Daily News Roundup

March 15, 2021

 

MONDAY, MARCH 15

Attorney General Christian Porter has launched a defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan, confirming he will go under oath to deny an historical rape allegation they aired.

The legal move came as allegations surfaced of widespread sexual harassment and aggressive behaviour within Labor and tens of thousands of women and their supporters protested outside Paliament House against sexism in broader society.

The defamation action came in response to the ABC airing allegations the Attorney-General raped a 16-year old in 1988, when he was 17, a claim he vigorously denied.

Milligan, a Four Corners reporter, broke the news of an anonymous letter outlining the unsubstantiated allegations had been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong, and Greens senator Sarah-Hanson-Young.

Milligan did not name Mr Porter, referring to a “senior cabinet minister”, but he revealed himself publicly just days later.

A statement from Mr Porter’s lawyers on Monday confirmed he had begun defamation proceedings against the ABC and Milligan.

It claimed the allegations were false and Mr Porter had been subjected to “trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence”.

“Although he was not named, the article made allegations against a senior cabinet minister and the Attorney-General was easily identifiable to many Australians as the subject of the allegations,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks, the Attorney-General has been subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations.

“The trial by media should now end with the commencement of these proceedings.”

Earlier, the deputy federal leader of the Labor Party said the allegations of widespread sexual harassment and aggressive behaviour to women was an “indictment” on the party, with Richard Marles saying he’s “appalled” and “deeply sorry” for the women.

Women have detailed their stories on a private Facebook group for current and former Labor staffers.

News.com.au is reporting that the allegations made against MPs and male staffers include aggressive behaviour, married men sending inappropriate messages and others making derogatory comments.

“It’s an indictment on us,” Mr Marles told the ABC.

“Labor can’t duck away from this in the sense of pointing the finger anywhere else.

“This is our house, which we need to get in order, and these really are appalling allegations.”

The anonymous allegations include a suggestion that a man punched the wall near a female staffer’s head and called her a “f***ing c***”.

Another politician was alleged to have tried to kiss a staffer in a lift, while another is alleged to have said he would “never f*** a woman without a thigh gap”.

“It is appalling, and the first point I say is that for all of those women who are having the courage to tell their story, I believe them and we all need to be standing with them,” Mr Marles said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he had read the allegations and “it is of real concern”.

He said because names weren’t reported, he was encouraging people to come forward.

“Harassment, and sexist behaviour, and indeed patriarchy doesn’t exist just on one side of politics, it exists throughout society,” he said.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we listen to the concerns that are put forward and respond.”

After a month of accusations that Parliament House, Canberra,  harbours a toxic workplace in which women are not protected, black-clad protesters were today descending on the nation’s capital to send a message that “enough is enough”.

Marches are also being held across the country, with women and their supporters uniting to stand against sexism in broader society.

The protests are being organised by Melbourne academic Janine Hendry, who initially outlined her hopes for “extremely disgruntled women” to link arms and form a human chain around Parliament House in Canberra.

Today is the first day of parliamentary sittings since late February, when Parliament was engulfed by an allegation made by Brittany Higgins that she was raped inside the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.

Separately, Attorney-General Christian Porter has emphatically denied a historical rape allegation going back more than 30 years and is currently on mental health leave.

Organisers hope the Canberra march will see thousands of protesters take to the lawns of Parliament House, but protests will also be held in all major cities and dozens of regional locations.

An event was held in Perth yesterday, attracting thousands of women and their supporters.

Members of the ACT rally plan to hand a petition to the government that includes a proposal for a code of conduct for MPs that aims to prevent gendered violence in Parliament and require annual sexual harassment training for all 

Protest leaders have also been offered private audiences with both Minister for Women Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

However, organisers want politicians to attend the Parliament House march and listen to its message in person.

The march on Parliament House will culminate in organisers delivering the petition calling for a range of actions including:

  • Independent investigations into cases of gendered violence
  • Strengthening of the Sex Discrimination Act
  • Mandatory gendered violence and sexual harassment training for MPs and their staff
  • For all Australian parliaments to have a 50:50 gender split by 2030

At least one of the protesters’ demands has already been met, with Scott Morrison last week announcing that sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins would conduct a review into the workplace culture at Parliament House.

At the time, Mr Morrison acknowledged the culture in Parliament had to change.

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Mother’s Day in Britain , celebrated on March 14, was always going to be different this year, but Prince William and Princess Kate made sure one tradition remained a constant.

Every year, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis make cards to pay tribute to their “Granny Diana” and how much she is missed, the Telegraph London newspaper reported. 

The paper said that after the week the Royal family have endured following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, the children’s messages took on an added poignancy.

In a message on the Kensington Palace Instagram page, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the first time made public the homemade cards and their messages to Diana, Princess of Wales.

In Princess Charlotte’s card, she wrote: “Papa is missing you.”

The Instagram post from Kensington Palace read: “This year Mother’s Day will be different once again. Many of us will be apart from our loved ones, but looking forward to a time in the not too distant future when we can give our mother a hug again.

“But for those experiencing bereavement, today may be particularly challenging. Each year on Mother’s Day, George, Charlotte and Louis make cards remembering their Granny, Diana, for William. Whatever your circumstances, we are thinking of you this Mother’s Day.”

The Cambridges’ decision to release the personal cards, and to reveal that the children make them for their late grandmother every year, was made due to the pandemic, The Telegraph, London understands.

A source close to the couple said: “The family is particularly thinking of those who have been recently bereaved and for those experiencing their first Mother’s Day without loved ones.”

The social media post shows Prince George’s crayon drawing of a landscape featuring a tree, the sun and birds flying in a blue sky.

The seven-year-old’s card says: “Dear Granny Diana, Happy Happy mothers day. I love you very much and think of you always, Sending lots of love from George.”

Princess Charlotte’s card features butterfly stickers and a drawing of a heart in rainbow colours, a symbol which has become synonymous with messages of hope during the pandemic.

The five-year-old wrote: “Dear Granny Diana I am thinking of you on mother’s Day. I love you very much. Papa is missing you. Lots of love Charlotte.”

Prince Louis’ card features a painted drawing of a big heart and is adorned with cartoon animal stickers.

The social media post came six days after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Winfrey, in which the Duke discussed his mother and his exit from the Royal family, was broadcast in Britain.

When Prince Harry was asked what he thought his mother would think of his decision to step away from royal duties, he said: “I think she saw it coming. And I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process.”

The Duke of Sussex paid his own tribute to his mother yesterday by arranging for flowers to be laid at her grave on the Spencer family estate in Althorp, Northants, Harper’s Bazaar reported.

Kensington palace later posted a photo of a cake made by George, Charlotte and Louis to celebrate the day, as well as a photo of the Duchess of Cambridge as a young child with her mother Carole.

The cake appears to be filled with jam and icing, and decorated with icing, sprinkles and heart-shaped decorations. “Celebrating two other special mothers today,” the palace wrote.

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Matildas captain Sam Kerr has enjoyed her finest day in Chelsea blue, scoring a hat-trick as they successfully defended their Women’s League Cup title in England with a 6-0 hammering of Bristol City in the final.

Kerr took just 90 seconds on Sunday to put Chelsea ahead in the showdown at Watford’s Vicarage Road and, along with her two-goal attacking partner Fran Kirby, then ran City ragged for an hour with their ‘Special K’ double act.

The razor-sharp Australian also struck in the 10th minute and three minutes after halftime as she completed her treble in a quite dominant performance from the English champions.

On the day she took her season’s tally to 16 goals in all competitions, the 27-year-old Kerr also provided a superb first-half assist for English international Kirby as the pair were hailed by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes as “unbelievable”.

Eventually, Hayes brought the pair off after just an hour to give them some rest with Chelsea, who’d already lifted the Community Shield at the start of the season, now eyeing a grand slam of trophies, with the Champions League, Super League and FA Cup still in their sights.

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