4.38pm | April 01, 2021




SUBJECTS: Cabinet reshuffle; Prime Minister for Women; Andrew Laming; National Summit.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my panel, Liberal MP Katie Allen and Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence, Jenny McAllister. Lovely to see both of you again.

I want to start with you Jenny McAllister. Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have shifted roles but they remain in Cabinet, but obviously it’s no doubt a demotion of such for Christian Porter, who will certainly not have that Attorney-General portfolio anymore. Does that settle the issue in your view?

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Patricia I’ve said to you before that the Prime Ministerial Standards demand the highest standards from members of Cabinet, and it’s unclear to me and I think it’s unclear to the Australian public that either Mr Porter or Senator Reynolds have met this test. If they have, the Prime Minister really needs to explain it. They’re his standards; the test he has set. I don’t think it’s clear to anybody whether or not he has really assessed their fitness to continue in these kinds of roles.

KARVELAS: Katie Allen, it is just a reshuffling of basically the same people. I mean, Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds, who have been under such a cloud, remain in Cabinet. Is that good enough?

KATIE ALLEN, MEMBER FOR HIGGINS: I think there’s some pretty reasonable reasons why there’s been a shift in the Cabinet and I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m particularly happy with this new taskforce of women, addressing women’s issues and I’m also very happy that Karen Andrews is stepping up to a very powerful portfolio, which is the Home Affairs portfolio. I would say that I think there’s some really positive things to come out of today with the record number of women in Cabinet, and women’s economic security with Senator Jane Hume; Assistant Minister for Women, Amanda Stoker; and of course a new minister for safety, which I think women should be very pleased about with this very targeted approach, because women want to feel safe.

KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, Scott Morrison described Marise Payne as the “Prime Minister for Women” – kind of reset in the middle of the press conference on the language around this but that was really his instinct, what did you make of that?

MCALLISTER: This would be funny if it really wasn’t so depressing. The obvious implication, or the obvious question that arises from this, is does this mean Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister for Men? Scott Morrison needs to take responsibility personally, as the Prime Minister, for ensuring that women’s issues are properly considered by his government. It is not enough to push responsibility for that off on to other members of his ministry. I find it quite bizarre that he would describe the arrangements in those terms.

KARVELAS: Katie Allen, did it jar with you?

ALLEN: Not at all. I mean, quite frankly, he corrected himself by saying she’s the primary minister. He was trying to make the point that he’s gathered together this taskforce of strong and powerful women, across issues of women wanting to be heard, wanting to be safe and wanting to be economically empowered. So Marise is a fantastic Minister for Women, who’s also got a very powerful portfolio with the Foreign Affairs portfolio. She’s going to provide that primary connectiveness with regards to bringing women together collaboratively to work right across all of these different ministerial portfolios, right deep into the heart of government. I think this is actually a very positive step. Marise is a very experienced minister and he’s saying, he is backing her in with regards to her leadership in this particular area. Let’s be frank, women want to hear that women are leading and that is what we are hearing. We are hearing more women in parliament, we’re about hearing about more women in Cabinet and we’re hearing about more women in powerful positions in Cabinet and that is a great thing for women in Australia.

KARVELAS: Katie Allen, it was just yesterday that I saw you of course because you were on Insiders with David Speers on another panel and we saw each other because I was on the panel too. In that forum, you were asked about Andrew Laming. The woman you were on that panel with, Sarah Henderson, says she is not comfortable being in the party room with him. Are you?

ALLEN: I am. I think Andrew Laming has decided to take leave. He has decided to really rethink his future, which I’m very pleased about. More importantly, he is taking time to consider his outrageous behaviour. He’s taking some counselling, importantly some clinical counselling, I think it's time that Andrew Laming logged off for the moment, stepped back and we will see he has decided not to re-contest the next general election which I think is a very sensible...

KARVELAS: Why should he stay on a whopping wage compared to average Australians for potentially another year in the Parliament if he’s behaved this way? I mean, one of these allegations has been made against him, which he hasn’t denied, the upskirting, is actually a criminal offence?

ALLEN: I think the important thing to say is that it is actually the people of his electorate who have elected him to that position and the most important thing is he is making sure that he is taking steps to change his behaviour, to learn from his outrageous behaviour and to make sure that he is now moving out of parliament and I think that is right outcome for Andrew Laming…

KARVELAS: I’ve got to ask again though, why not now? Why should he stay for another year? It seems like it’s just because it’s politically convenient for your government?

ALLEN: I think that there’s a pre-selection coming up for Andrew Laming and he’s not going to re-contest that preselection...

KARVELAS: Doesn’t answer my question about why he’s here now.

ALLEN: Are you asking for a by-election, are you?

KARVELAS: Yeah. I think that if he’s not appropriate to be in the Parliament, why would he stay in the Parliament for another year?

ALLEN: I think he has taken the right steps and he’s reconsidered his future and that is the outcome I’m very comfortable with.

KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister?

MCALLISTER: It’d be nice, wouldn’t it, if women who were facing domestic violence in their lives were able to take apparently unlimited leave to sort out their challenges. I think this is completely unacceptable and frankly illogical. If Andrew Laming is not a fit and proper person to contest the election for the Liberal Party at the next election, why is he a fit and proper person to remain in their party room and to remain in the Parliament? That question has not been answered. Frankly, the idea that he’s given special dispensation, medical leave, to deal with this disgraceful behaviour, is an insult to the many women facing very real problems in their own lives.

KARVELAS: Katie Allen, that is true, isn’t it? It is insulting to people who can’t even get any leave that he can take this extended leave for what has essentially been him being a perpetrator?

ALLEN: I think Andrew Laming has spent 17 years in politics. It is a high-stress job. I suspect the stress is getting to him. He’s taken leave in order to sort this out and to learn from his mistakes.

KARVELAS: Sure, you’ve got a stressful job. I can assure you I’ve got a stressful job. I don't upskirt people. I know you don’t either. There’s no excuse for it, right?

ALLEN: There is no excuse for his behaviour. He has committed to counselling and clinical counselling. He’s committed to stepping back and really rethinking his behaviour and to learn from his behaviour and he’s not going to be recontesting the next election. That is an outcome that I’m very comfortable with.

KARVELAS: Is it a bit weird that he did an interview while he’s on paid mental health leave?

ALLEN: I suspect that's the reason he needs to log off, he needs to disconnect, he needs to step back. So I would encourage him to listen to that advice and to do that.

KARVELAS: He said in this interview that his online behaviour has been “reinvented into harassment”. What did you think of that?

ALLEN: Well, let’s just say it’s good that he’s going to take some mental health leave and some clinical counselling and some training in order to understand how inappropriate that behaviour is.

KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, you’ve heard the reasoning from Katie Allen, he’s going to take the training and hopefully come back a better man. 

MCALLISTER: [Laughs in disbelief] I go back to my earlier proposition. If he is not a suitable person to represent the Liberal Party at the next election, why is he a suitable person to represent the Liberal Party now, in the Parliament, and why should he be given a kind of leave and dispensation that is not available to so many women who need support of this kind?

KARVELAS: I interviewed Sussan Ley, who’s going to be on this cabinet taskforce of course, a little earlier and she made a point that really resonated with me that I’ve been trying to share with the world, because I want to start a discussion on it. She mentioned that there’s a 1.5 per cent conviction rate on sexual assault and she said it’s shameful and that this group, with state governments, needs to try and change that. Katie Allen, should that be a focus?

ALLEN: A hundred per cent, Patricia. In fact, I think what’s happened in these last few weeks is a triggering across Australia for women. I think actually last Tuesday the Prime Minister articulated very well how frustrated, angry, in fact enraged, women are about the full spectrum of harassment and violence against them, right from rape and the terrible low statistics with regards to allegations turning into convictions and actually turning into outcomes where people are held accountable for their extraordinary criminal behaviour. But it goes right back to the way that women are treated, whether it’s being overlooked, mansplained, harassed, feeling unsafe going to a train station. I thought he articulated that very well. I think there was no woman I know who hasn’t had some sort of experience like that. And even myself, I don’t see myself as being someone who has had a victimised life but can tell you I can explain dozens of experiences where I say, “That’s just not good enough”.

I think that the tip of the iceberg is this issue about convictions. It’s appalling. And the lack of standardisation of the legislation, because I think these are mostly at the state level, across the country seems to be very varied. I would like to see national leadership on this. These are state and territory laws but we need to have a federal approach to them. I understand there’s going to be a national summit for violence against women, and I think I said this to you, Patricia, yesterday in the green room – they ain’t going to find a room big enough for this. I would actually like to see a lot of pre and prepping work to engage with the women of Australia leading up to that summit so we can hear broadly from the voices, not just the voices who are already out there – we need to hear about the intersectorial voices, women from migrant backgrounds, women from Indigenous backgrounds, women from backgrounds with disabilities. We need to have the full of spectrum of voices heard, and now is the opportunity for those voices to be coming to the table, through your local member. So please, if there are people listening from Higgins and you have got something you’d like to contribute to this important debate that Patricia has just raised, please do reach out to me. I’m sure Jenny would say the same for herself as well. I’m sure every member of parliament would like to hear from women about what they want to see change with regards to this legislation.

KARVELAS: Look, we’re out of time. Jenny, we’ll begin with you next time when we’ve got this panel back on. Really appreciate both of you joining me this afternoon. Liberal MP Katie Allen and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence, Jenny McAllister there.