Male politicians are still resorting to vile attacks of women to get ahead. It's a national disgrace.

Male politicians are still resorting to vile attacks of women to get ahead. It’s a national disgrace.

It’s a tense time for the NSW government right now, especially for Health Minister Brad Hazzard who’s repeatedly come under fire for his management of the portfolio over the past six months. But nothing, nothing warrants the aggressive attack he levelled at NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay on the floor of Parliament yesterday. Conduct that was as bizarre as it was disgusting.

Hazzard showed just how much he was feeling the heat when McKay queried him about the volume of face masks in NSW. It was a simple question, and a fair one given the minister had indicated earlier in the day that there may have been a state shortage.

But Hazzard flew off the handle. Referring to McKay as the “temporary opposition leader” he then launched into a personal attack, labelling her “stupid”, “a complete pork chop” and suggesting she should resign or be stood down.

When McKay calmly returned to her line of questioning, she reiterated simply: “do we or don’t we have enough face masks?”

“You certainly need one!” A red-faced Hazzard bellowed in her face, waving his finger.

In a tweet following the altercation, McKay referred to the Minister as “rude” saying his “response was unfitting of the Minister in charge of our pandemic response.” This is true. But it goes further than that. Hazzard’s actions were aggressive, and his specific intention was to intimidate a younger, smaller, female counterpart– an ugly approach too often taken by male politicians.

Earlier this week we saw yet another (even more despicable) example of this when Shooters’ MP Phil Donato described female Nationals MP Steph Cooke as “barren”– a term now infamously cemented in Australian political history after Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan branded former Prime Minister Julia Gillard the same, thirteen years ago.

A simple decision by Cooke to amend Donato’s motion regarding the implementation of a supervised school crossing in his electorate triggered the venomous bile. “Considering that my motion was regarding the issue of the safety of children, the amendment by the member for Cootamundra was not noble, not conscionable and barren of any consideration of children—those who are the most precious and vulnerable,” he said.

Cooke shouldn’t have needed to, but she responded to Donato’s “highly personal and vulgar attack” saying she found his words “extremely distressing.” “I might be small in stature. I may be childless but that doesn’t mean that I am bereft of a burning desire to protect children and better the lives of the people of NSW,” she said.

In an embarrassing exhibit of faux remorse, Donato suggested his comments had been “taken out of context”. They weren’t. He meant it all– connotations and nuances aplenty. Of course, he should have been hauled over the coals for his comments, just as Hazzard should be for his actions in Parliament yesterday. But they won’t be.

Because although it’s been thirteen years, we haven’t moved on. Male politicians are still getting away with blatant misogyny. They’re still employing the same vile techniques and strategies to intimidate and shatter women and they’re successfully deterring younger generations of women from pursuing careers in the political eye.

It’s a national disgrace and we should be fighting with all our might to for a new normal– a challenge of epic proportions when the power balance lies firmly with those who resort to, and thrive off this kind of conduct.

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