Thursday 29th of July 2021

no glossy bullet-proof brochure... it would be hypocritical...


Scott Morrison likes to present as a man with a plan. Whether it's dealing with asylum seekers, climate change or a pandemic, the Prime Minister typically has a strategy or a roadmap, quite often printed in a glossy brochure, to demonstrate he can tackle even the trickiest of problems. 


The plans don't always work, mind you, but the point of them is to inspire confidence that Morrison has at least chosen a course, knows what he's doing and is getting on with it. 

The great mystery of the past month is why the Prime Minister, for all his political strengths, has no plan to deal with a crisis gripping the nation's attention and eroding support for the government. 

If Monday's historic March 4 Justice showed anything, it's that women are fed up. They want change. It's about more than dusting off and finally implementing recommendations from a report the government received 12 months ago, it's about taking the issues of sexual harassment and abuse far more seriously. It's about listening to women and leading cultural change.

In responding to this tidal wave of anger, the Prime Minister appears to have lost his footing. Indeed, the morning after the march, Morrison was reflecting on a march of his own, eight years ago, when he really did fall off course. 

A revealing moment

Back in 2013, Morrison and Labor frontbencher Jason Clare completed the gruelling Black Cat Trek in the wilds of northern Papua New Guinea. In a laudable initiative, the pair took young people from very different cultural backgrounds on "mateship treks" every two years, covering the Kokoda Track, Sandakan and the Black Cat. 

In Tuesday's Coalition party room meeting, the Prime Minister told his MPs of the time he slipped from the Black Cat track and had to be helped by a guide. He likened the narrow path through the mountains to the one the Coalition now treads.

His message, like with most party room pep talks, was about the importance of sticking together and supporting each other. It was also about calming nerves with a reminder that he's led the Coalition through tough times before. 

But the fact Morrison's mind was on the time he slipped and needed help was revealing. 

Back when they walked the Black Cat, Morrison and Clare were joined by a Nine Network TV crew. "With this one you get lots of surprises," Morrison said during a brief pause in the climb, "land slips, tracks that don't exist any more".

It's an apt metaphor for the unfamiliar terrain the Prime Minister now finds himself in. The political tracks he's relied on for years don't seem to be working on this issue. 

Where once a reference to "Jenny and the kids" worked a treat, it came across terribly when invoked by Morrison to explain how he came to appreciate the seriousness of the Brittany Higgins rape allegation. 

Where usually a reflection on our "robust democracy" works as a standard political response to unhappy protesters, it hit a jarring note when Morrison pointed out the furious women marching at least weren't "being met with bullets", as they could be elsewhere.


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of poverty and violence...

On the face of it there's no obvious connection between two of the big stories dominating our news in recent weeks.

Imminent changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker and the fallout from a workplace sexual assault scandal will be on the agenda this week too, as Parliament resumes today and the Women's March 4 Justice descends on Parliament House.

But there is a link (possibly even a straight line) between being the victim of violence (including coercive control and sexual assault) and living in poverty.

When sexual assault occurs in the workplace, too often it is the female victim who ends up leaving or losing her job and experiencing a financial shock and diminished career prospects.

When violence occurs in a family home, too often it is the mother and children forced to leave — to cheaper housing, away from previous employment and the social and professional networks which are important pathways to future work. These women are forced to rely on our threadbare social safety net while they get back on their feet.

The poverty trap

Women make up the majority of the two million adults affected by the federal government's decision to replace the $75 a week Coronavirus Supplement with a $25 per week permanent increase in JobSeeker and other working-age payments which will be debated in federal parliament this coming week.

We have heard from the testimonies of women provided for the 550 Reasons to Smile campaign initiated by the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children of the way the full Coronavirus Supplement literally transformed their lives. For some, it meant having enough to leave a situation of violence.


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Brilliant cartoon at top By Cathy Wilcox, SMH...