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

by | Mar 29, 2021 | Government

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?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Minter

Elizabeth Minter

A 30-year veteran of the mainstream media, Liz is the editor of Michael West Media. Liz began her career in journalism in 1990 and worked at The Age newspaper for two 10-year stints. She also worked at The Guardian newspaper in London for more than seven years. A former professional tennis player who represented Australia in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Liz has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Letters (Hons). Her Twitter handle is @LizMinter_

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    for someone so “smart and full of himself” its increasingly apparent that scomo if given the choice would take every single right that women have fought and died for away from them.

  2. Avatar

    Explains why so many of LNP’s policies discriminate against women. Stepping up on our backs.

  3. Avatar

    Good article Elizabeth, totally agree with your observations and considered thoughts, thank you.

  4. Avatar

    Well said. Morrison is a sleaze, how he ever got elected to run anything is beyond me.

  5. Avatar

    Thank you Elizabeth, for saying what most people recognise, and that all too few in the MSM are unwilling to voice, let alone expose.

    One could be forgiven for thinking that we are back in ‘The burning times’, especially when it came to midwives who eased the pain of birth and were burned at the stake for their troubles.

    Forget the 50’s, Morrison has managed to mangle relationships between the sexes and society at large back to medieval times.

  6. Avatar

    love the way you can describe what I pick up on a gut level… Morrison is no more “champion of the women” than Arnie was. He really needs to go

  7. Avatar

    You only have to read into Morrison’s Pentecostal religious beliefs to find that the Church allows women to be faith healers and performers of miracles where they attract some credibility, but ultimately women are still considered lesser mortals and should take second place to men. Women are there to serve men.

    In any case this is substantiated in many religions, and in Christianity, women since the Biblical times of Adam and Eve have always been targeted by a male god in requiring more punishment for causing problems. Hence pain in childbirth being inflicted on women by the same god – Eve was blamed for tempting Adam with an apple, he had nothing to do with it. In other words two blokes conspired to blame a woman.

    Given the rise of right wing Christian lobbyists, and Pentecostals and more evangelists being promoted to cabinet in the last reshuffle, then what we see is a direct influence of religious belief on women and it explains why Morrison just doesn’t get it.

  8. Avatar

    Every time Scott Morrison gets cornered he invents some fake solution and throws something out of his smirking obstinacy back in Australians’ faces. He turns a loss into win for his own specific religious views.

    The man will not change anything for women because it is alien to his religious attitudes concerning the status of women.

    I note this time he has put Amanda Stoker into the position of Assistant Minister for Women. Stoker is an evangelist Christian.

    The view of evangelists on women’s status is: “Our biblically assigned role is to submit to men that God placed in authority over our lives.”

    So tough luck ladies.

    I have no idea why the MS media does not pick up much on Morrison’ s religious beliefs on this matter, and how he is using them to stymie any progressions on women’s right to equality, environment, and castigating the poorer members of our community and disabled persons.

  9. Avatar

    Great article, Elizabeth – thank you so much! I’m especially grateful that you did not describe our current PM as a “Christian”.

    He isn’t.

    I’m not, either, but I went to a Christian school (even won the school prize for ‘Divinity’), chose to be baptised AND confirmed (aged 17), and have read the King James Bible cover to cover (also the Apocrypha). A couple of decades later my aversion to faux-Christians became so strong that I couldn’t stay any longer.

    Morrison is a cultist. A wealth/prosperity cultist. Someone who believes that if you love God enough, and tithe enough, you will be rewarded with success in life: wealth, health, beautiful wifey and kids etc.

    However, if you are poor, disabled, stricken with a fatal disease, it’s YOUR FAULT FOR NOT LOVING GOD ENOUGH (and for not tithing sufficiently, by the way).

    Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the Gospels will know that these premises are totally contrary to Jesus – if he existed – preached. The sermon on the mount. The good samaritan. The rich man, the camel, and the eye of the needle. The complete and utter opposite to what Morrison and his ilk “believe”.

  10. Avatar

    Moreover, any male who can describe his spouse as a “love machine” in a public forum is an utter disgrace.

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