Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has defended his decision not to face protesters at a historic march for women's rights amid criticism from some of his own constituents.
Thousands of people descended on Parliament House on Monday under the March 4 Justice banner, calling for gender equality and action on gendered violence after two high-profile sexual assault allegations involving politicians and political staff.
His office responded with a statement saying it was not possible for his diary to be provided to the media because of confidentiality considerations for those he meets with. However, Mr McCormack's statement said he a had "a number of pre-existing parliamentary commitments and long-standing stakeholder meetings" on Monday.
Mr McCormack said these included discussions about priority Riverina electorate matters, the future of Northern Territory infrastructure and national fuel storage arrangements, among others.
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In the heart of Mr McCormack's own electorate hundreds of women, men and children marched down Baylis Street in solidarity with protesters around Australia.
Speaking at the rally, Wagga Women's Health Centre president Jenny Rolfe asked why Mr McCormack wouldn't "spare even 10 minutes to listen to the women who have travelled to Canberra" during a "pivotal moment in our nation's story".
"It is appalling that gender equality is less of a priority to Mr McCormack than a coffee break," Ms Rolfe said.
Adelong woman Louise Freckelton joined the Wagga march where she called on politicians to take women and their concerns seriously.
"What we need now is action. We need legislative action," she said. "For Michael McCormack, I have white, hot rage."
Mr McCormack's office has confirmed he didn't attend the rally in Canberra.
"I respect the right of Australians to protest peacefully about issues of concern. I demonstrate respect and consideration to every person I meet in my life," Mr McCormack said in his statement. "Every home, workplace and public space in Australia should be safe for all those who are lucky enough to call Australia home."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in parliament that peaceful protests in other countries "not far from" Australia were "being met with bullets".
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