Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been panned for making some less than empowering statements about women during an International Women’s Day address on Friday.
During his speech to mark the day at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Western Australia, Morrison insisted that women’s rights should be “accelerated” in the country but not at the expense of the success of others.
“See, we’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up,” he said. “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
He also discussed his desire for his two daughters to have “all the choices in life you would want them to have,” but emphasized the need for the nation’s economy to be strong in order for women to have those opportunities, The Guardian reports.
“We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall place is maintained,” he continued. “That is an absolutely liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too.”
His speech drew quick criticism, including Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator to South Australia.
“Scott Morrison telling women not to get ahead of ourselves is so tin-eared it’s gobsmacking,” she wrote on Twitter. “Men who are threatened or worried of women achieving equality is the bloody problem. Seriously, who briefs these muppets?”
The Labor Party’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said in response that gender equality is “good for both women and men”.
“It gives all of us more freedom and choice at work, at home, and in our relationships,” she said in a statement. “Feminism is a fight for equality between men and women, what’s so complicated about that?” She also took to Twitter to address the Prime Minister’s statements, asking, “Could Scott Morrison be any more out of touch?”
After his speech, which drew criticism, Morrison wrote on Twitter that International Women’s Day should be a celebration all that women have accomplished in Australia.
“Today is about appreciating all the women in our lives and our nation — celebrating their value and achievements,” he said.
The Liberal Party in Australia has long been criticized for its lack in diversity, something its minister of women Kelly O’Dwyer was forced to address on Friday as well. Just 21 percent of their federal parliamentarians are women, compared to 42 percent of the Labor’s total number. The National party is reportedly comprised of just 14% female parliamentarians.
“I think it’s fair to say in terms of representation in parliament we can do better – I’m not going to deny that,” O’Dwyer said.
“What I would say – we have a record number of women in cabinet, we have seven women who sit around the cabinet table where the decisions of government are made.”
There have been a number of women resigning from Morrison’s government in recent months, including independent parliamentarian Julia Banks, who said in November that there was a “culture of gender bias, bullying and intimidation” in Australian politics.
During a different International Women’s Day event on Friday, she characterized Morrison’s government as “Mad Men crossed with House of Cards.”