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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

“This isn’t an outcome-oriented workplace”

It’s kind of disheartening when the people who make our laws and have complete control of our common wealth admit that their only goal is to get rid of the other side.

When The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age invited federal MPs to attend a one-hour Zoom demonstration of what an empathy training course entails, five agreed – and their responses demonstrate exactly why we must change, not only our government, but our whole system of governance.

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes, described as a “passionate advocate for rural and regional NSW” despite living on Sydney’s North Shore, had no qualms in setting us straight about our expectations of a constructive, respectful workplace in Parliament.

“Parliament and politics by its nature is actually not about compromise,” Hughes said. “This isn’t necessarily an outcome-oriented workplace. It’s a political workplace that has quite an adversarial nature at times.”

Not about compromise? Not outcome-oriented?

It seems our politicians have never grown up from their university debating days.

Barnaby Joyce seems to be channelling his rugby school days when adding his insight into what his job entails.

“[B]y its very nature, Parliament has the objective that one side has to get rid of the other, and vice versa. It’s a hostile crazy boarding school out in the country.”

Barnaby also had a bit to say on the idea that morality was a “core competency” for empathy.

“The morals of someone at Nimbin are going to be entirely different to the morals of someone at St Mary’s Cathedral, but neither of them would think they are personally doing something immoral.”

Is he equating smoking pot with institutionalised child sex abuse? Is he saying Catholic churchgoers like him are automatically of high moral standing?

Craig Kelly said he was too old to learn anything.

“You might be able to train someone as a teenager. When you’re 40 or 50 or 60 years old, it’s very hard to change your perspective of life.”

No wonder he thinks science is bullshit.

These are the people entrusted with the responsibility to make the decisions that determine our future.

It’s time we demanded better.

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I’m listening – and you better not say anything I don’t want to hear

Scotty is listening to women.Well, that’s what he tells us at least.But if history is anything to go by, a woman expressing an opinion Scotty doesn’t like is liable to find herself out of a job or, at the very least, the subject of a blistering and co-ordinated smear campaign.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission produced a report on children in detention, then-President Gillian Triggs was mercilessly attacked and hounded out of her job.

SCOTT MORRISON: “I don’t think the Human Rights Commission is being well served by her tenure. I don’t think Australians feel better and more supportive of the Australian Human Rights Commission because of her engagement in various issues. And what from, from… looking outside in I’m sure looks like a complete partisan approach to these sorts of issues.”

When ABC journalist Emma Alberici wrote an article analysing Treasurer Morrison’s proposed company tax cuts, the hit squad were so outraged they insisted she withdraw her article and put pressure on the ABC management to get rid of her.

Georgie Dent wrote a piece about how the 2020 budget had let women down.The next morning, she was contacted by the office of the PM, telling her that her article was “factually inaccurate” and “no one credible” was making that argument.

Within hours, a tsunami of “credible” women and men united behind Dent on social media under the #crediblewomen banner, all making precisely the same point.

In response to an impassioned speech by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Scotty said kids should be kids and leave the adults to think about that stuff.

Which was almost as dismissive as his bimbo putdown of Pamela Anderson‘s advocacy for Julian Assange.

And woe betide anyone who messes with our jingoistic public holidays.

On Anzac Day, Yassmin Abdel-Magied posted a private Facebook post that read: “Lest We Forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …)”.She was then subjected to the most horrific personal attack, forcing her to leave the country.

“There was a concerted effort to ruin my life, and nobody stopped them. Not the government, not advocacy groups, no one. I was out there alone.”

There was similar outrage from the top when Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Victoria’s Deputy CHO and a respected public health physician, tweeted on her personal account:

“Sudden arrival of an invader from another land, decimating populations, creating terror. Forces the population to make enormous sacrifices & completely change how they live in order to survive. COVID-19 or Cook 1770?”

Morrison hit the airwaves to express his disappointment.

“She clearly wouldn’t get the job as chief historian,” Mr Morrison told Alan Jones on radio station 2GB.“People should stick to their day jobs.”

So much for truth-telling.

Anika Smethurst got raided by the police for telling the truth.Samantha Maiden got called a “mad fucking witch” for telling the truth.Brittany Higgins got called a “lying cow” for telling the truth.Louise Milligan is being sued for telling the truth.

Scott Morrison tells us that it is actions, not words, that count.Mind you, he only says that when avoiding any commitment to targets on emission reduction, but, if we are to judge him by his actions towards women raising their voice, we still have a very long way to go before he will consider us worth listening to.

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Oh beaut – a ‘taskforce’

Rest easy, ladies, we got ourselves a taskforce – a Cabinet taskforce, no less – who are going to fix women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and well-being by putting a gender lens on policy.

It will be made up of 4 men and every woman they could scrape together – the same women who have, by their silence, enabled a toxic workplace to flourish. The same women who have ridiculed affirmative action describing it as playing the gender card. The same women who have voted for so many policies that have been detrimental to women. The same women who have been called ‘handbags’, as they are trotted out to defend the boys club.

Even discussing how women are affected became ‘identity politics’. Feminist became a derogatory label.

In 2014, after 40 years of production, the Commonwealth government stopped producing the Women’s Budget Statement as part of the official Budget papers. Hey, we had the Prime Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, to look after us. Why worry our pretty little heads about all those confusing numbers when we have ironing to do.

Assisting him was Michaelia Cash who, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day in 2014, said “In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”

They got rid of the schoolkids bonus, a timely payment that helped families pay for school needs, preferring for the mining companies to keep their super profits.

They argued to reduce penalty rates, mainly impacting women and young people.

They slashed funding for shelters, legal aid, and community support programs because a surplus was their only goal and they wanted the most vulnerable to fund it whilst giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

And far from delivering on the promised improvement to Paid Parental Leave, they labelled women as “double dippers” if they combined the current government assistance with a workplace entitlement.

In 2018, Jane Hume, our new Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation, the Digital Economy and Women’s Economic Security, dismissed the idea of quotas to address the dismal number of women in her party.

“For women that don’t get there, the trick is to work that little bit harder. Don’t get bitter. Get better. Work harder. Nothing that is worth getting doesn’t come without hard work.”

Ms Hume said she “really disliked being patronised as if I am a minority. We are capable of anything but we are entitled to nothing. We have to work for what we want.”

She was then asked if an African migrant living in Melbourne “had just as much chance to get into parliament as somebody who goes to a private school in Toorak? Does she have the same connections and networks and start with the same family?”

Hume also wants us to use superannuation for everything but funding our retirement – family violence, home deposit, emergency expenses – consigning many more people to a life on an inadequate pension. And you can bet your nelly that the legislated increases in the superannuation guarantee will be abandoned, further widening the gender gap in retirement income.

These are the women who, after revealing the shocking bullying and harassment they endured during the leadership spill, were silenced by either promotion or getting rid of them, choosing party loyalty or personal ambition over holding perpetrators to account.

We have a mute Minister for Women who wouldn’t even meet with the March4Justice. Assisting her is a woman who is anti-abortion, anti the “transgender agenda”, who thinks men are victims of scurrilous allegations of sexual abuse, and who thinks men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt was deserving of an Australia Day award for “services to gender equity”.

Despite the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on women, the October budget delivered by Josh Frydenberg concentrated its stimulus in the male-dominated areas of construction, energy, transport and manufacturing.

Many had pressed the government to use stimulus spending to invest in social housing, support for the caring professions, child care, aged care and disability care, as well as the female-dominated sectors also hard hit in the wake of COVID-19. These recommendations were made not just because of the loss of employment, but also because COVID-19 exposed the opportunity to reform a number of systemic issues and would likely provide a greater increase in employment.

But long-term planning and investment in society isn’t this government’s best thing.

Announce a taskforce of the women who you know won’t make waves. Tell them they are all being promoted. Then get back to the boy’s business of making rich people richer.

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Spare me your tears

A ‘tearful’ Scott Morrison took to the stage this morning to tell us how his daughters, his wife, and his mother are the centre of his life.

Yeah, we know. That’s how he began his election campaign – “Aren’t they fantastic? How good is Mum? How good is Jenny?”

So, aside from the fact that he has female relatives, why was Scotty upset?

“I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them, and that greatly distresses me.”

The tears were not for the victims and survivors of sexual assault. It very much sounded like the PM is finally realising that this could hurt him electorally.

“Now is not the time for me to run over whether as a Minister for immigration or a Treasurer, or a Minister for Social Services, the keen interest I have shown in these issues, I’m not going to do that today.”

Keen interest??? So interested that you did nothing about the complaints from female colleagues about bullying and harassment during your knifing of an elected Prime Minister? So interested that your staff and colleagues made sure not to tell you about two rape allegations so you could do your Sgt Schultz act?

“I have heard that women are overlooked, talked over, by men, whether it is in board rooms, meeting rooms, rooms, media conferences, cabinets, or anywhere else. Overlooked and treated like they have nothing valuable to contribute.”

Oh you’ve only ‘heard’ about that? Did you hear it from Julie Bishop?

Recalling incidents in 2013, where she was at one point the only woman in cabinet, Ms Bishop spoke of the difficulty of getting her voice heard in a room full of 18 men.

“People would be talking and then I would intervene to say something and there would be silence, and then they’d just keep on talking,” she said. “(Then) somebody would say precisely what I’d said and all the guys would say ‘gee that’s a great idea, why don’t we do that?’ And I’d think, didn’t I say that?”

Or perhaps you heard it from Anne Ruston who you wouldn’t even let answer a question directed to her about the culture in parliament.

Phil Coorey, journalist: “As a woman in government, your reflections on the culture inside, has it got better, worse or no change since the ‘bonk ban’?”

Ruston: “Well, Phil, the only thing that I can …”

Morrison: “How this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue, Phil. And I would ask the media to stop referring to it in that way. We took it very seriously, and I think constantly referring to it in that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue. It’s a very serious issue. Thanks. Anne.”

Scotty has also heard about women “being belittled, women being diminished, and women being objectified. That is not OK.”

Perhaps he heard that from Pamela Anderson when she urged him to help Julian Assange.

“I’ve had plenty of mates who’ve asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson,” smirked Scotty.

“You trivialised and laughed about the suffering of an Australian and his family. You followed it with smutty, unnecessary comments about a woman voicing her political opinion,” Ms Anderson wrote in response.

“Rather than making lewd suggestions about me, perhaps you should instead think about what you are going to say to millions of Australians when one of their own is marched in an orange jumpsuit to Guantanamo Bay — for publishing the truth.”

Scotty kept up his caring façade until it came to questions from the media.

When asked if he had “lost control of his staff”, Morrison reverted to type, attacking the journalist who had asked the question.

“You would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman,” Mr Morrison told Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell, after being asked about parliamentary culture. “That matter is being pursued by your own HR department.”

“if anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own work places as comparison, I would invite you to do so. You are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal but be careful.”

Ahhh, the old ‘glass houses’ attack – just like his warnings to Labor. Dob on us and see what happens.

The problem was it seems Scotty gave details of the alleged incident on national TV without gaining the consent of the woman who had made the complaint.

So much for respecting the agency and confidentiality of the complainant, the excuse used for the disgraceful handling/coverup of the Higgins case.

Spare me your tears about how unfairly you have been treated, Scott, Linda and Christian. It’s not about you.

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How good is Gerry!

When Gerry Harvey gave an interview to 60 Minutes in March last year, he asked, “Why are we so scared about getting this virus? It’s pretty much nothing to get scared of.”

Instead, he saw it as an opportunity.

“Our sales are up … by 9 per cent on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 per cent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 per cent!” Gerry boasted.

Predictably, there was a stinging public backlash. People were dying.

“It’s no revelation that Gerry Harvey is a selfish loudmouth whose constant acting out is likely a manifestation of dementia. Even still, the veteran retailer’s 60 Minutes interview on Sunday was genuinely breathtaking,” wrote Joe Aston in the AFR.

A few days later, with the country in lockdown and a social media campaign to boycott his stores, Gerry was backpedalling.

“Now, everyone thinks I’m this callous old bastard out making a profit on other people’s misery … but believe me, that was not my intention. I was trying to give a positive view.”

As it turns out, Gerry was right, both on the opportunity presented and on his self-assessment of making a profit from misery.

A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Telegraph included a magazine called the Sydney Power 100, and there at number 7 were Gerry Harvey and his wife, Katie Page.

As editor Ben English explained, coronavirus was “the great power shift of 2020.”

“Those who adapted, who recognized the opportunity in the great crisis, bolstered their power and not only survived, but thrived.”

According to the Telegraph, “Harvey Norman profits jumped by 160% in the first four months of 2020 and the boom continues.”

Which makes me wonder how they qualified for the JobKeeper payment which, for companies with over a billion in turnover, had to show a decline of 50% to be eligible.

In February, Harvey Norman reported that first-half sales climbed 25% and contributed to a net profit after tax of $462.03m for the last six months of 2020 – up 116% on the same time period in the previous year.

The retailer said it would pay dividends totalling $249m, of which Gerry Harvey is set to receive $78m due to his 31.4% shareholding in the company.

Despite this, they declined to pay back the estimated $22 million they somehow collected for JobKeeper, a payment they should never have qualified to receive.

But that’s all fine and dandy with the Treasurer apparently who won’t be asking for the money back from any of the companies who claimed the payment despite making higher profits.

As Secretary of the ACTU Sally McManus pointed out, “They have no qualms about requesting and forcing people to pay back Centrelink payments – no problem with that whatsoever. Somehow we’re all supposed to sit back and say ‘oh well that’s OK, that’s just the rules that apply to big business in this country’.”

“That’s disgusting.”

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Nicolle Flint’s “non-political” attack on Labor

Nicolle Flint seemed to be trying for a Julia Gillard moment yesterday when she attacked Anthony Albanese.

“I say to the leader of the opposition: I will not be lectured by you. I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place.”

Ms Flint, after saying that “the safety of women in this place should be above politics,” went on to get very political:

“What I say to the Labor party today is that they may not have held the spray can to vandalise my office with sexist slurs and they may not have held the camera pointed at me by the stalker or called me evil in GetUp’s phone calls, but they did create the environment in which hate could flourish.”

Oh come on, Nicolle.

It was Morrison who reportedly urged your party to capitalise on community fears about Muslim integration as a political strategy.

It was Abbott who stood in front of signs saying Ditch the Witch and Juliar and Bob Browne’s bitch.

It is Peter Dutton who spends every waking moment demonising refugees.

It is your government who has labelled welfare recipients “leaners”.

You have deliberately, for your own political advantage, stoked fear, division, and disinformation.

Where were you when SA Senator Lucy Gichuhi, and many of your female colleagues, were bullied and intimidated during the leadership spill? Where was your support for Julia Banks?

Senator Gichuhi said “I had senators and ministers in tears, that’s how bad it was. One of my colleagues was in tears the whole day.”

Linda Reynolds said “I just hope … whatever happens tomorrow that the behaviours that we have seen and the bullying and intimidation that I do not recognise as Liberal in any shape, way or form be brought to account.”

Morrison’s response?

“The events of a couple of weeks ago, I have described as a Muppet Show and the curtain comes down on that and Australians expect us to get on with our jobs.”

Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

When the allegations against Christian Porter surfaced, Sarah Henderson tried to raise again the allegations against Bill Shorten.

As was quickly pointed out, the police DID investigate those allegations unlike in the Porter case.

And if there was any doubt that Nicolle’s contribution was absolutely political, it was blown away today at #Scottyfrommarketing’s press conference about the COVID situation in PNG where he magnanimously took one question about another topic.

Except it was a set-up as exposed by Paul Karp who tweeted:

“Oh wow PM staff indicated to Morrison to take a question from Chris Uhlmann – the only non PNG vaccination question – and it’s about Nicolle Flints speech on her experience of sexism. Now PM has to go, so none on govt handling of rape allegations.

The govt is determined to create a false equivalence between its fumbling the Brittany Higgins allegation, failure to investigate allegation against Porter (which he denies) and Flints complaints about GetUp.”

Limp lettuce leaf Uhlmann asked his Dorothy Dixxer and the PM responded:

“I think she’s incredibly brave. I know how brave she was because I was there with her as she endured one of the ugliest campaigns I’ve ever seen besieged against not just a woman but anyone in this country and her determination to stand up to that in the face of the most vitriolic of abuse, stalking and threats to her own public security was absolutely appalling and I just am amazed at the Labor Party and the unions and GetUp just standing by to let that happen.

They were aware. They saw it. They were happy to be advantaged by it and I think she’s called it out well and I think she’s an incredibly strong woman.”

Are we supposed to forget that a woman was (allegedly) raped in the office of a senior Minister and nothing was done about it? The multitudinous people who knew didn’t bother informing the Minister for Finance whose department was the investigating body? No-one told the Prime Minister?

I am certain that complaints of sexual harassment will emerge from Labor’s call for women to come forward. It remains to be seen how they will handle things but I have more confidence in Labor women working for change than in the Liberal Party handmaidens.

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The trouble with being privileged is that you cannot fathom what it is like for those who are not

When Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter shed public tears, it was not for a young employee who had allegedly been raped in your workplace by another hand-picked employee, it was not for a friend from years ago who had tragically taken her own life.

Oh no, those tears were solely about the possible political consequences for the Ministers involved.

When Joe Hockey increased the fuel excise, he told us it wouldn’t impact poor people because they “either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far.” Ignore the tolls that cripple those who live in the outer suburbs, ignore the price rises that businesses pass on to cover higher distribution and delivery costs.

Julia Banks told us that she “could live on 40 bucks a day knowing that the government is supporting me with Newstart looking for employment.” I would suggest lawyer and businesswoman Julia, has never drawn up a budget in her life without a sizable bank account, portfolio of assets, and high income to back it up.

Michaelia Cash didn’t whinge when she had “practically nothing” as she spent three years backpacking around the world after finishing university. She knows what it’s like to try to survive on $40 a day whilst holidaying overseas decades ago.

But hey, the poor are getting an extra $3.50 a day. Hawaii here we come!

When Jon Faine was discussing how his children could not break into the property market, Malcolm Turnbull’s response was that Faine should “shell out for them – you should support them… You can provide a bit of intergenerational equity in the Faine family.”

Joe Hockey had an even better plan.

“The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money,” he said. “Then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money.”

Simples.

Whenever the Coalition carries on about ‘mum-and-dad investors’ and self-funded retirees, I wonder if they realise that, for so many Australians, investment is something entirely beyond their means. Too many families struggle to feed and house their children. The idea of investing to provide for a comfortable retirement will never be on their radar.

What the hell are franking credits and how did they become so important?

The government cannot understand why the public want transparency about contracts and grants. The money is theirs to give to whoever they want and if they want to give millions to Foxtel, they will.

When Gladys Berejiklian was questioned about handing out grants to Coalition seats with no consultation, her office had sadly shredded all documents and erased all emails about the matter.

And why should porkbarrelling concern us anyway wondered an incredulous Gladys. Everyone does it. It’s not illegal.

When Indigenous men were accused of child sex abuse, we staged a military style Intervention. When Catholic priests were accused of child sex abuse, Prime Ministers wrote them references.

When Indigenous people have an alcohol problem, we subject them to income management. When politicians have an alcohol problem, they write a book.

The government want to cut taxes again.

But all that means to those who pay no taxes – the young, the elderly, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled – is that there will be less money to provide the services they need.

But hey, why should the vulnerable spoil a political strategy. I’m sure Crosby-Textor have their tax misinformation campaign cocked and ready to fire.

And that’s without mentioning some of the consequences of male privilege… which I am too exhausted to talk about any more.

The notion that we are all treated equally before the law is one that only privileged people could possibly believe.

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We’re not advocating violence or revolution … yet

When Martyn Iles, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, recently suggested at a Church and State Conference in Brisbane that society would not be so concerned about climate change or gender identity if we were at war with China, conference convener Dave Pellowe, who once appeared in an infamous selfie with members of the neo-fascist Proud Boys group, interjected: “We’re not advocating violence or revolution … today.” Mr Iles added: “Not yet, that’s down the line.”

The conference, titled “Kingdom Come”, is about “arming Christians” to be influential in “the ongoing formation of our society’s culture, institutions & legislative bodies” through political participation.

This supposedly ‘non-denominational, nonpartisan’ collection of Christian Right activists exhorted people to join the Coalition parties.

“It’s not branch stacking, it’s participation. It’s what they’ve been doing with the Frankfurt School and the infiltration of the institutions for 50 years. It’s just turning up. And it’s our turn to turn up,” said Pellowe.

George Christensen suggested Christians proceed by stealth.

“We have got to pick the battles that we can win on in the public arena in order to get elected and be in government, and then prosecute the other battles while you’re in government,” he said.

Obviously still fuming about losing the marriage equality debate, Iles has identified the “transgender thing” as the weakest part of the LGBTQI rights movement.

He boasted about his organisation’s campaign against Victoria’s recent ban on “conversion” therapy which he said yielded 13,000 calls to MPs.

“All of a sudden I’m actually seeing people rising up more and more and more,” he said. “Give this a couple of years and we’ll be able to put such a shockwave through any Parliament in the country they won’t even know what hit them. And we’re almost at that point.”

George Pell also contributed his two cents’ worth (adjusted for his inflated self-opinion), proclaiming that “Christianity is self-evidently the best paradigm for public policy in human history,” and urging the audience “not to co-operate” with attempts to change “Christian language patterns” about gender, motherhood and fatherhood.

“Politely, stubbornly, persistently refuse to be silenced and refuse to give ground,” he instructed.

These men see an “existential” threat to the practice of Christianity. They are also agreed that climate change is leftist crap.

In 2018, The Age reported that “at least 10 of the 78 people elected to the Liberals’ administrative bodies at the party’s April state council are Mormons. Combined with conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders, the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics.”

After Scott Morrison had ‘absolutely nothing to do with the knifing of Malcom Turnbull’ and assumed his ‘divinely inspired elevation to power’, the Pentacostals stepped up their campaign warning that, if Morrison wasn’t elected in 2019, “The laws are going to change where darkness is going to come and there will be persecution on the church.” (Cue lightning and thunder)

Persecuting transgender people will, however, be a key campaign strategy.

Not that they are advocating violence … yet.

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Wednesday was a weird day

Angus Campbell isn’t a bad man. The vast majority of Australian men aren’t ‘bad’ men. But they still seem to think it is a woman’s fault if she gets raped.

Don’t be out after midnight. Don’t drink. Don’t be alone. Don’t look attractive. Or you risk becoming ‘prey’?

Do men feel that way? If a man goes out with his mates and gets pissed, does that make him a likely target for anal rape?

When Fraser Anning introduced a bill for governments to legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “political protection”, Sarah Hanson-Young made the point that the onus should not be on women to protect themselves but rather on men to change their behaviour. David Leyjonhelm, bless his cotton socks, told her if that was the way she felt, she should stop shagging men because we all know the rumours about her promiscuity. The High Court threw out his appeal against the ruling that said he had defamed SHY.

Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, addressed the National Press Club asking for us all to listen, learn, and change.

In a lesson to Scott Morrison on getting it real, she said you don’t need to be a father to have a conscience and being a father doesn’t mean you have one.

When asked if Morrison’s rhetoric about listening to sexual assault survivors matched his actions, she replied “Clearly not”.

And then Christian Porter gave his press conference.

It could have gone like this…

‘It is not fair that my Cabinet colleagues are subject to speculation. It is me that has been named in an allegation of a serious crime.

I can confirm that I knew the complainant when we were teenagers, and I can understand the anguish felt by her family and friends at her premature death, but I know what I have been accused of didn’t happen.

I do not want to add to their pain and I will co-operate fully with any investigation that others feel appropriate.’

But it didn’t.

Christian spent 45 minutes speaking about himself being the victim and the mental toll it was taking on him.

When Linda Reynolds cancelled her planned National Press Club address as she had booked herself into hospital due to the stress of reporting of how she handled a rape that happened in her office, well wishes poured in. Get well, Linda. It’s been tough for you.

The alleged rapist has also booked himself into hospital.

Will we listen to our Australian of the Year, and the many other women who are crying out trying to help men to understand how things are and how they must change?

It was 1975 when I won a public speaking award where the headline in the local paper said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias.”

We make haste slowly.

But we cannot give up.

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Fight Club, Wolverines and Swinging Dicks – is this what we call “grown-up government”?

When Young Liberals in Chris Hartcher’s Terrigal electorate were inspired by Brad Pitt’s Fight Club to head out late at night on what they called “Black Ops” to tear down opposition election posters, one could perhaps, despite the illegality, dismiss this as kids going a bit too far. The fact that Liberal hopeful Aaron Henry signed his email call-to-action as ”Tyler Durden” (Brad Pitt’s character) shows just how juvenile this crowd were.

But when one of them then tried to destroy the career of Sydney Water chief Dr Kerry Schott via an anonymous email detailing a false complaint to the NSW ICAC, they moved from silly kids to dangerous.

Carrying on in the same vein, there is a parliamentary group who call themselves the “Wolverines”, a nod to the 1984 Hollywood film Red Dawn, about a team of high school football jocks thwarting a Soviet invasion of the United States.

The group, who boast about their preparedness to ‘speak out against China’s expanding power’, includes Andrew Hastie, backbench MPs Tim Wilson and Phillip Thompson, along with Senators James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching, and they are identified by stickers featuring wolf claw marks on the entrances of their parliamentary suites.

The AFR’s James Curran put it well when he said “It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at this kind of juvenilia from some of the nation’s elected representatives. But we are where we are.”

Once again, we could dismiss this as silly kid stuff except Andrew Hastie has recently been promoted to Assistant Minister for Defence and, replacing him as chair of Federal Parliament’s powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security, is James Paterson.

As background, Hastie was the commander of an SAS troop in Afghanistan who cut off the hands of dead people. When he saw what was going on, he asked another SAS member to find out if the practice was permitted under Defence rules and regulations. In the subsequent inquiry, Cpt Hastie is quoted as saying, “My gut instinct was okay, that’s a strange practice.” Another SAS member said, “There’s no uncertainty. I wouldn’t cut f***ing people’s hands off, sir.

Paterson’s pre-parliament experience was as an unpaid political intern followed by a stint at the IPA where, at the ripe old age of 24, he co-authored the infamous 75 radical ideas to transform Australia, a document that was all about profit, privatisation and deregulation at the expense of society.

These two self-titled Wolverines were both denied visas to enter Beijing for a planned study tour in 2019 because of their ham-fisted outspoken attempts to bully China.

In a climate that requires nuanced diplomacy, who better to head our security committee than these two Liberal backbenchers who have already pissed China off, thinks Scott Morrison. Apparently.

Then we hear from former Liberal MP Sharman Stone that a group of men in parliament who called themselves the “swinging dicks” blocked Liberal MP Julie Bishop’s leadership aspirations.

Seriously. Dick-swingers is a disparaging term that women I know use to describe men who try to cover their inadequacy by bullying. The fact that this group called themselves that shows how entitled the Liberal boys club in Canberra believes themselves to be.

Fight Club, Wolverines, and Swinging Dicks? So this is their idea of “grown-up government“?

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The only jobs the Nats are concerned about are their own

When you have a leader whose most memorable contribution has been a rather tragic Elvis impersonation, I guess it’s understandable that the natives might get restless. But in the last few weeks, the Nats have gone so far off reservation they seem to be occupying a totally different universe.

It took a workplace rape in a Minister’s office to get Parliament to sit up and take notice of the many women who have been complaining about the culture of sexism, intimidation, bullying and harassment that exists in the boys’ club in Canberra.

At the same time as numerous investigations and reviews are being undertaken, there is open conjecture about the return of Barnaby Joyce to the leadership of the Nationals.

This is the man who opposed marriage equality because of the “sanctity of the marriage vows between a man and a woman” yet he was having regular unprotected sex with a junior staff member resulting in an extramarital pregnancy.

But that’s not why he resigned.

He resigned because of a formal sexual harassment complaint against him, and rumours of several more women with similar allegations.

To get the numbers to stage yet another go at getting a payrise, Barnaby is wooing Craig Kelly to join the Nats. One of the reasons Kelly quit the Liberal Party was his refusal to sack an adviser that has numerous sexual harassment complaints against him from young women in Kelly’s office.

Is this the team to put together when their workplace is under investigation for the treatment of the women who work there?

Barnaby decided to move his own amendment in parliament to allow the CEFC’s grid reliability fund to invest in new coal-fired power plants. I’m not sure why Barnaby thinks they have party room meetings if you aren’t even going to run it by your own side first. Most likely it was designed to try to attract attention from someone other than Mike Bowers.

Not to be outdone, Sports-rorter Bridget McKenzie and Matt King Coal gathered their three newbie fellow backbenchers in the Senate to front the cameras and tell us that we must support nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.

Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Canavan said “I don’t think we should be heading down this – giving any credence to this net-zero emissions path, that would shut down large sections of rural Australia. It costs thousands of people their jobs in the agricultural and mining and manufacturing industries. They’re the lifeblood of our towns.”

Mirroring the Whyalla being wiped off the map line that Barnaby loved, Canavan added “You know, you won’t have towns like Moranbah if you don’t have a mining industry.”

Perhaps Matt is unaware of what the locals feel about the 100% FIFO workforce who have made housing unaffordable and filled the town with men. You also don’t have a mining industry if there is no demand for your product and it would probably be a good idea to prepare for that time.

A report by Beyond Zero Emissions, an energy and climate change thinktank, says practical projects to decarbonise the economy could create 1.78m “job years” over the next five years – on average, 355,000 people in work each year – while modernising Australian industry.

Maybe Matt doesn’t know that the members of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) voted in favour of “an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero by 2050,” suggesting there is “huge potential for Australia to be a global leader in low-emissions agriculture.”

It seems farmers don’t want agriculture to be “carved out”, as the (at time of writing) Nationals leader had insisted. In fact, the red meat sector has a target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and is already making great headway on research and new technologies that will enable that transformation.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator and the CSIRO, if the Nationals want cheap reliable power, they should be championing solar and wind with pumped hydro and batteries for storage, new transmission lines from renewable energy zones, and better links between states.

“At 90% renewable energy, the total cost [of generation, storage and transmission] is A$63/MWh. But that’s still cheaper than the cost of new coal and gas-fired electricity generation, which is in the range of A$70 to A$90/MWh (under ideal assumptions of low fuel pricing and no climate policy risk).”

Nuclear was the most expensive option examined. It also is not renewable (needing uranium fuel), produces radioactive waste, uses an enormous amount of water, and would take at least 15 years to come on line.

Carbon capture and storage is just a way to keep the fossil fuel industry going. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t really work and isn’t commercially viable (yet), it misses the point that we have to, as far as possible, stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Reducing how much we add isn’t good enough.

When Angus Taylor announced a parliamentary inquiry into establishing a nuclear industry, he may not have just been appeasing the Nats. As reported in the Guardian:

“At least in part, the minister seems to have been informed by the work of SMR Nuclear Technology, a company hoping to bring [small modular reactors] to Australia. Its directors include coal power plant owner and Coalition donor Trevor St Baker, who the company says has met Taylor on the issue.”

That’s the guy that Gladys Berejiklian sold Vales Point power station to for $1 million.

I will leave the final words to anti-corruption campaigner Tony Fitzgerald:

“Politics today is a clash of interests, not ideas. The established parties, which receive large sums of public money to finance their campaigns, are controlled by professional, “whatever it takes” politicians driven by self-interest and ideology and addicted to vested interest funding.

To them, political ethics is merely an amusing oxymoron. Power provides a rich opportunity for personal and political advantage: cronyism, the sale of access and influence and the misuse of public money are now scandalous.

The “winning is all that matters” conduct from politicians affects community attitudes. Australian society is gradually becoming less egalitarian and more cynical and self-centered as economic policies redistribute wealth upwards, widening the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” and producing a largely powerless underclass.

Our boasted commitment to a “fair go” for all sits uneasily with social realities: multibillion-dollar fortunes and mega-mansions while there are homeless children on the streets, Indigenous children living in broken communities and children who’ve been detained and traumatised because they asked for refuge; meagre pensions and generous middle-class welfare; a paltry minimum wage, low wages even for essential services workers and executives who are paid a lifetime’s income in a year; tax deductions to enable investors to purchase multiple properties to rent to families who can’t afford to buy homes because of the investors’ tax advantages; economic trickle-down mumbo-jumbo justifying tax cuts for imaginary rich altruists who seek more wealth only to create jobs for the poor; the rejection of environmental realities so that plutomaniacs can increase their pointless, unspendable fortunes and disturbingly little concern for the interests of future generations.

In the circumstances, community unrest and political instability are inevitable, as is the eruption of disruptive ultra-nationalist groups which promote sham nostalgia, foster prejudice, rebrand ignorance as common sense, encourage resentment toward an educated, progressive “elite” and mislead the gullible with crazy theories and empty promises.”

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Dob on us and see what happens

When Peter van Onselen revealed that the prime minister’s office was deliberately backgrounding journalists to smear Brittany Higgins’ now partner, I thought here we go again – dob on us and see what happens.

Whenever this government is threatened with negative publicity, they respond with character assassination, threats, and vindictive retribution.

Bernard Collaery, a barrister and former ACT attorney-general, is facing jail for allegedly helping his client, intelligence officer Witness K, reveal information about Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste government offices to gain the upper hand during oil and gas negotiations in 2004. The trial is being conducted in secret.

When Adelaide-based public servant Richard Boyle revealed disturbing debt-collection practices by the ATO, he was hit with charges which could see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

A few weeks before the 2016 election, the AFP raided the parliamentary office of shadow communications minister Stephen Conroy and the home of one of his staffers looking for leaked documents detailing the massive cost blowouts and delays at NBN Co, contrary to what the government had been telling the public. A Senate committee later ruled that the raids constituted ‘improper interference’ on the functions of parliament.

Likewise, in October 2018 the AFP raided a home affairs employee’s home and the Canberra office of the department over leaks concerning Peter Dutton’s ministerial intervention in the case of two foreign au pairs. When it was revealed that Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, was alerted to the fact the raids were going to take place the day before by the deputy commissioner, Neil Gaughan, it led to a complaint by the targeted public servant that there were “reasonable grounds to suspect the AFP is neither operationally independent or without political bias”.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission produced a report about the abuse of children in immigration detention and their declining physical and mental health, the government attacked Gillian Triggs mercilessly. It got very personal.

Scott Morrison also dismissed Save the Children staff, incorrectly claiming they had been “coaching” asylum seekers to self-harm. Despite commissioning a report which verified what the AHRC had said and exonerated the Save the Children staff (who consequently received a large settlement), no apology was forthcoming from Morrison and Triggs’ contract was not renewed.

The ABC’s revelation of allegations of potential war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan led to raids on the national broadcaster and the AFP referring journalist Dan Oakes for prosecution – charges that the CDPP subsequently decided not to pursue.

When Emma Alberici wrote an article analysing the government’s proposed company tax cuts and questioning whether they would deliver the claimed outcomes of greater business investment and higher wages, the politicians and Murdoch media went into such a frenzy that the ABC removed the article. After Alberici engaged lawyers, a slightly changed version of the article was reposted. However, with the axing of Lateline, Ms Alberici has now largely disappeared from our screens.

The ABC has been in the firing line ever since the Coalition came to power. Whether it be intelligence officers paying people smugglers, the shocking mismanagement of water resources, or the licentious behaviour of men in parliament – the government does not want their dirty linen aired in public and have made that very clear with constant complaints, attempts at editorial influence, and most destructive of all, savage funding cuts.

The same has happened to the Australian National Auditors Office with information withheld and reports gagged under spurious grounds like commercial-in-confidence and national security, followed by significant funding cuts.

None of what has been reported has been disputed – it has all proven to be factual. Nevertheless, the message is clear.

To quote Peter Dutton, if you dob, you’re ‘dead to me’.

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The daggy dad’s empathy vacuum

Scott Morrison has worked very hard on selling himself as an ordinary bloke who wears baseball caps and board shorts and thongs, a daggy dad who loves his footy and cooking curries, a good Christian family man.

At least, that’s the marketing.

But time and again, the veneer cracks and we see the real Scott Morrison – a power-hungry, political animal, devoid of empathy.

It began with his preselection and the man who beat him 82 to 8 votes, Michael Towke. Two senior Liberals who wanted Morrison instead, abetted by Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph, then embarked on a crusade of defamatory character assassination which saw Mr Towke’s political career destroyed and his mother end up in hospital from the stress caused by baseless headlines suggesting Towke was a liar who was facing jail time.

None of it was true. The Telegraph settled out of court and apologised but the damage was done. Scotty was on the way.

In December 2010, as opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

That same month, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. Morrison criticised the Gillard government for “wasting taxpayers’ money” on paying for relatives to attend the funerals of their family members.

Immediately after winning the 2013 election, Morrison stepped up the dehumanisation strategy, instructing departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘‘illegal’’ arrivals and as ‘‘detainees’’, rather than as clients. This language suggests criminality. People held on Manus and Nauru were to be called “transferees”, like they were some sort of package in transit.

When Morrison moved on to Minister for Social Services, he remodelled himself with a fluffier image. This was a deliberate move, a stepping stone along the road.

Whatever the image he was trying to portray, it was during Morrison’s tenure that Robodebt was conceived.

In his 2019 campaign launch, Morrison derided Labor for their “incompetent administration” of programs like “School halls. Pink batts. Cash-for clunkers.”

The scale of devastation from robodebt dwarfs any and all such failures.

On the eve of the May 2015 budget, Morrison embarked on a media blitz, doing six interviews in the morning to sell his $3.5 billion radical overhaul of the childcare subsidies system – a move that was seen as calculated to steal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s thunder.

Morrison, when asked the obvious question, insisted he did not want Mr Hockey’s job, and he wasn’t angling to be prime minister.

“I’ll be the prop forward taking it up and he can be the one who will score the try and that’s what he’ll be doing on Budget day.’’

Kind of like when he put his arm around Malcolm Turnbull and smirked, “I am ambitious for this guy.”

Treasurer was the next stepping stone, doling out the public coffers to garner support for his ultimate goal – Smirker-in-chief. Then hugely underspending on the NDIS so he could brag about a surplus.

Morrison had no regard for his colleagues as he stepped all over them to get to the top.

He didn’t care about migrants trying to settle in a new country, or asylum seekers fleeing war and oppression.

He didn’t care about welfare recipients pushed to the brink when confronted with debts they didn’t owe and couldn’t pay.

He didn’t care about the many women who said they had been bullied and intimidated during the leadership coup.

He didn’t care about the bushfires ravaging Australia while he was sitting poolside in Hawaii sipping a coldie.

He doesn’t care about Indigenous Australians’ fight for a Voice.

He doesn’t care about the people waiting for NDIS or home care packages.

And he had to imagine his own daughters being assaulted to “clarify” for him what he should feel about a staffer being raped in his workplace.

It was no surprise to hear that Morrison’s government paid $190,000 of taxpayer money to an empathy consultant on how best to show drought-stricken farmers they care about them.

Scotty doesn’t do empathy unless the focus groups suggest he should pretend to care and someone else explains to him what that looks like.

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If there is one thing you can rely on from our government, it’s inconsistency

A few weeks ago, Peter Dutton decided to release dozens of refugees who had been held in Melbourne hotel rooms for more than a year because it was “cheaper for people to be in the community than it is to be at a hotel or for us to be paying for them to be in detention.”

What a revelation.

Dutton told 2GB radio the released men had been assessed as not being a threat.

Which is a turnaround from his fearmongering 2 years ago that the medevac bill, allowing these refugees to receive medical treatment on mainland Australia, would lead to “Alleged murderers, rapists and paedophiles” coming to Australia.

Speaking of not being a threat, another court decision will be made today about the ongoing detention of the Biloela family.

Priya, Nades, and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika, five, and Tharunicaa, three, were taken from their home in Queensland and moved to Melbourne in March 2018 and have been detained on Christmas Island since August 2019.

Department figures provided to the Senate estimates process last month show keeping the family detained has cost $1.4m in the past year.

The case today is the government appealing a previous ruling against them in which they were ordered to pay costs. The legal bill to keep this family detained must be astronomical.

As we await the decision about the Tamil family, Foreign Minister Marise Payne is, once again, admonishing China.

Speaking at a video conference organised by the Canadian government this morning, Payne said Australia would “hold countries to account for their international commitments and their obligation to comply with international laws and practices”.

“The practice of arbitrary detention is against international law. States must uphold all of their international human rights obligations, and that includes those owed to foreign and dual nationals within their jurisdictions …”

I think you may be leaving yourself wide open there Marise.

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Claiming credit when it’s not due

When Scottyfrommarketing launched his campaign for the 2019 election, he focused on the economy.

“Our Government has restored our nation’s finances. We have handed down – well done Josh and the entire ERC team – the first Budget surplus in more than a decade, back in the black.”

As it turns out, they “handed down” a deficit of $690 million followed by increasing the debt and deficit to record levels.

Scotty boasted that “We have kept our Triple A credit rating.”

The first time Australia achieved a Triple A credit rating from all three major ratings agencies was in November 2011 thanks to Labor’s handling of the GFC.

He talked about how our strong economy supports our health system, mentioning the PBS, Medicare, and the NDIS – all of which conservatives fought tooth and nail against.

Seventy years ago, the Curtin wartime Labor government introduced legislation for a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). It was a response to the need to provide access to a wave of antibiotic drugs — sulfonamides, streptomycin, penicillin — to the whole population, not only to the minority able to afford them.

The scheme was immediately and successfully opposed by doctors and the conservative opposition, which saw in universal health care an underhand plan to nationalise medicine.

There were two High Court challenges, two referendums and a constitutional amendment; but it was not until 1960 that Australians had the comprehensive PBS envisaged by Curtin in 1944.

Likewise, the first iteration of Medicare, called Medibank, was introduced by the Whitlam Labor government in 1975, early in its second term.

The federal opposition under Malcolm Fraser had rejected Bills relating to its financing, which is why it took the government so long to get it established. It had only a short period of operation before the Whitlam government was dismissed.

The incoming Fraser government modified Medibank, establishing a levy of 2.5% on income to fund it (but providing the option to take out private health insurance instead). Interestingly, the levy was higher than that proposed by the Whitlam government and which the Coalition had blocked while in opposition.

Other changes followed, such as changes to agreements with the states over how much money hospitals would receive, restrictions in benefits and bulk billing, and rebates for those with private insurance.

Most of these changes were revoked by the incoming Hawke Labor government in 1984.

The NDIS is thanks to Julia Gillard’s Labor government who introduced the bill in November 2012 and saw it passed in March 2013.

And then along came Scott Morrison.

In 2016, the government scrapped an ad campaign letting people know about the NDIS. The budget committed to reduce the number of permanent employees in the NDIA to 3,000 when the Productivity Commission had estimated 10,000 were needed.

In 2018, it was reported that the NDIA were spending about $10 million a year for legal services employed to attempt to prevent people appealing for more money under the scheme or to prevent them from accessing the scheme. They lost about 40% of their cases.

The Morrison Government set up a Drought Future Fund for farmers using $3.9 billion “repurposed” from the NDIS.

Josh Frydenberg’s not-quite-a-surplus in 2019 was built on a $4.6 billion underspend on the NDIS because of ‘delays getting people into the program’.

The Future Fund’s September 2020 Portfolio update showed they have $16.1 billion sitting in the DisabilityCare Australia Fund invested in long-term deposits and cash delivering a 1.1% return over the previous 12 months. Imagine how much greater a return it could bring if it was actually invested in supporting the disabled and their carers to lead productive lives.

It gets particularly galling when Morrison, in his speech, claims credit for female participation in the workforce – “as in particular, the seven women in my Cabinet know, female participation is at record highs under a Liberal and National Government.”

Absolutely no concept of the fight women still have with his party to have control over their own reproductive health, allowing them to plan and choose. No understanding of how Whitlam changed so many lives by offering free tertiary education. No recognition of how Labor’s paid parental leave and subsidised childcare are the contributing factors which allow women to return to work. And how Labor’s compulsory superannuation guarantee is an incentive towards giving women some independence in their retirement.

A lot can be explained about conservatives’ view by Scotty’s belief that “the economy is what people live in. It’s real.”

Actually, we live in a society.

Rather than Morrison’s view that “it all begins with keeping our economy strong”, it begins with supporting our people to be strong – facilitating them to be their best. Economic and social benefits flow from this rather than the other way around.

Coalition governments measure their success by corporate profits and private wealth. Labor governments invest in the people.

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