Scott Morrison's willingness to sign a statutory declaration over accusations of racism feels invalid considering his track record of lying, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
THE PRIME MINISTER of Australia, Scott Morrison, announced on Sunday that he is prepared to sign a statutory declaration that he did not act in a racist manner towards the man he defeated for pre-selection in the seat of Cook in 2007.
He has not yet offered to sign a similar declaration denying he’s a bully, after several female politicians described him as such.
The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton reported that statutory declarations signed in 2016 reveal that Morrison told pre-selectors they couldn’t afford to have a person of Lebanese background who was “actually a Moslem” run in Cook. Michael Towke is that man and he is Catholic.
Let’s pause for a moment to consider the remarkable fact that the Prime Minister has announced he is willing to sign a statutory declaration that he is not racist, in the hope of countering other statutory declarations that swear he is.
Then let’s recall that this same Prime Minister instructed his office to say he was not in Hawaii during the 2019/2020 bushfires when he was. The same Prime Minister who denied... oh, never mind. Just look at this lengthy list of prime ministerial falsehoods.
These solipsistic posts are of the “I have never seen or heard him be racist therefore he has never been racist because if I didn’t see or hear it, it didn’t happen” trope. They also bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the reactions of some neighbours when told the bloke next door is a serial killer — “he was so quiet and nice and always smiled at the kids, I can’t believe it,” they say as the body bags are hauled out of his cellar.
Morrison’s character has copped a battering these last weeks, particularly from women. The latest negative assessment came from Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells who labelled the PM, among other things, as “a bully with no moral compass”.
Her frank observations were supported by One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie. Former Liberal politicians Julia Banks and Julie Bishop have also criticised the misogynist culture that dominates the Liberal Party, with Banks describing Morrison as “menacing, controlling wallpaper” and Bishop referring to the “big swinging dicks” club.
Broadcaster and author Julia Baird addressed this parlous situation in her piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. As Baird notes, most of us would be delighted if women spoke out whilst in Parliament rather than enabling the misogynist culture by keeping shtum until they leave. However, when the rot starts at the top, as it clearly does in the Morrison Government, no woman is going to survive if she goes public about L-NP bullying while still there, as Baird must know.
Baird’s call for women to be more “courageous” in calling out bullying puts the onus on victims instead of where it belongs, on perpetrators. Though I have no time for Liberal women who aid and abet the misogynistic culture in which they operate, I do see that enabling silence is the only way they can stay where they apparently want to be.
If they had the courage Baird demands, they likely would not have joined up in the first place.
Baird goes on to claim:
‘There are many ways of supporting women under fire without trashing your own party.’
This statement seems to imply that women are responsible for finding ways to confront bullying without endangering the reputation of the party to which they belong. It places the well-being of the institution above the well-being of victims and we all know who does that best.
It also ignores the reality that, as with racism, institutional misogyny can only be resolved by dismantling the systems of the infected institution and replacing them with something better.
It’s disheartening to realise that victims are still advised to complain about abuse in a way that will not damage the institution harbouring the perpetrators, be it the family, the church, or, apparently, the Liberal Party.
In the last week, Scott Morrison has been credibly accused of both misogyny and racism. His defence is to attack and belittle those levelling the accusations. In Scott’s world, everyone else is wrong, except for the times he falls back on the tired trope of “blokes don't get it right all the time”.
It is useful to carefully peruse media commentary such as Baird’s on these accusations and note where they place responsibility. Are they subtly and not-so-subtly protecting the L-NP, even as they purport to protest misogyny and racism? And if so, why?
If the headline criticises the victim and not the perpetrators, always read with caution.
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