Saturday, 28 February 2015
Excerpt from The Age article Tony Abbott fundamentally misunderstands the violence against women epidemic by Phil Cleary on 16 February 2014:
Political life might look profoundly different for Tony Abbott had he not stood smiling in front of those misogynist banners "Ditch the Witch" and "Julia – Bob Browns (sic) Bitch" during his push to become Australia's 28th prime minister. Imagine if he'd shown genuine leadership and courage and torn asunder the hatred of women that bristled in those banners. Instead, he and Bronwyn Bishop revelled in the attention while campaigners against the epidemic of violence wondered how he could not grasp the deeper significance of his complicity in the banners.
Had Abbott not lent his name to words that mimicked the tawdry courtroom depictions of murdered wives as bitches and witches, maybe his creation of an advisory panel on family violence would have looked like the actions of a genuine prime minister. Instead, in the absence of a documented passion for the anti-violence cause, his announcement of such a panel reeks of opportunism in the face of the opprobrium that flowed from his knighting of Prince Philip. Without as much as talking to the campaigners, the Prime Minister created a panel then offered not an original thought about the extent of the violence against women, its origins, or how we as a society might begin to deal with it.
Don't get me wrong. The former Victoria chief commissioner of police, Ken Lay, is a passionate and admired campaigner against the violence. And the symbolism of Rosie Batty's appointment, along with her experience with the institutions entrusted with the task of protecting women and children, will be invaluable.
But what's the point of an advisory panel if you're up to your neck in cuts to the funding of frontline services crucial to the safety of women? If only Abbott had committed funds to fortify and extend those services, rather than promise an unpopular, hugely expensive paid parental leave policy (now thankfully shelved). If only he'd promised to sweep away the platitudes and address the inconvenient truth that it is violence against women by men that is our problem, and that the murder of Luke Batty was an act of male revenge against a woman, as was Robert Farquharson driving his three sons into a dam in 2005 and Arthur Freeman throwing his 4-year-old daughter, Darcey, off the Westgate Bridge in 2009……
The sad truth is that we don't regard the life of a murdered wife as being as valuable as that of a child. When a child is murdered by their father, it is invariably described as an inexplicable act and the source of unimaginable pain, as if the loss of a woman to a man who claims to love her isn't equally as painful for her parents. Children are always innocent, whereas too often a murdered wife must run the gauntlet of guilt.
Faced with the opportunity to expose these contradictions and the hypocrisy, and to stare down the attitudes that have fostered the killing of women, Tony Abbott has failed to deliver the appropriate leadership. After 25 years of campaigning, I'm not interested – nor are the campaigners I speak with – in politicians or commentators who camouflage the origins of the violence, disregard the lessons of the campaign, or won't say that the problem is men. Rather than inspiring me, Abbott's decision to create an advisory panel on family violence left me believing he didn't understand the nature of the violence stalking modern women. It is just one more reason his leadership of the country is under threat.
We've come a long way since the days when violence against women was regarded as secret men's business. So far have we come that it is now politically acceptable to select the mother of a boy killed by his father as Australian of the Year. Unfortunately, like so many times in his recent political career, Tony Abbott did not seize the moment. How different it might have looked had he said he would not and could not entertain those who blame the Family Court, or mothers, for the violence of a vengeful father. If only he'd stated that it is "un-Australian" to kill your wife. If only he'd posed for a photo with the parents or siblings of women murdered by an estranged man, especially those devastated by the misogynist provocation law or the failed defensive homicide law in Victoria.
Like so many campaigners, I long for the day when the murder of 60 women a year by intimate partners, estranged or current, produces the same sorrow and outrage from a prime minister and his opposition counterpart as does the killing of a child – and inspires a condolence motion in Parliament of the kind moved for the victims in the Martin Place siege. For that day will truly mark the beginning of the end for the wife killers and bashers.