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Australia PM apologises for abuse, bullying in parliament

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Australia‘s prime minister apologized for widespread sexual harassment, abuse and intimidation of political staff on Tuesday, a year after a high-profile rape allegation rocked the country’s parliament.

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Scott Morrison

Addressing lawmakers, Scott Morrison apologized directly to former employee Brittany Higgins, who said she was raped by a male colleague in a minister’s office in 2019.

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“I’m sorry to Mrs. Higgins for the terrible things that happened here,” Morrison said, describing a decades-old culture of abuse in the corridors of power.

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“But I’m sorry for much more than that, for all those who came before Mrs. Higgins and suffered the same.”

“For many decades, an ecosystem, a culture, was perpetuated, where bullying, abuse, harassment, and in some cases even violence, was normalized,” he said.

Higgins went public in January last year, sparking protests across the country.

Australians were shocked by the alleged abuse she experienced, but also by the way she was treated when she told her bosses.

She said she felt pressured not to go to the police ahead of the 2019 election and described a “culture of silence” in Australian political parties.

In the wake of Higgins’ accusations and those of other staff members who persecuted her, the government launched multiple investigations.

Jenkins Review

One of them, the 450-page Jenkins Review, found that one in three people currently working in Commonwealth workplaces have experienced sexual harassment while working there.

In his speech, Morrison said: “This has to change. It is changing. And I think it will change.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese also offered an apology to Higgins from his Labor party.

“It has broken a silence that has acted as the life support system for the most hateful status quo,” he said.

Listening from the public gallery, Higgins became visibly emotional during the speeches.

He sat between three former employees who have gone public with their own accusations and two women’s rights advocates.

The women were asked to attend the formal recognition after they tweeted the night before about not being invited.

National Press Club

Higgins will speak Wednesday at the National Press Club alongside sexual assault survivor Grace Tame, who was the 2021 Australian of the Year.

Tame dismissed the prime minister’s apology. “How about some proactive and preventative measures and not just these last-minute performative election tricks?” she tweeted on Tuesday.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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