Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
If there was ever an appropriate time to repurpose old Ben Kenobi’s “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced” (as if there’s ever an inappropriate time), it would be this week, upon the announcement that Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott would be returning the women’s advisory function to the office of Prime Minister & Cabinet.
After all, surely nothing strikes terror into the hearts of millions of women like the prospect of policy that affects them being handled by the man who says things like “I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question... [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don't give it to someone lightly, that's what I would say.”
(That’s all a wee joke, of course, there are far more alarming things affecting women in Australia than Mr Abbott’s role as a 1950s gender politics quote generator, like the fact that Indigenous women are the fastest-growing demographic in Australian prisons. Since Indigenous Affairs is also being punted to the PM&C, maybe Mr Abbott will have something to say about this pressing issue, too.)
Yes, you could argue, as Mr Abbott himself did, that moving women’s policies, Indigenous Affairs, and Deregulation to the PM&C will "ensure that these key whole-of-government priorities are at the centre of government". But it’s difficult to dismiss the very real possibility that the almost total lack of women in Mr Abbott’s cabinet, as Anne Summers noted, “does not bode well for how women's policy will proceed under his stewardship”.
Alas, unless anyone has handy access to a clairvoyant with a 100% strike rate, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the Abbott government rolls its sleeves up and gets to work. All we have now is the opportunity to take comfort in gallows humour before the country slides back into the Dark Ages. So, In the meantime, based solely on his record on women’s issues thus far, here’s a list of people and things that would probably have just as much of a crack at being Minister for Women as Mr Abbott.
Tony! Toni! Toné!
Why not get the ‘90s Oakland soul superstars to reform and take on the women’s advisory function? This way we don’t even have to change all the official letterheads. And what’s more, we know they’re committed to providing the women of Australia with Whatever [They] Want: “Whatever you want/Girl you know I can provide/Whatever you need (whenever you need me)/Call 632-2135.” That’s more than you can say for any attempt to ring up Parliament House.
A box of raspberry leaf tea-bags
Every woman’s best friend! Good for cramps! Far less likely to cause searing headaches and existential agony!
Who better to remind the women of Australia that they have absolutely nothing to complain about than the happiness-obsessed tyran from Terra Alpha, Helen A? This Margaret Thatcher-influenced villainess from Doctor Who’s 25th season banned sadness on threat of death; maybe Mr Abbott can take a few tips from her ruling techniques. Women of Australia complaining about a lack of maternity leave and childcare? Glue them to the floor with lemonade!
Or perhaps we could get R.Money and his binders of women in for a well-paid Australian sabbattical? After all, it’s not like he’s doing much these days, I’m sure he’d be glad of the distraction from his crushing defeat at the hands of an actual politician.
He might be a noseless overlord with a predilection for snakes and killing children, but the artist formerly known as Tom Riddle at least had a “cabinet” that boasted a better representation of women than Mr Abbott’s:
An inanimate carbon rod
Look, who am I kidding? We’re probably all screwed.