Why the Coalition will never win over Australian women

Education Minister Christopher Pyne at the National Press Club.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne at the National Press Club. Photo: Andrew Meares

Ever since Tony Abbott celebrated victory by declaring that ‘the adults are back in charge’, a good proportion of us - including many of the people who cast their vote for the LNP - have been waiting for them to arrive. (They were certainly nowhere to be seen when it was revealed Abbott’s view of ‘the age of entitlement’ didn’t apply to him and his family.) And so we wait for the adults to appear while the government’s leadership team ponces about, full of the kind of barely concealed contempt for the electorate which characterised their days in opposition.

But I suppose you’d be cheesed off too if you were expected to pledge public allegiance to a Prime Minister whose interpersonal skills and chronic foot-in-mouth disorder render him so ill-qualified for the position that you can practically see the outline of his handlers as they manage the desperate task of containing him. Even News Ltd bloggers and their readers have expressed concern about the Prime Minister’s inauthenticity and wooden appearances - an immensely gratifying turn of events, but depressing when one remembers how grotesquely Julia Gillard was hounded by these same people while in office. 

The people the Coalition really struggle to connect with are, as ever, the women of Australia. Remember, this is a political party which considers one woman to be adequate representation in a cabinet of 19 people. In the past week alone, egregious examples of the Government’s disconnect with women have emerged.

Senator Eric Abetz says studies have drawn a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Senator Eric Abetz says studies have drawn a link between abortion and breast cancer. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Let’s take a look.

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1. The World Congress on Families

When Julia Gillard warned that under an Coalition government, abortion would become the ‘political plaything of male politicians’, she was ridiculed for ‘playing the gender card’. And yet here we are, with no less than three prominent Liberal party federal politicians and two Victorian state based MPs scheduled to appear at a conference in which, in amongst its grossly homophobic and misogynist agenda, lies the factually inaccurate and medically disproven claim that abortion leads to breast cancer.

In an interview with Channel Ten’s The Project, Coalition leader in the Senate and conference speaker Eric Abetz cited medical studies from the 1950s to support the conference’s claims. In addition to his scientifically unsupported views, Abetz also reiterated his belief in the structure of the nuclear family, essentially further marginalising the many queer and/or single mothers who admirably participate in the work of raising Australia’s next generation. Good one, Abetz.

 

2. Christopher Pyne hasn’t studied statistics

Eric Abetz isn’t the only senior Liberal peddling false information on the nation’s airwaves. When questioned by Sarah Ferguson (aka SASHA FIERCE) on The 7:30 Report about how the government’s higher education interest payments will disproportionately affect low income earners and women (often one and the same), Pyne’s response revealed rather more than he intended about his attitude towards women. In Pyne’s view, vice chancellors and their leadership teams will know not to charge higher fees for courses “which are typically going to be studied by people who’ll be nurses and teachers and therefore not earn high incomes over a period of time.”

It’s true that nursing and teaching are feminised industries and as a result are often poorly paid. But what Pyne said next is simply staggering in its ignorance.

“They will not be able to earn the high incomes that say dentists or lawyers will earn...therefore the debts of teachers and nurses will be lower than the debts, for example, of lawyers and dentists.”

That women form just over 61% of all law graduates is something Pyne conveniently ignores or worse, would never even consider. That they hold only about 22% of the senior positions in law firms seems to support rather than refute the idea they’ll be disproportionately discriminated against by changes to HECS repayments.

In the grand scheme of things, the fortunes of female lawyer graduates are not as concerning as the practice of undervaluing feminised industries or the likelihood of women’s poverty in general - but it is worrying that our own Education Minister seems to have developed his view on women in the workplace from Little Golden Books. Mummies Work Too Now, Chris.

 

3. Sex workers unfairly targeted by changes to Newstart

Last week, it was revealed that jobseekers under the age of 30 may be entitled to a whopping four weeks exemption to the government’s proposed six month waiting period to receive Newstart if they can prove they’ve been gainfully employed. However, it appeared in the information released that work that “involves nudity or is in the sex industry” would not be considered ‘gainful’ under these terms.

While Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews (who, incidentally, will be delivering the opening and closing addresses at the World Congress on Families) has moved to clear up confusion about the rights of sex workers under these proposed changes, the government’s position still remains shaky. A spokesperson for Mr Andrews office has said, “A person lawfully employed in any industry, including the sex industry, will qualify [for a reduction in the waiting period].”

The question therefore becomes whether or not the government recognises sex work (yet another ‘feminised industry’) as ‘lawful employment’. Considering Mr Andrews’ moral position on the matters of women having sex outside of marriage - let alone for a financial transaction - I think we’ll need a lot more than a vocal reassurance from his office.

 

4. The future of the Liberals is in safe hands

Learning from their predecessors, it would appear that the Young Liberals of Australia foster some of their own problems in regards to women’s inclusion. In screen shots leaked to The Age, it was revealed that senior members of the University of Melbourne’s Young Liberals group had posted misogynistic and racist rants on a private Facebook page, at one point describing Germaine Greer as “a lying f---ing c-m guzzling slut...and a union member.”

The poster of that message, Stefan Eracleous, denounced Greer for not believing in God or having children, evidently failing to spot the irony in behaving in a less than Christ-like manner while also demonstrating ample reason as to why he should never be allowed to breed.

While it should surprise exactly no one with half a working brain that a group which prides itself on hating anyone who isn’t rich, white and male would think of women as merely ‘sluts’ and ‘c--ts’, it doesn’t bode well for the public image of the Liberal Party proper.

But then, when this is your public image, what else can you expect?

 

91 comments

  • Are you saying ALL Australian women or just those of certain political persuasions? I guess conservative (fiscal and potentially socially) women aren't "real" women.

    Commenter
    Boston_Globe
    Date and time
    August 11, 2014, 6:49AM
    • I am a woman and I voted Liberal and will continue to do so as will many of my female friends and colleagues. I don't buy any of the 'Tony Abbott is a misogynist' and no female should therefore vote for him crap. I don't see any evidence that he or any of his party hate women. Regardless of that, I will never vote Labor as long as it is being run by a bunch of ex unionists and I will never vote Green as they are idealists with no sense of the reality of running a country. Just because they haven't won over Clementine as her like minded female friends is doesn't mean that the rest of the women in Australia feel the same way.

      Commenter
      Sarah
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 12:55PM
    • @ Mrs Murdoch. Good on you. Keep voting for the party that has clearly put women on the back foot. You might think Mr Abbott is dreamy, like minded, of your kind and all that, however, there are many who have felt disrespected by his antics from the time he was Opposition Leader. In government he has proven himself a woman's worst enemy. So whilst you can hire the nanny to look after the children we have to deal with the erosion of our school kids bonus and lesser child care support. We have to deal with having to be more indebted when trying to get an education (whilst hi sown daughter got hers for free without merit - as her own teacher said).
      Abbott has not protected women in his government. He has delegated them to a 1950s position which for most Australians (male and female) is disrespectful and right down discriminatory.
      I will never vote Liberal whist they are a party of cruelty, self serving blue ties and a poor role model of appropriate and inclusive government.

      Commenter
      Woman
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:09PM
    • Sarah, you state that there is no evidence. There is only 1 woman in cabinet, making a whole 5%. Yet women make up almost 50% of the population. Are you suggesting that there just aren't enough talented women in the whole of the Liberal Party to fill more of those positions? Unfortunately, the statistics suggest favouritism, and women lose out again. The only women that survive in the Liberal Party have to act like men.

      Commenter
      Jennifer
      Location
      Carlton
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:09PM
    • Sarah, this isn't football. If you are a thinking person you can't "support" one party over another. Thinking people vote on who they think can run the country best not whether one is involved in unions or not.

      Commenter
      TheGimp
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:17PM
    • As you can see from the article, Tony Abbott is not the only problem. I guess you think it's fine for men to decide what women do with their reproductive health?

      Commenter
      DrPhil
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:38PM
    • The only people the coalition will never win over is the left wing Age journalists, the final months of the Gilard government were the most bizarre of any Parliament and yet the age still came out and claimed that in their opinion readers should vote Labor. Until the Age starts to present some balance your credibility is zero I have stopped watching the ABC because of its total left wing views the age is not far behind

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Clayton
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:41PM
    • Well Sarah obviously Tony Abbott didn't think one Liberal women in the lower house or the senate was worthy of being the Minister for Women, so he appointed himself!! Actions always speak louder than words!! So keep voting for your liberal man and know your place in the liberal world!!

      Commenter
      Joe M
      Location
      South Yarra
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:46PM
    • Sarah, while you say you don't see any evidence, I'm forced to point out that your side of politics isn't evidence-based these days. Would you see evidence at all, I wonder?

      Commenter
      RichardJ
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:51PM
    • Sarah, how do you reconcile Tony Abbott's policies and their negative implication for you though?

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 11, 2014, 1:52PM

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