‘To win power, he [Abbott] has to get sufficient support from women. If the government can seize on anything, even if it is a long bow, suggesting he is slighting Gillard on gender grounds, it will use it ruthlessly because it believes he has a weak spot.’ Michelle Grattan (The Age)
‘I don’t mind Tony personally, he’s not a bad bloke. But as I said to him on the campaign he’s as mad as a cut snake.’ Bob Hawke
When Julia Gillard — a woman who was unmarried, childless, and an atheist — became Australia’s first female prime minister after the 2010 election, opposition leader Tony Abbott was left boiling with rage. It was bad enough that he had lost, but to have to lost to a woman was shameful. For a few days he could not bring himself to call her Prime Minister or even look her in the eyes.
Beyond these particular events, and behind his boyish grin and easy charm, women sense in Abbott a man who has no respect or tolerance for the social changes that they have fought so hard to achieve. He is affronted by their demands to be equals with men, and to be given the right to control their own bodies and lives. For Abbott, these recent changes to the traditional male order are aberrations, and he sees his role as one of restoring traditional conservative male values.
The proper roles for women in Abbott’s world are those of mothers, wives, daughters — all of whom, even if they are employed, support and enable men to achieve their rightful place in the world. As nuns are to the Pope, they should not be allowed to take control of powerful positions in the traditional male hierarchy.
It is no mere tactic that has seen Tony Abbott reverting with gusto to to his bomb-throwing style, all his political energy aimed at demolishing Julia Gillard and the government. There is, still time, he believes, to achieve the position which he and his male mentors believe he was destined to have, that of leading his country back to ‘the proper order of things’.
About the Author
Dr Susan Mitchell is well known for her ground-breaking, best-selling book Tall Poppies. She has published fourteen books, including a recent biography of Margaret Whitlam. Most of her books have narrated and analysed the lives of women in politics, business, sport, literature, and other major aspects of Australian society. She is adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Flinders University, a radio and television broadcaster, and a former Opinion and Humour writer for The Australian. She is outspoken, bold and entertaining.
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About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.