A case of #Mansplaining? PM’s interruption of female MP hits global headlines

Source: Twitter

A video of the Prime Minister cutting off a female Liberal MP - when asked about the experience of women in the government - has attracted international attention as #Mansplaining started trending on Twitter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ironic interruption of senior government minister Anne Ruston on Tuesday has now hit global headlines.

The BBC and HuffPost UK have both run stories on how Mr Morrison cut Ms Ruston off, just as she was answering a question about the culture for women in parliament.

“Ms Ruston, can I ask you, as a woman in government, your reflections on the culture inside. Has it got better, worse or stayed the same since the bonk ban era?,” a journalist asked.

Ms Ruston said just eight words before the Prime Minister butted in and began to answer the question for her.

“Well Phil, the only thing that I can,” Ms Ruston started before Mr Morrison interjected, “How this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the issue, Phil.”

The Prime Minister went on to claim his government took the issue “very seriously” and asked reporters not to use the term ‘bonk ban’.

After speaking for 20 seconds, the Prime Minister finally allowed Ms Ruston to answer the question that had been directly addressed to her.

“Well, I can only reflect on my own experience since I’ve been in this place since 2012, and I have to say I have always felt wholly supported while I’ve been here,” she said.

 The question came after an explosive investigation by ABC’s 4Corners, which raised concerns about the overall disrespectful treatment of women in politics. 

4Corners alleged Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge and Attorney-General Christian Porter had affairs with younger Liberal staffers before the ban was introduced.

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull introduced what has been colloquially described as a “bonk ban” in 2018 following revelations that then-deputy PM Barnaby Joyce was having an affair with his staffer Vikki Campion.

The bonk ban prohibited sexual relations between ministers and their staff. 

The Prime Minister’s interruption appeared to resonate with women everywhere, who took to social media to express sympathy for Ms Ruston.

“Sweet mother of irony,” one woman wrote.

“Nothing says respect for women like talking over a woman when a question was directly addressed to her,” Guardian Australia journalist Calla Wahlquist added.

“Scott, just let her speak,” Labor senator Penny Wong said. 

Former Liberal MP Julia Banks, who quit the party after allegedly experiencing bullying, also chimed in.

"Standing by the men. Talking over the women. Making international headlines. So Trumpesque," she wrote. 

Mr Morrison has stood by Mr Tudge and Mr Porter and said on Tuesday, he would not take further action against the men.

When asked if the scenario would pass the pub-test, he claimed Australians understand “human frailty.”

“These things happen in Australia,” the prime minister said.

“People do things and they regret them, they do damage to their lives in the lives of many others, and I know there would be deep regrets about that,” he added.

“I think Australians understand human frailty, and I think they understand the people who work in this place are just as human as anyone else and subject to the same vulnerabilities and frailties as anyone.”