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Australia: Grace Tame says caller 'threatened' against criticising PM

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An Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor has said she received a “threatening” call warning her not to criticise the prime minister.

Grace Tame made the allegation in an anticipated speech, saying the call had come last year from a “senior member of a government-funded organisation”.

She added she was asked to promise not to say anything “damning” about Scott Morrison.

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The government has denied knowledge of the call and said it will investigate.

Mr Morrison had a day earlier made a formal apology to former political staffer Brittany Higgins and others who allege a culture of “bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault” in parliament.

On Wednesday, Ms Higgins was with Ms Tame as they gave a joint address on abuse and power at the National Press Club in Canberra.

When asked by journalists if she would be willing to name the caller and their organisation, Ms Tame said “if I was willing to name either, I would have put them in the speech”.

But she said the caller had been concerned about what she would say on the evening her successor as Australian of the Year was named.

The caller allegedly went on to call Ms Tame an “influential figure”, before adding Mr Morrison would “have a fear with an election coming soon”. Australia will go the polls before 21 May this year.

“Sound familiar to anyone? Well, it does to me,” she added, referring to a teacher who had raped her as a child and pressured her to stay silent.

Mr Morrison’s office said it had not been aware of the call before Ms Tame’s speech, adding “the individual should apologise”.

“The PM and the government consider the actions and statements of the individual as unacceptable,” a spokesperson said.

Ms Tame has been fiercely critical of Mr Morrison and the federal government’s response to allegations of sexual assault and toxic workplace culture in parliament, particularly in the wake of Ms Higgins’ allegation that she was raped in her boss’s office in 2019.

The accusation rocked Australia, sparking massive protests and a sweeping investigation into parliamentary workplaces. It found a third of workers there had been sexually harassed.

Mr Morrison has drawn frequent criticism for his response to the allegations, especially after saying his wife had helped him “clarify” his views by comparing Ms Higgins to his own daughters.

On Wednesday, Ms Higgins said: “What bothered me most… wasn’t that he necessarily needed his wife’s advice to help contextualise my rape in a way that mattered to him personally.

“I didn’t want his sympathy as a father. I wanted him to use his power as prime minister.”

Last month, Ms Tame generated much discussion by giving Mr Morrison a frosty look at a function on her last day as Australian of the Year.

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