You’ve heard the debate, you’ve heard about our BAMF PM telling Tony Abbott off for his sexist views.
But, a point has been raised.
On Saturday Agenda which airs on Sky News, Cassandra Wilkinson (Australian author, former public servant and former senior political advisor) raised the point that she doesn’t believe Tony Abbott is a sexist. Rather, he’s old fashioned. She says, the argument of Abbott as a sexist is distracting from the very real debate we should be having of whether Abbott is modern enough to lead? She made the comment that if he were to become Prime Minister of this country his old-fashioned views would impact on legislation across the board – not just relating to women.
It’s an interesting idea. And one I find more compelling then the sexist/misogynist cry.
An old-fashioned Prime Minister could have a more wide-reaching negative impact on Australia as a nation than a purely misogynist, sexist PM.
But let’s look at the proof.
In 2002, when Abbott was the Federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister, he compared bad bosses to bad fathers:
‘If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.’
It simplifies what is a complex issue and suggests having a “bad” father present in your life is better then having no father figure. In our modern-age of many different family models, the nuclear family is no longer the norm and if Tony Abbott stills believes it is, then he’s a little behind the times.
In 2004, the then Minister for Health, wrote an article on the issue of abortion.
He wrote, “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.”
This could be argued as being sexist, but it could also be the result of very traditional values and an old-fashioned mindset.
During his uni student days, a young Tony Abbott made the following comment:
‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons…’
He must feel silly now, with a female in the top political job, a female is the Speaker of the House, and Australia’s first female Governor-General. Sexist, perhaps, living in the 1950s: definitely.
In 2010, Tony Abbott revealed his wife, Margie, did the ironing at home due to a desire for her husband to look neat. He told Macquarie Radio Network: “But I think in many households it is still much more common to see the woman of the house with an iron in her hand.”
I don’t think this comment is at all sexist, but it definitely is an out-dated view. Most of the modern-day women I know avoid ironing at all costs – and most certainly do not iron their partner’s work shirts.
When asked about homosexuality by Liz Hayes on 60 Minutes (March 2010), Abbott said, “I’d probably I feel a bit threatened.”
This is an extremely old-fashioned view, which comes down to his age and his Catholic conservative upbringing. You can argue, and I would say quite rightly, that his upbringing is influencing his refusal to allow the coalition to have, at least, a conscience vote on gay marriage.
Tony Abbott’s comment on Q&A in April 2010 further demonstrates his old-fashioned perspective on marriage. He said, “I certainly want to see – just a general principle, I want to see stable, committed relationships, but I do think that a marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman.”
In the same program, when asked about not all Australian’s being able to celebrate Australia Day, this was his response:
‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage…’
After being interrupted by the audience he continued:
‘I know not everyone agrees with him, but I think there’s much to be said for that view and I think that Aboriginal heritage – Australia’s Aboriginal heritage should be important to all of us and I think that Australia’s British and western heritage should also be important to all of us.’
Is this an old-fashioned stance? I don’t actually think so. To me, it seems like quite a brave thing to say on television. It’s an acknowledgement that Australia’s Aboriginal heritage is important to all Australians, even non-indigenous Australians, but in the same vein, Australia’s British heritage should also be important.
And this idea of Abbott as an old-fashioned man isn’t a new one. In 1978, Malcolm Turnbull, the man Abbott ousted to become Leader of the Opposition, wrote in an article for The Bulletin:
“The leading light of the right wingers in New South Wales is twenty-year-old Tony Abbott. He has written a number of articles… (which have) given him a stature his rather boisterous and immature rhetoric doesn’t really deserve. Abbott is opposed to any legalisation of homosexuality and generally presents an old fashioned DLP image…”
But if you’re still undecided, let’s hear from Tony himself.
In March 2010, Tony Abbott told Liz Hayes on 60 Minutes: “I guess in some respects I’m old-fashioned, and, in some respects, that can jar with the zeitgeist, but I think that the people who know me think I’m fair-dinkum.”
Fair-dinkum or not, Tony Abbott’s old-fashioned views, mistaken for sexism, could have an extreme negative impact on the way Australia moves forward socially, economically and politically.
Let us know what you think about our current Opposition Leader – are you worried he could become the next Prime Minister or do you think he is what Australia’s future needs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us at @Cheaper_Rubies or comment below.