Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday acknowledged mounting dissatisfaction with his handling of a series of allegations about the mistreatment of women in politics, as he vowed to drive cultural change.
Morrison’s comments came just hours after the whistleblower—identified only as Tom—told the news outlets that government staffers and MPs often used a Parliament House prayer room to have sex, and alleged that sex workers had been brought into the building “for the pleasure of coalition MPs”.
He also said a group of staffers routinely swapped explicit photos of themselves, and he received so many he had “become immune to it”.
He said there was a “culture of men thinking that they can do whatever they want” and while he did not think the staffers had broken any laws, “morally, they are bankrupt”.
One government staff member has been removed from his position, a government minister said on Tuesday.
Morrison described the report as “disgusting” and said he would speak with all government staff members on Tuesday to remind them of their responsibilities.
The ruling Liberal/National coalition has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks following allegations of rape by a Liberal party staff member, including one in the office of a Cabinet minister.
The issue spurred tens of thousands of people to rally around Australia last week and led to a slump in Morrison’s standing in opinion polls.
Morrison has sought to defend his government’s actions in working to improve gender equality, but on Tuesday he accepted there was broad dissatisfaction.
“I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them, and that greatly distresses me,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“We must do better… we must get this house in order.” However, he offered few concrete proposals to improve the workplace culture in parliament, insisting that changes would be announced in the coming weeks.