Press Conference - Australian Parliament House, ACT

23 Mar 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: Good morning everyone. I wanted to do two things this morning. I want to address again the rather disturbing and continuing serious situation with the floods occurring across the eastern seaboard of Australia and the further reports I’ve received from Emergency Management today. And I wanted to address, following that, the rather disgusting and shocking reports that were brought to my attention last night in those reports. 

First of all, though, let me address the very serious situation that is being confronted by Australians in New South Wales but also in South East Queensland and increasingly in other states. I’m advised that the rain and flood situation does remain dynamic and extremely complex. This is a complex weather event and becoming more complex. 100mm of rain is forecast across saturated catchments today. Flood and severe weather warnings have been issued across the country, extending from South East Queensland to the Victorian border. A trough on the east coast has merged with a trough extending from the Kimberleys to the east coast, causing heavy rain and inland flooding. This is moving to being not just a coastal event. Severe weather, high winds, damaging surf and heavy rain is forecast for the east coast today and the system is causing heavy rain from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border as this storm moves south. The system is expected to ease by late Wednesday but the floodwaters remain persistent for sometime. Western New South Wales, north-eastern South Australia, south-western Queensland and east and west Australia have been affected by inland flooding. Brisbane and the Gold Coast have been impacted by heavy rain and that is causing flash flooding. 

In terms of the response, 1,700 SES volunteers are responding to this event, supported by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue Services. 18,000 people have been impacted by evacuation orders. 16 evacuation orders for 24 locations. 20 further evacuation warnings with 18 evacuation centres operating. I do note that particularly those evacuation centres in the Sydney metropolitan area have not been used to the extent that New South Wales authorities thought they may. People have largely gone to be supported by people in their own homes and the evacuation process in New South Wales and support for those individuals has been working extremely well, and I commend both those who are directly impacted and those who are helping them in their time of need and the excellent planning that has been done by New South Wales authorities. I spoke to the Premier again this morning following my updates from Emergency Management Australia today. As difficult as this issue is, people are remaining calm. We need to see them continuing to follow the instructions that are out there. If it is flooded, forget it. Don’t go out for a surf. I say that to people including in my own electorate when I had reports of people going out there yesterday. Don’t do it. You are putting not only yourself at risk but you are putting those who would have to come to your assistance at risk also and we urge you to follow the instructions of the local authorities on all of these matters. 

Rainfall is expected to be worse along the south coast, as I said earlier, with isolated falls of 300mm possible. Rain and associated flooding will begin to cover a wider area of central New South Wales. Initial moderate warnings for catchments near Bathurst and Dubbo. At this point, I don't have advice that we are looking at an inland event that were similar to what occurred in North Queensland which destroyed the North Queensland livestock industry which has taken us the last two years to recover from. But we are watching that very closely. The potential for major flooding in the Murray Darling Basin catchment is anticipated and major flooding may continue in the Hawkesbury and Nepean until Friday due to forecast rainfall and Western Sydney remains the area of greatest concern. Warragamba Dam is expected to spill over for another seven days at least. Telco impact assessments have not been completed in all areas but several hundred homes have been flooded, roads damaged, livestock and wildlife lost, telecommunications and power outages across the flooded areas have been reported. Telcos and power companies are standing by to re-establish power and communications. New South Wales have requested assistance for two search and rescue helicopters and that has already been activated from the ADF and right now they are assisting with evacuations from Colo to RAAF at Richmond. A request for assistance has also been put in by the New South Wales Government and is currently being assessed and planned for by Defence which would see somewhere between 500 and 1,000 ADF personnel deployed and engineering support to assist with the clean-up. The Premier and I discussed this this morning. I am expecting a CAT-C request to come through today which will be actioned immediately and the Premier and I will be working on that clean-up effort. We want this clean-up effort to be done swiftly and effectively to try and get these communities back on their feet as quickly as we possibly can. 

No lives, thankfully, to this point have been lost and we pray that will continue to be the situation and we still have no persons reported missing as well. So amongst all of this terrible tragedy and loss that is there, thankfully we have not seen that as yet. Resilience NSW is planning for cleanup and early recovery operations when floodwaters recede, and I am advised that 9,000 insurance claims have been received to date, and are on standby to start assessments, that is when the insurance industry, when they can get access to the flooded areas. Services Australia processed 2,579 claims up to 8.00pm last night for financial support, and already $3.5 million has gone out the door. There are a further more than 1,000 claims that are being worked on right now. If you are in one of those areas and you acquire that assistance, those are $1000 payments for eligible adults, $400 payments for eligible children, you can get access to that on 180 22 66. That number again, 180 22 66. Your claim will be processed on the phone, there will not be a need to fill out all these forms at that point and go through all those administrative processes, just as we did during the bushfires. You will get access to that as soon as possible. Services Australia have surged their support in their call centres and other places to ensure they can meet the demand that comes through. 

We have very competent agencies in our states. They do an excellent job in these situations. Where they need additional support, it will come, and it will flow quickly, but I want Australians to feel confident, particularly those in the affected areas, that the state agencies and authorities who are tasked with these responsibilities are very, very good at their job. They are world-class. You have the world's best out there looking after you today, and they will continue to be supported by the world’s best federal agencies to ensure that you're getting every assistance that is needed. I will be meeting with the Defence planners today and Emergency Management later this morning to run over the plans for the deployment of those supporting cleanup operations, so we are in a position to give a swift response to the New South Wales Government as we possibly can. 

Now to the other rather disturbing events of those further reports last night. I am shocked and I am disgusted. It is shameful. It is just absolutely shameful. I was completely stunned, as I have been on more than one occasion over the course of this last month. All of this has been shocking, it has been disgraceful. It has been a month of such reports. Indeed, reports involving the conduct of staff and of Coalition Government members and ministers, but as you know, reports of equally disgraceful and despicable activities anonymised of those working in other parties. We must get this house in order. We must put the politics aside of these things and we must recognise this problem, acknowledge it, and we must fix it. This has been a very traumatic month. It began with Brittany Higgins and her revelations of what took place in this very building. I remember that day very well, I was equally shocked and stunned at receiving that news also. These events have triggered, right across this building, and indeed right across the country, women who have put up with this rubbish and this crap for their entire lives, as their mothers did, as their grandmothers did. It has been going on, we have been talking about it in this place for a month, they have been living with it for their entire lives. And the women listening to me today know that to be true. 

So as much as it has been a topic of discussion here, and around the country specifically in relation to these disgraceful acts, it is something that has been the lived experience of Australian women for a very long time, and I welcome the spotlight that has now been placed on this. I acknowledge that many have not liked or appreciated some of my own personal responses to this over the course of the last month, and I accept that. Whether that was seeking to openly share how I try and deal with such traumatic events, people mightn’t like the fact that I discuss these with my family. They are the closest people in my world to me. That is how I deal with things, I always have. I have grown up in a loving and supportive family, and I discuss these things with my family and those who are closest to me. No offence was intended by me saying that I discuss these issues with my wife. Equally, that is in no way an indication that these events had not already dramatically affected me already at that point. Equally, I accept that many were unhappy with the language that I used on the day of the protests. No offence was intended by that either. I could have chosen different words. I have already explained those matters in the House. 

But what I am even more concerned about, even more importantly, I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them, and that greatly distresses me. I have been doing a lot of listening over this past month, but not for the first time, now is not the time for me to run over whether as a Minister for Immigration or a Treasurer or a Minister for Social Services, the keen interest I have shown in these issues. I'm not going to do that today. But particularly on these issues over the last month, I have been listening carefully. I have had many colleagues, I have had many friends and others that I have regular contact with, talk with me openly about the issues and the traumatic things that they have had to deal with over their lifetimes and members of their family. Let me tell you what I have heard. Women are too afraid to call out bad behaviour for fear of losing a job or being intimidated in the workplace. That is not OK, and it is not their fault, it is the environment we have allowed to be created. Women who are afraid to walk to their car from the train, and they carry their keys in their hand like a knife for fear of being attacked. That is not OK. That is not acceptable that in this country, a country as great as Australia, women walk daily in that fear. I have heard that women are overlooked, talked over, by men, whether it is in boardrooms, meetingrooms, staff rooms, in media conferences, in cabinets, or anywhere else. Overlooked and treated like they have nothing valuable to contribute. I have heard about being marginalised, women being intimidated, women being belittled, women being diminished, and women being objectified. That is not OK. I have heard that women, when offered a job, take the salary offered because they do not feel they can ask for more, whereas the blokes do and they get it. That is not OK. Whether this is unconscious deafness and blindness, or whether it is wilful malevolence, that is behind all of this, it must be acknowledged, it must be called out, and it must stop. That is all our job. It is my job, it is my Minister’s jobs, it is my Members and Senators jobs, it is your job. This is not something that is of a scale that any government can simply change, it is something we must change as a society because we know it happens all over this country. But for me and my house, the House I work in here, then we must take responsibility. It is our problem here, it is our responsibility here, and I'm committed to dealing with that. We must do better in this place, all of us, and in our country we must do better. 

Now, forgive me the indulgence, forgive me this indulgence. I want women to have at least the same opportunities and the same voice and the same safety as men in this country. I have the deepest of vested interests. Criticise me if you like, for speaking about my daughters, but they are the centre of my life. My wife is the centre of my life. My mother, my widowed mother, is the centre of my life. They motivate me every day on this issue. They have motivated me my entire life, they have taught me the values and the faith that sustains me every single day in this job, which is why I am here. I owe them everything. And to them, I say to you girls, I will not let you down. To the many other women who are in this place, who have shared their stories with me, I thank you for your feedback, your honesty, your support, your counsel, and your courage. I know there are plenty of women who work in this building today, whether they be Members or Senators or Ministers, shadow ministers, staff, journalists, who say why should I bother? Why should I bother? Why shouldn’t I just walk away? There has never been a more important time for women to stand in this place. I want to see more women in this place. I have done many things to get more women in this place and I intend to do more. I have put more women in my Cabinet than any other Prime Minister ever has before, and I look forward to doing more. I need women to stand with me as we go about this, as we stand together, I need them to stand in this place, I need them to stand right where they are, I need them to continue to blaze the trail right here this place. I admire their courage and I call on it. Questions?

Journalist: You say it’s your responsibility, that you’re responsible for the culture in this place and you’re committed to dealing with it. What concrete measures are you actually going to take to try and address these problems? 

Prime Minister: A couple of measures. First of all, you are aware of the changes we’ve already introduced for the direct counselling support that is available, and I suspect particularly for women in this building. I’m pleased to know that that support service is already being used by women in this place, and men in this place, it is also being used by those who are seeking support for how they deal with these issues, and I think that has been a very useful service that has been put in place and the additional resources and support. In addition to that, of course the Jenkins review, Kate Jenkins will be speaking in my party room this morning, and I am looking forward to the multi-party outcomes that come from that process. But I am not waiting for the report to come back. I have asked for the Deputy Secretary Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to come back for me. She is still working on that report and she has asked for some further time on the report to get it right, and that would be, in particular, putting in place a more robust and independent complaints mechanism for staff and members and senators to be able to have access to, to ensure that we can deal with that more fully. I am speaking to all Coalition staff later today. Good people come and work in this building, you all know that. There are some people who have done some despicable things in this place. These things are just so foreign to me that I can hardly process them, as I am sure I would hope that most people would be in a similar situation. And most people who come to work in this place, I want to assure Australians, do not come here and behave in that way. But there are people who do and that needs to be addressed, and if people have information on that conduct then I implore them to come forward as that is the only way that I can deal with those issues. But it is not just a responsibility for me. I am the leader of the Liberal Party and I'm the Prime Minister of the country and leader of the Government, but we have many people in this building who have responsibility for how this place operates. Whether it is the leaders of other parties, and whether it is those who are presiding officers over these chambers in this place, the many others who support in senior roles the staff around this building, and indeed in the gallery, yourselves, and the leadership within your own organisations have responsibilities here in terms of how things occur in this place as well. We all work in this building, we all have those responsibilities. I am taking mine and I call on others to take theirs. 

Journalist: One of the things that would make women feel a lot safer right now would be if you could make it compulsory for harassment…

Prime Minister: I couldn’t quite hear over the cameras, I’m sorry.

Journalist: ...compulsory harassment and misconduct training for all office staff and MPs in this building, that is something you can do right now, will you commit to that? And do commit to a zero tolerance policy with regards to any of the other individuals involved in the report last night that they will be sacked if they are identified?

Prime Minister: On the latter point I think we have already demonstrated our resolve on that issue and you can expect us to follow through on it in exactly the same way. That sort of behaviour has no place here, it has absolutely no place there. It is disgusting. In terms of the other recommendation, that is one that I entirely expect the Deputy Secretary to come forward with. So I'm not expecting that to take much longer but I would like to act on all of those recommendations and I anticipate that is one such recommendation that will come forward in that report and one that I would strongly support.

Journalist: Prime Minister, you say you want more women in this place. This morning Karen Andrews said that she thinks the Liberal Party should seriously consider quotas. Is that something you would consider now and if not why?

Prime Minister: My colleagues know that I have been open to that conversation for some time. 

Journalist: Prime Minister, two things. There will be women listening to your comments this morning wondering why it took you a month to get to their lived reality that they started with on the day where Brittany Higgins came forward. Can you explain why it took you a month to get to this position? And another thing, just following on from the 4 Corners report last night, the security guard who was interviewed on camera said there was no security breach in relation to the staffer who was alleged to have committed the sexual assault on Brittany Higgins. Now, the Government says that staffer was terminated for a security breach. What was the security breach?

Prime Minister: I’m happy to take you through that. On the other issue, Katharine, this has been a terribly difficult month. I was shocked and appalled when I learnt of the situation involving Brittany Higgins. And I have been shocked and appalled by all of the other matters that have come forward since. But as the month has progressed and as I have engaged with so many women, what has become the issue, and rightly, is that this is not just about the terrible things that have happened to one woman in this place. We moved immediately to start addressing issues around that particular case but this is far bigger than that and I think that is the voice that has arisen over the course of this past month. This was a shout about what is happening across Australia, not just the specific events. If we were to just continue to focus on the events that happen in this place - and we will, and must, as I said - there is something much bigger here that has been illuminated, thankfully, by these rather traumatic reports that have gone right across the spectrum here. We are all human beings, Katharine, and what I have sought to do today is just be very honest with people. Please don't think that these events haven't created great turmoil for me over the course of the past month. At the same time, as the Prime Minister, when I am dealing with many other issues at the same time, also very significant, whether it is floods or vaccines or COVID pandemics, international issues, Australians also expect me to be focusing on those as well. So that is my honest answer. It is processed, I have heard, I have listened and I will have a lot more to say about this in the next month about further action. But today is not a day for me to list out a list of further actions. I’ve listed some in response to direct questions. Today, Australian women in particular, but Australians more broadly because it is not just Australian women who have identified this over the past month, Australians need to know that this place has heard them and that I have heard them and I want to assure you that I have. Sorry, on the other matter. I did see that interview last night. Obviously the security guard in question doesn't have the full information about this case and other contributing incidents that preceded this case. Senator Reynolds has previously confirmed to the Senate there was a security breach involving unauthorised access to her office and I have been advised this followed an earlier security breach by the male staff member that related to the handling of classified documents in what is clearly a highly sensitive portfolio area. Consequently, this was considered serious misconduct in relation to the statements of standards for ministerial staff. So in other words, he had some form when it came to the security issues regarding that office and this was the final straw. Obviously, the security guard in question would not have been familiar with those aspects. We are dealing with an office that had and was dealing with quite sensitive material. It was the Defence Industry Minister’s office at the time and so there was some prior issues here and this final event was the one that triggered his dismissal.

Journalist: Prime Minister, if you're the boss at a business and there had been an alleged rape on your watch and this incident we heard about last night on your watch, your job would probably be in a bit of jeopardy, wouldn't it? Doesn't it look like you have lost control of your ministerial staff?

Prime Minister: I will let you editorialise as you like, Andrew, but if anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own workplaces by comparison I would invite you to do so.

Journalist: Well, they’re better than these I would suggest, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: Let me take you up on that. Let me take you up on that. Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women's toilet and that matter is being pursued by your own HR department. 

Journalist: I am not aware of it. 

Prime Minister: You are not aware of it. So let's not all of us who sit in glass houses here start getting into that.

Journalist: [Inaudible]

Prime Minister: What I am suggesting to you is that there are serious issues here that no one individual can be overwatch on every single inch of this place every second of the day and I don't think any Australian has that reasonable expectation. As far as I'm aware, the incident that was reported last night occurred long before I was Prime Minister of this place. So it is not a matter that occurred while I was even Prime Minister. That goes to a long-standing culture of despicable behaviour in this place. So that is not something that I could be directly held accountable even when I wasn't in the role. What I am held accountable is what I do now and that is what I am outlining to you today. So you are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal but be careful.

Journalist: You said in your opening remarks on this subject about the forces that have been at work here over the past month and the sort of surge amongst women in Australia and all of these issues raised by this. Does it change your thinking on your handling of the allegations against Mr Porter in terms of the there will be no inquiry as to his fitness to remain in the ministry? Or are you still of the view that the way you’re handling that is correct?

Prime Minister: As I indicated, I was getting advice from the Solicitor-General. I have received that advice and I am now taking advice through the Department regarding how that sits with the ministerial standards and I will be making further decisions on that matter and I will alert you to those when they are made.

Journalist: Do you think that your so-called star chamber needs to improve its vetting of potential staff? And secondly, have you responded to Russell Broadbent's suggestion of a gathering of representatives of women's organisations nationally, and if you haven't, what is your thinking?

Prime Minister: On the latter, such a process is already under way. As we go forward to the next National Action Plan, it is already part of that National Action Plan, and the process for developing it to bring forward such a summit or gathering or whatever term you would like to use. So that is already an initiative that is in train and being pursued by the Minister for Women and I am looking forward to that. So I will have more to say about that in the weeks ahead. So that is another area of activity that is already happening and what I have noted in the course of this past month, there have been many excellent suggestions. Some have already been implemented and more will be and I welcome them. I particularly welcome them from people as experienced as Russell is in this place and I have a great deal of respect for. Just remind me on the other point, Michelle?

Journalist: The star chamber.

Prime Minister: This is a process in which people might not be aware of this process but when it comes to appointment of people in ministerial offices, there is a minister and a group of other senior staff involved in vetting the applications, not unlike what you would see in a HR department or something like that for important appointments across any corporate. So that is just using that similar process to what occurs in other workplaces. I think it is a helpful process and in particular I would want to be sure that when they meet and they consider these things, these very serious matters that have arisen over the course of the past month, would continue to be included in how they assess these things. I am aware that as that group has operated in the past, it has acted to ensure that where there have been concerns about this in the past that those concerns are followed through when considering these appointments. So I see it, Michelle, I think as a positive contribution to the process to provide further protection.

Journalist: Did the staff member in last night’s report receive termination payments and or references from your Government?

Prime Minister: I would have to refer you to the Minister on that one. But they have been terminated. For one termination. I am still not aware of who the other individuals are and we have taken steps to reach out to the person who allegedly knows who these individuals are and we are very keen to hear from them.

Journalist: Prime Minister, on that the whistleblower claims that the sacked staffer would be able to shed a great deal of light on the other staffers, including those currently in the building as well as the allegations around sex workers being let into the building. Will any effort be made to reach out to the sacked staffer to see if he is willing to go into some detail about that? And just another one, if I can, is it accurate that before the last election, you were genuinely interested in the concept of quotas, going back to that question? Was it something you contemplated as a way to try to increase the number of women in your ranks, not just in your ministry, and if so or even if not, is it time to look at that?

Prime Minister: On the second point, I will give you the same answer. My colleagues know well that I am very open to these questions. I have had some frustrations about trying to get women preselected and running for the Liberal Party to come into this place. I have had those frustrations for many years going back to the times when I was a state director where I actively sought to recruit female candidates, whether it was for state or Federal Parliament. I remember one who got preselected during my time and she has gone on to do a pretty amazing job leading the state of New South Wales right now at a time of a crisis. There are many others that I have sought to encourage into this place and I was greatly supported by an amazing female president in the Liberal Party NSW, Christine McDiven, who went on to become federal president, who I know of no greater champion for women in the Liberal Party at an organisational level than Chris. She blazed a trail and I am looking for others in the organisation, Danielle Blain over in Western Australia I know is doing an amazing job to do the same thing. I want to give them every support I can. But I am making it pretty clear that when it comes that issue, I don't hold the same reservations that others do. Why? And I think many Liberals have been coming to this view over time. We tried it the other way and it isn't getting us the results we would like to see so I would like to see us do better on that front. On the other issue, yes of course, we will seek to gain as much information about that matter by those who know about it, as much as possible. I would ask given the sensitivity of this issue, and I know you understand this, Peter, that these are very traumatic events and we have people at the moment you are on a close watch for their own personal safety and so I would just simply ask for people to be aware of that. You all have your normal protocols for how you report these things and how you include in your stories the appropriate call numbers and things like that. So I am not making a criticism, I want to be clear about that, but I would just ask people that it is a very sensitive time here in this building. This place has seen events, before my time, under pressure, Mark, you will remember them, as will others experienced in the gallery, Michelle, and others, Chris. Let's just be careful in the weeks ahead. We are going to deal with this but we want to make sure we do things as carefully and sensitively as we can.

Journalist: The statements you have made today, Prime Minister, is this the speech you should have given in front of the women who rallied in front of Parliament last Monday?

Prime Minister: I believe I provided the opportunity to meet with those who had come on that day. I applaud, as I said on the day, it was right to come and right to do that and I was right to provide the opportunity to meet with me. It is not my habit, as you know, to go out to rallies and things like that that come to Parliament House. In the course of my programme, I am very happy to provide an opportunity for people to come in that way and come and meet with me. I have met with numerous groups. On that very day I was meeting with people in the entertainment sector who were happy to meet with me and talk about the issues. I have been very open about those sorts of things. What I am saying and I have said it before today, I acknowledge that there have been people who haven't been happy with how I have responded in every single way to this over the course of the last month. I acknowledge that absolutely. I am setting about to put that right. Those issues that people have had concerns about, they occurred in good faith, in the best of faith. But you learn a lot from all of that.

Journalist: Prime Minister, can I ask you about your comments last week about Phil Gaetjens…

Journalist: If I can just finish my question, Andrew. In terms of the concrete steps that you can take, you have said you might introduce quotas, which is fascinating and there is a lot of focus on women in this building. But what about women outside this building in regional Australia, in outer suburban areas, would you give any consideration to putting more money into rape crisis centres so women get the counselling they need, are you interested in the idea of more consent education in schools, what concrete steps are you rolling around in your head?

Prime Minister: All of the above, and more, and if you go across the fourth national action plan and as Social Services Minister I had responsibility for earlier national action plans, and they include all of these things. Is important to remember that these action plans are done together with the states and territories and many of the services delivered are also delivered by the states. So this is something we genuinely have to do together, and we have been doing together. Today I am not going through a shopping list of the additional measures particularly that will be needed to provide further protection for women against violence, against them and their children. But we will be, as we have in the past, over $1 billion committed, almost half of that in the last year or so, much of that going into during the COVID period when we were very worried about the increase in the incidence of domestic violence that would occur during the COVID period. Again, we put in additional resources, hundreds of millions, to support particularly women and families in those difficult times. So there has been no hesitation on that, Sam, and there will not be going forward. But I would urge that the path we have to go down is one that we have to go down together. This is not an issue that should be the subject of partisan contest, it really shouldn’t. That will slow us down, that will not get the outcomes that I want to see, and I'm sure every member of this Parliament wants to see, and I think it is time to get focused on those things, Sam, deal with the issues in our House here. Outside of this House, there are plenty of other houses that need to be fixed up, and I'm sure Australians will take proper responsibility for those. But this issue goes far beyond what happens here, but I acknowledge what is happening here and the need for us to deal with things that are happening here.

Journalist: Prime Minister, I just want to pick up on what you said to Andrew before. How is it that you did not know about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in Linda Reynolds office, yet you know about some incident that has happened in the media or among journalists, and have aired that publicly despite the maybe being against the wishes of the victim, we don’t know?

Prime Minister: That was brought to my attention late last night, and the issue of Brittany Higgins was only brought to my attention on 15 February as I have said. The suggestion was made by a member of the press gallery that things like this do not happen in the media and I think that would be unfair.

Journalist: Prime Minister, can I ask you about the comments that you made about Phil Gaetjens report yesterday. Do you concede that you misled Parliament by omission when you said you had not received an update when in fact, you had more than received an update, you had received an email through the PMO, he had spoken to you personally about the fact that he was putting his inquiry on ice, and what efforts have you made personally to work out what five or six of your members of staff actually knew?

Prime Minister: Two things, first of all, you have mischaracterised what I said in the House, and that is why I don’t agree with your assessment. I said that I hadn’t been updated on when I had received the report, and I hadn’t been updated when I had received the report, and I said subsequently…

Journalist: But you had been.

Prime Minister: No I had not. There was no finishing date provided to me by the Secretary, because he could not provide me with one. I was asked in the House about when I would receive it, and that is what I responded to. I also made it clear that it was the Secretary that was undertaking this at arms length, it is the Secretary that is undertaking that at arms length, and I know that there were further interviews being conducted even at that point. What he was referring to is that he was not in a position to finalise the report, and provided to me, based on the advice that he had received from the Commissioner of Federal Police which was also clarified yesterday. So what I would ask is that these statements not be mischaracterised. I expect my political opponents to do that, that is politics, that is part and parcel of this process. I will deal with those matters as I have appropriately in the House, but no, I don’t accept that, that is a mischaracterisation of what has occurred, and so I don’t accept that. Finally, Chris.

Journalist: PM, you started by talking about your daughters. After the last month, what would you tell them about a life in the public service, what pitch would you make to any young girl in Australia about why they would want to be in federal politics?

Prime Minister: Because they want things to be better, and they have something to contribute to that. I believe in my girls, I believe in all the women of Australia. Thank you very much.