No, Scott Morrison, you’re not “desperately trying” to help women

No, Scott Morrison, I won’t indulge the charade you’re “desperately trying” to improve the lives of women

Morrison

‘Blokes don’t get it right all the time, we all know that, and … what matters is that we’re desperately trying to and that’s what I’m trying to do. And we will get this right. And we need to focus on that.’

There is nothing niche about being shocked in 2021. To live through the past month in Australia with even a peripheral interest in politics or current affairs is to live in a state of unrelenting, perpetual shock. Every day has served up some form of fresh hell that manages to out-hell the prior day’s offering. It’s been a lot. 

And yet here I am gobsmacked – once again – by the Prime Minister. Not content with an utterly contemptuous public performance in which he traversed from a tearful pledge to “not let down” the beloved women and girls at the centre of his life, to openly threatening a journalist and weaponising a sexual harassment complaint that turned out to be false in under five minutes, his mission to reveal his total disregard for 51% of the female population, excluding the four women in his immediate family, continues. 

Despite the PM’s mea culpa on the treatment of women during a month he assured the people of the nation has been very traumatic for him, he declined – for the 13th time – an invitation to appear on ABC’s 730 program on Tuesday night. In doing so he declined the opportunity to provide a response to the many legitimate questions he owes Australians answers to. Questions like how he didn’t know of an alleged rape occurring less than 100 metres from his office. Or why he used clever language to comfortably, smugly even, mislead parliament about the status of the “investigation” he had asked Phil Gaetjens to undertake to determine who in his office knew what in relation to Brittany Higgins when he knew it had been paused. Questions about why he didn’t see fit to read the dossier containing the details of the allegations of historic sexual assault being levelled against his Attorney-General. Or engage the solicitor general in relation to the serious situation.  

I digress. Despite not having time for the ABC the PM did have time to appear on 2GB with Ray Hadley on Wednesday morning. Now there’s nothing about that that’s shocking but some of the words that tumbled out of the PM’s mouth during that conversation did shock me. And that’s saying something.   

‘Blokes don’t get it right all the time, we all know that, and … what matters is that we’re desperately trying to and that’s what I’m trying to do. And we will get this right. And we need to focus on that.’

The PM is “desperately trying” to get it right? If over the past month we have witnessed a Prime Minister who is “desperately trying” to get it right, I fear what we might witness from someone with no interest. 

His remarks immediately reminded me of a conversation I had with my eight-year old daughter last night who has recently joined her school’s training band. “Playing the tuba is really really hard and I still can’t do it properly!” she said.

Until a month ago she’d never touched a tuba so, yes, it is really hard and she still can’t do it properly and she won’t be able to do it “properly” for quite some time. Playing any instrument is really hard for the first time and the only way it will ever get even marginally easier is by practising. 

Over the past month the PM has barely looked at the tuba, let alone picked it up and has steadfastly avoided taking anything akin to constructive instruction in relation to the tuba. And yet he’s cutting himself – and all blokes – more slack about ‘not getting it right all the time’ than this decidedly un-tiger mum gave an 8 year old about an instrument. 

The bar the PM has set himself in relation to the treatment of women in this country is insultingly low. It literally ignited fury so universal that in under two weeks more than 100,000 Australians came together to peacefully protest in marches to say enough is enough

Marchers whom the PM indicated ought to feel grateful for not being shot. As far as proof of the extent to which the PM profoundly and wilfully fails to “get it” goes, that line is compelling. 

Women take to the streets to say they want to be treated with respect and be safe and the PM says they’re lucky they weren’t shot. Not being shot is quite literally the lowest bar and women in Australia deserve better. 

It is insulting to contemplate the way Prime Minister Morrison has conducted himself and his government over the past month even without the ignominy of being fed Tuesday’s opportunistic ‘emotional’ mea culpa. But being told on Wednesday that he is “desperately trying” to get this right when he has not lifted a single finger in the direction of action to model, decree or demand women in this country be treated with dignity and respect? It is the final, insulting straw at the end of one of the most bruising chapters in Australia’s recent political history . 

Scott Morrison, I know what “desperately trying” to create a country in which women are respected would look like and it does not resemble your actions over the past month. It does not resemble a man who fronts the media to say sorry for getting it wrong and then fails to provide a single action item to address the burgeoning legitimate concerns of women in this country. 

It does not look like a smug smirk in Question Time upon deploying too-clever language to deceive parliament over matters so serious it’s inconceivable they haven’t triggered consequences and so shocking they have enraged hundreds of thousands citizens you are paid to represent. 

It does not look like treating those citizens as absolute mugs and expecting them to believe that you didn’t know about an alleged crime in a minister’s office. It does not look like someone who accepts that a leader in any workplace not knowing about a crime in their workplace is acceptable. 

It does not look like evading questions about whether or not someone in their office was backgrounding against the partner of a young woman who was allegedly raped in a minister’s office. 

It does not look like a leader who expresses more shock and outrage about a desk being masturbated on, than about a human being getting raped and then discarded by the people around her.   

It does not look like a leader releasing a Royal Commission report – without notice – in an attempt to create a diversion from a scandal engulfing his ministry. It does not look like a leader having the audacity to attack a female journalist in those circumstances for taking issue with the lack of time afforded to journalists to even read the report.       

It does not look like ignoring considered and comprehensive submissions ahead of the biggest spending Federal Budget to address the inequity of women in this country. It certainly does not look like a leader who chooses that path and then has the gall to take issue with that blatant statement of fact being recognised. It does not look like a leader who would even contemplate saying that because women enjoy driving on nice roads, the budget delivers.  

It does not look like a leader who is more willing to attack and score points – regardless of the damage inflicted, most often to women, along the way – than to recognise that women have the right to be safe, that it’s being denied and that action is the only possible way to change that. 

I refuse to indulge the Prime Minister the charade that he’s desperately tried anything other than riding this month out with his preferred style of political management of no accountability and no answers. It’s been a masterclass in spectacular failure – as the collective #March4Justice events and recent polling figures attest.     

If the Prime Minister is interested in doing things different this is what “desperately trying” could look like:

  • Fronting up to parliament and answering every last legitimate question about how Brittany Higgins’ was treated – then and now; 
  • Instigating an independent inquiry into the historic sexual assault allegations against Christian Porter;  
  • Immediately implementing the full 55 recommendations in Kate Jenkins Respect@Work report;
  • Reintroducing the Women’s Budget Statement.  

The list of demands can – and will – go on but the above is a starting point. Without taking these steps, the Prime Minister’s comments about trying hard amount to my 8 year old staring at her tuba hoping to magically learn how to play it. 

“Solving” the issue of women’s safety is not beyond us –  leadership is what eludes us and it starts from the top. Women deserve leadership that is actually committed to securing their fundamental right to safety. Anything short will not cut it.

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