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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a staff member involved in “disgusting and disgusting” behavior in parliament was fired, in the latest blow to his Conservative government which has already been hit by rape allegations.
The Ten Network on Monday night released allegations that a group of male government officials had shared images and videos of lewd acts for two years, including photos of one of them masturbating on a lawmaker’s desk.
“The actions of these people show a staggering lack of respect for the people who work in Parliament and for the ideals that Parliament is supposed to represent,” Morrison said in a statement. “It’s not good enough and it’s totally unacceptable,” he said, adding that the staff member at the center of the allegations has been fired.
Read more: Protests signal a reckoning in Australia’s fight against sexism
The latest incident occurs a week later Thousands of women demonstrated in Australia to protest against sexual violence and Morrison’s handling of decades-old rape allegations and a separate alleged sexual assault in parliament in 2019. Support for the Morrison government fell to a minimum of 13 months in the latest Newspoll published on March 15th and is now behind the main Labor opposition, 48% to 52%.
The government is under fire for refusing to conduct an investigation into allegations that Attorney General Christian Porter raped a classmate on a school debate team in 1988, allegations he denies.
There has also been growing criticism of Morrison’s handling of allegations that former government media adviser Brittany Higgins was raped by a staff member in a minister’s office in 2019.
In response, Morrison has ordered sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins to conduct an independent investigation into the work culture of the House of Parliament.
Morrison said Tuesday that he was very distraught because many women believed he had not heard their calls for change.
“These events have triggered, throughout this building and indeed across the country, women who have endured this garbage and this cloud their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did,” Morrison said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne, the top woman in Morrison’s 22-person cabinet, of which 16 are men, told a parliamentary committee Monday night that the latest allegations revealed by Ten Network were “shocking. “.
“The degrading nature of those actions, which were shown in the media, is more than disappointing,” he said.
(Updates with Morrison’s comments in paragraphs 8 and 9)