Australian of the Year Grace Tame has again poured scorn on the federal government, revealing a private conversation with Scott Morrison and claiming Liberal senator Amanda Stoker is not “adequate” to be Assistant Minister for Women.
But Mr Morrison quickly hit back, praising Ms Tame and claiming Labor was trying to put “some other meaning” on her words.
Ms Tame, who was named Australian of the Year in January in recognition of her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, has been a blunt critic of the Morrison government in recent months. In March, at a National Press Club speech, she referenced Mr Morrison directly in saying “it shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience”.
In a podcast hosted by satirical news site The Betoota Advocate, released on Monday, Ms Tame was asked about federal politics. She said that, after her Australian of the Year acceptance speech – where she spoke in detail about her abuse at the hands of her school teacher – Mr Morrison shared a quiet word with her.
“Do you know what he said to me, right after I finished that speech and we’re in front of a wall of media? I s–t you not, he leant over and right in my ear, he goes ‘well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out’,” she said.
One of the hosts responded “oh Christ … even if he thought that was a nice thing to say, that’s also an issue”.
In an exasperated tone, Ms Tame responded “I don’t know”.
The 2021 Australian Of The Year was in Betoota, so the editors rushed to get an interview before she took off back to Hobart.
— The Betoota Advocate (@BetootaAdvocate) May 23, 2021
But she had even sharper words for Senator Stoker, a conservative rising star in the Queensland LNP, who was recently named Assistant Minister for Women in the Morrison government.
Ms Tame has criticised Senator Stoker several times in recent months, including for her support for commentator Bettina Arndt, who in 2017 published an interview with the man convicted of raping Ms Tame.
Senator Stoker – who is also Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General and Industrial Relations – previously called Ms Tame’s comments “utter nonsense”, claiming she had reached out to her in an Instagram message for a conversation.
In the podcast, Ms Tame again criticised Senator Stoker, saying she had “aligned herself with the commentator who gave my abuser a platform”.
“It’s not that I don’t want to sit down and put differences aside in necessary cases and work with people. But I believe that paedophilia is an absolute wrong, right? And if you don’t absolutely oppose it, you therefore condone it,” she said.
“She’s aligned herself with this person who’s enabled that sort of culture. And so I just, I don’t think that she’s the adequate person for the job.”
She also said the Senator’s Instagram message had been “lost” in her inbox.
“She’s also gone to the media and complained because she’s sent me Instagram direct, or direct messages, even though I don’t follow her. So they’ve gotten swept into the … I’m not joking, thousands. I just can’t go through them all,” Ms Tame said.
“She said that she reached out to me on Instagram, which I think is a little bit like … ‘I sat in a room and thought about you. Why haven’t you reached out?’.”
Senator Stoker told The New Daily she would like to meet with Ms Tame face-to-face for a chat on their “common goals”.
“My invitation to meet with Ms Tame remains open,” she told TND.
“I would welcome the opportunity to hear her concerns and work towards common goals. I believe a direct discussion between the two of us will be far more effective than one had through the press gallery.
In Parliament’s Question Time on Monday, Labor’s shadow minister for women Tanya Plibersek asked Mr Morrison to comment on Ms Tame’s revelations.
Mr Morrison didn’t dispute the comments, but denied there was anything negative in them.
“I can’t recall the exact words I used, Mr Speaker, but I wouldn’t question that in any way shape or form, what Ms Tame has said. That is roughly my recollection,” the PM said.
“That was a very brave statement. That is exactly what I meant when I said that to her on that occasion. It was a very proud moment for her and her great struggle and challenge over a long period of time and what she did on that occasion was speak with a very strong voice about what had occurred to her.”
Mr Morrison instead said he meant his comments as praise after a “very brave speech”.
“I think raising her voice in that way would have given great
agency to so many victims of sexual abuse and harassment all around this country, and that is exactly what I meant,” he said.
“I don’t know why some other meaning may have been put upon those words.”