Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused the Opposition of deliberately “standing by” as Liberal MP Nicolle Flint endured sexist abuse and stalking from left-wing lobby groups during the 2019 election.
In an emotional speech to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Ms Flint recounted harassment she said she had endured in politics, and criticised political opponents, including Labor leader Anthony Albanese and lobby group GetUp!, which campaigned to unseat her at the last poll.
“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, I will not be lectured by you, I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place,” she said, echoing the famous phrase used by former PM Julia Gillard against then opposition leader Tony Abbott.
“The safety of women in this place, of female staff and female MPs and senators should be above politics. The need to change the culture of our parties and of this place should be above politics.”
Responding to Ms Flint’s speech on Wednesday, the PM said: “S
just standing by to let that happen,” Mr Morrison said.
He then went a step further, claiming that not only were his opponents “aware” of the abuse endured by Ms Flint, but that “they were happy to be advantaged by it”.
Mr Albanese and Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, had earlier denied such claims.
In a statement on Wednesday, GetUp! said it had investigated the allegations and that none of its staff or members had harassed Boothby MP Ms Flint during the 2019 election.
“We campaigned in the seat of Boothby and other key seats with hard-right Liberal MPs, but it is simply wrong to characterise our campaign as harassment or misogyny,” it said.
Ms Flint, the Liberal member for the marginal South Australian seat, announced in February she would quit politics at the next election.
Please watch this brave, powerful speech by @NicolleFlint
No woman should endure the systematic abuse, harassment & misogynistic attacks to which she was subjected by Labor, with @SenatorWong in charge, Getup & the unions.
We’ve lost a first class Liberal MP.
This must stop. pic.twitter.com/XNMFEzP70s
— Senator Sarah Henderson (@SenSHenderson) March 16, 2021
Shortly before the PM’s comments further escalated the situation, Mr Albanese and Senator Wong hit back at Ms Flint’s claims the opposition was involved in the campaign against her. They said the ALP was also targeted by the same groups, and claimed not to have known the full extent of the abuse.
“It shouldn’t have happened. Full stop. It shouldn’t have happened to anyone in any campaign, full stop. I condemn,” Mr Albanese told the ABC’s Radio National.
“I wasn’t visiting Boothby in those last couple of weeks. Anytime that I got asked about behaviour, I would have said exactly the same thing.”
Mr Albanese – who wasn’t opposition leader at the 2019 election – said the same progressive campaign groups that Ms Flint criticised, including GetUp! and Extinction Rebellion, had also campaigned hard against him and other opposition members.
“Certainly, the women staff who worked for me – and my electorate office is all female staff – felt intimidated by occupations of the office. It shouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” he said.
“I stand with Nicolle Flint. [It] is appalling that that sort of behaviour was directed at her.”
Senator Wong, Labor’s most senior SA member, said she was appalled by the abuse aimed at Ms Flint, but said it was “unfair” to blame Labor.
“What Ms Flint reports happened to her is utterly unacceptable,” she said on Wednesday.
“I would say to Ms Flint, I agree with you, let’s try to make this a better place for women, let’s use our positions to make things better.”
“Women have the right to be safe.”
It’s not the first time Senator Wong has been forced to defend herself over the mistreatment of Ms Flint.
Facing the same accusations from the Coalition MP in September, Senator Wong said: “I look forward to similar support from Ms Flint the next time I am subject to abuse for being Asian, gay or a woman”.
She called on Ms Flint to “meet her own standards and publicly condemn the behaviour of her close friend, ally and campaign manager Sam Duluk, who she continues to campaign with”.
Mr Duluk, a former state Liberal MP, was charged in April after he allegedly assaulted fellow MP Connie Bonaros at a parliamentary Christmas party
Senator Wong said she hadn’t heard the full story of the alleged abuse until after the 2019 election, and also flatly ruled out any involvement. She also invited Ms Flint to meet her and other Labor women to discuss the issues.
“Let’s have a discussion about how we can work, use our positions of privilege to improve the situation of all women,” she said.