Transcript from Sunrise (Seven Network) follows, one of a number of interviews by Sussan today on new plans for a Cabinet Taskforce on Women’s Safety and Economic Security.
NATALIE BARR: Well Queensland Liberal-National MP Andrew Laming won’t recontest the next federal election. It follows a string of allegations by women, involving online harassment and taking an inappropriate photo of a woman while she was bending over. Mr Laming admits his behaviour towards women needs to be addressed and is taking leave from his role to seek counselling.
ANDREW LAMING: Not just to be a better MP, but to be a deeper and more emphatic person, and to better understand the implications of what my actions are on other people. It certainly hasn’t been demonstrated that that’s the case in recent days.
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NATALIE BARR: Multiple female MPs have called for his immediate resignation, but the Treasurer says Andrew Laming was elected by his community and will continue to serve them in parliament. If Mr Laming left now, the Federal Government’s majority in the Lower House would be under threat.
For more, I’m joined by Environment Minister Sussan Ley. Morning to you. Would Andrew Laming be sacked if the Government had a stronger majority?
SUSSAN LEY: Morning. Well, the point is that Andrew Laming is sent to Canberra by his community, I expect the phones in his electorate office are running hot this morning and there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with his behaviour. He stepped away, he said he’s going to honestly consider his future, I think that’s a good thing.
NATALIE BARR: So, the rest of the country, if this happened to them, if they’d took a photo of a woman bending over, they took a photo of her skirt, they’re telling us they would be sacked. What’s your response to that?
SUSSAN LEY: I understand that, and as I said, I think the phones will be running hot in Andrew Laming’s electorate office and he may listen to the voices at the end of those calls because it is those people that, if you like, employ him, Nat, they sent him to Canberra, just as my constituents here along the Murray River in Western New South Wales send me to Canberra. So, it’s a curious workplace in that sense, and that’s one of the things that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner is looking at and how we in the building relate to everything that happens within and outside. We must never lose sight of the fact that we’re sent to Canberra by the people who represent us and our standards should be higher than theirs. We want an exemplary workplace.
NATALIE BARR: But the next election could be a year away, and he is still there getting his pay packet. He’s also been accused of trolling women, hiding in the bushes and taking photographs. As a woman, how comfortable are you being part of a government who may take his vote in the next year?
SUSSAN LEY: Well, he’s not coming to Canberra in the next few weeks. He’s considering his future. And, I agree, Nat, I am not comfortable. That behaviour is appalling. That behaviour is- needs to be called out and it has. And he needs to seriously consider his future. And I come back to the people that – if you like – employ him, which are his constituents. They’re the ones who voted for him at the last election, and he’s obviously not coming back at the next one. And in the meantime, he’s having a serious think about the next steps for him. All of that is entirely appropriate. But you’re point into our workplace, in this debate, I’m looking at everyone’s workplace and how we can lift the standards for women across Australia. Because when I came back from Canberra to my electorate last week, my goodness, I heard from women in every corner – rural industries, on the factory floor, in corporate New South Wales, all with their own stories. So my determination is about making their workplaces much better than they currently are. That’s what I’m focusing on and I’m, you know, I think like a lot of women in the Liberal Party, we’re determined to get this done and get this done properly.
NATALIE BARR: Yep, and the spotlight is on that house up on the hill at the moment. The Prime Minister’s handling of this culture crisis in Canberra is evident in the latest Newspoll today. Scott Morrison’s approval dropping four points to just 52 per cent. It is the lowest in a year. Do you think he’s missed a chance to show strong leadership by sacking Laming? Because this issue, Laming’s issue, isn’t taken into consideration in this poll today.
SUSSAN LEY: I think the Prime Minister is showing strong leadership. But he’s asking all of us to step up, and as I said, the women in the party. And I want to see the women in every workplace step up and stop playing nicely, stop sitting quietly when you hear something that you don’t like and that you don’t think is right, speak up and speak out. Now the Prime Minister has issued that instruction to all of us, if you like. He wants the women in our parliament to step up. They’re doing that; they’re having their voices heard. I love that. I love that strength. I love that determination. I want to be part of that movement for change. Yes, I know you’re focusing on one appalling behaved MP, but let’s look at everyone’s workplace and the stories that we’re hearing and the dissatisfaction that we know is there and the real resolve for change. So people in Parliament spent a lot of time talking about themselves, I understand that, it is important that we get our workplace right, but we need to get everyone’s workplace right as well.
NATALIE BARR: Sussan Ley, we thank you for your time this morning.
SUSSAN LEY: Thank you.