Thursday 29th of July 2021

to bonk, or not to bonk, that is the question...


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for interrupting a senior minister who was responding to a question about what it's like to be a woman in parliament. 

Anne Ruston, minister for families and social services, was asked if the culture for women in parliament had improved. 

But she was interrupted a few words into her response. 

The incident comes amid reports of sexual misconduct in parliament. 

An investigation by ABC News' Four Corners looked at allegations of inappropriate behaviour within the ruling Liberal Party

Mr Morrison attempted to address the investigation in a press conference on Tuesday. However his interruption of Ms Ruston garnered more attention on social media. 

Ms Ruston was asked whether things had changed in parliament since the introduction of the so-called "bonk ban", a ban introduced by then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2018 that prohibited sexual relations between staff and ministers. 

Senior minister Anne Ruston asked if culture for women in parliament has improved... @7NewsAustralia

— Olivia Leeming (@olivialeeming) November 10, 20201px transparent line

Video of the incident has been viewed more than 600,000 times. 

South Australia Senator Penny Wong wrote: "Scott, just let her speak." Others accused the prime minister of being "tone deaf".

After being asked again by the journalist, Ms Ruston was able to respond. She said she had felt "wholly supported" during her time in parliament. 

The ABC investigation raised questions about the behaviour of male members of the Liberal Party including that of Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter.

His alleged behaviour includes making unwanted advances to women while he was in federal office. 

The investigation said Mr Porter had been warned by Mr Turnbull about public behaviour with a female member of staff in a bar. Shortly after, Mr Turnbull introduced the "bonk ban". 

Mr Porter denies the allegations against him. 

The investigation also spoke with Rachelle Miller, a Liberal staffer who said she had had an affair with minister Alan Tudge. 

She told ABC's Four Corners programme there was a "significant power imbalance" in relationships between ministers and staffers. 

In a statement to the Guardian following the release of Four Corners' investigation, Mr Tudge said: "I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced."


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at the gutter press...

Apparently, the chief "poobah" (moniker given by some journalists) Paul Kelly said on Q+A that these bonking/nonbonking revelation may not be in the public interest... to which a Do-Not-Bonk Malcolm responded that Paul's media was responsible for outing the affair between Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion... Etc...



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a yellow card for fondling staffers...

the pub test...

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned his ministers that flings with staff are banned as Attorney-General Christian Porter digs in against claims he kissed a Liberal staffer in a bar.

But Mr Morrison says he will not investigate alleged incidents aired on the ABC’s Four Corners because they happened before he became leader and were dealt with under previous prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Porter defended himself after Four Corners reported that Mr Turnbull warned him in 2017 that his personal conduct could expose him to blackmail.


pub test


flag of kanbra




Read more/see more... SMH 11 11 2020



workplace bullying and intimidation...

A former adviser to cabinet minister Alan Tudge has lodged a formal complaint accusing him of engaging in workplace bullying and intimidation.

Rachelle Miller, who had an affair with Mr Tudge while working in his office, told of his belittling and humiliating behaviour in a complaint to the Department of Finance.

Mr Tudge learned of the complaint, which was lodged last week, through the media on Tuesday.

“The Minister was not aware of any previous complaint,” a spokesman said on Wednesday.

“As appropriate, the Minister anticipates that the Department of Finance would conduct an independent inquiry into this matter.”

Mr Tudge has admitted to the affair.

The explosive complaint, detailed in The Sydney Morning Herald, further fans a political storm over the treatment of women in the federal parliament.

“The strong expectation and culture in parliament was that to be a good staffer you needed to keep quiet, ignore and bury bad behaviour and protect the Liberal Party at all costs,” Ms Miller told the department.

“There was no active promotion of a zero-tolerance culture within [ministerial staff]. In fact, I know of some staffers who lodged formal complaints about bullying and were promptly sacked by their ministers.

“Of course, we were afraid to speak up. We knew that we were able to be sacked by our minister at any time, so we did not report poor behaviour.”


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the smelly kanbra bubble...

By Michael Pascoe:

Hypocrisy and smokescreens cloud the ‘Canberra Bubble’

Time and again, it is cover-up and denial that damage beyond the original claims. So it is proving to be with the “Canberra Bubble” scandal.

Despite the Prime Minister’s best efforts to deflect, the Opposition Leader running dead, the Coalition’s media cheer squad predictably declaring “nothing to see here – it’s the ABC” and Joel Fitzgibbon providing an alternative sideshow, Four Corners’ story of politicians behaving badly is by no means over.

There inevitably are other shoes to drop once the lid is lifted on such a subject.

The lid is being kept lifted though by the inadequacy of addressing the key on-camera complaint and, in my opinion, Attorney-General Christian Porter being cute in the wording of his denials.

There also is the little matter of gross hypocrisy – never a good look.

The hypocrisy was decisively nailed on Sunday’s ABC Insiders program by journalist Samantha Maiden.

While the usual suspects on Sky News and in The Australian’s pages were concentrating on sex, fulminating about the ABC in general and reporter Louise Milligan in particular, Maiden cut to Rachelle Miller’s actual complaint: “What she is making is an allegation about is workplace behaviour. She put in a complaint about bullying. She talked about the treatment she was subjected to and she said, having had that sexual relationship, she was bundled out the door. These are serious issues.”

And this is where the hypocrisy is thick on the ground.

Compare and contrast the immediate absolution the Prime Minister and media pack have granted Alan Tudge with the way allegations were handled about bullying with a whiff of sexuality when the subject was a woman.

Ms Maiden: When you strip away the fact there was a consensual relationship, even if you accept the Prime Minister’s technical argument that essentially this was a relationship that predated the bonk ban, what you’re left with is a formal complaint to the Department of Finance. 

So we’re actually in the category here now of Emma Husar. Alan Tudge is in the same position that Emma Husar was in when there were complaints made about her.

We had a situation where the media pursued that relentlessly. She had television cameras out the front of her house with children inside. She had microphones being shoved in the faces of her staff. 

I don’t see any of that happening. I have had women this week say to me: “What’s going on with the media? There seems to be some protection racket and everyone is polite and accepts the fact that Alan Tudge put out a statement and that’s the end of it.” 

If Scott Morrison was going to follow the same script that he followed with Emma Husar and that the Labor Party followed with Emma Husar, he would be having an investigation into Alan Tudge, he would be appointing a judge. 

Alan Tudge would be under intense pressure and Alan Tudge, in Emma Husar’s case, would be asked whether he wanted to resign or not contest the next election. 

This happened to Emma Husar before the findings of that report came down. That report threw out a lot of the allegations. She had been involved in what was unreasonable management practises in her office.

It strikes me that, Emma Husar and Alan Tudge, there are parallels and we are treating them differently and the same media outlets and the same journalists that enthusiastically and relentlessly pursued Emma Husar – a woman who was a nobody, a backbencher in opposition – are saying that Alan Tudge is not a story. 

Well, that strikes me as a bit unusual and it strikes a lot of women in Parliament as a bit unusual.

I know it’s too easy, but cue The Australian’s ever-reliable Janet Albrechtsen in high dudgeon over Ms Husar in August 2018: “If serious allegations of bullying are proven, she should be sacked because the voters of Lindsay deserve better than her”; “misusing and abusing your staff ought to be a heinous crime that attracts heinous penalties”; and, hilariously, “If a male MP were accused of bullying his staff and treating them like slaves, he would be cut adrift.”

And then there’s Albrechtsen this past Saturday. Her conclusion, for example: “The upshot is that Turnbull, a group of apparently disgruntled women and other political junkies, have exposed a far more serious cultural problem than anything within the Liberal Party.

“They showcased how the revenge culture formalised by the #MeToo movement continues to backfire against women. Evidence of wrongdoing stands alone. Claims not backed by evidence invite us to check the motivations of accusatory women.”

Or there’s The Australian’s Angela Shanahan whose spray was mainly devoted to attacking reporter Louise Milligan – “vituperative ABC virago”, “taking a breather from her usual occupation of penning scandal about the Catholic hierarchy, Milligan set herself up as implacable feminist avenger of her sex”.

We did learn though that Mrs Shanahan (and presumably husband Dennis – The Australian’s political editor) “have had senior ministers and two prime ministers at my family dinner table, all people of impeccable character and sexual moral probity” before reaching her conclusion that: “What is more, casting the first stone is wrong.

“It is for individuals to be responsible for their own sexual behaviour,” she wrote. “Only when it impinges on the smooth running of Parliament and the general welfare of the Australian electorate can it be of any interest to anyone else.”

Ignored by The Australian columnists was Scott Morrison’s double deflection of the issues. No surprise on either count – the ignoring or the deflections.

As suggested before, a Prime Minister incapable of reining in mere backbenchers – “Hydroxychloroquine” Kelly or “Voter Fraud” Christensen – is in no position to discipline senior ministers.

Mr Morrison’s immediate go to was that nothing happened on his watch and it was before the don’t-call-it-a-Bonk-Ban, so there’s nothing to see and everyone should move on.

The government’s second deflection is referring Ms Miller’s actual bullying complaint to the Finance Department – a fudge that worked for some, but not Ms Maiden: The Department of Finance is a useless and hopeless organisation to investigate this because they have no power to take any action on any MP or minister because they are not their employer. 

This is the whole reason why, for example in the Husar case, the staff didn’t want to go to the Department of Finance because they know it is a toothless tiger. 

You can’t tell me there isn’t some merit to investigating (Ms Miller’s) claim with the fake redundancy. She is the press secretary and she is told she is going to be demoted and her junior made the press secretary and there is another job going for a policy person, but she can’t do it because she is not qualified.

I think there are real questions. You’re going to see this in the next week. Women in the Labor Party that want to support Ms Miller and think the Department of Finance process is not going to work and they want some bipartisan support between the Liberal Party and the Labor Party to set up some independent process to look at the claims. 

They know if they go to the Department of Finance with a complaint about another staff member, that can be investigated. But if they go with an MP, there is nothing that can be done.

Just to be clear, the Finance Department…is technically not the employer of any MP. Can it actually take any action, any penalty against a member of parliament? No.

And, serendipitously, The Saturday Paper published Karen Middleton’s story over the weekend about the government refusing to reveal the results of an investigation into a bullying complaint involving the office of Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, not even to the woman who made the complaint.

“The Department of Finance has rejected an application from Wyatt’s former chief of staff, Kate Johnson, made under freedom of information laws, for access to a copy of the report into the complaint she made two years ago against Wyatt’s former policy adviser Paula Gelo,” Middleton reports.

“The refusal highlights the opaque and circular nature of the only complaints process available to parliamentary staff when concerns about bullying, sexual harassment or other workplace issues arise – and the confusion over who actually employs them.”

Yet to come is Maiden’s suspicion that former Labor staffers “are going to come out in support of Ms Miller”.

I wonder how Ms Albrechtsen & Co will cover that. (No, I don’t really.)

And so far unanswered are questions Louise Milligan tweeted on Thursday:

5. Given that there are people who are happy to verify all of these points, including people who would be subpoenaed by a court of law, what does that say about the truth of the public comments made by the Commonwealth Attorney-General since our story went to air?


Why did you pressure the journalist to delete the photograph of Mr Porter and the young female staffer?

Why did you arrange to meet at Aussies Café, Parliament House, the following day, to again ask the journalist to delete the photograph?

Why were there complaints made to the staff of then-Prime Minister, @TurnbullMalcolm, about your efforts to try to get the journalist to delete the photograph?

Given that there are people who are happy to verify all of these points, including people who would be subpoenaed by a court of law, what does that say about the truth of the public comments made by the Commonwealth Attorney-General since our story went to air?

Would you agree that it is incumbent upon all ministers of the Crown, but most particularly, the first law officer of the Crown, to be truthful at all times?

No, the “Canberra Bubble” story is still afloat and not floating away.


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f%&k the one-colour kanbra bonking-chameleons...

After the ABC’s Four Corners aired its controversial “Inside the Canberra Bubble” episode, promising to expose the “highly sexualised” atmosphere of Parliament House, the government took action. Not against the ministers named in the program, and not to clean up the sexist parliamentary culture it alleged.

The government, via Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, wrote a strongly worded letter to ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose, asking detailed questions about the show’s accuracy and balance.

The letter culminated with an indignant demand: “Why should an objective observer not conclude that the program demonstrates a failure by the Board ... to ensure the gathering and presentation of news and information by the ABC is accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism?”

It was a new high-water mark of hostility between this government and the ABC, quite extraordinary when you remember just last year the national broadcaster was raided by federal police and another journalist had her house raided.

To many journalists watching it, the Four Corners program had the air of reportage that had been heavily legalled, to the point where it didn’t form a cohesive whole. It promised to expose the toxic culture of the Canberra bubble, but it didn’t quite deliver on its promise.

The ABC team had spent many months trying to nail down stronger allegations than those that went to air, but failed to do so. Rumours about those allegations continue to circulate in Canberra and the media

The inclusion of interviews with partisan players such as Kristina Keneally and Sarah Hanson-Young left the program open to accusations of political bias. Eyebrows were raised when Keneally, who came up through NSW Labor – the party of Eddie Obeid and Milton Orkopoulos – was quoted as being shocked by the sleaze of Canberra.

No one believes this sort of thing is confined to one side of politics, but the ABC team could not stand up any contemporary reports of misconduct or bullying on the Labor side.

Some people hated the story – a Sydney Morning Heraldletter writer last week called it “a cheap, tacky opportunistic piece of gutter journalism which had no beneficial purpose to anyone and should not have been aired”.

But whether or not the program stacked up is a different question to whether what went to air was in the public interest. And here is the important part: none of that is the government’s call to make.

The ABC has statutory editorial independence as a cornerstone of its existence. Paul Fletcher is the ABC’s minister, charged with protecting that independence. It is inappropriate for him to use his office to voice complaints on behalf of his colleagues in the cabinet.

Let the ministers in question make all the complaints they like, and let them loose their lawyers on the ABC if they have just cause. There are mechanisms, including Senate estimates, where government and other MPs can grill the ABC for any perceived bias or mistakes.

But in writing the letter, the Communications Minister merged his executive duties with the political interests of the government in a way that should concern anyone who cares about the independence of the national broadcaster.

Is the government now in the business of policing journalism? Does anyone believe it would care a fig about journalistic balance if the program had shown bias against its political opponents? Is this the right fight for the Communications Minister to be picking in a time when the Australian media faces a crisis of shrinking newsrooms, the decline of rural and regional media, and increased concentration of ownership?

Last week The Economist, in reporting on the global “democracy recession” and yet the resilience of democracy following Donald Trump’s electoral loss, made the point that “the threat is not from military coups but governments in power”. Democracy is threatened by the erosion of norms and institutions by elected politicians. That erosion worsens the standard of government and, in turn, gives rise to sugar-hit populist leaders who promise to fix the rot.

I don’t suggest Australia is in “democratic recession”. But our exceptionalism when it comes to the pandemic and our relative economic health should not make us complacent when it comes to guarding the border between the executive duties of a government and its political interests.

It should not leave us blind to threats to our press freedom and independence, particularly as our defamation laws are some of the strictest in the world, and our journalists can be jailed for up to five years for publishing classified information received by a public servant whistleblower.

In the context of the heavy public pressure the government is applying to the ABC, it is worth noting how assiduously politicians of all stripes seek to court the media behind closed doors.

Last week, The Australian published a full account of how keenly Kevin Rudd had sought the favour of News Corp newspapers when ascending to power. On Friday, The Guardian revealed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg flew via the PM's private jet to Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party last year, held in his Bellevue Hill mansion. Taxpayers paid almost $5000 for the jet trip, according to the report.

Some former and contemporary politicians are notorious for angry phone calls to editors and board members, and even for issuing legal threats over articles they believe disparage their legacy.

They do it because they have the power to, and because they believe it will work in their interests.

If not this time, then for the next time.



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rape in the office...

A former Morrison government adviser has alleged she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in Parliament House and then had the matter “dismissed” because it became a political problem.

Brittany Higgins, a former adviser to two cabinet ministers, aired damning claims on Monday night that key people within the government failed to offer enough support while the alleged rapist did not suffer any consequences.

The claims triggered warnings from Liberal women about problems with the party’s culture, after a series of reports about sexual harassment, bullying and the poor treatment of women.

Ms Higgins has told she was sexually assaulted in March 2019 in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office at Parliament House.



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"Ms Higgins said she didn’t pursue police charges because she didn’t want to jeopardise her job, or the Liberal Party’s election campaign."



anyone else? please tell scomo now!...


A crucial dispute has erupted over allegations of rape in Parliament House after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his office was only told of the events last week, a claim at odds with statements from former staffer Brittany Higgins.

Mr Morrison said phone records and other files showed his principal private secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, did not call Ms Higgins late last year as she had claimed.

The conflicting accounts came after Mr Morrison apologised to Ms Higgins for the government’s failure to help her enough with the trauma of the events, as he vowed to change the culture of Parliament on the treatment of women.

Mr Morrison denied having a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about harassment and aired his frustration with Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who knew of the rape allegation but did not tell him.

Ms Higgins says she was raped by a colleague in Senator Reynolds’ ministerial office, where they both worked, in the early hours of Saturday, 23 March, 2019.

Ms Higgins, who left the government last month, said the Prime Minister’s “fixer” Mr Finkelstein had been “broadly in proximity” to the matter in the days after the alleged rape.

She also said Mr Finkelstein made a “strange sort of check-in” about the matter and that similar calls “happened to me kind of pretty regularly” after the events.

Ms Higgins told the Ten Network that Mr Finkelstein called her around the time the ABC’s Four Corners aired an investigation into the harassment of women, a program that aired last November.

In the interview, aired on Monday night, she said Mr Finkelstein called her and said he was “just checking in” but she did not say what he asked about or what he knew.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have been told the call was made using WhatsApp on a day when Ms Higgins had called in sick.

Government officials have gone through phone records and files to check on calls at this and other times, concluding there was no such call.

The government says Mr Finkelstein and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, John Kunkel, treated the incident as a security breach when first told in March 2019 that Ms Higgins and her colleague had returned to the ministerial suite late on a Friday night.

The Prime Minister’s office knew of the security breach and agreed with Senator Reynolds the man involved should be terminated, a decision made on the subsequent Tuesday.


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archaic libs...

Labor has slammed the Coalition for holding “completely archaic” views on childcare after a fierce debate erupted among government MPs about subsidies, with one suggesting working women were “outsourcing parenting”.

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, which was chaired by the new deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, government MPs argued about the benefits of a $1.7bn childcare package announced in last month’s budget.


After the education minister, Alan Tudge, spoke about the legislation, the Queensland senator Matt Canavan said he would not support the bill unless there was also extra support for parents to care for their children at home.

The government’s proposal increases subsidies for families that have more than one child in care and removes a cap on subsidies for higher-income families.

Canavan’s opposition to the bill was backed by fellow Queenslanders Gerard Rennick, George Christensen and Terry Young, who all questioned the merits of the package, suggesting equal value should be given to families who had a parent stay at home to raise children, Guardian Australia has been told.

The Liberal MP Celia Hammond argued the package was about providing equality of opportunity for working families and removing barriers for women to reenter the workforce, arguing it was in line with Liberal values.

One male MP angered some female members by suggesting working women were “outsourcing parenting”, multiple sources told Guardian Australia.

According to sources at the meeting, the Liberal MP Hollie Hughes then “fired up” saying: “Thank you, boys, for telling us how to best raise our children.”

“Not all of us want to sit at home with our three-month-old watching Bluey,” she said.

As the debate intensified, the Liberal MP Jason Falinski, who had asked if there would be structural changes to the childcare system, walked out.


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