Posts Tagged Tony Abbott
As readers will probably have figured out, I like to follow Australian politics. As you may have guessed (and those who know me would know), I also like to talk about Australian politics. People I associate with know this, so they tend to engage me whenever an issue in Australian politics catches their attention — I even have some friendships based around these conversations.
So when there is a huge scandal in Australian politics that the whole world is talking about, I expect that it will come up somewhere. Sure enough, a lot of people have been asking me about Julia Gillard’s now world-famous speech calling Tony Abbott a misogynist. My answer has surprised a few people, so I now feel the need to write a post and justify it. Simply put:
I don’t really care.
It just doesn’t really interest me. I watched a recording of the speech and got bored after a couple of minutes. Since it was such a big thing, I went back and watched the rest later, but now I just want that 10 minutes back.
So why this uncharacteristic apathy? Well, I don’t really see this as anything new. The issue that was much more important/interesting was the resignation of Speaker Peter Slipper because of the revelation of lewd and offensive text messages that he sent his former staffer.
The Slipper issue I care about. In fact, I might care enough to write a whole post on the right to privacy and the dilemmas that this kind of situation brings up (ie should someone be forced to resign over what were really private comments, no matter how offensive they were?)
Gillard’s speech? Well, the reaction says it all really. Below are a few responses from friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds (for obvious reasons, I am not mentioning any names and have slightly edited some of the comments for length):
Wow go Julz! She schooled Abbott #likeaboss
Julia Gillard strikes me as the sort of university feminist who screams “chauvinist pig!” when you hold the door for her and “woman-hater!” if you just let it swing back in her face.
Look, I just had to post it. Fucking brilliant. I could watch this over and over again. … There should be a whole channel devoted to this one video.
I look forward to the rude shock that the lefties who are currently engaged in self-congratulation and saying how amazing Gillard’s performance yesterday was will receive when they realise voters havn’t fallen for her BS…
Yes, Tony Abbott, you were just destroyed.
Gillard stands by Thomson after prostitute revelations. Now stands by Slipper after texts. Yet says Abbott is misogynist. #chutzpah
Amazing speech by our PM. Showing some serious leadership.
And so on.
What was really remarkable about these comments were that there was a very clear divide, but it was not on gender lines, nor was it even on the lines of people who are generally feminist versus people who aren’t. The responses that I have seen were split exactly down party lines. Labor supporters loved it, Liberal supporters mocked it.
And there is the reason why I find the whole thing boring.
Gillard’s speech was not a scathing attack on Abbott to expose his deeply held sexism, and neither was it a blatant display of hypocrisy in defence of a real misogynist.
What was it? An uninspiring partisan response to a successful partisan power-play. It was smart PR — a very clever way to divert the public conversation away from the Slipper debacle.
Abbott was trying to embarrass the government while also taking away the vote that they had from Slipper being speaker, Gillard was trying to defend her majority by recycling old allegations at Abbott.
I have annexed a breakdown of the arguments that Gillard used at the end of this post, but more important than what was there is what was missing: there was absolutely nothing about Abbott’s record in office or any policies that he has proposed which harm women, it was a purely personal attack on Abbott’s character. There is no real policy issue at all and it contributes little to the Australian debate, it’s just boring.
That is why its effect will never be anything other than to provoke cheers from Labor supporters and jeers from Liberal supporters. It was not aimed at ‘exposing Abbott’, so much as spurring-on people who already don’t like Abbott. The Liberals had a bit of a coup when Slipper’s text messages were made public and Labor countered with a clever diversion to mitigate the damage. Yawn.
Until I started this post, I had been filtering out the discussion around this issue. It has joined the categories of things that set-off my mental killswitch — like the carbon tax, Gillard “backstabbing” Rudd, and anything that uses the phrases: “clean energy future”, “working Australians”, “great big lie”, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”, “
fair go”, “getting on with the job” etc etc.
Now that I am done, I am free to go back to not caring. Trust me, that’s a relief.
He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros. The Leader of the Opposition says “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?”
And then a discussion ensues, and another person says “I want my daughter to have as much opportunity as my son.” To which the Leader of the Opposition says “Yeah, I completely agree, but what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”
Then ensues another discussion about women’s role in modern society, and the other person participating in the discussion says “I think it’s very hard to deny that there is an underrepresentation of women,” to which the Leader of the Opposition says, “But now, there’s an assumption that this is a bad thing.”
I have looked for a full transcript of this discussion and I can’t find it anywhere online. Abbott was not expressing a viewpoint in those comments, they were inquisitive and hypothetical. In context, they could well be completely innocuous. Then again, they may not be, but I will not make up my mind until I am shown a full transcript. A couple of soundbites extracted from a whole conversation is not sufficient to condemn anyone.
This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism. And then of course it goes on. I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out.” I was very personally offended by those comments. You said that in March 2004, I suggest you check the records.
Doesn’t convince me. Whatever Abbott’s stance may be on abortion policy, there is no reason why he has to personally support it.
I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of this carbon pricing campaign, the Leader of the Opposition said “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” Thank you for that painting of women’s roles in modern Australia.
Gotta hand it to the PM, this one is pretty convincing. I am very reluctant to attribute anything to a “gaffe“, but this does show that Abbott harbours a degree of subconscious discrimination. But then, there is the whole “gaffe” issue.
And then of course, I was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition catcalling across this table at me as I sit here as Prime Minister, “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself…”, something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.
That I don’t agree with. I have no doubt that an unmarried male Prime Minister would be attacked on the grounds that he was unmarried.
I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said “Ditch the witch.” I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch.
Now that is just spurious. So Abbott was photographed standing next to the wrong sign at an anti-carbon tax rally, what does that have to do with anything? I have seen several prominent Labor and Green MPs standing next to the flags of terrorist organisations and nobody batted an eyelid.
The scandal over Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s character is set to explode as another incident from his past is brought to light.
Susie Somethingorother, who went to kindergarten with Mr Abbott, has gone public over an incident in 1960 when Mr Abbott – then aged three – refused to give her the red crayon. This marks the latest in a series of discoveries that seem to portray Mr Abbott as a bully who has a problem with women.
“I cannot recall precisely what I was drawing, however it may have been a picture of barnyard,” said Ms Somethingorother. “I do distinctly remember asking him very nicely for the red crayon and him shouting ‘no! I’m drawing a firetruck!’”
“The response was unnecessarily aggressive and entirely disproportionate to what was quite an innocent request. I found him very intimidating.”
Ms Somethingorother claims to have broken out in tears as a result of Mr Abbott’s conduct. She then proceeded to run to their supervisor, who castigated Mr Abbott for “not sharing like they’d discussed”.
In order to avoid further disciplinary action, Mr Abbott eventually gave the crayon to Ms Somethingorother. Shockingly, in the aftermath of the incident, the Opposition leader allegedly began referring to his former playmate as “Smelly Susie the tattle-tale”.
“It is a clear sign that Tony is a bully and hates women,” Ms Somethingorother said.
Another of Mr Abbott’s kindergarten classmates, who chose to remain nameless, corroborated Ms Somethingorother’s story.
“I don’t recall the precise incident in question, however that does sound like something Tony would have done. He was quite the schoolyard terror,” said the source, who claims that Mr Abbott always refused to let other kids play with his Flinstone Phone.
Mr Abbott has denied all allegations, however he initially claimed to have no memory whatsoever of the incident. As many “experts” have pointed out, if he does not remember committing the deeds in question, it is not clear how he can be sure that they never happened.
“Surely if he had genuinely not done it he’d remember not doing it,” observed the Age’s political editor.
Labor MPs have expressed serious concern over the incident, saying that it proves Mr Abbott is not fit to be Prime Minister, that he is a homophobe, that he hates women, that he eats children, and that he is “just a bad, bad man”. They also accused Mr Abbott of running a “relentlessly negative campaign”.
The best argument that Julia Gillard seems to have come up with in defence of her carbon tax is that Abbott won’t be able to repeal it because Labor will block his attempt, as well as spruiking the pre-emptive bailouts her government has decided to give to everyone.
Well, there are also points like this:
Did you know the Chinese company Suntech, whose chief executive Zhengrong Shi was educated at the University of NSW, became the world’s largest producer of silicon solar modules in 2010? Or that in 2010 global investment in generating renewable energy such as solar and wind power overtook investment in generating energy from fossil fuels?
Well, fortunately for the Chinese government, it doesn’t have to spend much money developing companies like Suntech because it allows workers to be kept in on-site barracks and work 48-hours straight for less money than Gillard probably spends on breakfast. That makes Suntech a lot more viable than it would be in a country where joining a trade union wasn’t a good way to disappear of the face of the planet. But then, people my age don’t care about democracy anyway, so maybe the Chinese model is a good idea.
Let’s throw another company into the mix: Solyndra. Here’s a good piece from Juliet Eilperin in Wired a little while ago that describes that whole kerfuffle:
In 2005, VC investment in clean tech measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The following year, it ballooned to $1.75 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association. By 2008, the year after Doerr’s speech, it had leaped to $4.1 billion. And the federal government followed. Through a mix of loans, subsidies, and tax breaks, it directed roughly $44.5 billion into the sector between late 2009 and late 2011. Avarice, altruism, and policy had aligned to fuel a spectacular boom.
Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities—the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector—wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells—but none more dramatically than solar.
That, right there, was what happens when the government artificially props-up an unviable industry. The government was committed to Solyndra, so had to keep pumping money into it, even when it started to become obvious that they were just never going to be as competitive as they had hoped. A few billion taxpayer dollars later and the now gigantic Solyndra imploded, leaving hundreds of people without jobs and an entire industry in ruin.
Now to pick-up on a point in today’s Australian editorial:
Given that Mr Abbott has subscribed to the same carbon reduction target as the government — cutting Australia’s emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 — the framing of the debate in this fashion pushes the onus on to him to produce more substance. His “direct action” policy relies on the government picking winners rather than the market seeking out least-cost abatement, so it is bound to be less efficient than a trading scheme, and therefore more costly on the economy. Mr Abbott should not escape by simply pledging to repeal the carbon tax. He must show how he can meet his target without creating a large burden on the budget. Scepticism about his ability to do this abounds, especially given he promises to provide tax cuts for families and business, while scrapping the carbon and mining taxes.
See, the Coalition’s “direct action policy” is not dissimilar from the policy the US was following when the whole Solyndra thing broke out. Tony Abbott is essentially arguing that the government should be funding carbon-saving ideas in order to reach the emissions target that he agrees we should have. The carbon tax is a prima facie tax, but the direct action scheme is an indirect tax. After all, someone has to foot the bill for the hundreds of millions of dollars that would actually be required to implement it, and no prizes for guessing who that is (hint: me and you).
Why the government hasn’t been using this as an argument is beyond me. Whatever flaws its policy may have, it’s vastly superior to the Coalition’s (and ironically, more in-line with the Coalition’s general ideology than the Coalition’s policy is).
My last post led to a war of words with a friend who is, shall we say, on the Orthodox side of things. We ended up agreeing to disagree – I think Israel should recognise Mazorti Judaism in its legal framework, he thinks it’s unfair to use the word “archaic” to describe the belief that women can’t be good leaders, because it has connotations of being outdated when that view clearly isn’t.
Meanwhile, I also had to explain my view on gay marriage to a different friend – who, thankfully, did not take quite as much of an issue with the Mazorti movement – and I saw a few Facebook conversations going on regarding the revelation that Tony Abbot has a gay sister and has *gasp* not shunned her. In fact, he treats her quite well.
Why is that a “shock”? Well, Tony Abbot holds the point of view that “marriage” is something that happens between a man and a woman. To numerous proponents of gay marriage, this means that he is a priori a homophobe. I definitely saw at least one comment thread (that I couldn’t comment on…) where someone accused him of trying to “hide” his “bigotry” through treating his sister well when he clearly is actually a bigot because he is against gay marriage.
This is a stupid argument to make. There seems to be this horrible tendency amongst fanatics to assume that anyone who disagrees with them must be doing so out of prejudice. I see it all the time with the Middle East conflict. Being anti-Israel is antisemitic, and being pro-Israel is Islamophobic and homophobic and sexist and normative and imperialist and neo-colonialist and… you get the picture. It also happens with immigration, feminism and plenty of other areas. It’s a very simple argument, it’s almost always wrong and it actually works against your point – no one is ever going to agree with you if you keep calling them a sexist because “Israeli occupation hurts Palestinian women as well as men”. Especially when you have a month-long summit on the global status of women and this is the only condemnation you could come up with – as if everything is fine and dandy everywhere else in the world (it isn’t). Yeah UN Commission on the Status of Women, I’m looking at you.
Big M little m
The problem is that they are arguing about different things. To gay marriage proponents, “marriage” is a right. To Tony Abbot, “marriage” means the marriage described by Lord Penzance in Hyde v Hyde & Woodmansee (1866) LR 1 P & D 130, at 133:
The position or status of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ is a recognised one throughout Christendom: the laws of all Christian nations throw about that status a variety of legal incidents during the lives of the parties, and induce definite rights upon their offspring. … I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.
When he said “Christendom”, he meant “Christendom”. He actually distinguished between “Christendom” and Turkey, where the Sultan had a whole harem of wives and “marriage” was between one man and one or more women.
Notice, though, there are two different components to “marriage” that the good Lord was talking about. Let’s call them “marriage 1″ and “marriage 2″:
- The first component is the “status” of husband and wife. As he said, this status gives the married couple certain legal rights and also may give rights to their children. What rights are these? Well Lord Penzance couldn’t pin that down, mostly because it varies from place to place. For a whole variety of reasons, marriage law is slightly different everywhere, although everywhere has some kind of marriage law.
- The second component is this controversial sentence that half of Australia wants to remove from the Marriage Act and the other half is fighting tooth-and-nail to keep: “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”.
Protect what institution again?
This is why there is conflict. When Henry VIII broke from the Vatican and founded his own church, it was because he disagreed with the Catholic idea that you could not be divorced without approval of the Pope – and preferred the more progressive Anglican idea that you could not be divorced without permission from the King. He created the Anglican Church, appointed himself as its head, and declared that as the embodiment of the Church and the Sovereign, he could marry whomever he damn well chose.
So began the Anglican institution of Marriage that is now being strongly championed by Australia’s Catholic community – an involuntary union, forever, of one common church and one common law, to the exclusion of all others.
I believe that State marriage is destroying marriage. Enforcing marriage 2 in a legal system is done today in some Muslim countries and the results are horrible and inhumane. This is where adultery is criminalised and punished – in some cases with death by stoning – or where boys and girls are married-off by their families for money or social status and then never permitted to separate. Thankfully, “Christendom” has become “the West” and we no longer have a taste for this kind of thing. What that means, however, is that marriage has been watered-down over centuries.
What does marriage mean today? To some, it means permanent residency in Australia; to others, it means a tax break; to others, it means a baby bonus; to others, it means inheritance. It also does not carry much weight – the idea of a union “for life” is disappearing throughout society. Marriage is becoming a temporary arrangement, whereby a man and a woman can join in a union for a few years, one gets an Aussie passport, the other gets some nice inheritance, and both get tax breaks. Meanwhile, neither of them “excludes all others” and they eventually get divorced, meaning that the whole “for life” thing didn’t happen either.
What I have just described is the legal institution of “marriage”, as it exists in Australia in 2012. However it may be defined in the Marriage Act, this is clearly not “the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”. So here is my question: why would any Catholic like Tony Abbot even want to keep that? Let alone exclude two men or two women from being a part of it. And how is excluding gay couples from that institution “saving marriage”? Do you really think that allowing two people of the same gender to “marry” is the silver bullet that will tear down the institution?
Honey, we need a divorce
This is why the whole debate is so wrong. The people who want to “legalise gay marriage” do not want to change marriage 2, but they want gay people to participate in marriage 1. The people who oppose “gay marriage” want to preserve marriage 2 and so they refuse to change marriage 1.
To put it another way: marriage 2 does not discriminate – any person, regardless of sexual preference, is able to become part of a “voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”. Marriage 1 does discriminate – it gives legal rights to heterosexual couples and denies homosexual couples those same rights.
So what do I want? I want a divorce – of church and state. I want to sever the centuries-old union between legal marriage and Christian marriage and allow each to go back to where they should be: one in court, the other in church.
I want to abolish the Marriage Act and replace it with something called the Civil Unions Act or similar. An Act that would allow two consenting adults to be joined in whatever over-politicised legal mess they want, but would leave marriage out of it.
Marriage can go back to being “a union between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others” in substance and not just in name. Different religious denominations could marry whoever they want however they want and could choose whether to recognise each other’s marriages according to their beliefs. The State would no longer need to be the arbiter of who can and cannot call themselves “husband” and “wife”.
My bet? Marriage would mean something again, because it would be something that people do when they believe in it. It also would also mean that marriage advocates could concentrate on things that would actually save marriage – like more accessible couples therapy and childcare.
Gay marriage is not the issue, there are plenty of provisions in the Marriage Act that have already eroded marriage beyond recognition. We need to stop talking past each other on gay marriage and realise the real enemy here – the Marriage Act. If you want to save marriage, stop making it a political issue and let it be about morals again.
The so-called “Malaysia solution” is dead in the water, taking with it whatever hope Labor had of being reelected in the next decade. With poll ratings at historic lows and still dropping, it would take something drastic to change the fortunes of Gillard and Co.
So what if that’s not so crazy? Maybe something drastic is exactly what is needed. Think about it this way – the biggest tragedy of the High Court stopping us from sending asylum seekers over to Malaysia because apparently Malaysia doesn’t respect “human rights” enough for some people is that we have lost face with Malaysia. It’s not a good look for Australia, the superpower of the Asia/Pacific region, to have a crummy little country like Malaysia looking all indignant and complaining to everyone that we don’t keep our promises.
After all, we had an agreement, right? 800 Iranians and Afghanis for 4,000 Burmese. Fair trade. Now we have to take the Burmese and we still have all these damn Afghanis sitting around with nowhere to ship them off to.
What would not only give the Gillard government the popularity bump that it needs, but also help our great nation look like we’re the shit once more? Put that way, the answer seems glaringly obvious:
We need to invade Malaysia!
Seriously, what could possibly go wrong? Malaysia doesn’t have any money! There’s no way they could possibly compete with all of those pricey American fighter jets that we have gathering dust in the outback somewhere. And special forces? Australia has the best in the world baby, those Malaysians got nothin’. It’d be over in a day, then we can send as many of these goddamn
terrorists asylum seekers there as we wanted. What would the Malaysians do about it? Cry to mama?
More to the point, everyone around would know that you don’t fuck with the Aussies. And history has shown time and time again that nothing boosts the old approval ratings of politicians than a good war, especially if they can declare victory! It makes for a great photo-op and, as we all know, photo-ops win elections.
I for one am looking forward to being able to use the newly-enslaved people of Malaysia for simple tasks that I can’t be bothered doing at the moment. I’m also looking forward to adding a few new exotic holiday destinations to Australia’s repertoire – it’d be great for our tourism industry. Plus, there are heaps of natural resources just sitting there for the taking.
Finally, Australia doesn’t really have any great victories under its belt. Our greatest achievement was getting our ass handed to us by Turkey. We need a better excuse to go out and get smashed – one that doesn’t require us to still be lucid enough at dawn to stand and watch some dudes walking past. We can turn ANZAC day into the day of mourning that it deserves to be and rather celebrate our nation’s military prowess on Malaysia Victory Day, hopefully somewhere in the July-October public holiday dry season.
So Gillard, Smith, Rudd, quit sitting there with your head in your hands (or your hospital pillow) and start drafting that declaration of war. Australians need you. The world needs you.