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Angry PM airs internal sexual harassment complaint at media group

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An under-pressure Scott Morrison has raised an internal sexual harassment claim he says occurred at News Corp, during an extraordinary press conference over the treatment of women at which he defended not knowing about an alleged rape of a Liberal staffer inside the Defence Minister’s office two years ago.

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The prime minister called media together to express his disgust at the “rubbish and crap” women in politics have to put up with, following the sacking last night of a Coalition staffer who shared video of himself performing a lewd act in an MP’s Parliament House office.

Morrison’s government is under colossal pressure after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was raped by a former colleague at Parliament House in 2019, triggering a wave of revelations about harassment, assault and sexism and a national protest movement calling for more action.

Morrison claimed he was horrified by stories that had emerged over the past month and declared attitudes towards women must change.

He choked back tears while talking about the women in his life, emotionally promising: “I will not let you down.”

But the prime minister’s empathy turned to anger when Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell asked whether he had lost control of his ministerial staff.

Morrison responded by airing details of an internal sexual harassment complaint he claims occurred at News Corp.

“Right now, you would be aware in your own organisation, there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet,” he said.

“And that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.

“So let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that.”

Clennell later revealed a senior media adviser confirmed the prime minister was not referring to Sky News.

The prime minister was pressed on how he did not know about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins inside a ministerial office for more than two years, yet somehow knew of a private complaint in a media company.

“That was brought to my attention late last night, and the issue of Brittany Higgins was only brought to my attention on February 15,” he said.

“The suggestion was made by a member of the press gallery that things like this don’t happen in the media, and I think that would be unfair.”

Morrison was also asked whether he raised the alleged incident in the media against the wishes of the complainant, but provided no direct response.

Senior cabinet ministers who knew about the alleged rape of Higgins have repeatedly claimed they did not escalate her complaint due to privacy concerns.

Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher questioned how the prime minister could open the press conference to come forward with complaints, before disclosing details of a confidential complaint on national television.

Gallagher accused the prime minister of weaponising the complaint to protect himself from scrutiny.

“You say you want women to come forward and be supported. And then that gets dumped out,” she said.

“I mean, it’s just staggering. It really is.

“Real leadership is what was needed this morning – but we got the same old PM – angry, defensive, spiteful and calculated.”

Earlier, Morrison’s assistant Minister for Children and Families prompted criticism with her comments on the staffer sacked overnight following media reports he had shared graphic footage with other Coalition staffers. Channel 10 has obtained images and videos filmed inside parliament.

“The young fellow concerned was a good worker and he loved the place,” Michelle Landry said this morning.

“I feel bad for him about this, but it’s unacceptable behaviour by anyone and it should not happen in workplaces like this.”

Labor senator Kristina Keneally was incredulous.

“How about feeling bad for the cleaners who had to come in and clean up after that disgusting mess?” she said.

“How about feeling bad for a female MP whose desk was disrespected?”

Industry Minister Karen Andrews says she could not accept any more unacceptable behaviour by coalition staff.

“I have had an absolute gutful and my conscience will not allow me to remain quiet,” she said.

“There are some specific instances in this building that are absolutely unacceptable. What does it say about an individual that thinks that sort of behaviour is okay?”

-with AAP

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