Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has provoked outrage on International Women’s Day by saying that men should not have to make way for women’s empowerment.
“We’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up,” Morrison told a function organized by Australia’s mining industry on March 8.
“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
On social media, the comments sparked instant derision of Morrison, who has been criticized for the lack of female representation among his party’s leadership.
“Men who are threatened or worried of women achieving equality is the bloody problem,” tweeted Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Meanwhile, Independent MP Kerryn Phelps, who last year won a by-election seat given up by Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, gave the prime minister the emoji treatment, posting a single wide-eyed, shocked face in response to his comments.
After the event, Morrison tweeted: “Today is about appreciating all the women in our lives and our nation – celebrating their value and achievements.”
Jobs for women
During his speech, Morrison told the Chamber of Minerals and Energy that a stronger Australian economy would improve job prospects for women.
However, a slew of recent resignations from female members of Morrison’s government has led many to question his commitment to jobs for women within his ruling Liberal Party.
Speaking at a different International Women’s Day function on Friday, independent parliamentarian Julia Banks told a crowd that Morrison’s leadership style was akin to “Mad Men crossed with House of Cards.”
Banks quit Morrison’s Liberal Party last November, citing a “culture of gender bias, bullying and intimidation” in Australian politics.
Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the party’s most senior woman, will leave parliament altogether at the next election, which is due before the end of May.
When the Liberal Party moved to oust sitting prime minister Turnbull last August, Bishop was ahead in several public opinion polls. But her leadership bid was blocked when Bishop received the fewest votes from her party peers and Morrison was installed as Australia’s sixth leader in just over a decade.
On Friday, Morrison addressed his party’s efforts to remedy its bad-for-women reputation, boasting: “I have been doing a bit of advancement of women lately myself. There are now seven women in my cabinet, which is the highest number of women ever in a Cabinet in Australia’s history.”
Morrison’s online detractors pointed out that just 22% of sitting Liberal Party members across Australia’s two houses of parliament are women.
The opposition Australian Labor Party comes closer to gender parity with 44% of its sitting members women.