We’re used to Scott Morrison flying off the deep end. We’re used to his explosive, irrational diatribes. But his extraordinary attack on Labor MP Jim Chalmers yesterday, reached new heights. And it showed the Prime Minister’s true colours in all their bias-tinged glory.
Speaking in Parliament, Morrison started by referring to Dr Chalmers as the shadow “Trevor” instead of the shadow Treasurer.
“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Speaker, I mispronounced the shadow Treasurer’s name. That must be such an offence to him,’’ he said.
“He is so precious. This is the same shadow Treasurer … who cried in Kevin Rudd’s office Mr Speaker, we know how sensitive he is.”
Chalmers smiled and shook his head, but Morrison continued.
“We know how sensitive he is, but coming back to the serious issue, not the ego of the member for Rankin, Mr Speaker, which has its own reputation. Our industrial relations reforms are about getting Australians back into jobs.”
Subtle as a sledgehammer, Morrison’s intentions as he spoke were clear. There are rumours swirling around Canberra that Anthony Albanese will be challenged for the leadership next year. Jim Chalmers is an obvious front-runner, and Morrison is feeling the heat.
But while we of course know that he’s projecting his own (clearly significant) insecurities here, the Prime Minister’s implication that the action of a man crying renders him weak, is shameful.
In Australia, stereotypical expectations of masculinity on boys and men, including pressure on young boys to prove their masculinity in all arenas, isn’t just causing damage, it’s costing lives.
A new study published just this year in fact, showed that young men and adolescent boys in this country are at particular risk of suicide, and that some masculine behaviours have been associated with deleterious effects on health. The results highlighted the importance of presenting young men with alternative and multiple ways of being a male and dismantling rigid norms.
When the leader of the nation gets up however, and mocks a colleague in parliament for being too “sensitive”, “precious” and a “crybaby” he is reenforcing everything we know to be harmful. He is conveying to boys and young men that exhibiting emotion is the pinnacle of weak. He’s also implying that these expressions– more commonly deemed feminine– are to be avoided at all costs.
It’s the double whammy. Men lose. Women lose. Only “tough guys” like Scomo come out kicking.
Except, what Morrison fails to realise, is that we don’t want tough guys in leadership. We want real men, real women who care about the country and the national interest.
Morrison might have used all his marketing prowess to paint himself as the tough guy– the beer swilling, rugby league watching, macho man. But the truth is, we’re all turning off.
Because real leaders don’t operate as he’s been doing this year.
They don’t skive off their responsibilities during national emergencies, as he did back in January when he skipped off to Hawaii and left Australia to burn.
They don’t cover up corruption.
Or provide absolutely zilch in the form of real, structural reform following one of the worst global crises we’ve ever faced.
They don’t ignore women. Or the country’s most disadvantaged. Or our First Nations’ people.
They don’t cheat on their commitment to climate change as the impacts already start to ravage the country and the world.
Real leaders act; they show compassion and conviction. They don’t need to be flexing their muscles in the process. If we had a few more leaders crying in Parliament, we’d likely have a far more empathetic Australia– and that would be no bad thing.