Prime Minister Scott Morrison: a “tin ear” or a contempt for women?

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image: ABC

In his inability to listen to women, Prime Minister Scott Morrison keeps digging a bigger hole for himself, as evinced by his popularity slide in Newspoll and his latest failure to take a stand against the trolling of women by Coalition MP Andrew Laming. Yet the repeated failures indicate this is not just a matter of a “tin ear” but rather a contempt for women, reports Elizabeth Minter.

Just days after his emotional interview promising to do better by women, Scott Morrison was given the opportunity to show he had been listening. Yet again he failed.

When the news broke of MP Andrew Laming’s disgraceful trolling of two women over many years, driving one woman to the verge of suicide, the Prime Minister simply asked Laming to apologise.

Morrison also arranged for him to get “appropriate assistance to build his understanding and awareness about his actions”.

As for Laming’s future as an MP?

“I am not a member of the LNP Queensland Division, our state divisions make decisions about pre-selections.”

“I don’t hold a hose, mate.”

As has been pointed out repeatedly, Laming indulged in potentially criminal behaviour – stalking and using a carriage service to harass.

While it took no time for the Coalition to sack the staffer over a security breach that never was, the Prime Minister failed to act against Laming because that would mean a by-election.

What Morrison should have said was:

“There is no place in the Coalition for men who behave in such despicable ways. I have told Andrew Laming to resign. End of story.”

Do the right thing by women or put his government in jeopardy? No contest.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg earlier today announced that Laming would not be contesting the next election.

What does that say about Morrison’s authority in the party?

Tracy Grimshaw’s interview with Morrison has been rightly praised. What I also found revealing was three seconds of footage at the 25 minutes, 45 seconds mark.

In those three seconds, the Prime Minister’s body language revealed so much.

Contemptuous behaviour

Note the shifty eye-rolling, which experts have described as a form of contempt. The Gottman Institute explains that contempt is the No. 1 predictor of relationship breakdown.

Also revealing was when the eye-rolling occurred – just after this exchange.

Morrison: “For many Australians this has been like a big wake-up call … a red light to say stop, look and listen.

 

Grimshaw: “It hasn’t been a wake-up call to 52% of Australians.”

 

Morrison: “I agree with that, Tracy.” Cue eye roll, as if to say I am so tired of talking about women’s problems.

Judging by the interview, the relationship between Morrison and the women of Australia is in deep trouble.

As Katharine Murphy put it in the Guardian at the weekend:

“You might spend a period of time feeling excluded by the prime minister’s messaging before it dawns on you that you feel excluded because he’s not talking to you.

 

Eventually it dawns on you that he’s never talking to you. This prime minister speaks almost exclusively to one cohort of voters: men at risk of voting Labor.”

On Morrison’s messaging

Keeping up with Morrison’s language is exhausting for women because he so smoothly transfers all the responsibility back on to women.

Regarding the Women’s March 4 Justice, the Prime Minister was very happy to make time to meet the organisers, on his terms.

“I wanted to hear them where we could sit down and have a proper conversation and that opportunity was there. That offer wasn’t accepted.”

Similarly on the question of whether Morrison had spoken to Ms Higgins after the alleged rape became public:

“She hasn’t expressed an interest in (talking) with me but she is very welcome.“

 

“Well she hasn’t asked to speak with me directly.”

 

“If she would like to (speak to me) we will arrange that.”

Again, the onus is on the woman. If a woman doesn’t make the effort to contact the Prime Minister, she can’t complain that the PM wasn’t supportive.

An empathetic response would have been for the Prime Minister to contact Ms Higgins and let her know that his door was always open for her to speak to him confidentially.

Default position to defend men

Morrison’s default position is to defend the men and hang the women out to dry. In all the long list of pork barreling scandals of this government, Bridget McKenzie, the former sports minister, is the only one who has taken a fall, an interesting move in light of evidence showing how close the sports rorts scandal was getting to the Prime Minister’s office itself.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Angus Taylor has survived numerous scandals – Grassgate, Watergate, doctored Sydney City Council documents, you name it. Full support from the Prime Minister.

Regarding the rape allegations against Christian Porter, without reading any of the documents Morrison jumped straight in to defend the Attorney General, coming under sustained criticism for doing so.

And when Senator Eric Abetz was accused of making derogatory comments about Ms Higgins, again Morrison wasn’t for turning, going straight in to bat for the senator. Keep digging those holes, Prime Minister, and ignoring what the women have to say.

On respect

“If we want to see more respect we need to cultivate a greater culture of respect,” said Morrison during the interview.

That should start with referring to a 24-year-old adult woman not by her first name, as the Prime Minister repeatedly did, but by the more respectful “Ms Higgins”.

A Tweet also noted the difference in names Morrison used to refer to various players: there was “Linda” (Reynolds), “Brittany” and “Julie” (Bishop). There was also “Mr Shorten”, “Christian Porter” and “my chief of staff”.

On dignity

“We have to deal with these deeper issues of respect and dignity of women in this country so they don’t face the daily humiliations and degradations …. each and every day it saps women in this country.” So said Morrison during the interview.

Speaking of degradation and humiliation, in 2018 when Prime Minister, Morrison said:

“I’ve had plenty of mates who’ve asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson.”

(The former Baywatch actor had urged Morrison to support Julian Assange and described Morrison’s comments as lewd and smutty.)

From tears to threats in minutes

Last but not least, how quickly Morrison flicks the switch from the tearful “I must do better” displays of emotion (full marks for the empathy training) to menace and threatening journalists.

“You’re free to make your criticisms and stand on that pedestal but be careful,” Morrison said.

Under pressure from News Corp, Morrison was forced to apologise for raising in his media conference a supposed incident that was under investigation at that company.

But again, note the shifty use of language in his apology.

“I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse,” he said. However, simply by adding the phrase “the emotion of the moment is no excuse” he is excusing his behaviour.

More importantly, however, he did not apologise for fabricating an incident.

As News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller pointed out: “The prime minister appears to have joined … two matters and conflated them into an episode of harassment.”

When will Morrison, and the Coalition government, stop taking us all for idiots and realise that we can all see exactly what games he is playing?





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