Australia

Toxic house culture born on Parliament’s lawn

March 29, 2021 — 12.01am

VINTAGE LEUNIG

Illustration: Michael Leunig

Illustration: Michael LeunigCredit:

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POWER, SEXISM AND PRIVILEGE

Toxic house culture born on Parliament’s lawn

The 10-year anniversary of senior male and female Liberal MPs standing in front of the misogyny-ridden signage “ditch the witch” and “JuLiar – Bob Brown’s bitch” – disparaging the first female prime minister of Australia – puts the current context of systemic misogyny in Parliament into clear perspective. Put simply, it started back then and has continued unabated until the explosive revelation by Brittany Higgins of alleged raped in Parliament (“History of sex scandals plagues the Coalition”, The Age, 28/3).

Notably, the difference between then and now is that Julia Gillard’s “complaint” of toxic treatment by her opposition colleagues was dismissed as Gillard “playing the gender card”, and playing the woman (not her policies) was deemed culturally acceptable.

Fast forward 10 years, the “escalating series of missteps and scandals relating to women, sex and power that have culminated in a shocking six weeks” makes it nigh impossible to dismiss the culture of toxic misogyny.

So, as David Crowe aptly asserted yesterday, “Tears and words aren’t enough, it’s time for action on treatment of women”.

And this time it’s on Scott Morrison’s watch to facilitate the cultural change that needs to happen without any exceptions (think Christian Porter, Andrew Laming and Linda Reynolds) to the rule of professional conduct in the workplace. Noting that it’s way past the point of talk and no action.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Born-to-rule mentality
Judging from their academic achievements, both Porter and Laming are intelligent men. Unfortunately, while empowering its possessors to reach the stars, high IQ does not always equate to maturity and empathy. Both men have been caught out assuming that their intellects and ties to power (both children of parliamentarians and exclusive private school alumni) will put them above consequences of actions. The ABC report on Porter’s behaviour at school, university and beyond, published in November last year, created barely a ripple. Porter batted it away with an apology and didn’t deny it or challenge it as libellous.

Read in today’s climate, this article should promptly end his career. Ironically, subsequent events have overshadowed that expose’s power to shock.

Whether such character weaknesses are enough for our political system to move on to less flawed individuals, time will tell. As someone shattered by the results of the last election, I fear both men, and certainly Porter, a man born to rule if ever there was one, will be in powerful positions for years to come.
Michael Langford, Ivanhoe

Government chooses ideology over action
Why would anyone have any confidence in this federal government taking any meaningful action, regardless of what Kate Jenkins’ investigation into the culture inside Parliament House finds?

The royal commission into our banks led to zero prosecutions. The one into Aboriginal deaths in custody hasn’t prevented more than 400 First Nations people from dying since its findings.

The avalanche of scientifically endorsed information has had next to no effect on policies meant to deal with climate change.

Call them what you like. Royal commissions, investigations, reports, summits, inquiries. They will be continually ignored by governments who choose ideology and a desire to entrench privilege over well-researched, objective evidence.
Craig Jory, Glenroy, NSW

Liberals’ ‘women’s issue’ entrenched
I remember well the Liberal Party women smiling and nodding in agreement with Tony Abbott as he and his shock-jock sycophants relentlessly pilloried Julia Gillard ... no female solidarity there. The photograph in The Age (23/3) brings it all back and shows exactly why the Liberal Party has so much more of a “women’s” issue than does the Labor Party.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

THE FORUM

Incentives not barriers
People who have invested in solar panels should not be charged for exporting to the grid. The idea that they should is counter to the whole idea that we should be moving to a 100 per cent renewable future to save the planet from the most extreme consequences of climate change. We need incentives to transitions, not barriers.
Loretta Smith, Reservoir

Climate change pressure
Thank you to Clancy Yeates for an excellent overview of how climate change is affecting investment and financial regulation (“Climate change pressure on finance giants is only just getting started”, The Age, 28/3). As the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) begins conducting climate “stress tests” on our banks, insurance companies and super funds, I wonder if LNP politicians will jump up and down as they did when ANZ stopped funding the Port of Newcastle over its exposure to fossil fuels. I suspect that they will quietly seek out APRA’s findings and advise their share portfolio managers to adjust the mix accordingly.
Ray Peck, Hawthorn

Train pain
At the start of the year the state government announced an increase in trains, ostensibly to reduce crowding and be COVID-19 safe. Those of us getting the 6.25am from Melbourne to Bendigo, especially those getting on from Woodend up, hoped for an earlier train service to relieve the congestion for commuters.

Again, we were disappointed. By 8.30am on the Ballarat line two trains have already been and gone but the first crowded train to Bendigo gets in at 8.20am. The only noticeable change on the Bendigo line has been the replacement of the 16.44 service with a 16.26 service. Meaning government workers, who often finish at 4.30pm, and school students doing extra-curricular activities, now have to wait for the 17.29 train.

With the Bendigo Government Hub due to open in the middle of next year and 1000 workers expected to work there you would expect the government would improve public transport to Bendigo. Countless letters to the Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll asking for a better service have received no response. I guess all the new hub workers will have to drive their cars to ensure they get to work on time.
Rohan Wightman, Muckleford

Women a special interest
A leaflet from the Victorian Liberal Party appeared in my mail box recently. It invited me to join the Liberal Party and offered several reasons to do so. One, for my wife presumably, was to join a “special interest group” such as the Liberal Women’s Council. Seeing women as just an “interest group” to be managed may be a clue to some of the current problems.
Terry Hart, Box Hill

For whom the bell tolls
Parnell Palme McGuinness in her piece (“It won’t be easy, but maybe Scott Morrison is the man to make quotas happen”, The Age, 22/3), on the PM’s changing views on women and quotas in politics seems over generous in suggesting this might be Scott’s hour.

Recent news on Scott’s activities suggest the bells are tolling.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Same old play-book
Peter Hartcher explains how Scott Morrison has bungled his response to sexual assault against women and the larger issue of discrimination generally against women.

Why would he not respond promptly, sincerely and meaningfully to a problem galvanising the women of Australia? Sadly we have seen this same play-book many times before – climate change, aged care, affordable housing, treatment of the disabled and welfare recipients, mistreatment of customers by the finance sector, deaths in custody etc.

Step 1 – resist the call for change; Step 2 – resist more belligerently; Step 3 – acquiesce to an inquiry or royal commission; Step 4 – place report in bottom drawer; Step 5 – in desperation cherry pick recommendations for actioning.

The inexplicable question is why the PM resists action on so many issues that the public would reward him for addressing.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

Get out of the way
Hans Pieterse (Letters, 27/3), Scott Morrison has been pretending to be a prime minister ever since he found his way into the position and it is becoming a less convincing performance by the day. He is finding that the job requires more than a shallow policy agenda, a vague alignment with the supposed interests of “aspirational quiet Australians”, a blokey shtick and marketing spin.

Anthony Albanese should avoid trying to compete with Morrison on his terms by offering the electorate just a small-target undistinguished alternative. If politicians on either side don’t have a vision for a better Australia, a policy agenda for achieving that and the ability to sell it to their party and to the voters, then get out of the way and let those who do assume the leadership.
Tony Ralston, Balwyn North

Expand umpire roles
I’m always amazed regarding the limited role of goal and boundary umpires in the AFL given new technology. In many sports numerous officials can indicate infringements, for example linesmen in rugby league and soccer.

The Blicavs-Bailey tackle was an example of red-hot incorrect disposal metres from the goal umpire.
Even with three field umpires the actions of a player can be out of sight by all of them but clearly visible to a goal or boundary umpire. Watch players near the boundary who infringe and are unsighted by the field umpires but clearly visible to a boundary umpire (and a yelling crowd).

Ages can be spent using technology, replaying whether a player or post touches a ball which scores. Yet blatant errors at vital times are ignored. Assuming in this case that the goal umpire suspects an infringement why cannot play be stopped and the video checked? The AFL needs to explore new role definitions for goal and boundary umpires.
Russell Harrison, Sandringham

PM responsible
Following the election of the Morrison government, Scott Morrison signalled there was going to be a cleanout at the top of the public service making it clear he was going to change the culture of the public service and other government institutions.

Having initiated these changes the problems the Coalition government is facing rest solely on Scott Morrison’s shoulders.
Margaret Raffle, Keilor East

Face the music
Empathy training will not help Andrew Laming. Empathy is not a cognitive skill, such as geography or mathematics. It is a core relational capacity that develops from early life and is refined throughout life. If he does not have it already there is little chance it will emerge now.

The PM needs to declare zero tolerance for unacceptable behaviour. He should sack any badly behaved staff and MPs immediately, and move Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds to the backbench. Giving all these MPs medical leave is bypassing their responsibilities as citizens and adults.

A true leader stands firmly, with integrity, and faces the consequences.
Pia Brous, Prahran

Wrong direction
I have been installing solar and storage for the past 17 years. Australian research of solar led the world and then was discouraged pre-1970s. Eventually the slow-tracked industry was given a step-up. It had been illegal to share solar energy back into the grid. Enthusiasm of this trend has led Australia to have the highest ratio of domestic solar in the world.

A decision to tax individuals making their own and sharing clean energy is a step in the wrong direction. We are getting closer to having a smart grid which is more inclusive. If this happens it ought to be consistent for all players supplying the grid. Why should private profit-making companies be excluded from the same process?
Martin Gray, Christmas Hills

Reverse AFL decision
Now that the AFL has admitted the umpire made an egregious mistake in the dying moments of the Lions-Cats game on Friday night, it should go all the way and reverse the decision: Lions winning by five points.
Geof C. Carne, Moonee Ponds

Right to safety
As fearful West Richmond Primary School parents ask to meet with James Merlino, we have to ask why for so long the government has been claiming that the school community supports the location of the injecting centre within 30 metres of its front gate. Injecting centres carry attendant risk. Risk as users buy their illegal drugs in the surrounding streets, risk as drug-affected users leave the centre, driving or walking directly past the school gate, and risk from highly distressed drug users who may experience multiple and complex mental health and other issues.

Primary schoolchildren have the right to a safe and peaceful environment. An injecting centre can provide the support drug users need but it should be appropriately located and that is not on the doorstep of a primary school.
Jenny Samms, Richmond

Cross-section essential
If quotas are too hard for Liberal Party members to adopt, how about a rule that all selection committees for political candidates have equal numbers of men and women? The claim that “merit” is the key issue might then be more credible, and women might be less discouraged from nominating. It would, of course, be important to make sure the women members were not selected by a set of men. But if such procedures are already followed, quotas are necessary.

Why is it apparently meritorious to nominate for a seat in Parliament on the basis of a degree in law or politics followed by some years as a member of a politician’s staff? Experience in the workplace as a builder, a scientist, a small business owner, a nurse, an aged care worker ... before entering Parliament should have higher merit. Such a cross-section of people is also more likely to reflect multicultural Australia.
Peter Turner, Castlemaine

AND ANOTHER THING ...

Morrison
It is easy to say you are listening, but have you turned your hearing aid on?
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

It seems our Emperor Morrison has no clothes. Can someone please tell him that common decency demands much more cover than is provided by a Sharks cap and a Hawaiian shirt?
Brian Derum, North Fitzroy

Don’t suppose there’s any chance of an early election now, Mr Morrison.
Kevin Ward, Preston

Being a Liberal MP is dangerous for your mental health.
John Walsh, Watsonia

Leadership 101: Great leaders make the tough calls. Prime Minister, it’s time to lead.
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills

Politics
Empathy training – learning to wipe imaginary tears away with the back of your hand while looking sincerely sorry.
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

I sincerely hope that Anthony Albanese and Adam Bandt are forensically scrutinising their male politicians and staffers for any past, present or potential misdeeds.
David Johnston, Healesville

So the Liberal Party prefer to choose candidates on merit. When are they going to start?
Layla Godfrey, Mount Eliza

Furthermore
On Passover, we remember how Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt. Is it too much to ask for some divine intervention to help rescue Essendon from the wilderness?
Joel Feren, East St Kilda

And yet again another opportunity to face-palm myself senseless – Brisbane man holds party while he was supposed to isolate following a COVID-19 test. Sigh. Stupid doesn’t come close.
Wendy Hinson, Wantirna

My two-word advice to wine exporters – eggs, basket.
Mick Webster, Chiltern

Finally
Women united will never be defeated.
Gloria Meltzer, Chewton

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