whether of course, it deserves too.