Remember when Prime Minister Scott Morrison headed to tropical islands when the nation was on fire?

In late 2019, he likened his terribly-timed Hawaiian holiday to taking on "that extra plumbing contract" on a Friday afternoon instead of picking up the kids.

It took the deaths of two volunteer firefighters before Mr Morrison cut his trip short. He later conceded his decision had caused "great anxiety in Australia".

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Scott Morrison during that now infamous Hawaii trip.
Scott Morrison during that now infamous Hawaii trip.

Less than 18 months later, the country is engulfed by an inferno of rage. We are outraged by the treatment of women connected to Parliament House and continued far beyond - so where is our leader now?

While Canverra faces allegations of a dangerous culture towards young female staffers, it seems the Prime Minister has again opted to take a break.

But with overseas holidays no longer an option, Mr Morrison seems to be chilling out behind his myrtle oak timber desk in Parliament House. When the scenery there gets a little dull, the PM heads to The Lodge.

By refusing to go out and meet with the thousands of protesters in Canberra at the March 4 Justice this week, Mr Morrison is refusing to listen to more than 50 per cent of the country. Women.

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This is a major health and welfare issue for females.

In Australia, around one in five girls will be sexually assaulted. For women over the age of 15, half report being sexually harassed. These are sobering statistics.

Perhaps I need to enlist the help of the PM's wife Jenny to help explain it in terms that will resonate with him.

Jenny, can you please tell your husband that one in two women report being sexually assaulted.

I'd like to express absolutely no gratitude for the suggestion that women in Australia have it just fine, because, unlike in Myanmar, we aren't being shot at by police.

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Women's March 4 Justice rally in Brisbane. Picture: Brad Fleet.
Women's March 4 Justice rally in Brisbane. Picture: Brad Fleet.

The tens of thousands of women who protested around the nation just want to know that they're being heard. That somebody is listening. That somebody cares. That something will change.

During Question Time, immediately after huge crowds rallied across the nation, the government dug its heels in on the issues that instigated the protests.

The government continued to defend its handling of Brittany Higgins's alleged rape by a Liberal staffer. It's a doubling down act, even though Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has admitted to telling colleagues Ms Higgins was a "lying cow".

Canberra's toxic culture is no doubt linked to its pale, male, stale privilege.

In Mr Morrison's 22-person cabinet, only six are women. Across his broader government, a mere quarter is female.

How can leaders and policymakers be fair and just when they don't - even vaguely - represent the nation they are meant to lead?

I'm a swinging voter - I am not here to throw partisan punches and I understand that this problem is not party specific.

Antoinette Lattouf is calling out Canberra’s toxic culture.
Antoinette Lattouf is calling out Canberra’s toxic culture.

On Tuesday, the outgoing federal government MP Nicolle Flint cried on the floor of parliament as she recounted the stalking and harassment she endured during her career.

The Liberal MP also said the problem exists on all sides of politics, and it's hypocritical to suggest otherwise.

"I say to the Leader of the Opposition, I will not be lectured by you, I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place," Ms Flint said.

"The safety of women in this place, of female staff and female MPs and senators, should be above politics," she said.

While stalling and stonewalling may have previously worked for Mr Morrison, let's not forget that it backfired during his calamitous management of the bushfire crisis.

This week Mr Morrison has recorded the worst Newspoll result since his Hawaiian holiday. Labor hit the front in Newspoll with a 52-48 per cent two-party lead.

Taking a break, when the nation needs you to step up, didn't work then and it won't work now.

If you refuse to read the room, won't listen to the huge crowds of women or take note of polls - whose interests do you really serve?

Have your say in the comments below.

Antoinette Lattouf is a senior journalist, diversity advocate and author. Her book How to lose friends and influence white people is due for release in early 2022 | @antoinette_news




Originally published as The PM might as well be in Hawaii

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