SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
TUESDAY, 23 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: Prime Minister’s press conference; March 4 Justice.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Kristina Keneally. Thanks so much for your time, looking at the issue that it's been bubbling away for five weeks. There's a few micro issues and I know you want to - well, not micro but detailed issues - that I know you want to pick up on. But from the Prime Minister, did you feel like this was the start of something big today?
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: Laura, let's acknowledge the Prime Minister's mea culpa here. The Prime Minister has stood before the country and said for weeks now he has got it wrong. He got it wrong in his language. He got it wrong in his failure to respond. That is what he said. And I acknowledge it. I'm sure he is, and I have no doubt that his emotional connection and his love for his daughters, his wife and his mother is real. That is not the question here. The question here is how have we arrived at a point: five weeks of public conversation, public anger from Australian women, a outpouring of women reliving their own experiences of harassment, and assault and rape, women who recognise themselves in Brittany Higgins story.
How have we gotten to a point where it's taken a Prime Minister five weeks to acknowledge that? And Laura, I heard a lot from the Prime Minister, him saying the things he has heard over these last five weeks. What I haven't heard from the Prime Minister today is what he is going to do about that. And, Laura, there are some things we can talk about in terms of some of the issues. But I'd like to just say today, that if the Prime Minister is serious about making real change for Australian women, if he's serious about taking actions on the things he has heard over these past five weeks, if this mea culpa is real, then let's see some specific actions: quotas in the Liberal Party, paid domestic violence leave for victims of domestic violence, fixing and real action on the superannuation gap, and the gender pay gap. And, quite frankly, one that is really important to me, let's see some paid parental leave in the private sector, required for mothers of stillborn babies. These are all things that this Government has failed to do. And so if we want to believe that the Prime Minister has heard Australian women, we now need to see it in his actions.
JAYES: Yep. And look things can't be changed straightaway. And so do we afford the Prime Minister some time to make these announcements? I know, it's been five weeks. I've got to say, not everyone in that building, from the Prime Minister down, got the gravity of this straightaway. Do you accept that?
KENEALLY: Well how long are women supposed to wait? How long are we meant to sit here silently and be patient? The 110,000 women across Australia have taken to the streets. There was no mass organisation. There was no big significant bulk of money behind that, there was no organisation putting it out there. It was simply a tweet by one frustrated woman, Janine Hendry, and 10s of 1000s of women responded. And let's be blunt here, Laura, for the past five weeks, the Government has been doing things - Scott Morrison's Government spinning that this is just an issue that affects tertiary-educated women. That is so demonstrably untrue. Spinning and trying to background behind closed doors about Brittany Higgins loved ones while she was fighting to get justice for the alleged rape she experienced in the Minister's office on a Minister's couch. A Minister in this Government calling Brittany Higgins 'a lying cow'. Yeah, there is a reason women are frustrated and angry and there's a reason women are impatient. As I said, today, Australian women will welcome the mea culpa from the Prime Minister, yet they what they want to see, really want to see are the concrete actions he will undertake.
JAYES: Yeah, absolutely. And I take your point that the Prime Minister is indeed the Prime Minister, it's the Liberal Party in government here. What can you offer in the way of bipartisanship to take the visceral anger out of this to actually get some change?
KENEALLY: Laura, you cannot take the visceral anger out of this and don't take it away from Australian women. Do not take it away from Australian women. Women are viscerally angry, because they have been the subject of harassment, assault, and rape. They know that when it comes to things like child care, domestic violence leave, superannuation, the gender pay gap, paid parental leave, the cuts to legal services, in every dimension where their equality matters, where their respect and dignity as human beings matters, they have been left behind by the Morrison Government. For weeks they have not seen nor heard from their Prime Minister or their Minister for Women. So let's not deny the Australian women their visceral anger.
JAYES: Fair enough.
KENEALLY: Laura, you asked what we can bring to this on a bipartisan basis. We have been for weeks asking the Prime Minister to do what he did today to listen and respond, and to show some modicum of leadership. You know Laura I gotta say, I do question the extent to which the Prime Minister really has heard because he talked about how much he had heard about women's experiences of sexual assault, and rape and harassment.
But moments later when your reporter Andrew Clennell asked him a legitimate question, how did the Prime Minister respond? He outed an allegation, apparently here within this organisation, Sky News or News Corp. Did he have that woman's consent to do that, was he speaking with her consent? What was he doing there? Has he actually learned from the things he has heard? That response to that question and what appeared to me to almost be a threat to your reporter, Andrew Clennell, now suggests to me that the Prime Minister may need to have a little bit more reflection on the things he has heard.
And this is why the Prime Minister and his Government have to take this seriously and address it. We cannot have a circumstance where taxpayer funded staffers are procuring prostitutes for our MPs and smuggling them into the building, and the Prime Minister just acts as if that can remain unaddressed.
JAYES: Well, let's hope it was a big moment that is followed up by a big action. Kristina Keneally, thank you so much for your time, and we will have clarification on that. That allegation in that media conference with Andrew Clennell and he'll be joining us on the other side of this break. Kristina Keneally, thanks once again.