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Coalition's misogyny fuelling domestic violence

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(Cartoon by Paul Dorin / @DorinToons)

The Coalition has a history of misogyny and ignorance towards women's issues, with domestic violence on the rise as a result, writes Dermot Daley.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and sexual abuse

LIKE MANY WHO still credit the ABC with some integrity in the art of investigative journalism, I watched the program Nemesis with interest. The objective questioning of dominant personalities of that cycle of Australia’s Parliament made for good television.

I am not of the blue, red or green political persuasion, having a preference for the definition of democracy being “of the people, by the people, for the people” and thus despair when modern politics is reduced to cults of personality competing to appease the pirates of capitalism.

A salient point linking the three prime ministers reviewed in the ABC program is that not one of them expressed their vision of how they would like to see Australia participate in the wider world. Their only discernable objective was to clamber over anyone who stood in their way of becoming prime minister and then to stay there as long as possible. Nothing more, nothing less. Each succeeded in fumbling from one crisis to the next.

Nemesis noted that the three prime ministers acknowledged the public perception that women were unwelcome in the Liberal Party and vowed to do something to address it. Not only did these PMs fail, they made matters worse. The second-rate status of women in Australia was fed steroids during that era and the message has trickled down through society as monkey-see monkey-do.

Tony Abbott declined to appear on Nemesis but will be remembered for his three-word slogans. I will probably go to my grave without ever understanding why so many women in Australia believed in 2010 that violence-inciting Tony Abbott (Ditch the Witch!’) would make a better head of state than former PM Julia Gillard.

Malcolm Turnbull wanted us to think of him as urbane and unlike the others. He had the capable Julie Bishop as Deputy Party Leader and Foreign Minister, and several female small-L liberal stalwarts on the back bench, but he had inherited a few Rottweilers — female MPs who believed that they had to eat their own and act like street fighters to get attention. No apologies, you know who you are.

Occasional Acting-PM player Barnaby Joyce, sporadic leader of the Federal National Party and unwitting doppelganger of Sir Les Patterson, had to step down while his NZ citizenship was renounced, and by the time he sought to re-establish himself in politics, he had deserted his wife and family and created a new love nest with a parliamentary staffer.

The sad thing is that even though this was known to the media and party insiders, it was deliberately kept secret from the conservative voters of New England. Australia could have become a better place if Barnaby’s electorate had been allowed to make an informed choice.

And finally, there is Scott Morrison, the man whose primary asset is that he has the smooth speaking voice of a snake oil salesman, so unlike the whiney sound of John Howard.

When Turnbull dropped his bundle at being stalked by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, long-serving Deputy Party Leader Julie Bishop might have believed that she was in contention for the top job, however with Morrison’s Machiavellian tactics, she received only around 12 per cent of the party vote and walked away, finally understanding what she must have seen coming all along. On his watch, Morrison then set about giving snakes a good name.

In 2021, Brittany Higgins went public with the allegation of rape by a colleague in a minister’s office in Parliament House in 2019. It was reported that the crime scene had been immediately forensically cleaned at the direction of the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, who soon resigned from Parliament to be ardently aided by PM Morrison in achieving his dream job with the OECD.

Also, in 2021, a written allegation was made about a historic rape by a person who was by then a cabinet minister. Without being named, Attorney General Christian Porter identified himself as the accused. The author of the allegation found no support through the justice system and took her own life. Morrison refused to investigate and Christian Porter retired quietly from politics and resumed a career as a practising lawyer. This is worthy of a royal commission.

The Honourable Alan Tudge had a consensual affair in 2020 with staffer Rachel Miller, who later said that he had emotionally and physically abused her and claimed compensation. In 2022, the Morrison Government paid an amount of $650,000 to Ms Miller from the public purse without any penalty to the offender. The public of Australia did not do any bullying and individuals named by the plaintiff must be held to account.

In 2022 it was revealed that Ms Christine Holgate, as CEO of Australia Post, had awarded Cartier watches with a total value of $20,000 to executive staff as an incentive. There was nothing illegal in this, however, PM Morrison stood in Parliament and publicly humiliated her in a manner that would not have been tolerated if the subject had been a man.

The list goes on, with the entire Morrison term worthy of a royal commission.

A glaring outcome of the misogynistic politics played out under the leadership of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison is that domestic violence has exploded in Australia. Queensland recorded a significant increase in reported cases of domestic violence in 2023.

For a so-called civilised country, the statistics are numbingly unacceptable. These are our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.

While not every Liberal parliamentarian may have agreed with Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison, they supported them in cabinet. Man and woman alike — they stood by while wrongs were done.

Culture takes time to evolve.

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online

Dermot Daley is a fourth-generation Australian living in Victoria, who is now retired from construction project management​​​​.

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