THE ESTABLISHMENT of a network for female Coalition staff by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, is to be congratulated; about the only drawback against it is that such a group should be necessary at all, shunned as women on the conservative side of the aisle have been by the “sisterhood” — or handbag hit squad — which talks a good game on the advancement of women, but clearly does not count females in the Liberal Party as “women.”
First things first: it’s been a little while since there’s been an audio link included with one of my articles (and we probably need to change that up a bit) but this morning, we’ve got a beauty: and all readers, men and women, political friends and opponents alike, can crank this ripsnorter of a track up to the limit as they read on. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone what it is, but belt it out and enjoy it all the same.
In all my years in media (and prior to that, in restaurants) I have worked with — and for — many, many good people; I have also worked with some absolute shockers, and it would not surprise any reasonably minded individual to know that the ranks of both the “stars” and the no-hopers have been populated with men and women alike.
As an employee, the two best bosses I ever had were impossible to separate on merit, and one was male and one was female; the three worst are some of the most insidious and utterly useless specimens I have ever had the misfortune to have encountered, and one of them was male too. And where my colleagues have been concerned more broadly, I couldn’t give a shit whether they are male or female, to put it bluntly: whether they can do their jobs, and beyond that whether they work professionally and collegiately, are the things that are most important. I think most people will be nodding their heads at this point.
But politics is one of those spheres where gender has remained not only an issue of contention, but in recent times become a political football as well. Perversely, and grotesquely, certain women have fuelled this process, claiming in word to defend and champion the advancement of their sisters whilst being revealed in deed as mere pedlars of an odious and divisive political sub-plot that probably causes the lot of women generally tremendous damage.
I am talking, of course, of the so-called “Handbag Hit Squad,” or the “sisterhood,” which is a network of women of the Left centred primarily (but not exclusively) on the deeply socialist group Emily’s List; where the rights of women on the Left are concerned, this group is shrill in its advocacy; where those on the Right are concerned, it is silent. And when “misogyny” is brought to bear on the members of the sisterhood, the outrage and indignant righteousness is deafening, but when the same misdeeds are committed against the women of the Right, this group remains mute.
It is little wonder, therefore, that the Coalition Women’s Staff Network — the brainchild of Peta Credlin, chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Abbott — launched last week with some 300 attendees, most of them female Coalition staffers, to meet a need that was certainly never going to be met by the personal decencies of their counterparts in the ALP or the
Communist Party Greens.
I have enormous sympathy for Credlin on this issue; not least on account of the vicious and disgusting personal attack she was subjected to by boofhead federal MP Clive Palmer back in June, but also because some of the real issues it touched on are common to people in my group personally, and because of the lack of basic human courtesies that good people simply do not respond to in like kind.
That episode was as telling for Palmer’s foot in his mouth as it was for the conspicuous silence of the Handbag Hit Squad, which mostly declined to condemn Palmer and/or to make any statements of unequivocal support for Credlin as a woman irrespective of the fact she was a political opponent.
And it seems the justifiable fury the incident provoked in Credlin spurred her to orchestrate this group for Coalition women: and I say, good on them.
Regrettably, the Palmer incident was not the first time Credlin had been unfairly targeted, and neither was it the first time Coalition women have been on the receiving end. And it was simply the latest in a long line of targeted attacks on females in Coalition ranks in which the women of the Left have remained mute.
No end of insulting formulations have found their way in the direction of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, for example; likened to a rottweiler wearing lipstick and other unsavoury metaphors, members of the “sisterhood” have even participated in throwing these slurs around.
Female MPs on the Coalition side such as Sophie Mirabella and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells — reviled by the ALP for their effectiveness — were given no quarter by Labor women at the same time their leader was grabbing international headlines for a speech about “misogyny” made in defence of a man caught out sending absolutely filthy, degrading text messages about women to a staffer: a technicality which, when pointed out to those on the Left, merely elicits a barrage of anti-Liberal bile and an attempt to change the subject.
It’s been going on for years; 20 years ago I remember the then-leader of the Queensland Liberals, Joan Sheldon, being excoriated as boasting a pedigree that was “50% German, 50% Shepherd” by the ALP, whose female MPs and officials never uttered a syllable in Sheldon’s defence.
And when Liberal women achieve any kind of success (let alone, God forbid, resounding success) the silence is deafening; Tanya Plibersek, repeatedly given opportunities to acknowledge the fine efforts and accomplishments of Julie Bishop as Foreign minister in the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, the Ukraine-Russia dispute and activity around ISIS earlier in the year, eventually — and grudgingly — claimed that Bishop’s achievements showed that the machinery of the United Nations worked well, and no more.
On the positive side, anything that provides support and pastoral nourishment on a professional level should be encouraged, and especially in the world of politics, which can be a lonely enough and difficult enough place at the best of times.
And to her credit, the objectives Credlin appears to have established for her group seem first-rate, with female leaders from a variety of vocations set to feature as guests, speakers, and mentors to the Coalition staff network.
But damned in the breach is the “sisterhood,” whose bleating about “misogyny” and blind rants against all manner of ills they claim to suffer do not extend across the aisle to their Coalition counterparts, for whom their disdain shows they hold in as much contempt as the “misogynists” — real, imagined or perceived — whom they claim cause them so much suffering and grief.
I hope the Credlin initiative is a great success, and that it prospers well beyond its promising debut last week; after all, as is the way with these things, it is easy enough the begin something but increasingly difficult to maintain momentum once the initial flurry of activity and excitement wears off.
And perhaps the group could invite Palmer to a closed-door session on pregnancy, conception, and the challenges they can impose on the career of women: it might not remotely interest him, but given Palmer has seen fit to mouth off inadvisedly about such matters, he might as well hear about them, first-hand, from the group in society e-er destined to live and embody them.