Morrison dumps Porter and Reynolds from cabinet

 

UPDATE: Former attorney-general Christian Porter and defence minister Linda Reynolds have been dumped from their roles in the second cabinet shake-up in four months.

However both ministers, who are on medical leave, will remain on the frontbench upon their return.

After over a month of scandal focusing on the men's mistreatment of women, Mr Morrison said the overhaul would provide the chance to look at the issue through a "fresh lens".

Mr Morrison confirmed he would chair, alongside Minister for Women Marise Payne, a new task force in response to issues surrounding women's equality.

"Getting these results for Australian women will be achieved through collaboration," he said.

"They'll be achieved through listening, they'll be achieved by acting together, they won't be achieved by dividing Australians and setting them apart."

Mr Morrison said Marise Payne would become "effectively … the Prime Minister for Women".

"These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs," he said.

The latest reshuffle was triggered after Mr Morrison received advice from the Solicitor-General that there was a perceived conflict of interest if Mr Porter - who has denied historical rape allegations made against him - stayed in the role of Australia's first law officer.

Mr Porter has been moved to the Industry, Science and Technology portfolio, previously held by Karen Andrews.

"I've spoken about this to Mr Porter over the course of these last few weeks when he's been on mental health leave," Mr Morrison said.

"This fully addresses all the issues that relate to the advice received from the Solicitor-General … He's a very capable minister, and I'm sure he'll apply his considerable talents to that portfolio to the best of his abilities."

Senator Reynolds, who is on leave due to a pre-existing heart condition, was criticised for her handling of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins' rape allegations.

She has become the Government Services and NDIS Minister, replacing Stuart Robert.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has been promoted to Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister, after acting in the role during Mr Porter's absence.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has moved to Defence, and has been replaced by Industry, Science and Technology Minister Minister Karen Andrews.

"I want to thank Peter very much for the hard road he has had in that portfolio I have some knowledge and understanding of it," he said.

Mr Dutton has also replaced Mr Porter as the government's leader of the House.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has taken on a new role, the Minister for Women's Safety.

Government Services and NDIS Minister Stuart Robert has replaced Ms Cash as Minister for Employment workforce Skills, Small and Family Business.

"He will be a key participant in the government's economic recovery strategy," Mr Morrison said.

"Workforce is a big piece of our economic puzzle that we must get firmly in place."

It comes after Mr Morrison's approval ratings plummeted in a new opinion poll, following intense scrutiny of his leadership on the issue of treatment towards women at Parliament House.

Dr Laming's shock exit comes after his branch executive warned the Liberal National Party before the 2019 election of his "harmful" behaviour, including "belligerent" Facebook arguments with constituents. 

 

EARLIER: The backlash over a series of sex scandals involving members of Scott Morrison's government continues with the forced exit of Queensland MP Andrew Laming after his "harmful" treatment of women.

While the Prime Minister has attempted to address the crisis by stripping responsibilities from two of his senior ministers, Dr Laming's exit after admitting to harassing women online makes him the third Liberal MP to take medical leave this year, after Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Mr Morrison will announce a major cabinet reshuffle today, which is anticipated to see former leadership rival Peter Dutton promoted to the Defence portfolio.

According to The Australian, Stuart Robert will likely be moved into the Home Affairs portfolio, although some senior government figures have been pushing for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston instead.

Dr Laming's shock exit comes after his branch executive warned the Liberal National Party before the 2019 election of his "harmful" behaviour, including "belligerent" Facebook arguments with constituents.

Further damaging revelations emerged, including accusations he took an inappropriate photograph of a young woman's underwear.

Mr Morrison will participate in the search for Dr Laming's successor, with Queenslander and Industry Minister Karen Andrews likely to oversee the preselection process and nomination of a woman for the position.

The Australian has tipped Fran Ward, a 50-year-old businesswoman, mother of three and chair of the LNP's small business policy committee, as Dr Laming's replacement.

EARLIER: The whistleblower on Parliament House's sex culture has claimed lewd acts were happening even while Scott Morrison was Prime Minister.

According to The Weekend Australian, he has also provided information to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham's office this week.

"Tom the Whistleblower" - who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Weekend Australian - said he met with Senator Birmingham's chief of staff on Thursday from 10.30am to midday after a 30-minute phone call that day.

Tom told The Weekend Australian he was informed late on Friday by Senator Birmingham's office that the Finance Department was "commencing an investigation" into political staff and he had been asked to provide statements.

He also said he verbally provided information to Senator Birmingham's chief of staff relating to four people who are current and former staffers; three non-staffers; one sex worker; a former minister and a sitting MP about a string of sexual encounters from September 2015 to 2020.

On Friday it was revealed that Tom had provided "names, dates, pics, vids" and evidence in relation to the alleged use of male sex workers at Parliament House.

Senator Birmingham's office has not denied meeting him.

It comes as more staffers could be sacked and MPs may be exposed after blew the lid on lewd sex acts claimed he'd also passed more information on to Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.

Senator Keneally announced on social media that someone from her office had spoken to the whistleblower and was given a "verbal briefing", The Australian reports.

Tom revealed earlier this week that some male staffers had allegedly committed lewd acts on female MPs' desks.

Channel 10 reported the claims on Monday night, which resulted in the sacking of a Liberal staffer who filmed himself performing a sex act on the desk of a female.

The footage was shared with a group of Coalition staffers who filmed themselves committing indecent acts inside Parliament House.

The Australian reports it has seen material provided by the whistleblower that shows at least four Coalition staffers swapping images and videos on Facebook Messenger over a two-year period ending last year.

One video reportedly shows a Coalition staffer performing a sex act on another man that he claims is the Parliament House office of an MP he works for.

PM ORDERS LIBERAL MP TO DO SENSITIVITY COURSE

Liberal MP Andrew Laming has been ordered by the Prime Minister to complete a sensitivity course after multiple claims of bullying and harassment by female constituents.

Dr Laming apologised for his conduct in the lower house earlier this week, but yesterday admitted he "didn't even know" what he was apologising for.

Now Scott Morrison is putting his foot down, saying yesterday he would not defend Laming's behaviour.

"I spoke to him again this morning and I'm arranging for Andrew Laming to now go and get appropriate assistance in an appropriate course to build understanding and awareness about his actions," Mr Morrison said.

"I hope that will see a significant change in his behaviour."

Dr Laming apologised for his conduct in the lower house earlier this week, but yesterday admitted he "didn't even know" what he was apologising for in a post accompanied by laughing emojis.

Federal Member for Bowman Andrew Laming. Picture: AAP
Federal Member for Bowman Andrew Laming. Picture: AAP


"In this climate - I willingly apologise - I didn't even know what for at 4pm when I did it,'' he wrote.

His Facebook page has now been removed from the site.

Two women in the Queensland MP's electorate Bowman say they were abused by Laming who made false claims about them and even drove one woman to contemplate suicide.

Pressure is mounting on the PM to sack Laming, with QLD Labor MP Don Brown saying he isn't fit for office.

"Andrew Laming's Facebook page has been removed. If you aren't fit for Facebook, you are definitely not fit for parliament," he said.

This isn't the first time Laming has faced controversy.

In January the MP's page was removed and later put back online after Laming connected Australia Day protesters to petrol sniffers.

Last year he was forced to apologise to QLD Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk after he photoshopped her head onto a Nazi uniform.

Palaszczuk's grandfather was almost killed in Nazi labour camps during WWII.

MORRISON CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON STAFFERS

Government staffers will undertake face-to-face workplace, health and safety training amid sexual assault allegations and claims of inappropriate behaviour.

In an address to all Coalition staffers on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Morrison outlined three key actions to clamp down on parliament's toxic culture.

He told staffers the government would establish a register for staff induction and professional conduct across all ministerial offices.

It comes after Mr Morrison said he was "shocked and disgusted" at reports of some male staffers allegedly committing crude sex acts in the offices of female MPs.

The Prime Minister held back tears several times during a press conference on Tuesday morning where he declared "we must get this house in order".

Mr Morrison said the reports were "shameful" and added he had been "completely stunned" on multiple occasions over the past month - one where Parliament House has been rocked by multiple claims of it having a toxic culture.

He acknowledged it was the latest scandal in a "traumatic month" within parliament, beginning with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins' allegation she was raped by a colleague in the building in 2019.

Mr Morrison acknowledged the reports were the latest scandal in a “traumatic month” within parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Mr Morrison acknowledged the reports were the latest scandal in a “traumatic month” within parliament. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage


Previously, Mr Morrison was criticised for saying he had viewed Ms Higgins' allegation through the prism of his own daughters.

He accepted he could have "chosen different words" but said the comments were made "in the best of faith" and no offence was intended.

His voice breaking and eyes watering, Mr Morrison asked for indulgence to speak about how his family has helped him understand the problems of women, saying, "Criticise me for speaking about my daughters but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My widowed mother is the centre of my life.

"They have motivated me my entire life. I owe them everything. And to them I say to you girls I will not let you down."

The Prime Minister did not rule out bringing in quotas to increase the representation of women in the Coalition.

Originally published as Whistleblower questions PM's sex culture claim


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