Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has denied claims that powerful men are able to get away with bad behaviour because people stay silent to protect the political party.

He was responding to extraordinary allegations made by former foreign minister Julie Bishop in an interview on the ABC's 7.30 report on Monday night, where she revealed a group of male Liberal MPs who dubbed themselves the "big swinging dicks" tried to stymie her career. She added she wasn't surprised that some women chose not to report to police.

"There's a powerful culture within all political parties to ensure that no individual does anything that would damage the party's prospects, the party's image, or its reputation, particularly at election time,'' she said on the program.

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Former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop speaks to the ABC's 7.30 on Monday, addressing the alleged toxic culture in parliament. Picture: ABC
Former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop speaks to the ABC's 7.30 on Monday, addressing the alleged toxic culture in parliament. Picture: ABC

 

Mr Frydenberg disagreed that the party system creates a toxic environment for women.

"My experience is different to that," he told presenter Leigh Sales. "But, of course, if people feel they can't speak out about their experiences then that's unacceptable and that, of course, needs to change and so therefore, putting in place these processes and these reviews will hopefully lead to improvements."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has commissioned a broad ranging review into the culture and the conduct across the parliament led by Kate Jenkins, sex discrimination commissioner, he added.

Mr Frydenberg admitted he hadn't read the contents of a 31-page dossier against Attorney General Christian Porter alleging he had raped a woman when she was 16 and he was 17. Mr Porter has categorically denied the allegations.

"But it is not up to me to be the determiner of whether there is guilt or innocence here. That is our police force to decide whether or not to lay charges and they have said that the case is closed," Mr Frydenberg said.

The case of Brittany Higgins was also raised on the program. The Liberal Party staffer has alleged she was raped at Parliament House in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' ministerial office by a colleague, and claims she felt forced to choose between reporting it to the police or keeping her job.

Both the allegations against Mr Porter and the conduct of Ms Reynolds, who failed to report the accusations to the Prime Minister, have rocked the Liberal party.

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Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins, pictured with Scott Morrison, has made shocking claims that she was raped in the Defence Minister's office in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: ABC News
Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins, pictured with Scott Morrison, has made shocking claims that she was raped in the Defence Minister's office in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: ABC News

 

The treasurer was asked by Ms Sales how Ms Reynolds position remained tenable.

"Linda Reynolds has already said to the parliament and publicly that what she has always sought to do is provide the support that she thought that Brittany Higgins has needed and obviously, you know, the Prime Minister has also expressed his displeasure that he was not informed of that matter," he said.

"But as for her future in the Cabinet and the Christian Porter's future in the cabinet, the Prime Minister has made very clear that both the members of the cabinet have his support and we look forward to them returning to work."

Ms Sales dug in asking the treasurer asking how it feels to be safe in his job, regardless of what questions arise. She cited the examples of Mr Porter, Ms Reynolds and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who could face an audit into the administration of the Safer Communities Fund after he overruled his department's recommendations on grant funding and slashed millions from awards.

While the cases had been debated publicly, Mr Morrison had "rightly seen fit to back his colleagues and they remain very important members of the team", Mr Frydenberg responded.

ABC 7.30's Leigh Sales quizzes Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: ABC.
ABC 7.30's Leigh Sales quizzes Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Picture: ABC.

30% JUMP IN FLIGHT BOOKINGS

Mr Frydenberg also revealed on 7.30 that in the past month there has been a 30 per cent jump for both Jetstar and Qantas bookings, with half a million new passengers.

A $1.2 billion support package for the COVID-19 battered tourism industry was announced on Thursday, with half-price flights to holidays spots across Australia. The plan is designed to deliver a rush of nearly 800,000 tourists to regions hit hard by border closures.

Holidaymakers will be able to book the flights from April 1, with trips to be taken between May and September.

The program will initially operate to 15 key regions including; the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Darwin, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island.

 

Mr Frydenberg has unveiled an International Aviation Support program to help Australia’s two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8000 aviation jobs. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker
Mr Frydenberg has unveiled an International Aviation Support program to help Australia’s two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8000 aviation jobs. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

But tourism groups, the aviation union and the federal opposition have criticised the scheme.

WA Premier Mark McGowan hit out at the federal government's cheap flight plan, which only includes one spot in Western Australia, claiming it was "disgraceful and outrageous" to "punish" the state for its border rules.

Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan flagged research that found snap state border closures were putting Aussies off domestic tourism, adding that the current routes were not set in stone and additional capacity could be added down the track.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese also criticised the plan, describing the package as too narrow and arguing the aviation sector is the only one to benefit rather than the broader tourism industry.

"There's nothing in this package for hotel operators, there's nothing in this package for those people, for example, who are tourism operators, who will take people out on day trips," he said.

"If you're a tourism operator anywhere in Australia… who's been relying upon JobKeeper to keep your doors open and to keep your businesses going and to keep people employed, you're about to lose that support."

The federal Treasury has indicated about 100,000 jobs could be at risk when JobKeeper ends on March 31, but some economists fear the impact could be worse, estimating 200,000 could join the unemployment line, reported the ABC's 7.30.

 

Mr Frydenberg said on 7.30 that the advice from Treasury has been as the economy strengthens and people get back to work, JobKeeper needs to come to an end. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker
Mr Frydenberg said on 7.30 that the advice from Treasury has been as the economy strengthens and people get back to work, JobKeeper needs to come to an end. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker

The national secretary of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU), Michael Kaine, described the support package announcement as a "dagger through the heart" and said the aviation industry deserved its own wage subsidy program once JobKeeper ends.

"What we have here is just a piecemeal approach, throwing money for a big headline, a big splash," he said.

But Mr Frydenberg said the advice from Treasury has been as the economy strengthens and people get back to work, that JobKeeper needs to come to an end.

"It has a number of perverse characteristics and features that prevent workers moving to other roles across the economy and it can prop up what are unsustainable long-term businesses," he said. "So what we have designed a targeted, temporary program, cheap loans, cheap airfares and 800,000 half price airfares going to 15 destinations and the more planes that are on the ground, the more planes that are in the air, the more tourists on the ground and that means more jobs."

In a replacement of sorts for the JobKeeper wage subsidy program, a new International Aviation Support program has been unveiled to help Australia's two international passenger airlines maintain more than 8000 core international aviation jobs.

For tourism operators currently using the JobKeeper scheme, between 4 January and 28 March, a new loan scheme will also be offered to help struggling businesses.

Cheap loans for businesses and direct support to Qantas and regional airlines flying will be offered in an attempt to support jobs when the JobKeeper payment ends on March 31.

The existing Small and Medium Enterprises Loan Guarantee Scheme will also be extended to provide $40 billion in lending to eligible tourism operators.

Already, 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided but that program will be extended.

The SME Recovery Loan Scheme will benefit from an increased Government guarantee, increasing from the current 50/50 split between the Government and the banks to an 80/20 split, the Morrison government said.

The new scheme will expand the size of eligible loans, increasing from $1 million under the current Scheme to $5 million. Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded Scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million.

More than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients are expected to be eligible under the expanded scheme, according to the Treasurer. Loans will be available from April 1 and must be approved prior to December 31.

 

 

 

Originally published as Treasurer quizzed about toxic Parliament