Love in the age of choleric

Throughout the 2007 federal election campaign Senator Penny Wong declared herself to be in total agreement with the ALP’s anti-same-sex marriage policy. She argued – rather persuasively – that there was “a cultural, religious and historical view of marriage between a man and a woman.”

This past week, Tony Abbott said the very same thing. While acknowledging that for many people, including his sister, Christine, gay marriage represented “an important issue”, he believed in “evolutionary change” and did not want to be stampeded into a “radical change based on the fashion of the moment”. Senator Wong, who turned pro-gay marriage after the 2007 election, gave him a serve: “Note to Mr Abbott: Equality is not a fashion item.”

It would be easy to dismiss the modern-day ALP as simply duplicitous. Julia Gillard, in the estimation of pollster and political analyst Graham Young, opposed gay marriage during her term in office but for narrow political advantage rather than principle. Her “tribe” was always going to vote Labor or Greens, and conditions were not deemed propitious for risking the ire of “blue-collar Tories”. Today, apparently, they are. If Wong campaigned against gay marriage when it was less fashionable (or politically expedient), does that not mean her own shifting position is a function of “the fashion of the moment”?

Likewise Prime Minister Rudd. When Kevin07 was courting the conservative-minded Christian vote six years ago, and did not require Senator Wong’s endorsement for the top job, he sang a very different tune. Now that Rudd has performed a cynical back flip – or experienced a life-changing epiphany – the ALP strategists are calling the 2013 election “a choice between a Twentith Century man [Abbott] and the future [Rudd].” Kevin Rudd’s unexpected advocacy for “marriage equality” not only secured Penny Wong’s support for the political assassination of Australia’s first female prime minister, but also put into play for Labor – according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald – six marginal seats in Sydney.

This past week saw journalist Andrew Bolt pointing out more double standards on the part of Labor. Abbott ignited a veritable firestorm after suggesting that Fiona Scott, the Liberal candidate for the seat of Lindsay, not only had a strong personality and close connection with the local community, but also “a bit of sex appeal”. Scott – like any well-adjusted person inhabiting the real world – regarded Abbott’s remark as a “very charming compliment”, but this was to no avail. Bolt noted that amongst those in the Canberra press gallery berating Abbott were female journalists who previously reported, approvingly, a SMH poll acclaiming Labor’s Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare as “the Minister for Hotness”.

The Left’s malice, however, goes beyond mere hypocrisy. Take, for instance, Prime Minister Rudd’s own response to the Fiona Scott non-gaffe: “In modern Australia neither sexism nor racism nor homophobia has any place whatsoever.” Kevin Rudd, who was once (allegedly) asked to leave a New York strip club after “inappropriate behaviour”, is not just the kettle calling the pot black. His demonisation of Abbott echoes Gillard’s infamous October, 2012, misogynist denunciation, as does human rights lawyer Tanja Kovac’s wild assertion that the Leader of the Opposition’s remark was “just another in a long line of lecherous and demeaning comments” who “will only give you the time of day if you float his boat.”

On one level, at least, the ALP’s modus operandi for destroying the reputation of Tony Abbott seems specious. The devotion between Abbott and his wife, Margie, strikes most observers as enviable. His three grown-up daughters, Louise, Bridget and Frances, speak highly of him and publicly display a genuine fondness for “daggy dad”. He, in turn, is a devoted son to his mother, Fay. And then there’s his sister Christine Forster. During an interview with Ellen Fanning on the SBS programme The Observer Effect, in June, 2013, Forster divulged that it was to her brother Tony – “an incredibly empathetic fellow” – she turned for support during the “traumatic” period in which she, decades ago, ended her marriage and came out as a gay woman: “For many months he was the person in my family that I rang and said, ‘I need to talk to you about that.’”

Tony Abbott’s “woman problem” appears to have no basis in reality, despite David Marr, in his “Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott”, Quarterly Essay 47, writing about a 35-five-year-old unwitnessed incident in which the 19-year-old Tony Abbott purportedly punched the wall immediately adjacent to an undergraduate political rival, Barbara Ramjan. Gerard Henderson notes in issue 195 of his Media Watch Dog blog that Marr is still to offer an explanation for why the date of the unsubstantiated “punch” was changed from September 1977 to July 28, 1977 in the second edition of his anti-Abbott opus.

Anna Goldsworthy, in her recently published Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny, Quarterly Essay 50, represents another attempt by uptown bohemia to join the Abbott-has-a-problem-with-women dots. Goldsworthy allows that Abbott is unencumbered by misogyny, at least in the sense the editors of the Macquarie Dictionary used before they stretched the “hatred of women” definition to include “entrenched prejudice against women”. It goes without saying – or proving – that the new meaning satisfactorily encapsulates Tony Abbott’s character. He might not be a misogynist in the original designation of the term, but is not his “turning a blind eye” to the presence of real misogyny “the same as being misogynist”?

One indisputable case of misogyny occurred on the ABC’s Q&A programme in May, 2012. The personal abuse levelled at Gina Rinehart does not bear repeating, and Goldsworthy condemns the Sydney Morning Herald’s verdict that Barry Humphries performance confirmed his status as “one of the nation’s greatest comedic talents”. Goldsworthy is similarly critical of another member of the panel, Miriam Margolyes. Goldsworthy rightly takes them both to task. If Humphries played the part of vulgar eccentric, Margolyes relished her role as the eccentric vulgarian.

One commentator characterised Q&A’s anti-Gina Rinehart programme as “casual misogyny”, but “politically-motivated misogyny” might be a more accurate description. At the time Rinehart was in the sights of the Left – more so, at any rate, than usual – because the Western Australian mining magnate had been planning to increase her investment portfolio in the left-leaning Fairfax media organisation. Viewers of the programme were astonished – some with giddy delight, others in horror – when the rules of civilised public discourse were temporarily suspended in order for Rinehart to be thoroughly vilified.

Significantly, Goldsworthy omits from her account the part played by David Marr – perhaps the Australian Left’s premier journalist – in the proceedings. A month or so earlier, during an address at the Mosman Library in April, 2002, Marr railed against “the special pleasure” enjoyed by the critics of Julia Gillard, her job as PM providing “the licence to public abuse of a woman.” This, alas, did not prevent Marr from joining Margolyes and Humphries in a vitriolic and deeply personal attack on Gina Rinehart’s character and her “amazingly perverse behaviour”.

Goldsworthy, on occasion, attempts to be even-handed about the ALP’s hypocrisy in their defaming of Tony Abbott. She mentions, for instance, Julia Gillard cavorting for the cameras with pro-Labor radio personality Kyle Sandilands – “he of the ‘fat slag’ comments”. This, Goldsworthy permitted, somewhat undermined Gillard’s “I am always offended by sexism” claim. The problem for Goldsworthy, however, is that her leftist prejudices prevent her from noticing the elephant in the room.

The second wave of feminism has by now been co-opted well and truly by a radical anti-bourgeois ideology, one that is at war with anybody who dares oppose it, man or woman. Christine Forster, in her recent SBS interview, made it clear she wants to see the introduction of same-sex marriage in Australia, and yet she maintains a deep-abiding love and respect for brother Tony.

Forster also liked the fact that her conservative Catholic sibling was not as emphatic on the subject of gay marriage as he has been, and now spoke privately of being “conflicted”. She rejected Rudd’s call for a national referendum on gay marriage, preferring the national conversation to evolve in its own good time. Forster worried that the ALP’s crash-through-or-crash approach was a recipe for disaster and would be divisive. But that, of course, is the very point of modern-day Labor’s “progressive” ideology. Divide and rule is the name of the game – demonise your political opponents and delegitimise them in the eyes of as many voters as possible.

The latest polling news from the seat of Lindsay is that since Abbott’s non-gaffe about Liberal candidate Fiona Scott possessing “a bit of sex appeal”, she has surged ahead of David Bradbury, Labor’s Assistant Treasurer. Lindsay, created as recently as 1984, exemplifies the archetypal bellwether electorate, with no incumbent ever sitting on the opposition benches. Maybe it is not only the voters in Lindsay but also the people of Australia in general who are fed up with the PC brigade deciding what we may say or think. We will know on September 7.        

Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au

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