The early signs of an earthquake can often be easy to miss.

Above the ground, the initial tremors can seem innocuous. But deep below, the tectonic shifting of plates can set in motion a series of events that rip apart the earth and bring down all that stands above it.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison could be forgiven for missing the early signs of the quake that would destabilise his government and upend the nation’s political landscape.

When those early tremors started, Morrison was riding high. The nation was bouncing back from an economic recession and the man who’d won an unlikely victory years earlier appeared on track for re-election.

His focus was solely on a successful vaccine rollout, which he hoped would bolster the public’s confidence in his government.

Weeks later, he’d find himself inside the House of Representatives, all but praising the nation for not shooting the protesters that had gathered outside.

“This is a vibrant liberal democracy,” he offered.

“Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country.”

The tens of thousands who rallied around the nation were looking for signs the nation’s leaders were listening.(

ABC News: Brendan Esposito


Morrison an unexpected catalyst

Scott Morrison is a man under pressure.

He has two Cabinet ministers, representing a quarter of the government’s national security committee, on medical leave.

His government is facing allegations of a toxic culture towards women, particularly young female staffers.

Morrison played an unlikely role in the catalyst that would shake the foundations of the nation’s Parliament.

He beamed as he stood alongside Grace Tame as she held her Australian of the Year trophy — an all-but-typical sight for a Prime Minister each January.

It was this photo that prompted Brittany Higgins to come forward.(

ABC News: Holly Tregenza


It was this sight that gave former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins the confidence to come forward only weeks later, and make public an allegation that she had been raped in a ministerial office, mere metres from the Prime Minister’s office within Parliament House.

As she stepped forward into the light, so too came other women across the nation, each unearthing a growing list of allegations that ranged from bullying to sexual assault.

It derailed the government’s planned focus on vaccines and forced the Coalition onto the back foot. The days of solely focussing on the pandemic are ending and with that comes greater scrutiny of the government on multiple fronts.

The Prime Minister knows all too well the power of marketing and imagery.

He projects the image of a daggy dad, the Sharks-loving, cap-wearing suburban every-man who builds chicken coops for his daughters.

So you only had to see the shirt he was wearing — the national netball team’s — when he got his first COVID-19 vaccine to realise how aware he was about the reputational damage being inflicted on his government because of its culture towards women.

A growing frustration within the Coalition

That culture has been a scourge on Parliament House long before Scott Morrison became Prime Minister.

But as the leader of the government it’s his task to handle.

He’s faced blowback for saying he had to talk to his wife to realise he had to respond to Brittany Higgins’s allegations as if they were coming from his own daughters.

He’s also faced criticism for referring to Ms Higgins as “Brittany”, rather than Ms Higgins.

The same way he referred to Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan, a professor, as “chief nurse Alison”, while Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly gets a “Professor Kelly”.

Brittany Higgins during her speech at the Canberra women’s march. 15 March 2021(

AAP: Lukas Coch


Though each are small, the Prime Minister is facing questions about if they add up to something bigger.

“Not so much a tin ear as a wall of concrete,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese offered in Parliament yesterday.

Within the Coalition, there’s a growing sense of frustration that women are being sent out to defend and explain the actions of their male colleagues.

The Minister for Women, Marise Payne, faced a barrage for criticism for not attending the rally yesterday. Noticeably absent were all the men who sit alongside her in Cabinet.

It is undoubtedly Senator Payne’s responsibility to listen to the women who marched on the Parliament.

But in a building where it is the men who are mostly accused of misconduct towards women, the most senior men in the government also bear a responsibility to come, listen and learn from what the women had to say.

Parliament’s reckoning is upon all MPs

Former chief medical officer Brendan Murphy or the former NSW fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons were heavy favourites to be named Australian of the Year.

If either man had been awarded the honour, they’d have easily joined the ranks of the distinguished Australians to hold the position.

And if Murphy or Fitzimmons had been named Australian of the Year, it’s unlikely the nation would still be talking about them more than a month later.

It’s very possible it would’ve meant the Prime Minister would still be riding high, talking about the vaccine and an economy in recovery.

Grace Tame changed all that.

She has advanced a reckoning that has long hung over the nation’s Parliament and its treatment of women.

Australian of the Year Grace Tame spoke at the rally in Hobart.(

ABC News


It’s grown into a story beyond Parliament House and forced the nation to confront how women in all walks of life are treated in Australia.

There is no quick fix that Morrison could announce to solve this problem.

To change a culture takes time.

But for the tens of thousands who rallied around the nation, they were looking for signs the nation’s leaders were listening.

What they heard was a Prime Minister who said they should be thankful they weren’t shot.