28 January 2010

Starts with why

As the Great Australia Day Kerfuffle over Tony Abbott's sexuality outburst begins to abate, with plenty of jowl-wobbling outrage on both sides, one question remains: why?

Why did he not anticipate being asked a question like this? Why did he not have a response ready? All those commentators who insisted that Abbott didn't have a problem with women voters look pretty stupid today - he sure does now.

Why is The Australian Women's Weekly such a political graveyard? Cheryl Kernot's feather boa, Mark Latham's first wife, Tony Abbott fretting over daughters he barely knows - all underestimated the Weekly and all came an absolute gutser because of it. So much for broadsheets, Sunday morning talk shows and talkback radio, not to mention the national broadcaster and the utterly otiose press gallery. Watch out for the mighty Weekly, ye media advisors and image consultants, and tremble when they come for you.

Abbott did not become a Cabinet Minister and leader of his party by answering every question that a journalist wanted to ask him. Why did he go there? He says he made those comments for his daughters' sake: but what can be said for a man who communicates with his offspring through the media? The Queen doesn't do that, John Howard didn't and George W. Bush certainly never did, and Catholic clergy don't have any to broadcast to (oh all right, but now isn't the time for timid moral retards who run off to seminaries to escape their responsibilities).

One's offspring aside, why even waste media time commenting on that issue? He's running for Prime Minister, not National Dad For All Women. Is he going to offer incentives for women who go to their marital beds as virgins (First Leg Over Grants)? No? Well there's no point in going into that issue at all now is there.

Gabriella Coslovich has a point:

The comment both fetishes a woman's virginity and reduces her value to the presence of a hymen, to the unpenetrated state of her vagina. Why is that the greatest gift a woman can give someone? What about her mind? Her actions? Dare I say it, her soul?

Why indeed? His daughters aside, does he really believe that Julia Gillard has less to offer beyond her own hymen? Does he believe that of Julie Bishop? Sophie Mirabella? Janet Albrechtsen? Senators Troeth and Boyce? Our head of state (pick one)? Any female Liberal candidate running for a seat with 5% margin of victory either way? Doctrine is one thing but a thinking person, as Abbott is alleged to be, has to test received wisdom against experience. Every Liberal woman is cheapened today, which may explain why they have been very quiet on this issue (except, commendably, Sharman Stone. He really has learned nothing from the RU-486 debate, has he. Why?

(It would be easy, and wrong, to claim that I'm besmirching the above-named Liberal women - their own leader did that. Don't bother with your comments charging to their defence as I recognise them as people of considerable achievement, which is more than can be said for Tony Abbott; only when you understand that you'll get the point of the preceding paragraph. Only when you understand that will you realise that it is Abbott who owes the apology. Now read on, and shut up.)

In purely electoral terms, the Liberal Party's problem with Abbott as leader was that he'd increase the Liberal vote in the safe Liberal seats and in safe Labor seats, but would do nothing for Liberals who want to take marginal Labor seats away from the incumbent government. Today is another incident arising from a known problem. Given the importance of women's votes in keeping the Liberal vote up, Abbott has made a category error. There is no way that Liberals can redress this error without shirtfronting their own leader. Why did he put his own party in a position of having to do this?

Abbott promised that he would take the fight up to the Labor Party. Why is it that on this issue, they are able to brush him off with ease?

And as for George Brandis, Gillard being childless does not make her "one-dimensional" any more than it does for Julie Bishop or [insert here names of female Liberal MPs who have no children but are obliged to work with George Brandis]. If only he were a clever politician.

Given that his stated reasons are piffle, disingenuous or simply don't make sense, why is this person leader of the Liberal Party? Why has his stated aim of putting the heat back on the Labor Party clearly not worked? Why did Liberals think he'd be better at leading their party than Malcolm Turnbull, Brendan Nelson, Joe Hockey or anyone else? Do the Liberals really have so little to offer Australia - and if so, why?


  1. When you find yourself to the left of the age it's probably time to revisit your prejudices.


  2. Why do I have to set my course according to The Age, Matt? Why is Katherine what's-her-name more representative of that paper than Gabriella Coslovich?

    My post stands. Women's sexuality is their own affair (as it were), a good father does not lecture his daughters through the media, and a sensible politician does not enter a fight he cannot win, but the very fighting of which loses him thousands of key votes.

    Probably - no, definitely time you reconsidered your opinion of Abbott as a sensible person and a clever tactician.

  3. "He's running for Prime Minister, not National Dad For All Women."

    What are the odds he doesn't see a difference?

    Also, given Rudd's (and Howard's before him) penchant for inserting his own two bits into [Moral Panic/Controversy of The Week] isn't it fair to say that there is now this impression of the PM as some kind of daggy paterfamilias for the nation?

  4. Sure - like all right whinge Liberals he assumes he can sally forth in an area which Labor have not only anticipated him, but can match him. The same thing happens at state level with Laura Norder scares.

  5. Abbott knew exactly what he was doing. He was letting the Weekly's readers, and the electorate, know where he stands on these issues. He wants to be PM and he knows there are a lot of morally conservative people, women as well as men, who will agree with his views and vote for him because of them. Politics as usual.

  6. I wish you'd read my post before commenting on it.

    Let's pretend you're a morally conservative person, Andrew. OK, so Abbott is concerned about his daughters - that's nice. What's he going to do about people over 16 exploring their sexuality in consensual ways? Er, there's not much he can do, really.

    Morally conservative Australians don't like all-talk-no-action politicians any more than any other group of voters does.

    Never mind the US for a moment: can you think of a time when Australian moral coservatives had a telling impact on an electoral outcome? RU-486? I note that abortion is still safe, legal and rare in this country. No point truckling to a constituency that won't come through on election day. While there are "a lot" of moral conservatives, there are a lot who aren't, and politically they pretty much balance one another out. Politics as usual.

    This isn't an argument for compulsory porn for 12 year olds. It's a call for the Liberals to do something other than press a few buttons and do nothing in policy terms. Real moral conservatives keep in touch with their daughters and don't harangue them via the media.