Scott Morrison praises protest response as others are ‘met with bullets’

Protesters attend a rally against sexual violence and gender inequality in Canberra

Higgins' harrowing story of an alleged sexual assault in the Canberra office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds sparked the movement behind the March 4 Justice rallies around Australia.

Recently reported scandals include rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter, who has strongly denied the alleged 1988 assault, saying it simply did not happen.

Brittany Higgins has delivered a powerful message in a surprise appearance at the women's "March for Justice" protest in Canberra.

A spokesman for Morrison said there was a standing offer for a private meeting and declined to comment further.

"I was a political problem", she added.

"We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place", she said.

Scott Morrison has been criticised over his response to Monday's nationwide March4Justice rallies, with the prime minister noting that such marches "are being met with bullets" in other countries.

Around the country, crowds have gathered in all capital cities and even regional locations, protesting for the very same cause: women's safety and equity.

More than 5,000 people are expecting to march, with the event finishing outside Parliament House where there will be guest speakers addressing the crowds.

He outlined the awful toll gendered violence has taken on women.

Protesters attend a rally against sexual violence and gender inequality in Canberra
Protesters attend a rally against sexual violence and gender inequality in Canberra

"I think one of the problems with the Liberal Party is they don't have a 'woman problem, ' they have a 'man problem, '" she said.

Reynolds has since apologized for describing Higgins to her staff as a "lying cow" and said she was referring to Higgins' allegation of inadequate support, not the rape allegation. "Together, we can bring about real, meaningful reform to the workplace culture inside Parliament House and, hopefully, every workplace, to ensure the next generation of women can benefit from a safer and more equitable Australia". "We thank the women and those who have fought tirelessly before us and we march encouraged and inspired by your actions".

"We've come to his front garden", Janine Hendry, one of the organisers, told Reuters.

An estimated 10,000 joined the protest in Melbourne, with thousands more in major cities including Canberra and Sydney.

Porter's lawyers announced on Monday that he is suing Australian Broadcasting Corp. for defamation over a news article that he said made false allegations against him. Several thousand also rallied in Porter's hometown of Perth on Sunday.

Protesters attend a rally against sexual violence and gender inequality in Sydney on March 15, 2021.

"The start of the solution is quite simple - making noise", Grace Tame, a sexual assault survivor and advocate who was named Australian of the Year, told the crowd in Tasmania. "Behaviour unspoken, behaviour ignored, is behaviour endorsed", she said.

The March4Justice movement is demanding all politicians "address and put an end to the issues of sexism, misogyny, unsafe workplace cultures and lack of equality in politics and the community at large".

Canberra has been repeatedly criticized for a "toxic" workplace culture that has spawned persistent allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct against women in recent years.

"It seems insane that we would be, in 2021, having to present an amendment to a legislation that is vital to ensure all workplaces in Australia are safe and secure and respectful", independent MP Zali Steggall said.

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