Queensland Liberal senator James McGrath says 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame is “childish” and should hand back her honour if she doesn’t want it after she was pictured giving a frosty reception to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Ms Tame received the honour last year for being a vocal advocate for victims of sexual abuse after she was groomed and sexually abused by a teacher when she was 15. She has criticised Mr Morrison for not doing enough to stamp out sexual harassment in Parliament House after a series of sexual assault claims in the building and federal politics.
In Canberra on Tuesday for an event with the 2022 nominees for Australian of the year, Ms Tame met Mr Morrison and his wife Jenny outside the lodge. She shook Mr Morrison’s hand without meeting his gaze, and then stood next to him with a stern expression on her face as he smiled for the cameras. She gave a quick smile to Mrs Morrison before walking inside to the morning tea event.
On Facebook, Senator James McGrath posted a picture taken by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age photographer Alex Ellinghausen and criticised Ms Tame.
“The important issues raised by last year’s Australian of the Year must continue to be addressed by all of us. It is a pity her behaviour and attacks on our Prime Minister are so partisan, political and childish. If she didn’t like being Australian of the Year she should hand back the honour,” Senator McGrath wrote.
But former Liberal MP Julia Banks backed Ms Tame as she tweeted a photo of her with Mr Morrison.
“Grace is the only person in this photo who lives her life with honesty, integrity & empathy Grace’s courage – to speak truth to power & to call out abuse of power has earned her the enduring respect & trust of a nation,” Ms Banks tweeted.
Ms Tame has joined with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins to condemn a culture of sexual harassment in politics. After Ms Higgins came forward claiming she was raped by a colleague in a ministerial office in Parliament House, Mr Morrison ordered a series of reviews about the treatment of women in politics.
But Ms Tame and Ms Higgins have expressed concern that the various recommendations from the reports have not all been acted on, and have called on the Prime Minister to commit to implementing them in full.
Last week, former NSW Liberal MP Pru Goward, who served as minister for prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, said Ms Tame represented a new generation of more forthright female activists.
“There’s the emergence of the angry young woman who has no time for what my generation put up with,” Ms Goward said.
Describing Tame as an “incredibly articulate and a very attractive public figure”, she said there were times she “winced” at her criticisms of the government.
“Sometimes I felt she was ungenerous,” Ms Goward said. “If you’re negotiating something as complex as a national approach to sexual abuse then you need to accept that sometimes governments have their limitations and won’t go all the way with you.
“Scott Morrison must sometimes have felt very disappointed that she didn’t ever acknowledge that he seemed to be trying.
“But younger women are over that: they’re done with generosity. She is right for the times that seem to be emerging.”
The 2022 Australian of the Year will be announced in Canberra on Tuesday night.
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