Interview with Leigh Sales, ABC 7.30

  • Transcript, E&OE
15 March 2021

Leigh Sales:

Senator Payne, thanks very much for your time today.

Marise Payne:

Good evening, Leigh.

Leigh Sales:

Do you feel like, to make it in politics, you've had to keep men's secrets?

Marise Payne:

I wouldn't describe it that way, actually. I do think making it in politics, as you put it, for anyone - women and men, frankly, is a difficult process. I spent some time endeavoring to be preselected for the parliament myself, and I've often been asked whether that was because of my gender. And I've often said in response to that at the time, I actually felt it was more about my age.

Leigh Sales:

You are the Minister for Women. Why didn't you attend the march today?

Marise Payne:

Leigh, both the Prime Minister and I offered the opportunity to meet with the organisers of today's protest, on a number of occasions and in a number of contexts, and those offers were very politely declined. That that's a matter for them.

Leigh Sales:

[interrupts] But I just want to know why you didn’t go to the actual march?

Marise Payne:

Indeed. And throughout the year, of course, we meet hundreds and hundreds of people, I don't normally attend marches. The Prime Minister does not normally attend marches, but we are very, very willing to engage on the issues. I have been doing that consistently in this role. I've done it again this afternoon in meetings, particularly with people concerned about matters of family and domestic violence and legal services in support of those. That is part of what we do every single day here. And those offers to meet still stand.

Leigh Sales:

I get that maybe there's a fear of the optics of being booed and so on, but doesn't that come with the territory of being a politician? And isn't there almost an obligation to attend a rally of thousands of women as the Minister for Women?

Marise Payne:

I wouldn't call it a fear of the optics. I've indicated to you the circumstances today, and I'm very open, very willing to meet with the organisers of today's rally, as, frankly, Leigh is the Prime Minister. That is an offer which he has made and which we would hope would be taken up. But if it is not, then we will take up the issues that are raised, I think there are more than 13 points identified in the petition that has been presented today, we will take up those issues. They are already very much part of the work that we are doing, in many cases, not in all. And there are some which we which I would like to speak with colleagues about and to see what opportunities are available for us to address those as well.

Leigh Sales:

Why hasn't there been any action yet regarding the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s report on workplace sexual harassment? The Government's had it for a year.

Marise Payne:

Well, we made an announcement in the context of the Women's Economic Security Statement last October on a number of those recommendations. And to be fair, Leigh, there's a number of issues throughout 2020 which were not progressed in the context of government response to COVID. And we're not the only government in Australia or the only government in the world who has had to deal with a number of those delays.

Leigh Sales:

Should we expect to see those recommendations implemented before the next election?

Marise Payne:

I think those recommendations, which government chooses to adopt, will almost certainly be agreed to and implemented before the next election. Whether they are all adopted will ultimately be a matter for government consideration.

Leigh Sales:

As Minister for Women, did the Prime Minister seek your counsel in recent weeks about the Brittney Higgins case?

Marise Payne:

We have spoken often about the Brittany Higgins matter and a number of the other issues which have been raised in the context of that and of course you would expect that to be the case.

Leigh Sales:

And what kind of counsel did he want from you?

Marise Payne:

Well, I don't go into the nature of my private conversations with the Prime Minister, Leigh. I never have. But I can absolutely assure you, as I think the Prime Minister would, that we have discussed these issues, including between the Prime Minister and myself, at the most senior levels of Government, because we recognise the absolute seriousness and the extraordinary damage that that such allegations have caused to people, to Brittany Higgins in this case, and to other women that we know are speaking about their experience as well.

Leigh Sales:

Have you personally contacted Brittany Higgins since that story broke to check on her welfare?

Marise Payne:

No, I have not personally contacted Brittany Higgins. I don't know Miss Higgins, Leigh, but I have worked closely with my colleagues as we have sought to ensure there is an independent review in place – which, of course, is one of the terms of the petition presented today, an independent review in our workplace led by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins – that we have a support system and appropriate support system being determined through the Deputy Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Stephanie Foster, to ensure that staff in this building – not just women, but all staff in this building – feel that they have what they need to support them, if they need to raise issues, if they have matters they wish to disclose.

Leigh Sales:

Did the Prime Minister, also seek your counsel as Minister for Women on the Christian Porter matter?

Marise Payne:

Again, these are these are matters which, of course, I have discussed with the with the Prime Minister and they are matters of the utmost seriousness.

Leigh Sales:

And can I ask again, as Minister for Women and the most senior woman in the parliamentary party, have you sought the views of your female colleagues, MPs and staffers, regarding Mr Porter and whether they would like to see an independent enquiry into the allegations against him?

Marise Payne:

We have had many discussions, particularly amongst colleagues in this building in the recent weeks. In fact, those discussions have canvassed a range of issues, including bringing to this workplace the experience that many of my colleagues have from other workplaces. Their ability to assist us as a government, more broadly to assist this workplace in particular.

Leigh Sales:

Sorry, I asked a really simple question, which is, have you canvassed the views of your female colleagues around people's attitudes towards whether there should be an independent inquiry into the allegations against Christian Porter?

Marise Payne:

Again Leigh, I don't disclose my private conversations with my colleagues, nor with my Cabinet colleagues. But these issues are of the utmost seriousness and they have been discussed with many, many colleagues across the last few weeks. And I'm sure, frankly, given the nature of the issues we are dealing with, they will continue to be discussed.

Leigh Sales:

And are all of the female members of the parliamentary Liberal Party comfortable with Christian Porter remaining as Attorney-General?

Marise Payne:

Leigh, I can't imagine that you would expect me to speak for every single member – every single female member of the parliamentary Liberal Party on all of their views and I don't intend to do that. Most importantly, we are absolutely clear, and I am absolutely clear in relation to the operation of the rule of law here, the presumption of innocence. But equally, equally, I am very aware of the importance of hearing the voices of, and understanding the views of, survivors who go through enormous trauma to bring those voices forward.

Leigh Sales:

Senator Payne, thank you for your time today.

Marise Payne:

Thank you Leigh.

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