24 March 2021



SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison lack of leadership; sexual assault, sexual behaviour in Parliament House, family life juggle.


NEIL BREEN, HOST: Joining me now is Anika Wells, she’s the Labor MP for Lilley. Lilley, as we know was Wayne Swan’s long-time seat before Anika took the seat. Good morning to you Anika.


ANIKA WELLS, MEMBER FOR LILLEY: Good morning Neil, how are you?


BREEN: Last night you said if the Prime Minister refuses to show leadership, he’s going to find Australian women will rise up and take that leadership from him. What do you mean by that?


WELLS: That is what women in Lilley are saying to me. They’re looking for leadership on this. It’s been five very long weeks now for women since the allegations that started with the terrible tale of Brittany Higgins that came to light. And they aren’t seeing any leadership from the Prime Minister. And that’s what we want from the leader of our country. That’s why we thought he signed up to do it. He signed up to it so much that he actually took the job off Malcolm Turnbull. That’s how much he wants to do the job. But what you saw yesterday, like you said…


BREEN: Hey hey Anika Anika, could I just hold you up, you’re very hard to hear, you sound quite hollow. Are you there? Not in what you’re saying, the substance of what you’re saying, just the audio we’re getting


WELLS: Let me just move around the carpark. Is that any better?


BREEN: Oh are you in a carpark?




BREEN: I think that’s a little bit better, yeah. So he signed up to be the Prime Minister and look, I always….if I ask….


WELLS: What I was going to say to you Neil is I agree with what you were saying. The line in the sand yesterday where he said to us “look I get it. I understand that I haven’t come across to you as listening, as understanding, as empathising with the struggles that Australian women have been going through. And I want to say I’m sorry and I’ll do better.” But then in the same press conference, outed a victim of a different incident as a way of retaliating against a journalist. He took umbrage with what the journalist was asking. Just in doing that, he kind of completely contradicted what he was saying in the first half of his press conference. That maybe gave women the impression that he hadn’t learned and he hadn’t listened at all.


BREEN: Yeah. I’m talking to Anika Wells, she’s the Labor MP for Lilley here in  Brisbane. And I think Anika, defenders of Scott Morrison, and I read a few emails before. The Prime Minister will say, well hang on he’s got a lot to deal with but people who can’t defend him with regards to this issue, and a lot of them are female. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them are males too. I think I’m very disappointed how he’s handled this issue. But a lot of female voters will rule a line in the sand underneath Scott Morrison on this. Is that a belief the Labor Party has?


WELLS: I think we’re probably a long way to go until the next election and we don’t know what issues Australia will be facing before the next election. What this goes to I think, is to the Prime Minister’s character. And I think if anything so far what we’ve learned about the Prime Minister is he’s very good at showing us what he isn’t. You know, he doesn’t hold a hose, or he isn’t the AFP. He’s been less forthcoming at telling us what he is. And so we’ve been left to make that out for ourselves. What the past five weeks have shown us isn’t very reassuring if you’re an Australian woman. People will make their own decision, this way or that, how they vote at the next election. But when they come to, I guess, judge the Prime Minister’s character as the leader of our country, the past five weeks have been really damning for him on that front.


BREEN: I’ve watched events of this week very closely. I’ve watched events of the whole thing very closely. But this week I’ve been shocked by two things. Firstly the security guard from parliament house who found Brittany Higgins in Linda Reynolds’s office at 4.20 in the morning after she came in with the alleged male perpetrator at 2 o’clock in the morning. Yet that security guard was never spoken to again. I thought, in my workplace, if people entered the workplace at 2 and a male left alone then a female was found naked at 4.20 in the morning, I’d know about it. Because security would ring me. No honestly I don’t understand that. I really, some culture’s there. And this weird story about these males taking photos exposing themselves, performing solo sex acts on female MPs desks I just don’t get it. And I suppose I’m asking you Anika as a relatively new person to parliament house in Canberra why is it that weird stuff like that goes on there?


WELLS: And Neil, the chasm in this building between people like myself who are juggling small children, our jobs, representing our community. I don’t know how these people have the time, or the energy to fit that in the diary. Cavorting about the house doing these unspeakable acts with one another for performance art... So it really demonstrates the divide in our parliament house and I suspect, unfortunately, more broadly in our community. Between people who are just flat chat, trying to do jobs, put food on the table, you know, live their lives. Live and let live I guess. And these people who are just drunk on power and who feel like they live and work in a culture where their entitlement to it is unassailable. And if anything I hope out of the five weeks they feel like that entitlement is now being scrutinised. And they will not be able to get away with it anymore.


BREEN: Yeah I think you summed it up. Yesterday I called it entitlement and elitism on behalf of, not everyone, but of those few people at parliament house. They simply don’t understand and I think you’re right about this born-to-rule attitude. You make a bit of a statement this week. Well a nice statement when you took your twin boys to parliament house. And people would have seen it, and into the House of Reps, and people would have seen it on television.


WELLS: It’s multiple birth awareness week and I never expected to be a twin mum, it’s not in our family. But I thought it was important to show because like you were saying, your listeners were appalled by what’s happened. And I wanted people to know that there are good people who actually just live in the suburbs and try their best in the building.


BREEN: There’s normal people who have twin boys and work hard.


WELLS: I promise there are actually some of us who are actually normal and actually do understand it’s a horrific state of affairs. And why people are unspeakably angry with everybody here. We do really get that. But the boys - I must say there’s been a lot of incoming traffic for baby cuddles this week because there is such a horrendous mood in the building. And it’s nice to remember that we are actually here, you know, to be good ancestors. And the work that we’re doing actually effects the children that we’re raising and that our nation is raising. When we all get back to our actual homes, which isn’t here, you know in the Canberra bubble.


BREEN: How old are your twin boys and what are their names?


WELLS: Their names are Dashiell and Ossian, or Oshy and Dash and they just turned five months over the weekend.


BREEN: Five months. Well you were brave to take them to Canberra. I suppose you’ve got no choice.


WELLS: I’m still breastfeeding so they do ride with me. And I’ve got my very supportive husband on deck. He has had tonsillitis actually so that’s why they were with me all day Monday. And we’ve got a four year old girl as well. So I’m no Robinson Crusoe there. There’s a lot of people out there who are juggling little children and demanding jobs. I hope those people feel like they feel at least like they have got one of theirs in the chamber and some of us at least understand what people actually want their lawmakers to be doing.


BREEN: Ok great stuff. Anika Wells, she’s the member for Lilley, the Labor member for Lilley. Thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast and good luck breastfeeding and juggling those twin boys while you’re representing the people of Lilley.


WELLS: Thank you Neil. Thanks very much, have a good day.