The most senior woman in the Morrison government will not meet protesters calling for an end to gendered violence against women.
The minister will receive the petition in due course, noting successive governments have frequently received petitions on many matters via correspondence, consistent with protocol.
Janine Hendry, a 58-year-old Melbourne academic who is one of the organisers of the Womens March 4 Justice, said she was disappointed Senator Payne would not be one of them.
I called Senator Paynes office directly and her chief of staff returned my call, at which time he informed me the minister would not be available to receive the petition but I was most welcome to email it or post it, she said.
Both Ms Hendry and Senator Paynes office clarified on Sunday morning that there had been a misunderstanding and that Ms Hendry had, in fact, spoken to another member of the Ministers staff, not her chief of staff.
Its not only disappointing to me personally but its extremely disappointing to the 85,000-plus women who are wanting to have their voices [at 38 planned protests across the country].
I would say to the current government read the room.
The Canberra event is one of 38 planned across Australia and organisers estimate at least 85,000 women will attend.
The marchers petition has 10 demands including an investigation into gendered violence and the full implementation of the 55 recommendations in Ms Jenkins Respect@Work report from 2020.
A tweet from academic, designer and mother Janine Hendry formed the spark for protest marches across the country.Credit:Simon Schluter
The marches are being held after a month in which former Liberal adviser Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped while working Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019 and Attorney-General Christian Porter took mental health leave after forcefully denying a historical rape allegation.
The federal government has ordered a sweeping review of Parliament Houses workplace culture.
The protests across the country comes as Labor is expected to ramp up pressure on the government to hold an independent inquiry into the allegations against Mr Porter.
There are some MPs in government ranks who believe neither Mr Porter nor Ms Reynolds will be able to return from leave to their ministerial posts.
As one MP put it, reflecting the views of a section of the party room, I cant see a scenario where she [Ms Reynolds] comes back but I can see a scenario where he [Mr Porter] comes back. The PM is loyal, unlike Malcolm [Turnbull]. But you do reach a point where you are expected to cut yourself loose because thats how loyalty works in this situation.
The Morrison government has listed its industrial relations bill for debate in the Senate, but it is not clear if this will proceed given it may lack sufficient support from the cross bench.
National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732. Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).
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An earlier version of this story stated that Minister for Women Marise Paynes chief of staff told Janine Hendry the minister would not be available to receive the petition but I was most welcome to email it or post it. Both Ms Hendry and Ms Paynes office have since clarified that this was a misunderstanding and that it was another member of staff, not the chief of staff, who made this comment to Ms Hendry.
James Massola is political correspondent for the Sun-Herald and
Sunday Age. He was previously south-east Asia correspondent in Jakarta and chief political correspondent. Before that he was political correspondent for the Australian Financial Review.