Australian Prime Minister Television Interview – ABC News Breakfast

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, took part in and spoke at the rally in Canberra. He joins us now. PM, very good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBAESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Michael. Good to be with you.

ROWLAND: Good to be with you, as well. I just want to start by seeking some clarification for you and giving you the right to reply to a very strong accusation made by Sarah Williams, one of the organisers of those national rallies. She is accusing you, directly on social media, of lying, through you telling the crowd you asked to speak, but were told by the organisers that wasn’t possible. What happened?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, Michael, I think the important issue here is that yesterday and the day before and the day before that, Australians rallied in their tens of thousands, saying, enough is enough. This is a scourge. And I agree with the comments of those people who you vox popped in Melbourne, that what is important here is we need to have significant change. When a woman dies at the hands of a partner or someone they know every four days, on average, in Australia, then that is a national crisis. And when it comes to participating, I was very pleased to participate yesterday, as I did a few years’ ago in the rally that was held outside Parliament House. My Government has the ten-year plan, working with state and territory governments. But quite clearly, we need to get together to see what we can do to improve the situation, because women in particular are very frustrated and they’re angry. And that is understandable that that is the case.

ROWLAND: I want to talk about the broader issues, but just finally on this issue, clearly Sarah Williams is angry, to say the least. Have you tried to reach out to her, to have a conversation with her after what happened yesterday?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I wish Sarah well. I wish Sarah well. She did very well in organising the rallies, as did everyone there.

ROWLAND: Prime Minister, one in four women is dying every day. Why won’t you declare this a national emergency?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have an emergency, as I said yesterday, to the rally. When we declare a national emergency, things kick in, one-off payments for people, for a bushfire, for a flood, for something like that. I don’t really want to get into a debate here. Misses the point of whether it’s a national emergency or a national crisis, but an emergency declaration by state or territory governments kicks in immediate one-off actions by the Federal Government. What we need here, Michael, is not one off actions. What we need here is a concerted plan. The discussions that you had, Michael, yesterday with those vox pops. It is a fact that when a young woman goes out at night, if they’re on their way home, they think about how they’re getting home from the train station, from the bus stop, they think about their safety. That is something that is a real distinction between what women have to do and what men have to do. And men have to change behaviour. We have to change culture. This isn’t something that requires a one-off action. This is something that requires concerted action from all levels of government, from the media, from all levels of society, to change culture, because this is a scourge that hasn’t just come in the last week or the last month or the last year or the last decade. This is something that’s been around for a very long period of time. It requires a concerted plan, not just by governments, but by civil society as well, by businesses. We have done considerable action, $2.3 billion in our last two budgets. Measures like paid domestic and family violence leave of ten days. Measures like the changes that we made to the single parenting payment, so that mums don’t feel like they’re caught up in a relationship and don’t have somewhere to go financially. The increased funding for housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. We need to have a discussion about the courts. No wonder people are frustrated when you have people out on bail who’ve been alleged to have committed serious crimes against their partner, and then they go on to murder that partner. That causes frustration and anger. And that’s why I’m bringing the National Cabinet together on Wednesday morning to see what we can do across the board.

ROWLAND: I’m glad you raised that point. I went along to the rally in Melbourne, Prime Minister, to report on it and to report on it so my coverage of it is informed. And I tell you what, one thing I did pick up on was visceral anger about the justice system. So, for instance, at this National Cabinet meeting, would you like to see all Premiers and Chief Ministers agreeing that bail laws, as they apply to men accused of hurting women at the moment, are way too loose and need to be changed and urgently changed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s one of the things that is on the agenda. State Premiers approached me about the convening of a meeting. I wanted to do that as well. I’ve spoken directly with a range of Premiers and Chief Ministers. We need to look at the full suite of policy measures that can make a practical difference here. There’s a longer term issues of culture change that we need to engage in so that people teach respect. And it’s not just women and children who will gain from that. Men will gain from that as well. If we have respectful relationships across our society, the whole society benefits here. But at the moment, women are feeling quite rightly frustrated and angry. And I understand that that is the case.

ROWLAND: We spoke to one of the foremost experts in this space, Jess Hill, on the show earlier. She has put forward a number of practical solutions. She touches on the justice system, but one is to try to deal with the disgusting misogyny, the porn, the violent porn young men are exposed to on social media. I know your Government is battling social media on another front, but surely this is an area where National Cabinet can agree to act on?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is something that the e-Safety Commissioner has raised and it’s been raised by a number of the authorities as well. I’m very concerned. And every parent, I think, is concerned at the access to debilitating and offensive material that some young people can be exposed to. That’s got to have an impact on what is seen as normal.

ROWLAND: But what can you do about it, Prime Minister? And the social media companies are pushing back on you on this other front. Realistically, what can any level of government do here?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s why we’re sitting down, Michael, and working those issues through. The e-Safety Commissioner, of course, we’ve got currently a review on that’s open for public input right now. And I’d encourage people to make submissions there. It’s one of the reasons why, I mean, I spoke about, in a business statement way back in 2019, one of the first issues I spoke about as Leader of the Labor Party was the impact of social media. This is something that is there across the board. People having access to violence, some of that being misogynistic violence that people have access to. And it is something where, as I’ve said in a different context, social media has comes with it, a social responsibility. And they can’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s nothing to do with us’. And so, we’ll look at the full suite of measures. There isn’t a single thing that you can do to fix this immediately. What you can do, though, is to have resolve, to have commitment. And that’s what my Government has to making a difference on these issues, working across the Parliament, working across states and territories, working across civil organisations, such as those who organised the rallies over the past few days.

ROWLAND: Prime Minister, before we go, on another issue, I want to ask you about the revelation from your predecessor, Scott Morrison, the former Prime Minister, that he took medication to deal with anxiety when he was Prime Minister. As the current occupant of the top job. What did you think when you read that?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I thought it was brave of Scott Morrison to talk in such a clear way about something that is so very personal. And I think, good on him. The truth is that the pressures of the job are substantial. I think one of the, to go back to our previous discussion on social media, you know, I don’t look at comments on social media. If I did, I wouldn’t be a very, very balanced or satisfied person because people will say things online. The pressures that are on now, on people in public life, are different. And that includes people in the media and others as well. I’m sure, Michael, if you look at what people say about ABC personalities online.

ROWLAND: I try not to.

PRIME MINISTER: Exactly. But, you know, people, we have got to get into a situation of, you know, being able to disagree in a civil way. And unfortunately, political discourse has become very difficult in this country. But I thought, and globally, this isn’t a phenomenon just here, of course, and we see some of the division that’s there in the United States, a very divided society, which I don’t think is healthy for a democracy. Scott Morrison, I give him credit for being prepared to speak about such a difficult issue. And I wish him well in his next phase of his life.

ROWLAND: Prime Minister, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

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