By Ad Astra
The Liberal Party has a disastrous affliction.
It affects many of its male members. It seems to be incurable. Those that suffer it are unaware of its presence.
In the Party’s official diagnostic nomenclature it is designated: ‘Tin Ear’.
There are two versions of this male condition:
Familial Tin Ear that afflicts those from a privileged background where unawareness of how the rest of the world lives has always prevailed, and
Acquired Tin Ear that afflicts lesser mortals who battle to survive the slings and arrows of daily life. Tired, they find it easier to be deaf to what they prefer not to hear.
There are two dominant symptoms:
Deafness to changing societal attitudes, and
Deafness to the behaviour of their male colleagues.
Sufferers yearn for the good old days when ‘the boys’ club’ held sway.
The condition was starkly exposed when Julia Banks, Liberal member for the marginal seat of Chisholm, announced that she would not be a Liberal candidate at the next election because she was fed up with “vindictive, mean-spirited grudges” and a culture of “bullying and intimidation” in the Party, so barefacedly exhibited during the hostile removal of Malcolm Turnbull in an attempt to install Peter Dutton.
Not only was she appalled by the removal of a sitting prime minister, she was dismayed by the bullying tactics of the Dutton camp trying to solicit her vote. Having given up a promising career in law and business to enter politics, she prepares now to leave – bitterly disappointed with politics and her colleagues.
But what was the response of her male counterparts?
Backbencher Craig Kelly told Sky News: “I think that you’ve got to roll with the punches in this game. We’re political parties. It’s a rough-and-tumble game.”
Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger denied claims of bullying within the party. Describing politics as “a rough business”, he insisted that neither the party’s state director nor chief government whip had received any official complaints of bullying or intimidation. His Tin Ear had heard nothing.
In other words girls, this notion of bullying is nonsense, a figment of your female imagination. And what’s more, if you really want to play in a man’s world, to engage in the rough and tumble of politics, get used to the punches, and learn to roll with them. Don’t complain. If it’s too hot in the political kitchen, quit. Leave it to the men! At least they know how to handle roughhouse tactics!
Women MPs might have expected some support from their female colleagues, but Liberal senator Helen Kroger, who now chairs the party’s women’s committee, sided with the men, insisting that ’while leadership crises were “unique” and “difficult” events, the party did not have a bullying problem.’ She said that some females were ‘not suited to politics’, but conceded that intimidation or verbal harassment should not occur in any workplace. But speaking with Stan Grant on the ABC’s Matter of Fact, past Liberal Senator Judith Troeth contradicted Kroger. She confirmed the bullying: she had received phone calls from Liberal females about it.
Too many politicians are trapped in the self-centred bubble of Canberra politics with tin ears that will not hear, indeed cannot hear what so many in our society are saying: bullying and intimidation are no longer acceptable in any workplace. Moreover, they seem unwilling to accept that the Canberra parliamentary hothouse is indeed a workplace, where the same rules of conduct ought to apply.
Female politicians must despair. Despair that they are still being treated like they always have been – as second rate; and despair that the men who share responsibilities with them are so deaf, so insensitive, so uncaring, so accepting of bully-boy tactics, so sure of the dominance of their gender, so alpha male.
They have put up with overbearing male behaviour without complaint until now. What tipped the balance was the Dutton insurgency, redolent with self-interest, nastiness, overbearing behaviour, bullying, and determination to kill off the party leader and replace him with their favourite, odious though he was to all but his supplicants. Enough was enough for the women. They were not prepared to take it any more.
But where did the protests get them? Julia Banks got nothing but insults from senior colleagues. No understanding, no reassurance.
Scott Morrison, realising that even more damage was being inflicted on his deeply traumatised party, lying buried and bleeding under the rubble of the demolition it had brought about, intervened with what he hoped would be reassuring words: “I have no truck with bullying or intimidation in whatever form it is…I am the father of two young daughters and I have no truck with that sort of behaviour. One of the things we are moving quickly to do is restore the strong culture in the Liberal Party and bring the party together and show the stability and unity that is necessary.”
Will the girls be convinced? Why should they be? Bullying behaviour has been endemic within the party for years. They know Morrison’s tub-thumping words of reassurance will fall limply on the tin ears of his alpha male colleagues. They know the entrenched behavioural pattern of their male colleagues will not change. They know the nature and persistent behaviour of the usual suspects: Abbott, Abetz, Andrews, Dutton, Joyce, even Morrison himself. They are too smart to be deceived by claptrap.
They witnessed ‘Ditch the Witch’ abuse hurled at Julia Gillard by Tony Abbott; they remember Alan Jones’ advice that she should be ‘tied in a chaff bag, taken to sea and dumped’. Liberal males have form in the bullying stakes.
So where are the Liberal women left?
It seems pretty obvious. There will be no apology, no compromise from their male counterparts, certainly no rapprochement.
All they can expect from macho Liberal males is: ‘Get used to it girls’.
This article by Ad Astra was originally published on The Political Sword.
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