Politics

Last Night’s ‘Q&A’ Was A Disgusting Showcase Of Entitled Men Who Refuse To Shut Up

Liberal senator James McGrath interrupted a woman to threaten to doxx her, live on air.

James McGrath

Last night on Q&A, Greens senator Larissa Waters was asked about her party’s stance on the recent vegan protests around Australia. She was able to speak for just ten seconds before Liberal senator James McGrath interrupted, yelling. He refused to be silent when host Virginia Trioli asked him to, and when Waters tried to continue speaking he escalated, suggesting that her home address be released to the public so that they could invade her house.

“What’s your address? Let’s put your address out there and let the farmers go there and invade your house,” he said, as the women on the panel shifted uncomfortably and asked him, once again, to shut up.

To any woman, or any person who has experienced the horror of doxxing, stalking or abuse, this was a horrific moment to behold. Waters was clearly unsettled, as were other members of the panel. Watching the segment, I felt sick. Only the two men on the panel, James McGrath and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, seemed unbothered, and the pair continued to yell whatever they liked, whenever they liked, for the rest of the show.

That sense of male entitlement, and male impunity, summed up the entire episode. Both Roberts and McGrath arrived expecting to be allowed to speak about whatever they wanted for as long as they wanted; when women got in the way they ignored them, spoke over them, yelled “I beg your pardon?” and “I will not accept this”, or, in the case of McGrath, employed threatening language to wrest back control of the conversation.

The number of times Trioli, as host, had to ask these men to shut up was staggering. At one point, when she jumped in to add a point of clarification, Roberts actually had the gall to snap “you’re interrupting me again”.

“No, I’m the host of this program,” she had to remind him. By the end of the episode, he still hadn’t got the message. “No, Malcolm Roberts, no,” Trioli said wearily when he tried to butt in yet again. “No, sorry. The question was not to you, okay?”.

“Will you stop speaking over her?”, Labor’s Terri Butler added. Roberts continued to speak over them both.

Every single word uttered by a woman on last night’s Q&A was hard fought for. Every single word uttered by a man was shouted as if being broadcast to the nation was his god-given right. It was a disgusting showcase, in particular because the men in question displayed absolutely no awareness of what they were doing. The words “I’m sorry” only seemed to appear in their vocabularies as a battering ram, something used to force open another gap in the conversation that can be filled with their noise.

Entitled men speaking over women, especially in Australian politics, is sadly nothing new. And sure, it’s Q&A: interrupting people is standard fare, and the women on the panel did manage to get in a few zingers of their own.

McGrath’s home invasion comment, though, was in a league of its own. Whether or not he meant his comment to be a threat is beside the point: to a reasonable person, it sounds threatening. In an age when political disputes do quite frequently lead to people’s addresses and personal information being leaked online with malicious intent, a comment like that is scary.

What’s scarier is that a member of Australia’s government is able to let words like that slip out on national television without batting an eyelid. The kind of entitlement that lets a person make comments like these doesn’t just appear overnight. It has to be encouraged, and enabled, by years spent in spaces where the right to say these things goes unquestioned.

It’s depressing to think that in 2019, our Parliament is still one of those spaces. I sincerely hope that James McGrath in this scenario is an outlier, and that his comments are not representative of his party. I hope that if comments like this slip out in party rooms and in Parliament, someone in those rooms is pointing out how out of line they are. I would like to see someone in those rooms calling out McGrath’s comments today.