Last week two members of the House of Representatives crossed the floor to vote against the Morrison- Joyce government. George Christensen, voted against a government bill and delivered a speech that likened vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions to the regime overseen by Hitler, and called for “civil disobedience”. Bridget Archer, simply voted to bring on debate on a national anti-corruption commission after three years of inaction by the government.
Only one of these Members was hauled into the Prime Minister’s office and reduced to tears.
Sometimes the things that someone doesn’t do can tell you as much about their character as the things that they do.
Now the Prime Minister has some serious questions to answer about why he didn’t feel the need to personally speak to a government MP about comments that have the capacity to incite violence. Last week in Senate Question Time we learned that Scott Morrison didn’t think it was his job. He left it to someone else.
But there is also a broader question – why was Bridget Archer treated differently from George Christensen and forced to speak to the Prime Minister against her will?
Well, two thirds of Australian women regularly tell surveys that they don’t believe they are treated equally at work. Those women may have an idea why Scott Morrison singled out Bridget Archer for special attention. They are seeing a pattern they know all too well.
Bridget Archer now has the dubious honour of joining the list of Liberal women who have publicly spoken about the way the Prime Minister, his staff, or close allies have used their power against them. Julia Banks is on the record as describing Scott Morrison as ‘menacing’.
The Prime Minister has made no secret of his love of the top job. But being powerful comes with obligations and responsibilities. You should be honest. And you should exercise power in a way that enhances not diminishes others.
It’s not clear that the Prime Minister met that standard. He has been at pains to describe the meeting as “a very warm, friendly and supportive meeting”. Bridget Archer has said it wasn’t a ‘pastoral care meeting’ and she ‘spent the first half of the conversation crying and apologising’. That doesn’t sound like the same meeting.
Scott Morrison finds himself in a position where yet again someone has called out his version of events as inaccurate and misleading.
But perhaps it’s not that surprising the Prime Minister has a different story from the woman in the room. At a press conference in March the Prime Minister explained that he was shocked to learn:
…that women are overlooked, talked over by men, whether it is in boardrooms, in meeting rooms, in staff rooms, in media conferences, in cabinets, or anywhere else.
I have heard about being marginalised, women being intimidated, women being belittled, women being diminished, and women being objectified.
It may have come as a shock to Scott Morrison, but Australian women are less surprised. And, from the sounds of it, so are many of the women in the Liberal party. Perhaps the Prime Minister would have been less surprised too if he took the time to examine how he and his office use power.
But as I said, sometimes the things someone doesn’t do tell you as much about their character as the things they do.
Women protesting decades of inequality in March this year were told by Scott Morrison they should be grateful they’re not “met with bullets”.
But he understands “the frustrations” felt by anti-lockdown protestors who conducted a mock lynching outside the Victorian parliament six months later.
George Christianson crossing the floor and calling for civil disobedience apparently doesn’t merit a conversation with the Prime Minister.
But Bridget Archer is pulled into an urgent meeting with him for trying to enable a debate on an integrity commission.
When you stand back, there’s a bit of a pattern.