Quotas — Fixed, Soft, “Aspirational” — Have No Place In The Liberal Party

THE ONLY determinant of who political parties select to contest parliamentary seats should be a consideration of the best candidate available; a call this week by the federal executive of the Liberal Party for an “aspirational” target of 50% female representation is idiot-simple, patronising, and divisive, and will achieve nothing of merit. Poor candidate selection is enough of a problem as it is, across all parties, without entrenching it further.

About twelve or eighteen months ago, it was relayed to me that “Peta” — Tony Abbott’s former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin — had “decided” that her “legacy” should be the formal adoption by the Liberal Party of a “binding soft target” that 50% of all Liberal candidates preselected to winnable seats should be female, and that she was “determined to force the party to accept” the position she had decided to pursue.

That conversation, with an excellently placed source, took place at the time Credlin was at the height of her paranoid, micromanaging, amateurish power at the epicentre of the Abbott government, and given my complete opposition to quotas of any kind, I assured my source that if Credlin’s “legacy” ever saw the light of day I would do everything in my power to torpedo it: and with the Fairfax press reporting this week that the Liberals’ federal executive has resolved to introduce exactly what was conveyed to me all that time ago, here we are.

Aside from the sheer effrontery of a glorified and jumped-up public servant taking it upon herself to decide she was entitled to “a legacy” at all, those who advocate this sort of garbage miss the point that whilst similar arrangements at the ALP have succeeded in lifting the number of women sitting in Parliaments across the country, the overall calibre of elected representatives is no better now than it has ever been.

And I do not subscribe to the half-arsed counterpoint that if MPs are to be mediocre anyway, then half of them might as well be women: to me, the issue is the calibre of people overall who stand for elected office, and the problem to be solved is not one of gender at all but rather one of identifying, nurturing and encouraging the very best people within the ranks of the major parties — irrespective of whether they are men or women — to put themselves forward.

We will come back to those arguments, but first and foremost, the Fairfax article details the kind of thing the Communist Party (the real one in the Soviet Union) might have come up with if it turned its collective head to putting women in positions of power in the Politburo; this has it all — a 50% “aspirational” target (read: the compulsory and arbitrary carve-up of seats and the corresponding disregard for local branches to select the candidates they want); a “Liberal Champions of Change” program that forces men and women to “advocate for gender equality;” and pompously misleading assertions like the suggestion that simply putting more women in Parliament — because they’re female — will solve “a long-term existential challenge for the party, which it must proactively address in order to remain electorally relevant.”

The report disingenuously alludes to voting patterns at the 2010 federal election — at which Labor scored a lift in its vote from women simply on account of fielding the first female major party leader in Australian political history — but makes no reference to the 2013 election, at which both male and female voters flooded back to the Coalition as the ALP’s tenure in office was terminated.

And it should surprise nobody that the Women’s Working Group — set up in March this year — and its report have both materialised on the watch of outgoing federal director Brian Loughnane, who is of course Credlin’s husband; the apparent contrivance of the husband to bring the wife’s “legacy” to fruition is just a bit too convenient to be a coincidence.

In other words, those who try to defend this new direction in high-minded, sanctimonious terms really should get over themselves.

The Fairfax report cites three examples of the alleged railroading of female candidates as evidence of the problem such a change at the Liberal Party would supposedly correct.

One — Jane Hume, recently preselected to the third spot on the Coalition Senate ticket in Victoria — and the question of why she wouldn’t simply be elevated up the ticket to the second (more winnable) spot now Michael Ronaldson has announced he won’t stand again; the appropriate forums within the Liberal Party will make a determination on that, but the opening Hume contested was secured on the basis it would be the third spot on the ticket. Based on existing polling, the Coalition is almost certain to win a third Senator from Victoria at next year’s election. But the decision is being misrepresented as a simple male vs female equation; there is also an opportunity to get not one good new good Liberal candidate (Hume) into the Senate, but two.

Two — former state MP Donna Bauer’s interest in the federal seat of Dunkley, being vacated by former minister Bruce Billson — similarly fails to offer the cut-and-dried evidence of the need for “action” on women it is clearly intended to supply; Dunkley is a marginal seat at the best of times, and doesn’t even satisfy the women’s lobby’s demands to be allocated safe seats; Bauer has also been extremely ill (a fact well-known publicly) and she would have to satisfy any council of preselectors that she was literally fit to serve through both a gruelling election campaign and a three-year term if elected. That said, Bauer was an excellent MP as the member for Carrum, and in a seat usually held by Labor it was a credit to her that she won it at all. But the point is that her gender, frankly, has nothing to do with either the calibre of the service she did and may yet render, nor with the question of whether she should replace Billson in the federal seat that overlaps her old one in state Parliament.

And three, the question of whether upper house Victorian MP Margaret Fitzherbert should replace outgoing state Brighton MP Louise Asher in the bluest of blue ribbon state seats when Asher retires in 2018; Margaret is a friend, and when I first met her she had just been shouldered out of standing for the federal seat of Goldstein to make way for Andrew Robb (who has been an excellent ministerial performer, if not perhaps a visible local presence) and to be honest I’m in two minds: on the one hand, she would make an excellent state MP wherever she served, but on the other, she already has a state seat. Yes, it was a touch-and-go proposition, secured as it was last year from the third spot on the Coalition’s upper house ticket in the Southern Metropolitan electorate. But Margaret would arguably offer the Liberal Party its best prospect for continuing to hold three of the five Southern Metropolitan seats, and once again, the issue here isn’t one of gender at all, but rather of the party making the very best use of the resources it has at its disposal.

There are no straightforward answers to any of these three scenarios, but simply installing the woman in any or all of them precludes the prospect of a better candidate (who might in fact be female herself) from being considered. And that is not in the interests of the party, the wider community it seeks to serve, or even the tokenised, patronised woman in the middle of it, who must know the only reason for her preselection is what is (or isn’t) between her legs when what is between her ears is what really matters.

Speaking of Robb and Goldstein — for Andrew, at 65 next year, won’t be around forever either — I was recently shown a list of the names of four aspirants who hoped to succeed him as a Liberal MP in Goldstein; three of them were male and one was female. To be frank, three (including the female) would be nothing less than the waste of a safe seat on a time-server, and the fourth might be best served waiting five or ten years. Lest anyone think I’m being anti-women, however, I told the person who gave me the names to discard all four from consideration, and to go and chase a certain female identity around our branches who I think is one of the best potential MPs I have come across in many years: her name was not one of the four we had discussed.

I relay these stories, and my thinking in response to them, simply to illustrate just how rigid, brainless and counter-productive the adoption of  any kind of quota by the Liberal Party may be.

But lest there be any confusion about it, one of the reasons there are fewer female MPs from the Liberal Party is that for whatever reason, women seem less willing to put themselves forward for elected office; maybe women aren’t as interested in politics to the degree men are, or maybe they are unwilling to surrender lives, careers, earning capacity (and sometimes, marriages) to the brutal bear pit that is parliamentary politics in this country to the extent men are.

One thing I do know, however, is that a better approach to boosting the ranks of female MPs would be to identify suitable female candidates and encourage them to put themselves forward, and this is one area I think all parties might improve their efforts on: if it “naturally” occurs to men to do so, but women are more reticent, every assistance and encouragement should be offered. But simply finding female names to allocate to seats in Parliament is no solution at all.

The Liberal Party is just that — a party of free-minded individuals that champions the right of the individual to make decisions — and shackling it with some silly, arbitrary gender quota runs utterly counter to that noble principle.

And if you’re just going to tell half your branches that the seats they’re located in are reserved for female candidates only, it follows that you’re either going to encourage capable, ambitious men to start moving all over the place to chase a seat, or — more likely — to drop out of active involvement in the party altogether. Far from strengthening anything, as a quota of any description would seek to do, the end result would be to rob the party of ideas, resources, and potential parliamentary servants.

This column has never supported quotas in any way, shape, or form; be it Jacqui Lambie and her plans to create reserved seats for Aborigines, Bill Shorten’s (quietly abandoned) plot to introduce quotas for gays, lesbians, blacks, and heaven knows who else, or the disgusting female candidate factory of the hard socialist Left that is Emily’s List, the interests of whichever group stands to benefit from a quota are, in my view, tarnished and compromised by the very measure intended to advance them.

Quotas are patronising, humiliating, condescending and tokenistic; they send the terrible message that merit, in the big scheme of things, is irrelevant; they send the message to any group not covered by the quota that they are second-rate citizens; and all they really achieve is to enable whatever band of do-gooders responsible for them to feel good about themselves when there is little evidence they make any difference to the quality of outcomes — in this case, where governance of the country is concerned.

Does anyone seriously and credibly suggest the likes of Julia Gillard, Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young or the late Joan Kirner are shining advertisements for the virtues of open slather promotion of women simply because they are female? If you’re a socialist, perhaps, but for anyone with a brain they embody the fact that competence is too easily disregarded when gender is allowed to dictate things like political preselections, and so it would be if the Liberals adopt the recommendation on the table.

Political parties are volunteer organisations that have trouble as it is attracting quality candidates for all kinds of reasons — money foremost amongst them — and all quotas do in my view is entrench the mediocrity that more often than not emerges from preselection processes.

Look at the ALP, with its binding quotas: yes, there are an awful lot of useless male Labor MPs littered across Parliaments around the country, but the binding 35% quota for female representation simply means they’re accompanied by more equally useless women than their counterparts across the aisle.

Some might find that a hard judgement, but it’s meant to be: star candidates for high office are the exception, not the norm, however chauvinistic about the primacy of our respective parties we might choose to be.

Be they male or female, straight or gay, the sad fact is that the overwhelming majority of people elected to Parliaments in Australia are far from the best possible people in the community to fill those posts.

This issue has been a bugbear of mine for years; of course it would be good to see more women in Parliament, but by the same token it would be even better to improve the quality of elected representatives in general.

Quotas — be they hard, firm, soft, binding, arbitrary, aspirational or whatever — have no place in the Liberal Party or, as far as I’m concerned, anywhere else; the more important change that needs to be looked at is how to improve the calibre of elected representatives. Men and women alike should be championing the issue of merit, not bickering over how to favour one gender over the other.

If there’s one good thing that might emerge from this silly push to impose quotas on the Liberals, it could be that men are forced to give a more stringent account of themselves by women concentrating not on securing automatic allocations from the carve-up, but instead on encouraging the best in their ranks to step forward and take the men on. Just as there are mediocrities everywhere in politics, there are also some very good people, and a lot of those are female. But rigour and discipline, not quotas, are required for the cultural change I am alluding to.

Liberals — male and female alike — should do whatever they can to shoot this ridiculous recommendation down. As for Credlin, she can bury her “legacy” where the sun doesn’t shine. If, that is, she can extricate her head first to make way for it.

Maybe Credlin still thinks she should be gifted a safe Liberal seat. If she does, she’s in for a shock. There are resources available across from Australia to fund an independent conservative campaign against her should she ever put her head above the parapet. The reasons people are prepared to ensure she never sits in Parliament have nothing to do with gender.

In fact, a quick check on the identity of the current Prime Minister and the terminal electoral position of his predecessor speak volumes for the “merit” Credlin offers as a candidate. She can’t have it both ways. She was a woman given the #1 unelected position in Australian politics and was given unprecedented free rein to execute it, and fucked it up completely. Nothing to do with gender at all. Nobody to blame except herself.

If Credlin wants a fitting legacy, I’m sure there’s a jobs desk at Centrelink that might benefit from her aptitude for micromanagement, but the Liberal Party must consign her — and her silly quota — to the dustbin of history.

 

Liberal Women: Quotas No Way To Boost Female MP Numbers

THE SOLE DETERMINANT of who is endorsed by political parties for seats in Parliaments across Australia should — and must — be selecting the best candidate on offer, irrespective of gender, race, religion, or sexuality; and whilst the Liberal Party is right to consider how to get more women into elected office, targets and quotas are no answer. Such measures stink of patronising tokenism, and have no place in a democratic political party.

In posting just the second article for the week, readers will have guessed I have been busy; I have a lot on at present in areas that must take precedence over our discussions in this column, although between this piece — and some others I plan to publish over the weekend, time (and two children) permitting — we will I hope catch up to some extent on what has been happening over the past week, including the promised article on the silly push by two Labor Premiers to lift the Medicare levy as a pathetic copout designed to evade the heavy lifting associated with genuine taxation reform.

Today, however, I want to talk about the renewed apparent push by some within the Liberal Party to introduce a so-called soft target (read: quota) to lift the proportion of female Liberal MPs to 30% of the party’s elected representatives, and to say I am completely and utterly opposed to such a demeaning, tokenistic and trivialising measure is something of an understatement.

I’m going to be deliberately vague on some of the details in retelling this anecdote, but roughly 20 years ago I had the misfortune to attend a round of preselections conducted by the Queensland division of the Liberal Party, and before the candidates for one particular seat — a vacant, nominally Liberal seat — made their presentations, some bloke ran around the party members assembled on the day, telling everyone that “the party wants a woman; the party wants a woman: see that it happens.”

I was immediately and consequentially inclined to vote for just about anyone other than the sole woman in the field of candidates; and having later listened to the respective presentations and deciding the best candidate on offer was in fact one of the four men who stood against her, voted for him.

But the woman was victorious: and whilst Liberals later thought she was just great (in the grand old Liberal tradition that all of “our” elected representatives are the best thing since sliced bread, until or unless they do something particularly naughty and/or cross the wrong people) the fact is that this eventual time-server of lengthy tenure contributed, in round terms, nothing. She never lost her seat to Labor, which I suppose is something, but in a reasonably solid Liberal area and in the context of a discussion about preselecting women on merit, that isn’t saying very much at all.

I wanted to start out by revisiting the episode because it’s significant, in my view, for a number of reasons: one, it wasn’t long after Labor had declared for the first time a binding target for 35% of its MPs to be women, a move decried at the time within the Liberal Party (including by many strong, capable women) as insulting patronisation. Two, it was in my view an attempt to rig a preselection, insofar as the four men who stood may as well have not bothered to turn up. And three, that process threw up a female representative who might have been an effective factional operative but who — in the context of representing people and/or adding to public administration — was abysmal.

It was with despair, therefore, that I saw on Wednesday an article in The Australian that detailed a push by Brisbane Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro for the party to adopt “an initial 30 percent target” for getting women into seats in Parliament.

This is no way to improve the numbers of female MPs; as soon as you start doling out seats in Parliament to women because — well, just because they’re women — you immediately invalidate any merit the ladies in question might offer, and turn them into mere baubles, chattels, trinkets: worthless, really, beyond the fact they’re not men.

There are those who look to the ALP and the fact its 35% quota has, on the surface, achieved the desired objective, largely in tandem with the contemptible Emily’s List that sends hardcore female socialists into Parliaments across the country, and in conjunction with union and factional structures that allocate parliamentary seats as if they were the gifts of an autocratic fiefdom.

Dig a little deeper, and it’s difficult to accept a lot of these women are the best candidates the ALP could put up: certainly, those who are ultimately elected probably benefit from the fact they’re endorsed Labor candidates who harvest votes from people simply inclined to vote for the ALP anyway.

But women — like men — whose CVs detail personal journies through left-wing sinecures in the ALP, the unions, and sympathetic entities arguably well removed from anything that could be construed as remotely mainstream, speak more to the kind of women who put themselves forward than to any particular success in getting good female candidates into office.

And herein lies the rub.

Those who know me know I am no sexist or misogynist, and in fact I agree wholeheartedly that more good and talented women are needed in Parliament. But it’s not a case of “gender balance” or some other trendy platitude that needs to be indulged in order to bring this outcome about: very simply, the issue is getting a greater number of capable women to put themselves forward, or even to get more actively involved in politics at all.

There are a couple of things I should probably be clear about.

The first is a “captain obvious” acknowledgement that there are plenty of dud male MPs floating around on all sides of the spectrum, and by virtue of the fact the vast majority of MPs are still male, there are more of them than there are dud women. Nobody needs to think they’re inventing the wheel to point that out — I’m well aware of it, thank you very much.

But the second — looking at parties like the ALP, and others with forms of so-called positive discrimination in place, like the Communist Party Greens — is that the kind of women who benefit from these assisted passage schemes into Parliament seem to be the last people on Earth anyone would seriously choose to have represent their interests, the fact they eventually get voted into their seats notwithstanding.

If they were required to win 50% of the vote in a lower house electorate rather than hiding in the undemocratic Easy Street that is the proportionally elected Senate, does anyone seriously think people like Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young or (God forbid) actual Communist and fruit cake Lee Rhiannon would ever be elected to office in Australia? I think not.

Meanwhile, over at the ALP, people like Jenny Macklin (for whom I have always had a lot of time, despite our political differences) and Amanda Rishworth — who give a damn about people so tangibly it is written all over their faces — sit in the same party room as dangerous socialists like Tanya Plibersek and (once upon a time) Julia Gillard, whose ideas about politics and governance border on the delusional extremes of the Left, and slogan-regurgitating cardboard cutouts like Kate Ellis who, on any objective criteria, has been a major disappointment when her portfolio responsibilities and the nature of her output are considered.

Again, it’s a case of harvesting the votes that would flow to their parties anyway, and between the dud men and the dud women, both groups are rightly lambasted by Joe Public as reflective of the exceedingly poor calibre of parliamentarians clogging elected assemblies in this country today.

In other words, it isn’t just the case that more women (and the right kind of women) are needed in Parliament, but that more of the right kind of people — men and women alike — are required altogether.

But the third thing, in all candour, is the factionalised nature of political parties, who plays them, who benefits from them and who gets it in the neck for whatever reason: and I think this has an awful lot to do with why the Liberals in particular don’t have more women in parliamentary seats, although I would imagine a similar situation exists in other parties.

For as long as there is democracy — let alone formalised political parties — the natural instinct of human beings to organise at the most basic level means that factions, patronage and other power mechanisms will always exist: and whether we are talking about women or men, this reality is always going to distort outcomes in selecting candidates, and colour those outcomes wherever any attempt to manipulate them (like boosting representation of one gender at the expense of the other) is concerned.

This brings me to Prime Ministerial Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, and the rumoured intention to install her in a safe Liberal seat in Melbourne in the near future; having inserted her into the conversation on the back of that particular point, we’ll come back to her a little later. But anyone who wants to argue the merits of Credlin as a suitable candidate to represent the interests of 100,000 voters and their families has their work cut out, and it is only the exercise of the kind of distorting power I am talking about that will ever get her into Parliament. More on that in a bit.

If we come back to the basic question at hand — how to get more women into seats in Parliament for the Liberal Party — I think there are two issues that need to be addressed.

One, encouraging women to get more actively involved in the party (as opposed to simply going to branch meetings, perhaps intending to support a husband or male partner) so the input from these people is more forthcoming than it is.

And two — more importantly — looking at the reasons women seem less likely to put themselves forward for elected office than men, and working through ways to remove those barriers.

In other words, working to get more women into preselection contests rather than gifting the outcomes of those contests to them.

I refuse to believe there are not more very good females in the Liberal Party who would make excellent MPs (and probably do better than many of the existing MPs, men and women, that the party boasts).

Yet by the same token, anecdotal experience seems to suggest women are more put off by the stereotypical disincentives to parliamentary life than men: the brutal nature of politics; the grinding, long hours; the modest remuneration; the intrusive and often malignant media scrutiny that goes with the job, and the total surrender of personal privacy that accompanies it; and so forth.

Anyone who thinks life in elective politics is some gravy train junket that features untalented people rolling around in clover at public expense doesn’t know what they’re talking about (although the present fracas involving Bronwyn Bishop merely reinforces such uninformed stereotypes). Women, for whatever reason, seem more deterred by these things than men, although plenty of capable males — myself included — are similarly disinclined to seek Liberal endorsement for precisely these reasons, and don’t.

How you encourage excellent prospective female MPs — people with particular skills, or substantial career histories in private enterprise, or significant policy expertise and passion, or a mixture of these things, who also connect well with people and enjoy working on behalf of others — to move beyond those barriers and put their names forward for public office is not an easy question, and there is not an easy answer.

Some arbitrary quota (which is exactly what a “soft target” in fact is) of installing women into 30% of winnable and/or safe seats does not resolve those barriers.

In fact, such a quota is by its nature likely to disproportionately attract those women who — knowing space is available to them based on their gender — enjoy the backing of dominant power centres within the party, and who are disproportionately more likely to be interested in the accrual and exercise of power than they are in any meaningful objective to represent the interests of those they nonetheless expect to vote for them at an election.

The other argument used by quota advocates, especially where safe Liberal seats are concerned, is that women are discriminated against through being disproportionately endorsed to contest marginal seats that change hands with a change of government, or even when smaller overall swings see governments returned with reduced majorities. The argument fails to stack up.

For one thing, Sophie Mirabella (a woman) lost what on paper was a 65-35 Liberal seat in Indi at the last federal election to a conservative independent (who was also woman); of the 16 federal seats the Liberal Party* holds by margins of 15% or more, five (or 31.25%) are held by women — including the second-safest of these, Murray in Victoria, held on a margin of 20.9% by 30% quota advocate Sharman Stone — whilst women sit in 11 of the 39 seats (or 28.2%) held by the Liberal Party on margins of less than 10%, and one of those 11 is Kelly O’Dwyer in the blue-ribbon electorate of Higgins on 9.9% that common sense dictates is probably safer in practice than some seats held by far greater margins on paper.

In other words, the safer the Liberal seat, the more likely it already is to be held by a woman.

And for another thing, there is the small matter of where the female candidates actually live: ministerial-quality MP Sarah Henderson needed two attempts to win the marginal Geelong-based seat of Corangamite from the ALP, and now holds it by 3.9%; but as a Geelong local, was there a push to parachute her into a safe seat somewhere else? Of course not. Australia’s best-known classic marginal seat — Lindsay, in western Sydney — is ably represented by Fiona Scott, having won it from Labor in 2013. I don’t think Scott would see herself vaulted into a rusted-on sinecure on the North Shore, and neither should anyone else. She is representing the community she lives in, which is as it should be.

And this brings me, quite unapologetically, back to Peta Credlin.

With rumours continuing to persist that she is either lining up a safe seat for herself or being lined up for one by others despite present-tense denials that are unconvincing at best, it should come as no surprise that Credlin has been propagating the myth that the Liberal Party doesn’t preselect women to safe seats, and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop (who is both female and the holder of an extremely safe seat indeed) is absolutely right to not only call Credlin’s story out, but to finger the real problem, which is the need for a more diverse spread of candidates in the Liberal Party overall.

Credlin is said to be in line to “inherit” either Kevin Andrews’ seat of Menzies, in Melbourne’s north-east, or my local electorate of Goldstein, in Melbourne’s Bayside, from Trade Minister Andrew Robb; I acknowledge that Credlin is originally from Victoria, but the notion that someone who has spent years based in Canberra and insisting (as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister) that anyone who amounts to anything in government also live in Canberra would seem to have a problem passing herself off now as a local in Melbourne.

The fact the two seats are about 40km apart, and on different sides of the city, means that Credlin could scarcely be accused of prioritising meaningful ties to the local community, if stories that whichever of the two electorates comes up first would suit her are true.

Not merely Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Credlin is married to the Liberal Party’s federal director, has spent more than a decade working as an adviser to various senior party figures in one insiderish capacity or another, enjoys the explicit personal support of Tony Abbott, and is known to command the bloc backing of a significant chunk of the party’s dominant conservative hard Right faction.

As a female candidate and purported success story the party might choose to inflict on the unfortunate voters in either of these two seats, it’s not difficult to see where Credlin’s support comes from. But in terms of the kind of appeal that might win swinging voters over to the Liberal Party from Labor, I contend she doesn’t have any.

In fact, Credlin has limited appeal within the rank and file membership of the party, too — the kind of people who, unlike me, mind their Ps and Qs and keep their views to themselves. These are the people who, despite public denials from the hard Right Liberals who defend her, are all too aware that the control over the Abbott government that has been exercised out of the Prime Minister’s Office — and the processes of vetoes, rubber stamps and preferment — that have been operated from there irrevocably implicate Credlin in everything that has gone wrong during this term in government. And those wrongs, to put it mildly, have been innumerable, and almost politically apocalyptic.

I don’t know what locals in Menzies think and to some degree that is a matter for them, but if Credlin sincerely wants a woman (and the best available candidate) installed in Goldstein whenever Robb moves on, I know of such a person: a well-educated, highly articulate and lovely lady, who boasts a career CV of formidable achievement and offering vast policy expertise, and who is as at ease with people in one-on-one situations as she is in high level situations. With or without the ghastly spectre of Credlin lurking in the shadows, I intend to canvass this person and urge her to stand — with the offer of as much support as possible — when Andrew Robb eventually moves on.

But if the people around Credlin see to it that the local membership is neutered in the preselection process, or other candidates leaned on to get out of the way for her, or a head office endorsement staged in order to avoid the potential embarrassment of losing a vote of local members, I fully intend to hold good to my threat to stand against her as an Independent Conservative from outside the Liberal Party: and as much of a joke some in the cabal around Credlin might perceive that threat to constitute, even in a “safe” seat like Goldstein there are limits to what local voters are prepared to stomach — or have foisted upon them.

Credlin’s candidacy, to be brutal, would compare unfavourably with the anecdote I recounted at the outset of this article from 20 years ago: and one piece of realism that must also seep through to those looking to boost the ranks of female MPs is the fact that just because an elected representative is a woman doesn’t mean they have achieved their objective — it has to be the right kind of candidate, just like it ought to be with the blokes, otherwise the entire enterprise is pointless.

A Credlin candidacy might be useful to those who seek to wield power, or who can benefit from knowledge of the locations of buried skeletons, but to the wider public would offer very little.

By all means, the idea Credlin might want to see more women in safe seats is worthy, and at face value, noble; but if her own name appears on any list of intended possible contenders, then any merit in her advocacy can be dismissed as the self-interested pap it probably is.

The same can be said of the 30% quota target, which in any case is an insult to women generally: and if those who care about the welfare of the Liberal Party — men and women alike — wish to boost its levels of female representation, they should help work to encourage good female candidates past the barriers to standing for office, and leave divisive hacks like Credlin on the sidelines where they belong.

 

*National Party seats excluded today. How the Nationals run their party is a matter for them.

(Liberal) Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves

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.

Depending on preference, readers can access press articles on Credlin’s initiative from the Fairfax or Murdoch press today.

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.

 

Abortion Of Justice: Touted NZ Rape Laws Truly Evil

A DISGUSTING PROPOSAL for “reform” emerged from New Zealand’s Labour Party this week, with a suggestion the onus of proof in rape cases shift from the prosecution to the defence; were this outrage to become law (or, God forbid, adopted in Australia or elsewhere in the free world) almost every man would spend a lifetime looking over his shoulder. Any woman who supports this measure should be ashamed, and NZ Labour should be crucified.

One issue that came up during the week — attracting little fanfare in Australia, buried as it was beneath the orgy of destructive antics being played out in the Senate, and Clive Palmer’s ongoing apparent crusade to destroy the government — is a proposal by NZ Labor to overhaul that country’s rape laws to place the burden of proving consent from the prosecution to the defence in criminal trials.

I have been eager to post on the subject because I think the change (if ever enacted) will be one of the most retrograde and abused actions in modern legal history, and because this sounds like just the thing the chardonnay drunks and bleeding heart bullshit artists in Australia would rush to champion if their cue to do so is received from fellow travellers in a land not all that far away.

There are a couple of reports I have read in the past few days (you can access them here and here) that will send alarm bells ringing inside the heads of just about every man who has had more than one sexual partner in his lifetime, as well as sounding the alarm for anyone with a shred of decency to their credit — both male and female alike — who recognise that irrespective of the heinous nature of rape as a crime and the vicious after-effects its victims endure for the rest of their lives, this is not the way to do things.

No rational, principled person denies the gravity of rape or the impact it can have on those who are victims of it; it is a sad mark of the times that most people know someone who has endured a violent sexual attack (I know a few) and I suspect many of us are also aware of rape cases that either did not make it to a courtroom for whatever reason — frightened victim, lack of evidence, and so on — or resulted in the acquittal of the offender, even if that outcome was the result of a legal technicality not mutually exclusive to the guilt of the alleged miscreant.

I rate the crime of rape, and especially in instances where it is accompanied by additional horrific violence, as worse in some respects than murder; after all, killing someone is final. Someone who has been raped has to live with the psychological scars long after the physical ones have healed, to say nothing of the multitude of additional potential consequences such as pregnancy, sterility and disease that the original offence may bequeath to its victim as well.

For clarity, I note the offence of rape is recognised as a crime against both women and men nowadays, and the material I have seen thus far emanating from New Zealand is strictly gender-neutral in its discussion of complainants and defendants.

Yet in practical terms, this proposal — should it ever see the statute books — will achieve its greatest impact not in rising conviction rates, or increased number of people making legitimate complaints of being raped, but in a flood of men being hauled before Courts to answer “rape” charges that have no basis in fact.

Here in Australia — as in New Zealand, and in other liberal democratic countries across the world — we are privileged to enjoy lifestyles that afford great personal freedom and liberty, subject to the rule of law; with that freedom comes choices, and with those choices comes personal responsibility, and the liability for the consequences of breaking the law in making them.

Without putting too fine a point on things, one of the freedoms this encompasses is sexual freedom: the right, subject to issues of consent and age, to engage in sexual relations with whomever (and in whatever number) we wish to; obviously people will have their own standards and taboos in such matters which I don’t propose to dwell on here. Law and morality are not the same thing.

The fellow who goes out to clubs every Saturday night for years on end bedding different women each week might be accused by some as leading a shallow existence, but provided it’s consensual, he isn’t breaking any laws; the husband who walks out of a marriage and straight into the arms of another woman might leave behind a very angry jilted wife, but whilst a divorce might ensue, subject to the same caveats, there probably aren’t any laws being broken by that man either.

Yet these two hypothetical individuals — and I’ve made them male, because the sheer weight of numbers dictates that these changes will overwhelmingly target heterosexual men — would seem prime candidates for someone to scream “rape!” at them falsely, in retribution and in fury, to settle what the woman making the allegations perceives as a grievous wrong. I should emphasise that gay men also fit the bill when it comes to having false accusations levelled against them, but whilst I suppose it’s possible, I don’t think too many men are going to head off to Police to accuse their wives and girlfriends of raping them.

The changes apparently being considered by Labour, if it wins the looming general election in New Zealand, would rest upon the prosecution in a rape case establishing that a sexual encounter had occurred, and established the identity of the alleged offender — both as per standard practice today.

However, having done so, the burden of proof would switch to the defendant, who would have to satisfy a test of reasonable doubt that consent had been obtained.

The guy with dozens — perhaps hundreds — of historical sexual partners would forever wonder whether any of them, or which of them specifically, might make a complaint to Police perhaps decades after a consensual encounter, the details of which would be likely to be hazy on both sides the longer the period elapsed before the complainant did so.

The guy who walked out on his wife would also forever wonder if, and when, his day in Court to face charges based on nothing more than malicious vindictiveness might arrive.

But more broadly, the kind of societies we live in — with people marrying later, sometimes more than once, and with most people “playing the field” and “trying before they buy” at all — means that there are more people with multiple lifetime sexual partners now than there ever has been.

It doesn’t have to be a bedpost with scores of notches on it; anything more than a single sexual partner is enough. And if this change is legislated in New Zealand, the men of that country will be sentenced to a lifetime of the worst kind of wondering, as the unknown and uncertain ramifications of the law take months or years or decades to become apparent. If they do at all.

This change, clearly intended to primarily benefit women who have suffered sexual attack, would in my view have a deleterious effect on those who are actual victims of rape (as opposed to malicious, frivolous complainants): this law would add an extra stigma to making a complaint against an alleged rapist, in that the victim would face the additional public shame of potentially being branded as  a troublemaker, or someone who thought better of their escapades and later changed their mind, or…something.

Whichever way you cut it, making men prove they aren’t rapists isn’t going to achieve anything constructive.

If, as the reports I have seen suggest, the objective is to encourage women who’ve been raped to come forward in greater numbers than they do, and to increase the conviction rate where rapes are alleged to have occurred, a more sensible approach would be to provide additional resources and support for victims of sexual assault, and work to improve existing laws to eliminate the technicalities and vagaries that allow sex offenders to escape conviction and punishment.

But casting a lifelong shadow over virtually all men, for no better reason than they have exercised their freedom to be sexually active — burdening the overwhelming majority who at all times behave legally to get at the minority who are human filth — is not the way to go.

At the end of the day, people should be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.

I think any woman who finds this proposal agreeable ought to be ashamed; certainly, more needs to be done for the victims of sexual violence wherever it occurs. But the Labour initiative isn’t actually a question of women’s rights; it is a question of law, and represents a change that will adversely affect up to 50% of the population. No decent woman can justify any discernible gender benefit when it comes at such a price.

And make no mistake, if the change is ever implemented in New Zealand, it will find its way here, and to God only knows where else after that.

The trendies and the compassion babblers might find the Labour proposal humane, decent, and just — which merely shows how distorted the sense of reality of such people really is.

The suggestion that people can be accused of rape and then be forced to prove there was consent is truly frightening, and far from improving our societies, it would grievously compromise the integrity of the social fabric in any country whose government was sufficiently doctrinally obsessed to ever legislate it.

This dumb idea is a good reason why the voters of New Zealand ought to savage Labour when they go to the polls later this year, and for once I don’t simply say that wearing my hat as a conservative; if this is NZ Labour’s idea of the kind of society it envisages New Zealand evolving into, then the last thing the country needs is a Labour government running it.

 

Women-Only Galaxy Poll Explodes “Misogyny” Myth

Results of a Galaxy Poll — the respondents to which were all female — is being carried in Murdoch newspapers across the country tomorrow; whilst it shows Labor’s vicious campaign against Tony Abbott has had mild impact, its decisive message is that women are ready to elect him as Prime Minister.

The results of this poll will dismay Labor Party strategists, whose increasingly desperate efforts to derail the oncoming Liberal bullet train have seen it lash out in ways that not so long ago would have been a guaranteed recipe for electoral disaster.

Pick a Labor leader from the past 15 years; had the Liberals run a “misogyny” campaign against any of them — Mark Latham included — it would have blown up in their faces at the ballot box, and quite rightly so. The uproar and the outcry would have been deafening.

The campaign against Abbott, on the basis he purportedly hates women, is one such issue; after millions of miles of column space dedicated to its analysis and of the Labor tactic — including by this column — Galaxy’s findings appear to shatter the illusion once and for all.

Whichever way anyone cuts it, the finding that 53% of the women Galaxy surveyed intend to vote for the Coalition, after preferences, spells electoral doom for Labor, dashing as it does what would seem to be one of the last hopes the ALP has clung to in search of the unlikeliest of electoral comebacks.

Remembering, of course, that recent history has seen men favour the Coalition in significantly greater numbers than women (including during periods prior to Abbott’s leadership), Galaxy’s findings simply affirm that trend.

They also cross-validate recent polling by the other reputable polls which show, overall, Labor heading toward an electoral massacre.

The interesting aspect of Galaxy’s results (which readers can view here) is the stark split along voting intention lines as to whether respondents believed Abbott is a misogynist.

Even though, overall, 25% said he was and 44 % said he wasn’t — worrying enough for Labor hardheads as it is — among intending Labor voters almost 60% said Abbott was not a misogynist or failed to express a view (among Coalition voters, 9% said he was, and 69% said he wasn’t).

The fact that only 44% of intending Labor voters agreed with the proposition of “Abbott the misogynist” (and that the 44% in question is of the 36% who even nominated a first preference intention for Labor) translates to less than 16% of the total number of women surveyed who both a) agreed Abbott was a misogynist, and b) would also vote for the ALP.

And that — in short — says that the dishonest, unethical campaign Abbott has had to contend with for months now has also been an abject failure, and hardly worth the effort.

Responses to other questions were more mixed, with greater numbers agreeing that Abbott “says no to everything,” as well as questions on Abbott’s views on abortion and the way he treats women.

But even here, agreement with the anti-Abbott statements was heavily skewed toward the intending Labor voters, and can hardly be construed as an unqualified triumph of the Labor strategy when a clear majority intend to go on to vote for Abbott anyway.

The obligatory questions about Julia Gillard’s unmarried and childless status/Abbott’s family with a wife and three beautiful daughters were asked; to be fair to both Abbott and Gillard, the responses indicate minimal impact of either consideration on voting intention.

Generally, such considerations matter little, as really should be the case; my own view is that “factors” such as these are generally reflected most strongly in the most rusted-on supporters of the two parties, who would never countenance a vote for the other anyway.

I think a much clearer picture of the views of women toward Tony Abbott will emerge if — as seems likely — the Coalition wins the election and Abbott becomes Prime Minister; at the end of a three-year term it will be his actions that govern sentiments in relation to questions such as those asked by Galaxy, and not a half-arsed scare campaign based on lies and selectively misquoted material of the nature the ALP has attempted to conduct.

The Labor Party is running out of options as it frantically searches for the circuit-breaker that may enable it to find a way to an improbable victory in September.

Everything it has tried so far has blown up in its collective face: its economic management credentials lie in smoking ruins; its blather about “getting things done” fools nobody; its tokenistic gestures to women, aborigines and the like have fallen flat; and the best efforts and complicity of sections of the Canberra press gallery appear to have persuaded few of its readers to the Gillard cause.

Now, the despicable and deceptive “misogyny” campaign has been invalidated — as it deserves — by the findings of a targeted special survey conducted by a highly respected opinion polling outfit.

It leaves a leadership change as the final proactive measure open to the ALP to pursue; that course, too, is laced with landmines, and potentially represents the political abyss.

Barring anything unforeseen emerging during the day, a potential leadership change in Labor is exactly what I will be posting on tomorrow night; it promises to be fascinating, and I will welcome the thoughts of my readers once the article has been posted for comment.

 

 

In A Nutshell: Gillard’s Political Problem At A Glance

Now the parliamentary political year is over, a lot of reflection and analysis is set to occur heading into 2013 and toward the torrid, spiteful election campaign it heralds. Today we begin with a sterling analysis by Henry Ergas from The Australian.

Over the festive period, we’ll talk quite a bit about the lay of the land, politically, in Australia at present, but I wanted to share with readers an excellent piece that appeared in The Australian this morning.

Perhaps fittingly, Ergas’ column centres on women, how they have fared under Gillard as Prime Minister, and how little Gillard has actually done for them in any meaningful sense.

The article comes with a decent and well-deserved jab at the trade unions for good measure; this archaic movement is barely relevant in contemporary Australia, but Gillard has been enslaved to them: a Prime Ministership held hostage to union thugs whose halcyon days are, thankfully, long in the past.

I’ll be interested in what readers have to say about this piece, framing — as it does — the opening of the silly season in readiness for the long and relentless election season that is now (thankfully) imminent.

And I’ll be back later on with some thoughts on my own.

US Polls And A Note On Misogyny

I’m going to be in Sydney for the day today on business, and won’t be back in Melbourne until very late tonight; as a result, it’s unlikely I’ll get to post again in detail until tomorrow night, AEST.

I just want to note that polling in the USA in the wake of Mitt Romney’s convincing win in the recent US Presidential Election debate has since shown the margin between the candidates narrowing; now, one new poll puts Romney in front of Obama for the first time since accepting his party’s nomination, by four points, with the race also narrowing in a slew of hotly contested swing states.

Additionally, the fallout from Tuesday’s spectacular parliamentary sitting, across Question Time and the resignation of Peter Slipper has been fascinating; the article I have promised readers on the whole women/misogyny theme currently dominating Australian politics will indeed still be forthcoming — most likely at the weekend.

I wish my readers the top of the day, and look forward to being back to this column in the next day or so.