“There has not been a single word and single action or a single policy that has justified my cautious optimism in Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.”
The day after Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister two years ago, when many people were threatening to move to Canada (or any country of which Tony Abbott was not Prime Minister), I wrote a post here on Mamamia stating that I was cautiously optimistic.
Despite a woeful and alarming history on issues affecting women such as reproductive rights and maternity leave and despite him having a general air of some highly regressive attitudes about women and our place in the workforce, the parliament and the world, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“All we can do is judge our new Prime Minister by what he says and how he’s promised to lead the country. In time, we’ll be able to judge him by what he actually does as Prime Minister. It’s not about rhetoric anymore, it’s about action and we’re about to see how that plays out.”
Here’s what happened after that:
- Abbott appointed himself Minister For Women, thus rendering the role meaningless. A staggeringly arrogant and wildly unpopular decision which he compounded by not doing a single thing for women during the following two years.
- Abbott appointed just one woman to his cabinet. He dismissed calls for quotas by insisting it was a ‘merit-only’ system by which ministers were appointed, despite this being patently false. There was a State quota, a quota for National Party members and a quota for left and right, all of which determined the composition of the cabinet and always has.
- Abbott claimed to see nothing wrong with Australian women forming 51% of the population and yet less than 8% of the cabinet.
- Abbott refused to be interviewed by me or any other journalist from the Mamamia Womens Network or any other women’s website in Australia, instead choosing to engage dozens and dozens of times with male journalists like Ray Hadley and Alan Jones to audiences of men. He never engaged in any meaningful way with any form of women’s media.
- When asked by Lisa Wilkinson in 2014 to name his best achievement as Minister for Women, he said this: “As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550 a year benefit for the average family.” Seriously.
- Under his leadership, his government cut essential services that women desperately need to escape family violence: Accessible legal services (including specific services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) lost $43 million. Funding for housing services, women’s shelters and emergency accommodation was cut by at least $44 million.
- Abbott was unable to find any Australian woman worthy of the top honour of being named a Knight or Dame in the Order of Australia. Instead, he gave it to General Angus Houston and Prince Philip, indicating the Queen’s husband more worthy than any woman in Australia.
- Abbott abandoned his signature paid parental leave scheme, which he had used as a lightsabre during the election campaign to ‘prove’ that he did not have a ‘woman problem’, along with his three daughters who he wore like a shield against claims of sexism whenever he appeared in public.
- Abbott has cunningly, cruelly blocked and stymied the potential for same-sex marriage to become legalised despite more than 72 percent of the Australian population being in favour of it.
There has not been a single word and single action or a single policy that has justified my cautious optimism in Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. He has shown particular aptitude for alienating women. He has been wilfully, recklessly and arrogantly burning any capital he had with women since the day he was elected.
He has stubbornly and steadfastly refused to engage with women in any public sphere. He has ignored hundreds of requests from us at the Mamamia Women’s Network, despite assiduously promising he would talk to us after he was elected. Every Prime Minister since Mamamia was founded has willingly engaged with us, as did Tony Abbott before he became Prime Minister.
Because why would the Minister for Women talk to a women’s website?
Tony Abbott has done nothing to persuade women that he understands the issues that affect us or that he cares enough about them to even learn what they are.
It’s time for him to go.