The Prime Minister Has Personally Intervened In A Toilet Controversy
Between jetting to Vietnam and the G7 in France, and preparing for a trip to Timor-Leste, the PM has shifted his focus off the global stage and onto toilet signage in Canberra.
On Thursday afternoon Morrison spoke with Sydney's 2GB radio station and announced that gender-inclusive toilets at the Canberra offices of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC&C) are "unnecessary" and will be "sorted out".
Fresh from rubbing shoulders with Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron in Biarritz, and on the same day his government finally unveiled the long-awaited first look at a new slate of religious discrimination laws, Scott Morrison got on the blower with Ben Fordham to promise swift and decisive action on the loos at the DPM&C.
"Honestly this is why we call it the 'Canberra bubble'," Morrison said, leaning on one of his favourite catch-phrases.
"It's ridiculous. It will be sorted out."
But why the sudden focus on such uber-local matters?
The controversy started when Nine network political editor Chris Uhlmann tweeted a photo of the sign on Thursday afternoon.
The small printed piece of paper -- reading "PM&C is committed to staff inclusion and diversity. Please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity" -- was reportedly found "at the Barton offices of Prime Minister and Cabinet" in Canberra.
Uhlmann himself was initially criticised for bothering to post the photo, with many Twitter users pointing out that lots of public institutions now offer gender-neutral toilets or allow staff to choose the bathroom that they believe matches their gender identity.
Unisex or gender-neutral facilities are now a feature at universities, nightclubs, and in some public council bathrooms and schools.
As early as 2017, office buildings housing some federal departments have offered unisex toilets without issue.
However, within two hours of Uhlmann's tweet, the PM gave an interview to 2GB radio's Ben Fordham, and was asked about Uhlmann's tweet.
Morrison said that, sometime between the tweet at 2.49pm and his 4.35pm interview, he had contacted the incoming secretary of the DPM&C, Philip Gaetjens, to share his thoughts.
"I don't think this is necessary. I think people can work out which room to use," the PM said, calling it "political correctness over the top".
"You don't need to do this stuff," he claimed.
LGBTQ organisations counter this. In 2018, Transgender Victoria spokeswoman Sally Goldner said trans people benefit greatly from having the option to use the bathroom they feel comfortable with.
“It is not only trans people who face discomfort and outright threat in gendered facilities," she said.
"Providing a range of facilities prevents this discomfort and threat," she added, saying some people "often are not able to use public facilities at all."
Morrison continued, saying "I'm sure this will be sorted" in reference to the signs.
"That's what I expect."
Not long after, Labor leader Anthony Albanese called out Morrison's intervention in the bathroom brouhaha.
"The PM doesn't have a plan to deal with cost of living going up, living standards going down and wages going nowhere – but he has a plan to deal with this bathroom sign in an office building," he tweeted.
"How is anyone meant to take this bloke seriously?"
Featured image: Twitter/@CUhlmann