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Gender wars come for the Australian Left

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks in Canberra on Sunday. Credit: NCA Newswire

April 30, 2024 - 10:00am

When Anthony Albanese attended a rally in Canberra on Sunday, in opposition to violence against women, the Australian Prime Minister should have been on safe territory. Yet it went horribly wrong, with a tearful organiser accusing the Labor leader of being a liar and abusing his position.

Gender and female safety has emerged as a potent political force in Australia, with a woman dying from male violence, on average, every four days. Until now, though, it was primarily conservatives who had been in the crosshairs.

Police investigating this month’s Bondi Junction stabbing attack are questioning whether the killer might have deliberately targeted women, who made up the majority of his victims. Add a high-profile and long-running rape case involving former political staffer Britanny Higgins and female safety has become a hot-button political issue in Australia.

Notably, this climate contributed in part to Albanese’s narrow election win in 2022. Angered by then-PM Scott Morrison’s tin-eared response to Higgins’s claim of being raped inside Parliament House — in which he said the issue was “clarified” only after speaking to his wife Jenny, who had urged him to view the allegation as a husband and father — female voters turned on the Liberal leader.

The centre-right coalition has long had a gender issue. Unlike the British Tories, they have never put forward a female leader, let alone a prime minister. They preselect fewer women candidates than men and, after winning office in 2013, nominated just one woman to the cabinet. When Morrison was finally booted from office, a wave of independent or teal women candidates swept moderate Liberals from metropolitan seats, consigning the coalition to potentially several terms in the political wilderness.

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was subject to sexism during her time in office a little over a decade ago, including, she alleged in a parliamentary speech, from then opposition leader Tony Abbott. He had stood in front of a sign urging voters to “ditch the witch”, as well as one calling Gillard “Bob Brown’s bitch” — a reference to the then Greens leader upon whose support she relied to form a minority government.

By contrast Albanese, who heads a party which endorses quotas, delivered a government comprising the highest-ever number of women MPs to the House of Representatives. The implication was clear: that he would be taking female voters seriously.

Against this backdrop, it would have been natural to assume that Albanese would be widely supported at Sunday’s rally. The gathering was one of many held around the country at the weekend that saw an estimated total of 100,000 people turn out. By Australian standards, those are big numbers for a demonstration.

Instead, the Prime Minister was booed by the crowd and accused by the organiser, Sarah Williams, of “abusing his power”. In response, he said: “Do you want me to speak or not? I’m the Prime Minister.” When he claimed that both he and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher had asked to speak at the rally but had been denied, footage showed Williams recoiling with shock. “That’s a lie. That’s a full-out lie,” she responded.

Albanese may have referred to violence against women as a “national crisis” but his response — to raise the issue at his meeting with state premiers on Wednesday — was dismissed as “not enough” at the rally. While he was correct in diagnosing the problem as a social one — Australia is significantly more sexist than many of its fellow Western nations — there will only be increasing pressure on him to “fix” it. Regardless of whether he manages that, Albanese’s disastrous outing on Sunday shows that Left-wing leaders are far from immune to the potency of this now-unleashed political force.


Latika M. Bourke is a journalist and author based in London with more than twenty years of experience covering Australian politics, British politics and international affairs. She writes at www.latikambourke.com.

latikambourke

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Danny D
Danny D
24 days ago

> a tracker that keeps count of the number of Australian women killed each year by domestic violence is already at one-third of last year’s toll

Uhm… If this was supposed to underline that there’s some “crisis”, as in it’s getting worse: This article was posted exactly one third through the current year, so yeah. Maths.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
24 days ago
Reply to  Danny D

I was about to point that out too (replete with sarcasm regarding interpolation and calculus), however the referenced article is from two months ago. It is the Gruaniad though, so take with a pinch of salt.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
24 days ago

This article shows that early death on the part of men from all causes consistently runs at a higher rate than for women in Australia but that the trend is improving for both.

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-deaths/deaths-in-australia/contents/age-at-death#

As this quote from the Guardian article below shows men are the predominant victims of Homicide in Australia:

“Homicide events include murder (82%), manslaughter (15%) and other cases (3%) where the most serious offence was not stated or known. The majority of victims are male (69%).”

Again the Guardian highlights that the trend in Australia over the years has been on a downward trajectory overall.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/apr/29/30-spike-in-rate-of-australian-women-killed-by-intimate-partner-last-year-data-shows

Politically activist women should stop trying to divide the population. While it is true that small section of men are the predominant perpetrators of violence men are also the predominant victims. Build on a coalition of those, the vast majority, who are neither perpetrators nor victims but are against violence and killing. They are both men and women.

William Shaw
William Shaw
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I don’t think women care about men killing men
 that’s not their problem.
Besides, while the murder of a woman is considered a tragedy the murder of a man is pretty much a non event.
If men would confine themselves to killing only other men there would be no more talk about the issue.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
23 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

There is plenty of talk about male on male violence and condemnation thereof (headlines daily), but fact is that women are physically weaker and stand less chance in a violent altercation with a man. Leave us alone and stop talking rubbish.

Pat Thynne
Pat Thynne
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

So because a lot of men are dying for all sorts of reasons in Australia, it is not a problem if some men kill an awful lot of women?
Men die because they kill themselves/driver stupidly/get into fights. Women die because men kill them.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
23 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

You have statistics to support this bizarre claim?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Why is that a bizarre claim? It is the point of the article, gendered violence. Where men kill their partner or former partner. Yes men die in other circumstances, but it’s the height of whataboutery to point at other homicide factors.

Alan Bright
Alan Bright
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It doesn’t sound that bizarre does it?

Matt M
Matt M
24 days ago

Albanese … referred to violence against women as a “national crisis” … he was correct in diagnosing the problem as a social one — Australia is significantly more sexist than many of its fellow Western nations

This is UnHerd not the Guardian or the BBC. If the author wants to make the highly contentious claim that violence against women is caused by sexism, she should present some evidence for it.
It is not at all clear to me that this is a “social issue”. Some men are naturally violent and unstable and prone to hit women. The answer to that problem is to lock them up for much longer so they are no longer a threat to women and to deter other violent men from acting on their impulses. If they kill women, they should face the long drop.

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
23 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Speaking as one, I think women who kill men (and children/other women) should meet the same fate.

Rex Adams
Rex Adams
22 days ago
Reply to  Jo Jo

Speaking as one what?

Jodie Willett
Jodie Willett
23 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Agreed. I’ve yet to see evidence that DV rates are getting worse, particularly when the expanded definition is accounted for. My grandmother’s generation knew ‘wife beating’ in their social circles. Like most things this feels like the latest hobby horse of activists saying “things have never been worse” when, in fact, they’re much much better than ever. Today it seems concentrated in certain socio-economic groups in conjunction with other problems such as drug and alcohol abuse. The latest incident is a reflection on the toothless justice system letting offenders out into the community.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
20 days ago
Reply to  Jodie Willett

Yes; and certain cultural groups have far higher rates of violence than others, but lets ignore that.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
23 days ago

Only 1.5 paragraphs on the actual event in 10 of writing. Needs more information rather than a re-hashing of the back story

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
23 days ago

Police investigating this month’s Bondi Junction stabbing attack are questioning whether the killer might have deliberately targeted women, who made up the majority of his victims.
So the minority of victims don’t count? Sometimes, psychotic killers are just psychotic killers. This new squabble is a bit ironic on the heels of all the commotion we’ve had in defining what a woman is.
Seems like Albanese’s quota-pushing approach is not buying him the political cover he expected. Why would it. When you engage in rank reductionism, wherein people are nothing more than whatever group they belong to, little good happens.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
23 days ago

Things were much simpler when men went out to work and women stayed home with the kids.

Janet G
Janet G
23 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Yes the olden days were much simpler. We had 6o’clock closing, so men guzzled their last beer of the day at 6 and were home for dinner ten minutes later, a bit sozzled, ready to complain if the chops were burnt. In those days women were not allowed in pubs at all, few women drove cars and real estate agents would not sell to women. If a women wanted a home she either stayed living with her parents or got married. Oh yes, things were much simpler. Having grown up female in Australia I learned that women were not as good as men. Simple as that. Don’t presume to be as good as men. I think many Australian men still believe that. Yes, things are more complicated now. The big new influence is internet pornography, which is teaching young boys that girls love being strangled. No wonder wonder so many young girls are eschewing womanhood, prefering to be ‘transmen’ or ‘binary’. Yesterday a prominent figure identified the three things fostering male violence in Australia – gambling (a huge industry in Australia), alcohol and pornography. Football seems to have a role too – the rate of male violence against women increases on nights when there has just been a big football match.

Leigh A
Leigh A
23 days ago

Setting aside my skepticism that Australia is one of the more sexist places in the West (as found by a women’s think tank led by Julia Gillard, conducting a poll for International Women’s Day – yeah, I’m sure that was an impartial survey…), we’ve been through all this before.

A decade ago PM Turnbull responded to waves of protests about violence against women. At the time all the activists claimed that the foundational problem was inequality between men and women, and cultural ‘attitudes’ that men held. These issues allegedly created a toxic environment where men believed they were free to abuse women, and the solution was to educate, educate, educate (and also, political party quotas and putting women in leadership roles and demonising young boys, especially if they were white boys).

How did all that work out? Well, looks like it failed miserably. And it was obviously going to fail – by ’empowering’ largely middle/upper class women, no serious action was taken to help vulnerable women who were at the greatest risk of violence. Nothing was done about alcohol and drug problems in vulnerable communities (e.g. remote indigenous towns), and violent men continue to harm women with near-impunity. And ‘educating’ men by telling them that ‘they’ were the problem, that ‘they’ needed to step up and ‘do something’, had the effect of alienating many young men, who have instead turned to actual toxic figures like Andrew Tate for affirmation and support.

The same thing will happen again this time around, regardless of whether PM Albanese gets acclaimed or accosted at a women’s rally. And that’s because the activists are spouting the same idiotic rubbish ideas as the last time. Until our society deals with the real problems causing this violence – drugs, alcohol, poverty, certain minority cultures that treat women as second class citizens or less – this performative outrage will do nothing.

Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill
23 days ago

“A woman, I forget who, once asked a male friend why men felt threatened by women. He replied that they were afraid that women might laugh at them. When she asked a group of women why women felt threatened by men, they said, ‘We’re afraid they might kill us.”
DSI Stella Gibson, The Fall, S2 Ep
There is indeed a crisis with regard to domestic violence in Australia, particularly violence against women. It has been there for years, decades, present in all economic, social and ethnic demographies. It’s just that it’s now well out in the open as a social and political issue whereas in the past it was downplayed.
From todays Sydney Morning Herald:
“So far this year, 28 women have died violently. That’s what you might call the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the bodies of those women are the thousands of women hospitalised, the thousands of women stalked, the thousands harassed at work, the many thousands too frightened to walk home alone at night. And Lake has a suggestion which fits in with the body of work she has done over her lifetime. Teach us all to be better citizens. That’s not just about how to vote but also how to emote. How do we deal with anger? How do we resolve conflicts? How do we talk to each other? How do we manage our relationships?Men’s violence against women has gone on forever. It’s not new – and the battle to build and maintain women’s refuges is at least 50 years old. And Australia was very – very – successful in bringing down the rate of fatal violence against women. It’s been in decline since the late ’80s.But last year, that rate increased by nearly 30 per cent, say new figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology. And if this year continues the way it began, it will only be worse.Put aside the bickering. The prime minister should apologise to Williams and Williams should accept that apology without caveat. Neither has to say they were wrong. They just have to move on. We urgently need them to do that, otherwise the story will be about them and not about the bodies piling up.”
https://www.smh.com.au/national/stop-this-is-not-about-a-squabble-at-a-rally-this-is-about-women-s-bodies-piling-up-20240430-p5fnkf.html

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
23 days ago
Reply to  Paul Hemphill

“successful in bringing down the rate of fatal violence against women. It’s been in decline since the late ’80s” – that might be because the overall homicide rate fell following Howard’s gun law reforms.

“But last year, that rate increased by nearly 30 per cent,” Yet, in all the media around this I haven’t seen even one journalist ask why that might be so.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
23 days ago

“Do you want me to speak or not? I’m the Prime Minister.” When he claimed that both he and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher had asked to speak at the rally but had been denied, footage showed Williams recoiling with shock. “That’s a lie. That’s a full-out lie,” she responded.
Actually, there was an article that showed after this, and in proper context, what he actually said.
Piece from The Australian
PM wasn’t stopped from speaking: rally organisecomment image&r=g
Staff writers

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
22 days ago

Physical violence against anyone is normalised in Australia to keep Aboriginal men out of prison (BLM).
Women are viewed as having brought violence upon themselves via entering into intimate relationships with their abusers.
None of Masa Vukotic, Renea Lau, Jill Meagher, Aiia Maasarwe, Eurydice Dixon, Stephanie Scott, or Celeste Manno ever had an intimate relationship with their slaughterers. Neither did Jennifer Tanner.
Stephanie Scott & Celeste Manno were slaughtered by their coworkers, whom they never even dated.
I never even dated the stalker ex-coworker freely committing devastating crimes against me 2009-current* – with Victoria Police officers’ open participation – either.
Stephanie Scott’s & Celeste Manno’s stalker murderers showed sadistic pervert pleasure after the murders: Stephanie Scott’s killer describing his actions to police, Celeste Manno’s killer terrorising his victim’s family at court via eliciting detailed, graphic descriptions of his victim’s injuries.
The Albanese government gave a great opportunity to Clare O’Neil to show the world why gender-quotas devalue every woman’s contribution to the workforce, setting back any hope of workplace equality by many decades.
* Last cyber-crime against me < 4 hours ago, last biker visit overnight in the home I have owned since 2001 in a leafy Melbourne suburb, in Clare O’Neil’s electorate. Writing this on 2 May 2024 at 11:47am.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
20 days ago

Men are biologically bad and accountable for this badness. Women are only bad if the environment forces them to be bad or they have a mental illness. Either way they are not accountable.
The fact that women abuse children at far higher rates then men and most of those they abuse are boys, has nothing to do with violence against women. Nor does raising them without fathers and letting them rule the house.
The only answer to this violence is to continue to throw 100s of millions of $ at it year after year and when the ideology fails, you throw more money.
This is how the problem is tackled.
From the very start of the DV industry, research showed that most violence was mutual. That lesbian relationships were the most volatile and women tended to use emotional and psychological violence more than physical. Some cultures are far more violent than others, but let’s ignore that too.

Feminist ideals of raising good men have failed abysmally and will continue down that path.
I note in todays Australian newspaper that a lack of empathy and nurture by parents towards their offspring is usually the cause of violence in individuals. I agree.