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Anthony Albanese plays down accusations he ‘lied’ at No More rally, but stops short of apologising for upset

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
4 Min Read
National crisis declared: Anthony Albanese calls an urgent national cabinet meeting, as Australia’s domestic violence epidemic worsens.

Anthony Albanese has brushed off claims he told an organiser at one of the national rallies calling to end violence against women “I run this country” before he allegedly “lied” to demonstrators about not being allowed to speak at the event.

Thousands of people marched through cities across Australia over the weekend in demonstrations organised by non-profit group What Were You Wearing (WWYW) calling for action to end gender-based violence after the alleged murders of at least 26 women at the hands of men in 2024.

Prime Minister Albanese and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher joined Federal politicians at the rally in Canberra on Sunday, where he told the crowd that he and the Senator asked to speak, but were told “that wasn’t possible”.

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WWYW founder Sarah Williams, who organised the rallies, took to social media on Sunday evening after Mr Albanese left her in tears at the rally, saying the PM “lied to the country” when he addressed the crowd.

On Monday, she appeared on Sunrise and doubled down on her criticism of his actions.

“Him coming out and saying he was asked to speak and denied was really upsetting. It was quite traumatic for me but (also) everyone in the audience, all victim-survivors, across the country,” Ms Williams said.

“Our Prime Minister just flat-out lied on a national scale in front of the whole country.”

RALLY AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE Canberra
Mr Albanese took to the microphone at the Canberra No More rally to demand change from across society to tackle the scourge of gender-based violence. Credit: News Corp Australia

Moments later, Mr Albanese appeared on the program to address the controversy and faced pressure from host Natalie Barr to address Ms Williams’ claim that he told her “I’m the Prime Minister, I run this country” before he addressed Sunday’s rally.

“(Ms Williams) says you’re on the stage with her and there’s confusion about who was going to speak and then you said behind her on the stage words to the effect of ‘I’m the Prime Minister and I run the country’,” Barr said.

“Did you say that?”

Mr Albanese replied: “I’m not going to get into that sort of debate.”

But when Barr pressed him “put it to bed now”, the prime minister said the swarm of cameras and microphones captured what happened.

“The media were all around, they heard everything that was said there.

“You’ve got the footage... So I wish Sarah well. But you’ve got the footage. There were TV cameras and mics all around yesterday. And this should not be a distraction from what is a very serious issue indeed.”

Speaking to Channel Nine’s Today show, he insisted he was “focused” on what was an “emotional issue” and gave credit to the organisers.

“It is an emotional issue because women were saying yesterday ‘enough is enough’.

“The organisers throughout the country deserve credit for organising these rallies. I was happy not to speak. I was happy to speak, it was about raising awareness of the issue, but a call to action by all governments, quite clearly, we need to do more.”

Mr Albanese confirmed National Cabinet would meet on Wednesday to discuss what federal, state, and territory governments could do to address the crisis of gendered violence.

But he explained to ABC News Breakfast that he had not declared a national emergency over the escalating crisis because doing so would prompt “immediate, one-off actions” by the federal government when the issue needs “a concerted plan” for sustained change.

“Men have to change behaviour. We have to change the culture. This isn’t something that requires a one-off action. This is something that requires concerted action from all levels of government, from the media, from all levels of society, to change culture.”

Senator Gallagher also addressed the controversy, telling ABC RN the government had discussed but speaking at the rally but did not “land” an agreement before the rally started.

She said she was not aware of an invitation from organisers for the government to speak, but it became clear during the rally that the crowd wanted the PM to speak.

“I think the rally expected to hear from their prime minister, so he stood up and spoke,” Ms Gallagher said.

“I can’t think of another prime minister who spent a couple of hours, one hour walking and the rest of the time listening to speakers, he was there as a sign of solidarity, he wanted to show he was deeply interested and cared.”

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