“Go drown yourself. Then your kid might stand a chance.” Um, excuse me? Who writes this stuff? Grumpy old men, that’s who.
This is just one of the messages I’ve received this week after an error-riddled story surfaced in The Australian, reporting that I took my daughter on a work trip last year.
Of course the conservative old blokes were grumpier than usual after the newspaper dressed the two days full of meetings and consultations over the proposed oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight as a “whale watching tour”.
Wrong. There was no “tour”, no “cruise” or any “boats” at all. But hey, why let facts get in the way of good story. Never mind that I was in my electorate hearing the concerns of the community.
I met with indigenous groups, tourism and fisheries operators and the local Council. Ramping up the community’s campaign to save the Bight from oil drilling, I went to see for myself what impact an oil spill, like what has sadly occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, would have on the local environment and the sensitive whale sanctuary.
I was there to do my job, a politician listening to the concerns of the community.
And I also happened to take my daughter, who was nine at the time and needed to be with her mother.
This week, the grumps were in overdrive. I’ve had online trolls demand I ‘get back in the kitchen’, wish for my violent death, call me a moll, a slut and a fat pig.
And it’s not just online cowards, we also had to call the Australian Federal Police to the office after threats were made to my staff from callers who have a problem with me as a working mother.
I’ve had media commentators accuse me of being a bad parent for taking my child to work when she needed her mum, or playing the ‘single mother card’. But as any single mother knows, there is no ‘card’ to play. It is a harsh reality for working women everywhere that at some time in your career those roles are going to intertwine.
“You stupid slag whore…go hang yourself.” Such vitriol, such violent abuse, all because I dared to be both a politician and a mum. This wasn’t the first time, I’ve become used to the unhinged attacks that come from mostly men about my actions as an elected Senator, and it won’t be the last.
I’ve been in the Senate for almost as long as I’ve been a mum. I understand very well the privileged position I am in.
Every politician in the federal parliament has access to a family travel budget, and for someone who travels a lot for work, whether it be to Canberra or around my home state of South Australia, I am grateful that it exists. I don’t take it for granted. But for the past week, through the fog of Facebook and Twitter trolls, many people have said to me, ‘If you were a man, taking your daughter to work with you would be celebrated’.