September 22nd 2018


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COVER STORY Water, water everywhere, but not for the farmers

EDITORIAL Power companies in clover after closures

CANBERRA OBSERVED Liberals in need of an internal peacemaker

ENERGY Solar, wind dependence will add $1300 to power bills, engineers, scientists warn

LIFE ISSUES Queensland life march busts media stereotypes

ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS Unmask activists disguised as nature lovers

FOREIGN AFFAIRS China takes up challenge to imitate and overtake America

CHINA AND AUSTRALIA Paul Monk thunders at kowtowing former pollies

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hawaii: Pearl of the Pacific

BOOK EXCERPT From Patrick J. Byrne's book, Transgender: One Shade of Grey

FREE SPEECH University of Western Australia blinks again

LIFE ISSUES Queensland law will open floodgates to sex-selective abortion

HUMOUR

MUSIC Pop and singing: A certain antagonism

CINEMA Christopher Robin: The best something comes from nothing

BOOK REVIEW A so-called industry with only a dark side

BOOK REVIEW Population see-saw changes direction

LETTERS

POETRY

EUTHANASIA No concoction can kill peacefully

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Liberals in need of an internal peacemaker


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, September 22, 2018

That politics is a tough game is no excuse for bullying behaviour towards women MPs

Allegations of bullying against female Liberal MPs has added further wounds to an already red raw and discombobulated party still reeling from its recent leadership implosion.

Left to right: Julie Bishop, Kelly O'Dwyer, Linda Reynolds, Julia Banks
and Lucy Gichuhi

If it wasn’t enough that the Liberals dumped a second prime minister mid-term, botched the installation of the declared challenger, and installed someone voters know little about, claims of browbeating female MPs to the point of them quitting politics have emerged.

However, the exact nature of the bullying incidents is unclear because no one has actually come forward to describe them. Nonetheless, this has not stopped sections of the media naming several MPs from the party’s conservative ranks as the chief culprits.

To date there have been no specific allegations, and not one MP has been named by the female MPs.

What are the facts?

First, Victorian MP Julia Banks (the only person to have actually won a seat from Labor at the last election) has announced she won’t be contesting the next election, citing bullying behaviour by Liberals during the recent leadership context.

Banks may be a political novice, but she was a high-powered legal counsel to international companies pre-politics, so it is not likely she would make up such a serious claim.

Second, a series of senior female MPs including former Deputy Leader Julie Bishop and Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, and a former brigadier now West Australian Senator Linda Reynolds have publicly acknowledged that a culture of bullying does exist in the Parliamentary Liberal Party, but also without naming any names.

“There’s no question that politics can be robust,” O’Dwyer said. “Just as there’s no question that other careers can be robust. If you play Australian Rules football, it’s a robust sport, but we do not say it is at all acceptable for someone to punch you in the head behind play.”

South Australian Senator and former Family First MP Lucy Gichuhi has also claimed to have been personally bullied but unlike the others has threatened to name and shame the culprits in the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the absence of specifics has prompted several critics to respond with claims the allegations have been fabricated, or that they are a result of sour grapes from supporters of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mostly, though, the critics say the women in the party need to toughen up, and that tough talk is part and parcel of politics. Radio personality Alan Jones suggests that the women in the Parliamentary Liberal Party should learn to eat a spoonful of cement if they want to play the game.

What needs to be remembered is that politics has always been a brutal business in Australia. Periodically and particularly during times of polarisation it has turned very ugly and even violent.

It is worth recalling, for example, that, when he was Opposition Leader, Sir Robert Menzies was regularly pelted with iron nuts and bolts by union thugs at public meetings during World War II; while Labor leader Arthur Calwell was shot at point blank range with a sawn-off shotgun by a deranged student while campaigning in the 1966 election campaign.

And one of the most unforgettable images of 1980 was the face of Labor left-wing politician Peter Baldwin, bashed to unconsciousness by factional thugs.

The reason for citing these incidents is not to condone any such behaviour in any way, shape or form, but to emphasise that the current behaviour in the Federal Parliament, however bad it may have been, is not exceptional, at least not in an historical sense.

It is true that Australian politics has been ground to a halt by a decade of febrile politics caused by wafer-thin majorities in the House of Representatives, the fracturing of the major parties’ vote, and a Senate crossbench that thumbs its nose at government mandates and rebuffs legislation to suit their own agendas.

Governments have found governing extremely difficult, and oppositions use these circumstances to interfere and cause trouble with the objective of taking down the government of the day.

In that context, over-zealousness is not a surprising unintended consequence.

But the Liberal Party in its current state cannot afford to countenance such internal behaviour – especially towards its female MPs.

It already has too few women in the Parliament, and its “brand” has been well and truly trashed.

Regardless of the validity or extent of the allegations, there is only one option for all Coalition MPs: to put a stop to the infighting, the accusations and the counter-accusations, and the anonymous leaking, and to display a semblance of unity and decorum ahead of an election to win which they will need more than a miracle.




























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