Carrie Bickmore has opened up about fiery clash with Peter Van Onselen after he called Grace Tame ‘immature’ for not smiling when greeting the prime minister.
Van Onselen criticised Grace in a scathing opinion piece after she gave Scott Morrison a handshake and scowl when she arrived at The Lodge in Canberra to mark the end of her period as Australian of the Year.
Van Onselen hosted Channel 10’s The Project later that night before he was berated by journalist Amy Remeikis and his co-host Bickmore, who claimed Ms Tame should not be forced to smile because of etiquette.
Carrie claimed the criticism was a distraction from the serious conversation about ending violence against women and children.
Explaining that she had lost faith in the government’s ability to bring about the necessary change and said disruptive women like Remeikis and Ms Tame, who was labelled ‘rude’ and ‘childish’, were her last hope.
Remeikis admitted the televised confrontation with Van Onselen had left her shaken and that she was unable to watch footage from the night.
‘I was a bit shaken afterwards,’ she said. ‘I’m not good at confrontations. I was a bit overwhelmed by the response.’
The journalist agreed with Bickmore’s sentiment that change would come from the grassroots level.
‘I don’t think it’s going to come from the government, or leaders in general,’ she said.
‘I think it comes from the groundswell from people saying, enough is enough.’
Amy said the debate about Ms Tame’s behaviour distracted commentators from the serious issue of violence against women. ‘I think it’s about time we stopped having all the silly side discussions and actually got to the root of this which, I think, (is) men actually stepping up and doing something in this space,’ she said.
Van Onselen called the sexual abuse survivor ‘ungracious, rude and childish’, and suggested she should have stayed home.
Bickmore and Remeikis, who is a sexual assault survivor herself, took issue with his comments and questioned why Tame needed to act a certain way.
‘Your column today, devastating to so many people,’ Remeikis said.
‘Women constantly have to come out and talk about their trauma… talk about not being taken seriously, scream the roof down get to the point where I’m almost crying on national television to talk about this.
‘We’re constantly being told how we should act, who we should think about and who perhaps should be seen in our place.’
Bickmore then asked van Onselen why he felt he needed to tell Tame to act in a certain way and to smile during a ‘catastrophe’.
‘I didn’t think she should smile and pretend it’s OK, I just thought she shouldn’t go, if you can’t be polite in some form, I think just don’t go,’ he said, adding he applauded everything Tame had done for survivors of sexual assault.
The Project panellist then asked why should Tame be silenced and not able to attend the morning tea to which van Onselen said ‘if you can’t show basic courtesy I think it’s immature’.
You spoke about how she acted as a child, you know when she should have been able to act as a child? When she was a child. But she was preyed upon by a man and lost part of herself in that,’ Bickmore fired back.
‘I’m unsure how that article today helps when I’m assuming, like the entire nation, you want violence against women and children to end?’
The commentator responded saying he had been the victim of an attempted sexual assault and understood the importance of the conversation around sexual abuse.
‘But I just think if you can’t be polite to the prime minister of the country, I get it, I said in the article, I get it if she can’t be polite to him, but then just don’t go,’ van Onselen said.
Remeikis asked why Tame and other sexual abuse survivors should have to ‘be polite’.
‘I don’t think she should. I don’t think she should stand there and smile, I just think she shouldn’t go if you can’t show basic courtesies to the prime minister,’ the panellist responded.
‘But you wrote an entire column saying she was being childish because she showed her authentic feelings,’ Remeikis hit back.
In the aftermath of the tense interview, Twitter erupted with many rushing to support Bickmore and Remeikis.
‘Hello NSW Police? I’d like to report a murder live on TV. PVO absolutely destroyed on The Project by Amy Remeikis. Long may it continue,’ one tweeted.
‘This is the best thing that has ever been on The Project. Thank you Amy Remeikis for being so eloquent and fierce. Thank you Carrie Bickmore for your honest and strong comments,’ said another.
‘Unbelievably powerful. Thankyou. Van Onselen. Be better. Waiting to speak is not a conversation,’ wrote one.
Tame, 27, was awarded Australian of the Year for leading a campaign for a legal change that allowed sex abuse survivors to speak out, she had been groomed and molested as a schoolgirl by one of her teachers.
Tame has been open about her opinion on the Morrison government and Tuesday’s morning tea wasn’t the first awkward encounter she’s shared with the PM.
Having given a speech at last year’s Australian of the Year ceremony, she was surprised by the Mr Morrison’s reaction and went public with it.
‘Do you know what he said to me, right after I finished that speech and we’re in front of a wall of media?’ the Tasmanian later told a podcast.
‘I s**t you not, he leaned over and right in my ear he goes, ”Well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out”.’
Soon afterward, Tame took up the cause of Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal Party staffer who said she was sexually assaulted inside Parliament House and accused the Morrison government of covering it up.
When Mr Morrison later apologised to Ms Higgins for her experiences, citing advice from his wife and consideration of his own children, Tame hit out at him and said ‘it shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience’.
Image: Channel 10