Several senior members of the Australian government on Monday lost their portfolios amid a brewing furore over their links to a rape scandal. On leave for several weeks, the officials will continue to remain a part of the administration, even as they now manage far less coveted portfolios. Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced several promotions for women as well as stating that he and Minister for Women Marise Payne would co-chair a new task force in response to issues surrounding women’s equality.
While former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds stands accused of dismissing the alleged rape of a young staffer in her parliamentary office and dubbing the woman a "lying cow", the allegations against former attorney-general Christian Porter are perhaps more problematic. The government's top legal officer (until today) has been accused of raping a 16-year-old fellow student in 1988 - an allegation that he denies. The woman in question died last year, purportedly a suicide.
Since the news broke, there have been a slew of protests across the country, as thousands of women took to the streets to call for gender equality. Counteractive measures from the administration have backfired, and the government has been dealt several additional blows as new scandals emerged. From leaked videos of staffers performing sexual acts in Parliament to an MP being accused of rape - the Scott Morrison-led government has been left red faced and on the backfoot.
The whistleblower behind the leaked visuals also reportedly contends that many staffers routinely swapped explicit photos of themselves and that government staffers and MPs often used a Parliament House prayer room for sexual activities.
The decision has evoked a mixed bag of reactions online, and the reshuffle does not seem to have alleviated the anger against the government. And while some questioned their retention in the government, others were also concerned by the appointment of Reynolds to the government services portfolio.
"To be clear, the minister who did not care about and mishandled sexual assault allegations, is now in charge of...many groups of people who are most vulnerable for sexual assault," tweeted one user.
Porter will not handle industry, science and technology.