Scott Morrison says he wants to live in a society where women are respected, calling on Australians to "respect, protect and reflect".
"Because from the disrespect of women or failure to respect women, all the other challenges flow," the prime minister told an International Women's Day event in Canberra on Thursday.
"Violence, discrimination, deprivation, abuse, assault, lack of recognition, not hearing. It all starts with the failure of respect for women."
Acknowledging the allegations by Brittany Higgins and three other women about sexual assault by a Liberal staffer, he said it had been a very traumatic few weeks for the people who work in parliament.
"But even more traumatic obviously for those who are subject to those issues."
Mr Morrison said there was no substitute for the rule of law as one of the key protections for women.
He says progress is occurring and urged the party leaders, politicians of all stripes and top bureaucrats in the room not to become despondent about failures.
"Let's not forget the amazing work, particularly of women serving in the front lines of our health systems, our emergency services systems, and thank them and reflect on the fact that we are a nation that is blessed by strong women over our history," he said.
Head of United Nations Women Australia Janelle Weissman, host of the event, said she was distressed at the allegations of rape inside Parliament House and welcomed the investigations.
"No one should have to choose between earning an income and being safe," she said.
"There is no excuse for violence against women."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the past few weeks were a stark reminder of how much there was still to do to fix inequality.
He also said it was heartbreaking that Ms Higgins had to give up her dream job.
"We cannot let this building be the blight on the hill," Mr Albanese said.
He wants structural change in the tax system that brings disincentives for women working and backs affordable child-care as another important solution.
"If you fix it, you fix productivity. You don't have that handbrake that is there."
Auntie Violet, during her Welcome to Country, pointed out the issue of women in leadership "isn't just about the high flyers".
"Without women leading in communities we wouldn't have as much as we do."
Australian Associated Press
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