/ 16 March 2021

Porter sues as women call for change

THE SQUIZ
A crowd of more than 5,000 gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra yesterday to call for equality for women and an end to gendered violence. It was one of 40 March 4 Justice rallies around the country that culminated in a petition with 90,000 signatures calling for change being handed to Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and the Greens’ Larissa Waters. A surprise speaker in Canberra was former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins whose alleged rape kicked rally organisers into gear. She said she hoped more women speaking out about harassment and violence would lead to “meaningful reform to the workplace culture inside Parliament House and, hopefully, every workplace, to ensure the next generation of women can benefit from a safer and more equitable Australia.”

WHAT WAS THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE?
Neither PM Scott Morrison nor Women’s Minister Marise Payne attended the rally, and organisers declined an offer to meet privately. Addressing the Parliament, Morrison said the safety and advancement of women was “a common cause, and we must not let our frustration with the failure to achieve so many of the results we would hope for to undermine the unity needed to continue our shared progress.” And Payne said it was up to every elected representative to “own the failings” that have led to demands for change. Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who is dealing with claims that female Labor staffers have also been mistreated, said that many Aussies are “crying out that this is a moment that requires leadership. And it requires leadership from this prime minister.”

AND CHRISTIAN PORTER?
Yep. The Attorney-General yesterday launched defamation proceedings against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan. Porter’s lawyers said it will give him the opportunity to deny the historical rape allegation made against him under oath. The case focuses on an online article that he says portrays him as the perpetrator of a “brutal” rape that contributed to a woman taking her own life. It did not name him, but Porter’s lawyers said he was easily identifiable and was “obliged” to identify himself. Yesterday, Porter said he would return to work by the end of the month.

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