/ 15 March 2021

Women raise their voices

Big in the news today will be the March 4 Justice rally scheduled to take place outside Parliament House as our Federal pollies return to Canberra for another week. Calling for equality and an end to gendered violence, 85,000 people are expected to attend events held around Australia. No Coalition minister will attend the Canberra rally, but PM Scott Morrison has offered to meet with a delegation in his office. “I’ll respectfully receive that as I’m sure they will respectfully engage with me. I think that’s the right way to do this,” he said yesterday. Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek and Greens co-deputy leader Larissa Waters will attend the rally and receive a petition calling for change.

Usually, government members are a focus for protestors because they can deliver change through legislation. This time, it’s the politicians’ behaviour that’s under scrutiny. Rally organisers say they’ve moved “at speed” to organise the rallies following historical rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter and allegations by staffer Brittany Higgins that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague. Labor staffers are also said to be preparing to speak out about their experiences. These issues are at least partly responsible for taking a chunk out of the Morrison Government’s appeal to voters, pundits say. Team Morrison’s 2-party preferred status has fallen 2 points to trail Labor 48:52 in the latest Newspoll.

It was more a vigil than a protest, but things got messy when police intervened yesterday. To backtrack for a second: there has been a public outpouring of grief across the UK over the murder of 33yo marketing executive Sarah Everard who went missing on 3 March after she set out from Clapham to walk home alone. On Friday, her body was found and serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens was arrested. PM Boris Johnson and Kate (aka the Duchess of Cambridge) paid tribute to her over the weekend, and several hundred people gathered on Saturday night for a vigil. Police said they had no choice but to enforce the COVID rules and forcibly remove some of those attending. Politicians across the board said the heavy-handed actions were inappropriate. “Women came together to mourn Sarah Everard – they should have been able to do so peacefully,” said Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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