Politics Opinion

Dutton keeps 'Australia for the White man' rhetoric alive

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is trying to keep Australia in the dark ages by promoting male entitlement and female subservience, writes Paul Begley.

RESPONDING TO QUESTIONS about how he is being seen by the Australian voting public, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was reported in a Saturday Paper article last weekend saying that he takes his “own reputation and standing seriously because as I say to my boys, in the end, it’s your name that’s the most important thing in life”.

Peter Dutton’s Wikipedia page states that he has three children. It may come as a surprise to realise that his sons Tom and Harry do not have a brother named Richard. But they do have an older step-sister named Rebecca, a product of his first marriage.

It might have been a Freudian omission, but the most obvious inference that can be drawn from Dutton’s observation is that while Tom and Harry need to look after their standing in the world, it is not something to which Rebecca, being a girl, needs to give any thought.

It seems a curious notion because Dutton’s wife of 21 years, Kirilly Dutton, is a successful businesswoman who must have paid attention to her reputation and standing in her field in order to do business. That said, the only sense of Kirilly as a person of any repute in the public arena is that she is known as the woman who attested to the view that her husband was not a monster.

Despite his validation by Kirilly, many Australians have watched the gratuitous physical and mental suffering to which the former Immigration and Home Affairs Minister has subjected defenceless asylum seekers and refugees who had the misfortune to come under his “care” during the nine years between 2013-22.

Some died because of a conscious policy of medical neglect, one on Manus Island because of a simple untreated cut to his foot and refugee women on Nauru were denied medical interventions after being raped as a result of living in unsafe quarters.

In addition, hundreds rotted for many years in indefinite detention on Australia’s mainland as part of an undeclared set-and-forget policy that only ended when the High Court declared the practice illegal in 2023. The underlying assumption behind the policy was that undeserving asylum seekers were trying it on, based on the populist premise that Australia under Labor was a soft touch.

Occasionally, a pro bono lawyer would succeed in getting a court to agree that there was no good reason why a particular refugee serving indefinite detention should not be released into the community. On those occasions, Mr Dutton would spare no taxpayer expense in lodging appeals that would place the refugee back in detention without an end date. Indefinite detention is especially cruel because it snuffs out hope and hastens the depths of mental illness that ensure even the strongest spirits are broken.

Other undeserving people who felt Dutton’s ministerial contempt were Australian citizens who were victims of calamitous floods in Queensland and NSW in 2021. Dutton presided over a $4.7 billion emergency relief fund but opened a #GoFundMe page to assist in flood recovery rather than release the funds. The assumption appeared to be that flood victims should have made personal provision for the consequences of the floods and so were not automatically entitled to the benefits of taxpayer emergency relief.

With Dutton ticking an abundance of “monster” boxes, Kirilly’s readiness to declare him otherwise didn’t help her reputation as a reliable judge of character, assuming she made the undertaking willingly.

If we were to look at one of the photos Dutton has released over the years of his family of five – father, mother, two sons and his daughter – what we are being invited to see, in essence, is a father and two sons. From a Peter Dutton perspective, the picture exists to signify that males can enhance their standing in the world by being able to identify themselves as husband of a wife, sons of a mother, father to a daughter and brothers to a step-sister.

In themselves, the wife, mother and daughter don’t matter, but they serve the purpose of reflecting the meritorious standing of the three males, their merit deriving solely from the luck of them being born male but requiring female connections to establish their acceptability in the world as civilised human beings.

The Dutton throwaway thought bubble about male entitlement and female subservience is such an article of faith among alt-Right Australian conservatives desperate to emulate Trumpian patriarchy that it can be taken as a given and doesn’t need defending. And any questioning of it can be quickly dismissed as “woke”.

In 2013, former PM Tony Abbott inherited one woman in his cabinet that he could not easily jettison, but he made it plain often enough that a woman’s natural place in the world was in domestic settings that enabled her to prepare her man’s clothing over an ironing board so he can go out into the world to make his name.

If there was ever any doubt, the party room made former Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s position clear to her in 2018 when Malcolm Turnbull stood aside as PM, punished, among other things, for appointing ten women as ministers and assistant ministers to his cabinet. Standing against Dutton and Morrison, the well-credentialled Bishop got a mere 11 votes in the spill and was swiftly sidelined.

In the eyes of what has become a largely conservative Liberal Party Room, Bishop's distinguished standing as Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Minister counted for nothing. The Party clearly preferred a little-known thug or an untrustworthy serial liar, so long as he was male.

The Liberal Party’s consciousness of its “woman problem” has accounted for electability problems but has not been sufficiently acute to change the Party’s mindset or its ways.

Despite allegations of corruption and criminality in connection with the sale of $80 million of water rights, $30 million paid for land valued at $3 million involving three male ministers, and many billions of dollars of dodgy contracts awarded in favour of L-NP donor companies exposed at Senate Estimate hearings, the only L-NP minister to suffer a consequence for corruption was female National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie, supposedly over a sport rort in her own electorate.

While the concept of male entitlement exists in many cultures across the globe, it has been primarily institutionalised in the East by the Taliban and in the West by MAGA conservatives in the United States, most notably by the Supreme Court undermining the 1973 Roe v Wade decision on women’s reproductive rights. Despite agreeing before their appointment to the Supreme Court that Roe v Wade was settled law, Trump appointees used their power of numbers on the Court in June 2022 to decide that individual states should be free to regulate abortion in its Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation decision.

By the end of 2023, 14 U.S. states had banned abortion outright, affecting more than 20 million American women of reproductive age.

Effectively, that means access to abortion depends on which state a woman lives in or her capacity for access to a clinic in a state that has not passed a ban. Needless to say, the bans affect low-income women disproportionately because they are burdened by the greatest barriers in being able to afford travel and time off work for however long it takes to get a procedure done.

The critical element of the Supreme Court Dobbs decision was to allow state legislatures to decide on abortion bans. According to a BBC article by Robin Levinson-King, when abortion bans were put on the ballot in conservative states, they failed, but the zealotry of Republican lawmakers got the restrictive laws passage without voter input.

The chief executive of the U.S. National Women’s Law Centre, Fatima Goss Graves, makes the point that Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs adopted as its premise that the constitutional right to abortion was not “deeply rooted” in U.S. history, arguing that laws of the mid-1800s prevail.

Goss notes that those laws were,

‘...written by men at a time when women’s only legal role was marriage and motherhood. The decision to overturn 'Roe' has always been about returning to that time.’

She goes on to point out that conservative abortion advocates insist that a woman’s primary role in life is to be a wife and mother, and so, to them, the idea of reproductive rights for women is inherently problematic. So much so that they encourage women to abandon birth control of any type and, after giving birth to a child, do everything possible to avoid daycare options.

The ideological ploy is straightforward enough: put women in a position where they are effectively forced into pregnancies and then give them no other choice than to remain home with the child.

A woman whose only role in life is to be subservient to the man who makes all this possible has no need to establish a reputation in her own right. She also doesn’t need to compete with good god-fearing men for jobs they require to look after their families and she certainly doesn’t need a university education that would give her fancy ideas.

On the subject of fancy ideas, a leading female advocate for conservative causes in the U.S. released a video recently that expressed alarm bordering on terror at the idea of a woman flying an aeroplane. Candace Owens is a highly articulate contrarian who, as a Black woman, operates a successful business model that deals with promulgating counterintuitive positions from a far-Right perspective.

Owens claims that women and Blacks can get jobs as aircraft pilots to make up woke quotas and that – because they are female or Black – little effort is given to training them properly to perform the job. Hence, according to Owen’s theory, we should all panic if we board an aircraft that is to be piloted by a woman or a Black American. Her point is that they should stay in their respective lanes, and the lane for women is one centred around a man and motherhood, and certainly not flying an aircraft.

Any young woman living within a culture that encourages the sanctity of motherhood would be stepping out of line in a big way were she to express an intention to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason in a state that bans abortion. She would be prompted to question her womanhood and the state would contribute to that questioning with draconian laws designed to promote self-loathing and fear.

She might hear conservative advocates asking this question of their gender-fluid opponents: “What is a woman?” She might think the question is a genuine attempt to find a way to exclude trans women from competing unfairly in sporting contests against XX-chromosome women and girls. The question, however, is designed to foment fearmongering based on ignorance about trans people.

Fatima Goss Graves makes the point that the question is part of an anti-LGBTQ+ mindset that wants to,

'... subject all girls and women, whether cis or trans, to invasive surveillance of their bodies by everyone from school administrators to coaches — deciding, based on harmful gender stereotypes, if they look like a “real woman”.'

The theory goes that once the conservative notion of real women is sufficiently understood and followed, the related issue of keeping women in their place will look after itself. The attraction of being looked after by a man, together with the fear of stepping outside the purity of the nuclear family, should restore the natural order to societies that are being ravaged by uncertainties around sexual orientation and gender identity.

The “tradwives” movement on social media is gaining momentum in the U.S. and Britain as an expression of the notion that “husbands must always come first if you want a happy marriage”.

It will also enable insecure and mediocre men to reassert their declining authority. When an opportunity presents itself, young men of that ilk tend to present themselves as focused on patriotism and effusive love of country. That focus allows them to display their fondness for traditional ideas around militarism, god and the defence of country — ideas traditionally associated with the macho-male soldier saviour.

In Australia, those ideas became visible again around our national day on 26 January when a group of neo-Nazis dressed in uniform black paraded around deserted streets in Sydney with a Union Jack flag and another emblazoned with the words: ‘Australia for the White man.’

Designed to trigger small-L liberal progressives, commentators from the Left have largely objected to the implicit White supremacism imported from their counterparts among America’s MAGA Republicans.

While there is no room for a multicultural Australia when the slogan is ‘Australia for the White man’, there is also no room for women.

The wistful thought lurking behind the flag is for an Australia that resembles old photographs around the time of Federation when eight British colonies decided to unite as a nation and White men were visibly in charge of all the new nation’s institutions. The reality was that Federation in 1901 not only failed to recognise Indigenous Australians, but, in practical effect, it largely ignored the existence of female Australians.

One hundred and twelve years later, in 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempted to emulate those nostalgic times in selecting his cabinet. Ten years later, in October 2023, led by 85-year-old former Prime Minister John Howard, a group of mostly White ‘pickled boys’, as novelist Martin Boyd might call them, headed for London to sit at the feet of Jordan Peterson, the contemporary intellectual hero of young male incels and White supremacists.

Paul Begley has worked for many years in public affairs roles, until recently as General Manager of Government and Media Relations with the Australian HR Institute. You can follow Paul on Twitter @yelgeb.

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