Another day, another sexual misconduct allegation plaguing the Coalition.
This time it comes from NSW Nationals MP, Michael Johnsen; a man accused of not only exchanging lewd messages with a sex worker but doing it, flagrantly, during NSW Question Time. While he strenuously denies the allegations, Johnsen is accused of sexually assaulting the same woman at a lookout in the Blue Mountains in September, 2019.
It’s a disgusting, disturbing, “disgraceful”– as the Prime Minister would frame it– breach of public office. But what it’s not? Is surprising.
We’re often told that the fish rots from the top, and in the case of the Liberal National Party, these words have never rung more true. Our government– at all levels– is a squalid mess of ego and entitlement. To clean this up, we need more than a “women’s taskforce” overseen by the few women in the federal government’s ministry. Many of whom, let’s face it, have some seriously questionable attitudes toward gender progress.
This government needs an overhaul. It needs to be stripped down entirely if it is to be meaningfully fixed– something the Prime Minister utterly rejected during last week’s A Current Affair interview.
Quotas, which the PM has so far not rejected, would be one obvious step. But quotas need to address more than gender imbalance.
Australia is a wholly diverse country, but that is far from reflected in those who lead us. We need to see more young women pushed up; more cultural diversity, more people with disabilities, more diversity in socio-economic background, more First Nations’ Australians.
Our government right now is overwhelmingly mono-cultural, mono-educated, mono-just-about-everything. How can we expect that those with only one experience of life and circumstance be equipped to make informed decisions for a nation as diverse as ours? How can we expect them to deal with issues like foreign interference when there is insufficient cultural and political knowledge to do so?
Another crucial, non-negotiable measure would be to call time on anyone who faces repeated allegations of sexual misconduct, exploitation of power or the bullying and disrespect of women. Christian Porter for instance– a man who has faced several allegations of misogynistic behaviour– should not be free to waltz back into a critical portfolio.
The PM wants to leave a positive legacy? Be viewed as a man of morality? He needs to stop worrying about the next election and do what’s right for the country. Uncomfortable and potentially compromising decisions are part of that.
Moreover, we need to invest critical and significant funding into the areas of policy that matter most to women. This includes domestic and family violence support, women’s health, education, care services, welfare services, paid parental leave, childcare and the criminal justice system.
Our leaders need to meet with the women at the frontline of these arenas, listen and act. They need to do it swiftly.
The Prime Minister expects women of this country to be cheering in delight to see the government finally, finally offer up some menial measures to address the whole sickening crisis. But the truth is, we’re watching a bandaid unfurl from a cancerous sore. What they’ve proposed isn’t enough and we’re all watching to see what the next move is. They’re running out of time to win us over.