Recapping All Of The Misogyny We Had To Witness In The Last Year In Politics
From calling women "meth-head c**ts" to telling them to "get therapy", it's been quite the year in Parliament.
It’s International Women’s Day, which means you’re likely to see a thousand tweets asking when is International Men’s Day (November 19, for those playing along at home) and, if you’re lucky, might be treated to a cupcake from your employer with “Let’s hear it for the girls” or something similar written across it.
A lot has happened in the last 365 days and — unfortunately, for women — most of it has been pretty godawful. So, in honour of International Women’s Day, let’s kick back and recap the last year in misogynistic political bullshit, shall we?
Note: There was a huge amount of sexism and misogyny that took place just prior to last International Women’s Day — including the time Linda Reynolds called Brittany Higgins a “lying cow” — but for the purpose of this story, we’re narrowing it down to examples on or after March 8, 2021. This is also not an exhaustive list because, well, there’s a lot of misogyny.
Prime Minister For Women
In a Cabinet reshuffle back in March 2021, Scott Morrison — who, full disclosure, is meant to be the Prime Minister for all Australians — announced that Marise Payne would become the “Prime Minister for Women.”
He later changed the title to “primary minister for women”, but for a hot second there, Morrison attempted to hand roughly half of his job to somebody else.
The Women Who Were Owed An Apology Weren’t Invited To Parliament
The first recommendation made by Kate Jenkins in her report into parliamentary workplaces was a statement of acknowledgement to be read out in Parliament. However, when this — and an apology — was organised for the first sitting day of the year, the women who bravely told their stories and prompted the review weren’t actually invited.
Brittany Higgins, Rachelle Miller, Chelsey Potter, and Josie Coles were not invited to hear the acknowledgement and apology read out in Parliament on February 8. In fact, it was only after Independent MP Zali Steggall personally invited the women at the last minute that they were actually able to attend.
It is, however, worth noting that other women — particularly women of colour — who spoke out about parliamentary sexual assault were not invited, nor were they given the same media coverage.
Scott Morrison Didn’t Attend Higgins & Tame’s NPC Address And Reportedly Made It Hard For Other MPs To Attend
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was noticeably absent at Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins’ joint address at the National Press Club, despite it being perhaps one of the most noteworthy NPC speeches in recent history.
But in addition to personally not deeming it important enough to attend, Morrison was blamed for child sex abuse survivor and Liberal MP Bridget Archer’s difficulty in attending the event.
His office has since asserted it was communication breakdown that nearly stopped Archer from attending NPC. However Archer claims she was told it was “up to the PM” if she could go, and wasn’t given the all clear until 7pm the night before — after News Corp contacted Morrison’s office.
Lidia Thorpe Told A Liberal MP “At Least I Can Keep My Legs Shut”
Greens senator Lidia Thorpe was forced to apologise to Liberal senator Hollie Hughes after being accused of saying “at least I keep my legs shut” in a heated debate in December.
Hughes interpreted the comment as a dig against her autistic son.
“What I took from it, what a number of my colleagues from across the chamber, Liberal, Labor, crossbenchers, was had I kept my legs shut [then] I wouldn’t have a child with autism,” said Hughes. “Honestly, I am dumbfounded that someone would say, would suggest that. I can take it, have a go at me all you want to, I could not care less. But when someone invokes someone’s child, I think they have crossed a line.”
Thorpe quickly withdrew the comment and apologised for any offence caused.
A Federal Government Media Adviser Was Forced To Resign After Allegedly Calling Someone A “Methhead C**t”
Andrew Hudgson — a media advisor for federal Assistant Treasurer and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar — resigned in March last year after being accused of calling Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Conner a “meth-head c**t”.
“Mr Hudgson called me a ‘meth-head c**t’ as he and his colleagues walked across the lawns not far from us,” she told the Tasmanian Parliament at the time. “Imagine hating women so much you’d say that audibly about a woman you don’t know, who also happens to be an elected representative? I was doing an interview at the time and didn’t hear the insult but Alice did. I believed her without question because in the decade I’ve worked with Alice she has never lied to me.
“Others who were with Mr Hudgson at the time heard it too. We know this. We’ve had it confirmed.”
LNP Staffers Were Reportedly Filmed Jacking Off On The Desk Of A Female Liberal MP
Channel 10 and The Australian reportedly received videos and photo evidence of four Coalition MPs being inappropriate in Parliament House, with one accused of jacking off on the desk of his female colleague.
The staffer at the centre of the allegations was eventually sacked.
“My government has identified the staff member at the centre of these allegations and has terminated his employment immediately,” said Morrison after the news broke.
Liberal MP Allegedly Said She’d “Kill To Be Sexually Harassed”
According to three senior women involved in a closed door NSW Liberal meeting, Teena McQueen — the federal vice-president of the Liberal Party — claimed she would “kill to be sexually harassed at the moment” in the weeks following Brittany Higgins’ allegations.
She later clarified that this was “a throwaway line, that ‘when women reach my age, we don’t have to worry about being sexually assaulted’.
“It was an attempt at humour about myself. I regret making that off the cuff remark and apologise.”
Andrew Laming Kept His Job After Allegedly Taking A Photo Up A Woman’s Skirt
Laming, who has also been accused of harassing female constituents on social media, was accused of taking a photo up a woman’s skirt while she was at her place of work.
He argued the photo was actually an attempt to show someone fitting something in a fridge.
“The purpose of the photograph was to show sometimes at work you have these Herculean tasks put to you and she was playing a game of Tetris trying to get every possible can in the fridge,” he told ABC radio. “All I can do is apologise unreservedly because taking a photo of someone without asking first is a fundamental principle that an MP should be able to adhere to.”
He was not sacked over either allegation but announced after the fact that he would not contest the next election.
Women Weren’t ‘Met With Bullets’
Morrison’s conduct amid last year’s March 4 Justice rallies was pretty questionable all-round, but one comment stood out more than the others.
In a Parliamentary address, Morrison called it a “triumph” that protesters weren’t “met with bullets”.
— 11 Network Australia (@11NetworkAU) March 15, 2021
Morrison Supported A Bill That Excludes Trans Women From Sport
In addition to the Religious Discrimination Bill — which notably harms trans women — Morrison threw his support behind a “terrific” bill that excludes trans women from playing women’s sport, despite the fact that they are women.
“Women’s sport exists to provide separate competition for females, in acknowledgement that males have numerous physical advantages over females in the sporting arena,” Tasmanian senator Claire Chandler said when presenting the transphobic bill.
But instead of possessing a shred of critical thinking ability to see how this bill could be harmful, Morrison supported it and congratulated Chandler for suggesting it.
“I support it, as Claire knows. I think it’s a terrific bill and I’ve given her great encouragement,” Scott Morrison said. “Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”
Hollie Hughes Tells Ex-Staffer Rachelle Miller To Get Therapy
In a heated exchange on Twitter earlier this year, Liberal senator Hollie Hughes attacked Rachelle Miller — the woman who alleges she was abused by Alan Tudge — after she complained about bullying at work.
Miller notes that her relationship with Tudge was consensual, but alleges she was a victim of emotional abuse by Tudge on numerous occasions. Tudge denies the allegations. Hughes took to Twitter to assert that Miller has “some serious issues.”
“Wow — you have some serious issues! Honey, lots of therapy. Stop making unfounded accusations then hiding behind false legal premises,’’ she said. “But insulting women who don’t agree with you — you’ll fit right in with your new Green mates. I notice silent about Chairman Dan as well.”
Minister For Women Snubs The Women’s March 4 Justice
Marise Payne, who is reportedly the “prime minister for women”, refused to meet with the organisers of the March 4 Justice in Canberra — despite Labor and the Greens both having representatives to receive the petition from organisers.
Instead, she said she would be happy to receive the petition via post or email.
“I called Senator Payne’s office directly and her chief of staff returned my call, at which time he informed me the minister would not be available to receive the petition but I was most welcome to email it or post it,” said Janine Hendry, one of the organisers of the march.
Lavender Baj is Junkee’s senior reporter, covering news and politics. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Jennetta Quinn-Bates