Australian PM Offers Apology in Parliament
The apology marked a rocky start to an election year for PM Morrison and came as his conservative party faced ructions over a religious freedom bill.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday apologised to a political staffer who claimed she was raped in a ministerial office, after a review found half of parliamentary staff had experienced harassment, bullying or sexual assault.
An election must be held by May, leaving few parliament sitting days before the federal budget is delivered in March, which is likely to trigger the start of the official campaign.
As parliament sat for the first time in 2022 on Tuesday, a statement was read by the speaker apologising for “an unacceptable history of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in parliamentary workplaces”.
PM Morrison’s personal integrity has been under attack with damaging leaks, including by Higgins, of historical text messages from state and Coalition partner leaders, including some labelling him a “liar”.
Polls show Mr. Morrison has also been marked down by voters over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Guardian Essential poll on Tuesday morning showed a lift in voters who thought Morrison’s handling of the pandemic was good, from 35% two weeks ago to 40%, but his Coalition still trails the Opposition Labor party.
Some commentators suggested that Australians are closely watching Chinese threat and particularly the threat of war over Taiwan that would be disastrous if mishandled. For that matter, nearly 80 per cent trust Liberals over other parties. PM Morrison's party is also favored on economic issues after the Coalition shielded country from devastating inflation that may likely be followed by recession, some economists suggested.
Contentious changes to religious discrimination laws that seek to balance religious freedom with gay and lesbian protections are among the few bills to be debated before the election.
At issue is whether the government has gone far enough in protecting students at faith-based schools from discrimination based on gender identity, with some moderate members of Morrison’s Liberal party threatening to vote against the bill.