Grace Tame has accused an employee of a government-funded organization of “threatening” a phone call to protect Scott Morrison’s reputation


Grace Tame says a senior member of a government-funded organization asked her not to say anything controversial about Scott Morrison in a “threatening” phone call while she was Australian of the Year.

The 2021 Australian of the Year made the statement today alongside friend and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Ms Tame said she had “nothing to lose” and said she received the “threatening phone call” in August last year.

She said the caller “asked my word that I would not say anything condemning about the Prime Minister on the evening of the next Australian of the Year awards”.

“‘You are an influential person. He’ll be scared,’ they said. What kind of fear, I wondered?”

“And then I heard the words ‘with an upcoming election.’

“And it crystallized — a fear for himself and nobody else, a fear that he might lose his position or, more specifically, his power.”

Ms Tame said she made a “conscious decision to stand up to evil” and will continue to do so.

Ms Tame was later asked what she had said in response and said: “It doesn’t matter now” and refused to say which organization it was.

The former Australian of the Year caused a stir when she held a side eye masterclass in a stone-cold exchange with Scott Morrison on her final day in the role last month.

She joked about it today in response to a question about which party would be better for women in the upcoming election, and replied:

“Permission to use a side eye?”

“I didn’t want his sympathy”

Earlier, Ms Higgins told the audience she wanted Mr Morrison to use his power as Prime Minister to take real action to improve women’s safety.

She said she found some of Mr Morrison’s expressions over the past year “shocking and admittedly a bit offensive at times”.

But she said that wouldn’t have mattered so much if his actions had shown a commitment to change.

“Higgins’ words would not matter if his actions had been measured,” Ms Higgins said.

“What bothered me most about the whole ‘imagine it were our daughters’ game wasn’t that he desperately needed his wife’s advice to contextualize my rape in a way that was personally important to him.

The two friends are speaking the day after Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese apologized on behalf of the whole of Parliament for the misconduct of many current and former staff.

Grace Tame, left, and Brittany Higgins called on the federal government to do more about sexual assault. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

The statements were the first recommendation of the Jenkins review of work culture in Parliament offices, an inquiry sparked after Ms Higgins made her rape allegations nearly a year ago.

“It was encouraging and an important feeling, but I’m aware it’s still just words at this point. Actions count,” she said.

“What will be the real test is whether the government is determined to bring about systemic change.

“Task forces are great, codes of conduct are important, but only when accompanied by institutional change.”

She said that unless all of the Jenkins review’s recommendations are implemented, “we will continue to see this toxic culture exist in our most powerful institution.”


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