~ Wednesday January 6, 2016
Turnbull must act decisively on Dutton 'witch' comments
By Phil Cleary
Tony Abbott as opposition leader in front of posters proclaiming "Ditch the witch". (Andrew Meares)
Remember when Tony Abbott stood in front of posters on the lawns of Parliament House in 2011 exhorting Australians to "ditch the witch", our first female prime minister, Julia Gillard? Remember how not one single member of the Coalition had the courage to damn his actions, and the posters, as misogynist and capable of giving succour to violent men?
Four years later, it's a man cut from the same political cloth, the tough-talking Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, who has propelled the misogynist notion of woman as witch back into the lexicon.
It might have been a private text to a colleague, sent inadvertently to a temporary adversary, News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden, but what does it say about Dutton's view of women in modern Australia that he saw fit to reduce Maiden's opinions to those of a "mad f------ witch"? Has it escaped him that women accused of being witches were once put to death?
Rather than acknowledging his words as a form of abuse that could reasonably leave people believing he harbours a deep-seated distrust of women, the minister offered a meaningless apology. "Sam and I have exchanged some robust language over the years so we had a laugh after this and I apologised to her straightaway, which she took in good faith," he said with a smile.
The palpable truth is that like so many men – bosses of leading companies, members of the police and armed forces, judges, celebrity sportsmen and politicians among them – Dutton either doesn't understand or doesn't care to understand the cultural landscape that has sustained the epidemic of violence against women.
The anti-violence campaigners aren't propagandising when they point to the generations of women bashed, raped and murdered and then subjected to courtroom depictions and media commentary founded in the myth that they have provoked the violence inflicted upon them, often attributed to a flawed or "witch-like" personality.
Paraded as sophisticated legal argument, so much of what passes as probative inquiry in our courtrooms amounts to little more than character assassination of the kind contained in Dutton's text. That's why the law of provocation has been abolished in several Australian states and the courtroom remains a battleground for reformers.
Last month a Queensland Court of Appeal noted that Allison Baden-Clay "had in the past suffered from depression for which she was prescribed Zoloft", when it controversially dismissed a properly instructed jury's finding that her husband had murdered her. Her state of mind gave veracity, the court said, to the possibility that the mother of three had engaged in an "angry attack" on her husband, who had unwittingly killed her. Her supporters reacted indignantly to the finding and the implication she was "mad" or anything less than a caring and sensible woman.
It seemed those dark days of denying the state's complicity in the scourge of violence against women might be coming to an end when, on White Ribbon Day 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered a "special tribute to the victims of domestic violence, past and present, who have borne the burden of our failure to act for too long", adding that "violence against women is the end point of disrespecting women", and that the solution lies in "significant cultural change".
How can the Prime Minister's words now be treated seriously when a key minister's default position on a woman who crosses him is that her views are those of a "mad witch"? What hope is there when men of such antiquated views occupy positions of power in Turnbull's government?
Try as they might to hide behind the excuse that the use of the word "witch" amounts to nothing more than a robust sledge, the apologists' days are numbered. Having drawn a nexus between male disrespect for women and the epidemic of violence, the Prime Minister cannot maintain the position that Dutton's comments were merely inappropriate. If he is genuine when he says only cultural change can end the violence, he must either sack Dutton or force him to deliver an apology that acknowledges the harm his words have done to the anti-violence campaign.
If the Prime Minister chooses neither of these courses of action, he faces being pilloried by the opposition.
"If little boys see their fathers disrespecting their mothers, they will grow up to disrespect their partners. If they see their mothers respected, they will respect their sisters." So said Malcolm Turnbull on White Ribbon Day. How can those words carry any weight when one of his ministers fosters the malicious idea among his colleagues that a non-compliant woman should be deemed a "mad witch"?
That Maiden appears to have forgiven Dutton for his comments should not and does not lessen the significance of the words or their implications for the government. How she responds emotionally might be her prerogative, but it has little bearing on any objective judgment, mine or the community's, on Dutton's words. As with the "ditch the witch" posters in 2011, we know there can be no escaping the implications for gender relations of a public figure calling a woman a witch. It remains a black mark on Australian political and social history that Gillard was left to her own devices to decry the posters. How different history would look had Turnbull stood with the prime minister, with both sides of politics rising in the House of Representatives to decry the posters and their dangerous implications for women. It was an opportunity lost.
If Australia was a truly democratic society, devoid of gender inequality, misogyny and chronic violence against women, Dutton's comments might have less significance. However, with homicide rates – more than 60 "domestic" murders of women in 2015 – and the violence surging, we are in the middle of a crisis in which there is no room for bystanders. Having nailed his colours to the mast, Turnbull must act. If he doesn't act decisively and publicly, he'll have lost me and, I suspect, many reformers who welcomed and praised his White Ribbon Day speech.
Phil Cleary is a writer, broadcaster and former independent federal MP.
Wednesday January 6, 2016
Greens leader Richard Di Natale calls for Peter Dutton's sacking
By Fergus Hunter
Dutton gaffe a 'test for Turnbull'
Labor puts pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's 'boorish' text message. (Vision ABC News 24)
Greens leader Richard Di Natale has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to sack Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and to lead cultural change in Australia by ridding the Liberal Party of "rampant" sexism.
Senator Di Natale called Mr Dutton a "serial offender" who was "not able to deal with complex immigration issues" such as the case of Abyan, an asylum seeker allegedly raped on Nauru.
"Malcolm Turnbull needs to show he's serious about changing culture," Senator Di Natale said.
"One way he can do that is to ensure this repeat offender, Minister Dutton, is sent to the backbench where he belongs, and another suitable replacement is found for that difficult portfolio ... preferably a woman, a capable woman from within the Coalition ranks.
"He has made comments towards a senior journalist that do reflect the sexism that is at the heart of the Coalition government."
Peter Dutton's SMS slip has landed him in hot water. (Andrew Meares)
Mr Dutton is likely to avoid any further consequences for his text mishap, in which he labelled a journalist a "mad f---ing witch", which Mr Turnbull called "completely inappropriate".
Senator Di Natale said the Prime Minister should lead by example and bring about change in Australia's attitude towards women.
"What's required in this country is a change in culture. We need to see that change in culture come from the ground up, from our sporting institutions right through to politics," he said.
"I launched a domestic violence initiative on White Ribbon Day with the Prime Minister where he said very clearly that it was the responsibility of all men in Australia to call out sexism when they see it.
"That it was about men respecting their sisters, their mothers, their wives. And that where they fail to do it, they need to be called out.
"Well, the Prime Minister needs to demonstrate that he takes the issues seriously, that it's more than just rhetoric."
He also called on the government to reinstate domestic violence funding cuts and commended Liberal MP Sharman Stone for admonishing the "boys' club" in her own party.
Labor continues to call for an investigation into the leaking of a photograph of the public servant who complained about the behaviour of former cities minister Jamie Briggs.
"Actions speak louder than words and ... Mr Turnbull needs to show that he is taking this matter seriously by investigating who Mr Briggs sent this photograph to and who it was that gave it to The Australian newspaper so it could be published," shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister has rejected the calls, saying, "These leaks inquiries, they tend to come up with very little.
"I think we know the photograph was taken by Mr Briggs' phone and he shouldn't have done it."
Wednesday January 6, 2016
'I'd call you a c---': Senator David Leyonhjelm drops the c-bomb on Twitter
By Fergus Hunter /Reporter
Following an argument on Twitter, Senator David Leyonhjelm responds by calling someone a 'c---'.
There's plenty of bad language and abuse on social media, but it doesn't usually come from an elected representative in the Australian Parliament.
Libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm has labelled someone a "c---" on Twitter during an argument over Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's text mishap, in which he labelled a female journalist a "mad f---ing witch".
Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm in his Sydney office. (Jessica Hromas)
Senator Leyonhjelm, whose profile warns that "offensive abusers are blocked", dropped the "c-bomb" the day after he called another Twitter user a "witch".
He said Acting Opposition Leader Penny Wong, who had said she would find being called a witch offensive, "protests too much" and that "offence is chosen".
User @labourareliars then asked him "if someone called you a 'baldy lunatic f---wit', you'd be fine with it?"
- The senator's tweet."I'd call you a c---. And probably a rude name after that," Senator Leyonhjelm responded.
The Liberal Democrat senator is on a plane to Italy. A spokesman said the senator "is a rude man" but noted people offended by his use of the word have "probably used it themselves".
The outspoken senator is no stranger to causing controversy through language:
In November, the NSW senator said that police had earned the saying "all cops are bastards".
That same month, he called children "bundles of dribble and sputum" and praised people for not having them.
In July, he labelled another Twitter user a "legitimate f---wit" when they raised his anti-wind farm views.
In June 2014, he said he thought John Howard "deserved to be shot" when the former prime minister cracked down on firearms following the Port Arthur massacre.
And following the 2014 Martin Place siege, he said tough gun laws had made Australia a "nation of victims".
Mr Dutton continues to face criticism for accidentally sending veteran News Corp political journalist Samantha Maiden a text message calling her a "mad f---ing witch". The message was intended for a colleague.
On Tuesday, Deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce implored Australia not to become too "sterile" and politically correct.
"I like that Australia is to the point," he said.
"One of the great things about Australian politics is our informality and directness and I'd hate to lose that - even if there can be faux pas."