Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been hit with criticism after shutting down Labor leader Anthony Albanese during a speech surrounding Brittany Higgins and the March 4 Justice.

In Question Time at Parliament House on Monday, as thousands protested outside in Canberra as well as in towns and major cities across Australia, Mr Dutton walked up to the podium to cut off Mr Albanese as he spoke about the former Liberal staffer.

It's bad timing for the Prime Minister after he and a number of Liberal party figures face criticism for their handling of a number of recent allegations, and for their lack of attendance at the Canberra rally, including Minister for Women Marise Payne.

Ms Higgins' harrowing story of an alleged sexual assault in the Canberra office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds sparked the movement behind the March 4 Justice rallies around Australia.

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The moment with Mr Dutton came during a fiery Question Time seconds after Mr Albanese quoted Higgins, who had just made a moving speech outside parliament.

Mr Albanese moved to suspend standing orders during Question Time so that a motion could be put, including that an independent inquiry be held.

He put forward four actions and then went on to talk at length around the Prime Minister's response to Ms Higgins' allegations.

However, Mr Dutton cut short Mr Albanese's speech and asked that he "no longer be heard".

 

 

 

 

 

Question Time is usually set aside for questions without notice to be asked and answered.

Mr Albanese appeared surprised and in shock.

Some on social media criticised Mr Dutton for the move, describing it as "deplorable" and claiming he "sensationally gagged" Mr Albanese during a critical moment for women in parliament.

But despite the sour move, Mr Dutton was within his rights.

 

MINISTER FOR WOMEN DEFENDS ABSENCE

Meanwhile, Minister for Women Marise Payne is copping heat for not choosing to attend a march outside Parliament House as thousands of women took to the streets to call for equality and demand action on gendered violence.

There were 40 Women's March 4 Justice rallies across Australia yesterday, with the protests shutting down Australia's CBDs and a number of regional towns.

On the ABC's 7.30 program last night, Ms Payne made a blunt reply when asked why she didn't go.

"Throughout the year we meet hundreds and hundreds of people. I don't normally attend marches, the Prime Minister does not normally attend marches, but we are very, very willing to engage on the issues."

 

 

 

Thousands of people descended on Sydney's Town Hall with Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Opposition Leader Jodi McKay also both missing from the march and a number of speakers labelling their no-shows a disappointment.

March 4 Justice in Victoria Square, Adelaide. Picture: Emma Brasier
March 4 Justice in Victoria Square, Adelaide. Picture: Emma Brasier

Sydney woman Pam Carroll told news.com.au that something had to change.

"I'm tired of the response in Canberra," she said.

"I'm a rape victim from 40 years ago and not much has changed.

"(It's been) so disappointing, the political response. You've gotta do something and they won't unless we demand it."

More than 5,000 people gathered today in Melbourne's Treasury Gardens focused heavily on violence against indigenous women.

 

PM DEFENDED AFTER 'BULLETS' COMMENT

It only got worse for Scott Morrison after disbelief over his comments on the women's March 4 Justice.

During Question Time, Mr Morrison said it was "good and right" that people were able to gather but that marches in other places were "met with bullets".

"It is good and right, Mr Speaker, that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations," he said.

"This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker, not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country."

Liberal Senator for Victoria and Superannuation Minister Jane Hume, who attended a March 4 Justince rally, defended the PM's comments after the Greens erupted over the statement.

When asked if his comments were "tone deaf", she told told the ABC's RN Drive: "I wouldn't want to over interpret that. One of the most important parts of our liberal democracy is we have the right to protest. And that's a good thing.

She said "there is still a long way to go" and the "frustrations women have felt for so many years boiled over today".

"We have the right to protest whether it be at Parliament House or whether it be marching streets in capital cities like Melbourne or Sydney."

 

Mr Albanese described the PM's response as "not so much a tin ear as a wall of concrete".

He demanded Mr Morrison listen to Ms Higgins after the Prime Minister declined to attend the women's rally outside parliament where she delivered her stirring speech.

Ms Higgins, who alleges she was raped in the ministerial office of Linda Reynolds in 2019, attended the March 4 Justice rally in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Morrison refused to attend the rally in person, but offered to meet a delegation from the protesters in his parliamentary office. They turned down the offer, arguing issues of sexual assault had for too long been dealt with in secrecy.

 

 

 

Mr Albanese demanded the Prime Minister take notice of what Ms Higgins had said.

"(Women are) crying out that this is a moment that requires leadership, and it requires leadership from this prime minister. And we are not getting it, Prime Minister," he said.

Mr Albanese read out Ms Higgins' quote: "I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his media team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones."

Labor MPs cried "shame!" at the PM.

'THEY SHOULD STEP ASIDE'

Meanwhile, Labor frontbencher and Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke told the ABC's Patricia Karvelas on Monday afternoon that if any shadow ministers from the Labor Party were to be accused or named in an allegation of sexual harassment, they should step aside while an investigation occurs.

"We can't have this immediate knee jerk reaction which is to say that our sympathy goes immediately to whoever the allegations being made against and a knee-jerk reaction that people aren't believed," he said.

It follows a news.com.au report on Sunday that women were using a private Facebook group that includes 1300 current and former staffers to air shocking allegations of male behaviour in the ALP.

Mr Albanese refused to disclose if a case in recent years involving a senior Labor staffer included an allegation of a sexual assault.

 

- with Charis Chang

 

 

 

Originally published as Moment that outraged Australians



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