A vast sea of black-clad women of all ages and some men seeking justice for women, swells around Parliament House, Canberra, as former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, in suffragette white, tells us “the system is broken”, Monday, while inside, a tone deaf PM, snubs them. He won’t meet them. Doesn’t want have a bar of their petition by Survivors and Allies to demand justice for gendered violence in workplaces including Parliament, although it’s addressed to him.
Labor’s Anthony Albanese uses Question (evasion) Time to tell Morrison he’s “not got a tin ear but a wall of concrete.” Saying “sorry” to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous children was beyond John Winston Howard who discouraged his MPs from attending Sorry Day marches, a Liberal insider reminds Paul Bongiorno, but Morrison is more violent.
Women should be happy they’re not “met with bullets, he says, in Freudian slip, as he lists all the things “his government” is doing to “fix” male violence, (although he uses the popular euphemism, violence against women, a neutered term which bestows victimhood on women while obscuring the men who perpetrate the violence). Of course, the very next day, he’s protesting that he’s been wilfully misinterpreted. He’s always the innocent party. Or bystander.
Oddly by Wednesday there is still no Hansard transcript online. Perhaps The Fixer’s taken it down for steam-cleaning.
As always, Morrison’s a model of enlightened equability and charm. There’s nothing remotely truculent about his own rebuff. His habit of turning his back on Opposition speakers. Nor his pointed refusal to accept a petition bearing ninety four thousand women’s signatures. Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and The Greens Larissa Waters happily accept it.
Tireless advocate for women and iconic feminist, Minister for Women, Marise Payne won’t meet the women of the March for Justice. The petition? She helpfully suggests that they email it. As you would a rape allegation.
It need not be thus. Never before has a PM been given so many chances to lead and repelled them all. He rallies the troops in the party room with another inspirational Kokoda riff. “We’re on a narrow path. We need to have look out for each other and focus on what matters.” He’s been pumped since he rode in a tank in Queensland last October. He did leave failed LNP candidate, Deb Frecklington, behind but we can’t all get in the cockpit at the same time can we?
And as Morrison says, the rise of women should not come at the expense of men.
On International Women’s Day 2019, Morrison upstages a sensational speech by Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer,
“That’s not in our values. That is an absolutely Liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too. We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.”
Such gnomic moments, doubtless, bring joy to The Big Swinging Dicks who like the PM are happy to talk about gender equality as long as they don’t have to do anything to promote it, but he does get a bit of cheek from Christian Porter’s number one fanboy, Murdoch chorister, Professor Peter Van Onselen, who tells his PM that he’s talking nonsense.
“Actually I’m sorry but if men have taken a finite number of roles not on merit but on patronage then there will be losers in what are sometimes zero sum situations.”
Former Deputy Labor leader and current Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek tweets a neater rejoinder,
Gender equality is good for both women and men. It gives all of us more freedom and choice at work, at home, and in our relationships. Feminism is a fight for equality between men and women, what’s so complicated about that?
At the moment Morrison himself could do no worse Unless of course he reprises Things That Batter, Alexander Downer’s witticism. While promoting the Liberal slogan “The Things That Matter”, in a reference to abusive men, Downer quipped that the party’s domestic violence policy would accordingly be named “The Things That Batter.”
15 March may enter history as Morrison’s Ides of March, the day when Caesar Morrison stabbed himself in the rotunda.
Even Murdoch rags talk of an Hawaii 2.0. Instead of leadership, Morrison rejigs tricky issues, reframes them into inanity, slogans – or an absurd word salad. If women want to complain, well, has he got news for them? Monday, he waves a list; a bull-necked coercive controller calling attention to his own selfless generosity. And its billion dollar price-tag.
His office gets out a calculator. Tots up what’s been spent, since 2014, on just one bit of part of one issue. Violence.
No-one’s bluffed. Take his Economic Security Statement for Women which has scrupulously erased any reference to discrimination and the way it fosters inequality which leads to lower pay for women. As Kristine Ziwica notes,
“… we are dealing with a government that does not recognise discrimination as a factor in women’s inequality or the gender pay gap. It’s all about women’s “choices”. In effect, women are to blame, and if they can just be helped to make better “choices”, all will be right with the world.” Undervaluing women’s labour is part of the same mindset. Jane Hume tells women to “work just a little a bit harder” if you want to get into the boys’ club that is our parliament.
“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.”
Never; not for a nanosecond, will Morrison concede the truth; under his neoliberal bosses’ government – women have done more work for less pay under worse conditions than at any other time in the modern era. And it’s getting worse. In part, the pandemic has paused the economy but the prime cause is his government’s economic mismanagement.
It’s a colossal fail which has taken us from the pinnacle to the poorhouse in just seven years, writes Alan Austin who also notes the paradox that the more outrageous the government’s lies about its economic performance, the more the public is inclined to believe them. He points to unemployment, for example,
Australia’s jobless rate today is a miserable 6.35%. That ranks 81st in the world and a dismal 17th in the OECD. During the last Global Financial Crisis under Labor, Australia ranked third in the OECD.
Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison’s inept mismanagement has also caused catastrophic decline in wealth per adult, wages growth, productivity, retail trade, infrastructure investment, the value of the dollar and economic freedom.
An inexorable downward spiral continues despite some positive circumstances.
The states defeated the pandemic. Vaccines are now available. Demand for Australia’s exports remains strong. Commodity prices are soaring. The trade surplus is at an all-time high. Corporate profits are booming. The Parliament permits this Government to splurge unlimited billions borrowed from future generations.
Economic mismanagement drives inequality, particularly in the context of Porter’s IR “reforms” which threaten workers’ conditions and further suppress wage growth at a time when it is widely understood that wage stagnation is a key force in stalling the Australian economy. Porter’s reforms also entrench casual work, insecure poorly-paid jobs which are more likely to be taken up by women – 67.2 per cent of part-time workers are now women.
Even on spending, the PM is a hypocrite. In Budget 2020, the Morrison government cuts over a million dollars from its anti-domestic violence school programme in a year with more male and family violence than refuge workers have ever seen before. Fifty-five women are killed. One in four women experience violence from an intimate partner. Men’s violence is more severe or more frequent, report half of all women with previous experience of abuse.
Morrison’s list doesn’t amount to a hill of beans at the best of times. It’s not how much – it’s how well his government invests its vast wealth in its biggest human resource – its women- (there are only 994 men to every 1000 women in Australia.) But more women are suffering in more ways than ever before.
Whatever’s on his list, it’s not working. It’s an indictment of his government’s failure to begin to engage with male violence. All-female police stations are up for discussion on The Drum. Of course. Talk about parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. There’s a pathological fear of investigating structural causes of violence because they lead uncomfortably and directly towards the casual misogyny, discrimination and toxic masculinity that is integral to many conservative parties including our own Liberal Party culture.
It’s a potent brew, fuelled by privilege, entitlement and elite private schooling which reaches its quintessence amongst the Nationals whose party bigwigs just couldn’t reach a decision when Catherine Marriott lodged a sexual harassment and/or sexual misconduct complaint against Barnaby Joyce in 2018.
Worse, Morrison has form; a long history of gaslighting, as Kristine Ziwica notes.
You can’t trust anything he says, especially when it comes to reciting statistics which, he reckons, somehow show that women have never had it so good. Or they don’t know how lucky they are. All the evidence points to a crisis, an ugly new intensification in the subjection of women as John Stuart Mill termed it, or as Eva Cox writes
“Women, particularly feminists, have spent the last four decades seeking equality with men, but have failed to change inequitable male-driven values. We started well in the 1970s and into the 1980s but as neoliberalism took over our progress stopped. We had gained laws for equality in some areas but without the necessary value and attitude changes, so outcomes were very limited.”
Dr Cox notes a paradigm shift – or a change in world view, which has caused us to treat each other as economic units, not sentient living beings. She laments the ways this has turned us away from our understanding of our needs and wants as a society and into a competitive marketplace instead. In the process, personal financial gain is elevated while at the same time most social needs are either devalued or demonised – as in this government’s war on the poor.
Feminist equity changes were replaced by macho self-interest criteria.
“We are all here today, not because we want to be here, because we have to be here,” Ms Higgins says, on Capital Hill although she and her partner, lobbyist, David Sharaz have been briefed against by the PM’s office; hounded out of town.
Ms Higgins’ testimony is part of a series of speakers including Australian of the Year, the amazing Grace Tame, who address an extraordinary March4Justice, a nationwide movement of over a hundred thousand women to call out those accountable for women’s inequality and safety in a nation where there are two million survivors of sexual violence.
It’s an unprecedented mass demonstration of women triggered less by reports of an alleged rape at Parliament House and an alleged rape in 1988 by Attorney General, Christian Porter than by the workplace culture exposed – and by the ways in which the rape victims are being denied justice, a theme repeated across a nation in which ninety nine per cent of rapists will not be prosecuted for their crime.
Between 2010 and 2018, rates of sexual assault victimisation recorded by police for Australians aged 15 and over rose by more than 30% (from 66.8 to 90.2 per 100,000) (based on ABS 2019).
The Women’s March 4 Justice upstages any post-mortem of the Liberal Party’s near total extinction in Saturday’s state election, a rout which leaves Nationals’ leader, Mia Davies, contemplating a coalition with the two or three Liberal MPs left. Five thousand, mainly women march in Perth, Sunday.
Labor wins big in WA; a win for all pollsters who got it right in “an historic landslide” and “bloodbath”, as Nine News’ hacks bung on the metaphor. It’s a win helped, in no small way, by Zak Kirkup, the first WA Opposition Leader to lose his own seat since 1933; the first ever to hoist the white flag before the battle; the Gideon Pillow of Australian politics.
One of history’s less successful leaders, Confederate General, Gideon Pillow ordered his men to entrench on the wrong side of fortifications at Camargo, a village below the Rio Grande in 1845 in the Mexican American War. While digging a parapet on the side protecting the depot from the town, Pillow dug the accompanying ditch on the other.
But we can’t blame his training. He had none. It’s the same for our nation’s politicians, unless you count debating, or Law. But they more than make for it by choosing the right parents and schools. Our archetypal anti-hero Pillow, (1806-1878) is appointed by his former law partner and mate, President James K. Polk. Their friendship firms in 1838, when Pillow defends Polk’s brother on a murder rap. Seven years’ later, an expansionist and manifest-destiny-man Polk makes Pillow a Major-General in the Mexican-American War; as they dress up a land grab. But what a war it was.
For Mexico it’s the Intervención Estadounidense en México – the U.S. intervention in Mexico and it comes after the US simply annexed Texas, which Mexico considered Mexican territory.
Poor sanitation helped turn Camargo into a bog of filth and disease, a festering hell-hole under a blistering sun. Soldiers succumbed to influenza, smallpox, measles, malaria, and scurvy. At least ten per cent died of dysentery.
Seven years later, Pillow hides behind a tree rather than lead his men into battle at Stone’s River, a few days’ rout, which ends in 3 January 1863. A year earlier, he abandons Fort Donelson 11-16 Feb 1862, a handball tactic, where he’s given command only to pass the parcel to Brig. Gen. Simon B Buckner who surrenders to Ulysses S Grant.
Kirkup, who, also, bears a unique name, courtesy of his Yamatji grandfather, traditional owners of lands and coastal waters in Northern WA is to be commended on deploying Pillow tactics. It’s rare to see a leader concede defeat two weeks before a state election is held. A brave, if not foolhardy tactic. Saves a lot of fuss and bother later.
Obliterated; reduced, possibly, to a party of two, WA Liberal MPs will still cut a dash on a tandem as they bicycle around Cottesloe and back to take High Tea at Dr David Honey’s, one of the two, or at best three, Liberal MPs left with a seat. Dave’s always up for cuppa and with six children, doubtless, has ample room at his pad for a party meeting. Items on the agenda will include a review of his sublimely titled “Spring on the Swan” campaign soirees with fine wine and food held at Mimi and Willy Packer’s Mosman Park mansion on The Swan. Willy Packer is a name to be reckoned with out West.
Out East, things is crook in Tallarook and there’s still no work at Bourke. Footsore and forsaken job prospectors fossick on the national mullock-heap for cast-offs and scraps the lucky country yields up ahead of the abyss, the maw already yawning beneath their feet. In two weeks, Job Keeper will cut. It can’t go on forever, they say. But of course it can. There’s $60 billion in credit due to an embarrassing Treasury oversight – that no-one in government ever talks about.
While 3.24 million of us suffer privation under the poverty line, and two million survivors of sexual violence suffer the Morrison government saga of Reynolds and Porter, victims of trial by media, whom the rule of law exists to protect in the latest travesty of A Land Girt by Sleaze, a muffled titter erupts when a third man goes down in Morrison’s Cabinet as Health (and Aged Care) Minister, Greg Hunt is rushed to St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Sydney Tuesday, with what The Australian hypes into ” an infection scare”, later diagnosed as cellulitis of the upper thigh.
“They’re dropping like flies,” gasp Twitter’s sewer rats, agog as Morrison’s ministers ape David Coleman whose leave now equals an elephant’s gestation, on to the sick list. “Lying Cow” Linda Reynolds, off with a dodgy ticker, pays damages to settle out of court a defamation suit brought by former staffer, Brittany Higgins, who alleges that she told Reynolds that she was raped in the Minister’s office in 2019, only to be made to feel as if she were a problem.
The very Christian Porter, an alleged rapist, whose accuser, Kate Thornton, tragically took her own life is on leave to repair his mental health and get his crack legal team to file a defamation suit against Louise Milligan and the ABC. The team makes a shrewd choice of federal court despite Porter’s scorn for those who would go forum shopping for best chance of most favourable legal judgement.
Opting for the federal court is a bit of a trend recently with high stakes litigants who believe they will fare better without the prospect of a jury trial.
Given that his immense powers include appointing judges to the federal court, there’s a bit of a hitch for The Fixer back at the Prime Minister’s Office – but it’s quickly resolved by announcing that his assistant minister, Amanda Stoker, who called out the Queensland Premier for having her knee on the throat of Australian tourism is just the person to take over the court side of Porter’s responsibilities.
The fine legal line Porter treads in launching a case in a court which is created by government, a court in which he holds the authority to shape a judge’s career or indeed impede it should she wish to proceed to the High Court, as is the case with Justice Jayne Jagot the judge set to hear his case.
Jagot had her sights on the High Court last year and the backing of many around the Sydney Courts reports Kishor Napier-Raman in Crikey.
Incredibly, NSW Police resolved not to read an email from the Prime Minister’s office, which we learn this week, contained no attached dossier. Nor did Police have the wit to read the dossier hard copy provided by Labor Senate leader, Penny Wong in which the victim of the alleged rape, Kate Thornton documented her suffering and provided names and contact details of those whom she knew could help support her allegations.
While Porter’s crack legal team is pursuing a strategy which will give him every possible legal advantage, there remains the case of the Health Minister’s ill-health, a crisis he may battle valiantly but which may prove to put the skids under his career as the Covid vaccination roll-out begins to look alarmingly tardy and a bit of a shambles.
Luckily, it’s only the nation’s health that’s at stake and now that rumours that the Astra Zeneca vaccine – the one destined for we plebeians – not the Pfizer which the ruling elite have obtained, causes clots has been quashed, we can all sign up merrily online as instructed. But is Hunt really up to the jab? Early reports were ominous.
“Potentially serious” puffs NCA Newswire, Murdoch’s own AAP-lite, which keeps costs down and journos out of work, still spinning Hunt’s illness on his release, Saturday, while Sky warns that Hunt could battle his rash for weeks.
Sky’s the limit; as eager to take the lead in the Foxification of events as it is to sling mud and rotten slops in its public pillory.
Kevin Rudd reckons Fox will radicalise our politics because Murdoch’s following the same game plan that worked so well in the US. Give it ten years, he says.
We should heed Rudd who pops up genially midweek to give a National Press Club Address on The Case for Courage, a refreshing reminder that we still have leaders who are both intelligent and articulate. It’s just that we are seduced by the Murdoch media monopoly and its satellites, Stokes and Costello into voting in the utter duds.
Silver tongued Hunt, a Melbourne University Debating Society (MUDS) life member is a scion of the late Alan Hunt AO, MLA, a Hamer era planning Minister, who, in 1986, almost toppled Jihadi Jeff, Victoria’s militant neoliberal extremist. Kennett mob slashed public service jobs as it privatised transport, energy and roads and aimed to privatise 3000 hospital beds, 485 of which were tendered off by the time it lost office. As luck and dynastic right would have it, Hunt is fixed up in St Vinnies, Private and Public the best Sydney Hospital, money can buy. Chyron writers can’t resist the pun.
“Sick Hunt in hospital” runs the Sunrise chyron combining a character assessment along with their health report. Oddly, the Oz ignores other pathogens ravaging our body politic; a canker afflicting the nation, the wen in the commonwealth that other monstrous oxymoron, the Morrison government, which continues to flout the rule of law.
Must our plucky Health Minister battle a mystery bug along with his serial incompetence and chronic logorrhea, (a pathological loquacity), both of which also afflict his motormouth PM, Scott “Word Salad”, Morrison? If the bumpy course the course of the vaccine rollout is anything to go by, Hunt may do well to heed his boss’s kind offer to take over his job.
The Australian, the Liberal Party Pravda, stresses the mystery ailment is unrelated to Greg Minor’s vaccination aka the jabberer’s jab. The plot thickens. Could Greg be feeling a bit sick given the prospect of further questions about the now notorious Sydney Intervarsity debating competition of 1988, also attended by its-all-a-blur Christian Porter?
A nation, sick with worry, rejoices. There’ll be line-dancing down Main Street Mornington, led, doubtless, by Julie Bishop’s man-bag, David Panton, a former twenty-four hour chemist, who once made a mozza by supplying the peninsula with pills and potions. Hunt will be OK with an overnight stay and “fluids and antibiotics”, combined, one trusts, by an agile, innovative and resourceful hospital pharmacy in the form of one mouldy orange, lobbed into his gob.
Never before has the sick list, the staple of sports reporters, been so avidly peddled by our merchants of neoliberal national spin, Kerry Stokes, Peter Costello and The Dirty Digger Murdoch, the power-mad catspaw of multinational capitalism and its investor class, claque of climate-change deniers and backers of big pharma.
Little attention, if any, is given to the pathological sickness infecting our own body politic in which the government of the day can turn its back on half its population and deny women’s call for justice and equality. Already, there are signs that the Morrison government has no option but to sack its Attorney General and its Minister of Defence.
The March 4 Justice movement will not be placated by a paternalistic sermon on all the money the government has spent making women safe. Women of Australia are less safe than they have ever been before and the gains toward equality made by feminism in the last four decades that Eva Cox documents are in danger of being unwound by Morrison’s tin ear, his innate obduracy and Big Swinging Dickery – underpaved by his government’s fanatical devotion to neoliberalism, with its fetish for privatisation and its coercive commodification of social relationships.
Not so flash either is world health – neoliberalism is after all an international contagion – in its latest excrescence, intellectual property rights are being used to shore up a lethal inequality or the way our nation attaches itself like a limpet mine to the hull of big pharma and the sadistic cruelty and selfishness of wealthy states that is guaranteed to see poor nations suffer.
In “commandeering Covid vaccines, there will be about 40-50 million more cases of infections and perhaps 2 to 3 million additional deaths,” estimate David Legge and Sun Kim, both of the People’s Health Movement, Michael West reports.
Too many of these unnecessary deaths will be health workers.
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