“Having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience”: Grace Tame lashes PM

Australian of the Year Grace Tame has pointedly questioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison in front of a packed National Press Club over his recent handling of sexual assault allegations.

Mar 03, 2021, updated Mar 03, 2021
2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today. Photo: Mick Tsikas / AAP

2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today. Photo: Mick Tsikas / AAP

The Federal Government has been under intense scrutiny for more than two weeks after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House in 2019.

Morrison previously said his wife Jenny helped him understand the issue.

“She said to me: ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls’,” he said at the time.

Tame is a survivor of child sexual abuse and was crowned Australian of the Year for her advocacy on the issue, which resulted in Tasmanian laws being changed allowing her to speak out.

She is not impressed by Morrison’s comments.

“It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience,” Ms Tame said in a highly-anticipated appearance at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.”

A senior government minister has also been accused of a brutal historical rape of a woman who has since died.

Journalists were told not to ask Tame about the issue following her address to the National Press Club.

Morrison has so far stood by the accused minister, who denied the allegations to him.

The Australian of the Year was asked if the Prime Minister was creating an atmosphere where survivors are believed.

“Clearly not,” Tame said.

The Tasmanian’s confronting speech outlined her experience being abused by a teacher as a high school student, while calling for reform on consent laws and encouraging other survivors to come forward.

She said “cover-up culture” and abuse of power wasn’t unique to parliament.

“It happens everywhere,” she said.

Tame also rebuked the nation’s top military officer for suggesting young women should avoid being attractive or alone to stop sexual predators.

Defence chief Angus Campbell told trainee officers to avoid the “four As” – alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive.

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Tame criticised the remarks, saying: “I’m not judge, jury and executioner, but that’s not helpful rhetoric at all.”

“That feeds the idea that this is something that a victim has to foresee and stop themselves, as if they’re to blame,” she said.

“That is really unhelpful.”

Sexual assault survivor groups and the federal opposition also condemned the chief of defence’s address to first-year cadets, first reported by The Canberra Times.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the focus should be on changing the behaviour of men rather than women.

“Sexual violence is a scourge in our community and men have to take responsibility for changing their action,” he told reporters in NSW.

“In terms of leadership, right throughout the community, people should feel safe.”

He said people should be able to go out at night and have fun on an equal basis.

Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally said General Campbell’s comments implied women were responsible for avoiding rapes.

“Let’s be clear – women are never responsible for not being raped. Men are responsible for not raping women,” she told Sky News.

Senator Keneally urged the chief of defence to reflect on his statements and consider improving his communication.

“It’s clumsy language,” she said.

In a statement to The Canberra Times, Defence defended General Campbell’s remarks.

“In his recent address to the new cohort of ADFA trainee officers, the CDF noted matters in the media regarding allegations of sexual harassment and assault,” it said.

“In his view, being aware of the four As – young attractive people, noting the entire class fell into this risk factor, alcohol, after midnight and alone – enabled the group to recognise and mitigate the threat posed by abusive or predatory individuals.”


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