A few government ministers have helped create some uneasy television viewing this week. On Wednesday afternoon in an interview with Sky News host David Speers the Attorney-General George Brandis struggled to articulate, or convey, any meaningful information about the government’s proposed data retention policy. Later that day on ABC’s 7.30 the Federal education minister Christopher Pyne made a rather revealing statement when discussing tertiary education reforms. When asked about the likely impact of increased fees on women he told Sarah Ferguson that women “will not be able to earn the high incomes that say dentists or lawyers will earn”.
He explained that women are more likely to be represented in the teaching and nursing professions, and because those vocations pay less, universities will therefore charge less for those courses.
If you’re struggling to comprehend that statement being made by our federal education minister in 2014, it gets better. Or worse.
Last night on Channel Ten’s The Project the employment minister Eric Abetz drew on the scientifically disproven contention that abortion can lead to breast cancer.
When asked if he believes the link is indeed factually inaccurate, he appeared to say yes.
“I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer,” Abetz explained.
Today he has released a statement saying he was cut off before being able to acknowledge that the view linking abortion with breast cancer was not the accepted medical view.
It is worth noting that his statement is ambiguous on the issue of whether he accepts the current medical view, and if he doesn’t, which view he does support.
Indeed, on the program last night, when specifically asked about the Australian Medical Association’s view on the issue Abetz’s response was similarly evasive in effect.
“There are other organisations [other than the Australian Medical Association] that have differing views,” Abetz said.
It is unclear which organisations, and upon what basis, Abetz believes are better informed on medical research than the national peak body.
In any case the president of the AMA was unequivocal in his denouncement of the employment minister’s foray into health research.
“If he’s quoting papers from the 1950s, I suspect that’s where he’s living,” Associate Professor Brian Owler said. “I think it’s really irresponsible for people to be using their own ideology and projecting it on, particularly, women.”
This time a year ago the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this:
”We don’t want to live in an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better.”
We don’t want want that but it appears we are living dangerously close to that terrain. After the various performances from Brandis, Pyne and Abetz this week it’s difficult to accept that Cabinet is comprised on merit. Are these men really the cream of the crop?