The two-day National Summit on Women's Safety got off to a rocky start on Monday with Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins criticising elements of the Prime Minister's speech.
A common theme in their critiques was that, as is so often the case with this Prime Minister and this government, there was a cavernous gulf between what is said and what is seen to be done.
Ms Higgins, who was allegedly raped in Parliament House by a colleague, is central to the summit.
It was commissioned after her story became known and thousands of woman rallied against gendered violence.
In a tweet posted after Mr Morrison had spoken she said: "While I respect the Prime Minister's 'ambitious spirit' for the National Women's Security Summit 2021 - I just can't match this government's actions with the platitudes and warm sentiments they are expressing today".
Sexual abuse survivor and Australian of the Year Grace Tame called the PM out for re-telling stories of abuse against women that weren't his to tell.
"Scott has ... appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image," she tweeted.
Ms Tame and Ms Higgins are attending the event in a spirit of solidarity with the other participants even though they have been critical of it.
Citing the cases of Brittany Higgins, Christine Holgate, Julia Banks and Christian Porter, Ms Tame said the government had a track record of "denial, minimisation, [and] ultimately dismissal of women's issues".
While some may be surprised at the intensity of the reaction by two of the country's foremost women's safety advocates, millions of others won't be. There is much truth in what they are saying.
A clear example of the gap between the PM's rhetoric on women's safety and his government's actions is its response to the Respect@Work report prepared by Sexual Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
Released on March 5, 2020, the report languished on the then Attorney-General Christian Porter's desk for more than a year.
It wasn't until after he stood down as the Attorney General in response to historical rape allegations that his replacement Michaelia Cash and the PM jointly delivered the government's response in April.
It was a text-book example of spin being used to create the illusion of meaningful reform while stopping well short of what the community wanted and expected it to do.
A major failure was the refusal to act on Ms Jenkins's recommendation to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to make employers responsible for proactively stamping out sexual harassment and to create safe workplaces.
This would have placed a duty of care on employers to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace even in the absence of a specific complaint.
Ms Cash defended the government's position on the basis such an amendment might cause "confusion".
This stance was widely criticised at the time with Ms Jenkins saying "it will be a missed opportunity not to introduce a positive duty [for employers] to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment in the Sex Discrimination Act".
If the PM and the Attorney General are seriously interested in regaining some credibility with female voters then they need to reconsider their position on this.
Given formal action has only been taken in respect to six of the 55 recommendations to date there is plenty of scope to do so.
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