This week your Prime Minister used sexism in the workplace as a vehicle for her own political ends. I would have a problem with this but for two reasons:
Everything she said was actually true and it was nice to see her getting passionate about something other than “Mervin Ford”
Australia has found coming to grips with a female Prime Minister difficult. Painted as a back-stabbing Jezebel by her political opponents in replacing Rudd, and an untrustworthy stateswoman after introducing a Carbon Tax she said she would never introduce, establishing herself and her voice in the Senate has not been easy.
For the first time in my life I was proud of my Prime Minister. Gillard made international headlines for speaking her mind – for standing up for all women marginalized by the kind of men who know that if they are able to yell louder, they’ll probably be listened to.
To understand what set her off, it’s important have a little bit of background. Gillard’s explosion at Abbott occurred not because of sexism on his part (on this particular occasion), but because of what she referred to as a “double standard”. Whether or not Gillard has been victim of misogyny was not the point.
The Coalition walked into parliament on Tuesday proposing a motion of no confidence in him in order to have him removed as Speaker indefinitely. This was in response to the news that text messages sent from him to former staffer James Ashby referring to female genitalia as looking like muscle meat were shared with the press (according to evidence in current court proceedings, which the PM cited as being her reason for not discussing the matters in parliament and turning it into a “kangaroo court”).
Abbott proposed a motion removing Slipper as Speaker for good on the basis that Slipper is a sexist and unfit for the position. Gillard’s fifteen minute response, basically said that if we remove Slipper from these chambers for being a sexist, you, Mr. Abbott, should probably follow him.
The Coalition’s contention was that Gillard showed gross misjudgment in appointing Slipper to Speaker of the House in the first place. Therein lies the question, if Gillard’s government displayed such “gross” misjudgment in elevating him to speaker of the House, why did the Coalition endorse the move? While the Coalition could ensure his vote for them in parliament for almost two decades his moral inadequacies were never worth bringing into question.
Abbott using the pretence of disgust at sexism as yet another immoral political point scorer set Gillard off on a fifteen minute rant. Put yourself in her shoes: She has an A-grade arsenal of terrible things Abbott has said about women at her disposal, and she’s having to listen to him pretend that he has a moral issue with sexism when he’s really just playing politics, calling her judgment on Slipper into question.
The Coalition don’t care about the integrity of those who represent them or back their bills. Liberal Party Senator Matthais Cormann emailed disgraced MP Craig Thomson two days ago asking for his support on a bill, only months after Tony Abbott announced that the Coalition would never accept Thomson’s support or vote on anything in Parliament. Perhaps Cormann couldn’t hear Abbott’s voice standing so far below the White Knight’s high horse; perhaps it was a mistake; or perhaps, just like with regards to the Slipper situation, the Coalition has no regard for their public moralistic outcries when it comes to passing legislation.
When Slipper’s moral inadequacies, which seem to have been wrapped up by the Coalition in a neat bundle labeled “sexist ”, no longer suited the Coalition’s purposes, it became clear that they could be used as political ammunition against the Labor government.
It’s important to remember that James Ashby, the guy who has just received a settlement of $50,000 for launching the sexual harassment claims against Slipper, was contacted by the Coation’s Christopher Pyne and Mal Brough early in the year. News Limited Journalist Steve Lewis said in a text to Ashby “We will get him”. Whether or not Slipper is a scumbag, he was set up and done away with as a tool for political gains.
The Coalition destroyed Slipper’s political career from the inside in a well-orchestrated move to bolster Coalition-guaranteed votes in Parliament by replacing him as member for Fisher with Mal Brough.
But on Tuesday, Abbott should have known better than to use sexism as a vehcle for such point scoring against Gillard. And using Alan Jones’s words, that the government should have “died of shame” was just the icing on the cake.