Newspapers, TV & the interwebz have been saturated the last fortnight with the fallout from Prime Minister Gillard’s spectacular smackdown on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. So much so, I was going to let it pass without comment. But as things appear to have kicked off again, I wanted to weigh in on one thing in particular. Apologies to anyone living under a rock and lacking back story here (try googling ‘Gillard smackdown’), but I’d prefer not to rehash most of it.
My view on the PMs speech? She took advantage of the golden opportunity Mr Abbott handed her to respond to what had been a sustained personal campaign against her, both within and outside the parliament. After two years of turning the other cheek – lest she be seen as a soft, weak girlie not up to the rough & tumble of politics; or worse and somewhat ironically, ’playing the gender card’ – the PM was done. Like it or loathe it (and personally I’m in Camp ‘Like’) it was pretty damn powerful stuff. And Abbott knew it – his face as the PM is handing him his arse was quite a sight.
What’s really bothering me about all of this though is the fact that gender now threatens to hijack our political landscape.
Now that the PM has made her point, it’s time to move on to governing (or ’oppositioning’ in the Libs’ case). I’m all for Ms Gillard calling out misogynists – we all should. She can call out sexism too if she wants. So long as she is consistent rather than political in her approach. It also means that her fellow ministers need to zip it with the digs about Mr Abbott’s attitudes to women. His policies and actions speak enough to that issue without trying to make gender the centrepoint of our political discussion.
If the PMs outburst was, as she claims, down to personal offence at personal attacks, then that’s her business and nowt to do with her party colleagues. Their job is to focus on policy – and govern. As for the Opposition, they need to extract the implication of gender from their language. To me, Mr Abbott’s comment today about the baby bonus clearly implied reference to the PM and her childlessness. He can claim otherwise – and has. But I think the comment was deliberate and Mr Abbott would have known exactly how it would be interpreted.
It’s actually a pretty good example of the type of needling with a dash of ‘who, me?’ plausible deniability that has been the Opposition’s MO. To be fair, he could have said it because he really is just fecking clueless and speaks before engaging his brain. But if that’s the case, he’s a walking diplomatic incident waiting to happen. Great qualities for a prospective PM!
For what it’s worth I don’t think Mr Abbott is a misogynist. I think the term is being thrown about far more liberally and inaccurately than it applies. And I don’t want to see the word lose its power. True misogyny, like any hatred, is an ugly, hurtful, divisive thing and should be taken seriously.
Personally, I can’t stand the guy. To the point that he actually repulses me. But I don’t think he HATES women. Chauvinist, with some rather outdated views on the place of women in our society? Sounds more like it.
This period until the next election is going to be a hard road for everyone. At the moment all we’re getting from our nation’s leaders are childish, personal attacks from both sides; a lot of spin and obfuscating in place of real policy; and an electorate that has a growing dislike of both party leaders and most of their respective front benches. Something’s got to give.
I only see one upside at the moment. When the next election rolls around, we could make a dent in our national debt simply by fining everyone who couldn’t bear turning up to vote for either leader.
So…see you at the pub on election day?