Imagine for a moment:
A young woman who works in Federal Parliament in Berne is raped in the office suite of the Minister of Defence and for two years the incident is covered up.
A group of parliamentary aides share videos of themselves masturbating on a female minister’s desk.
The highest legal authority in the land, the Attorney General, is named by many reputable people as the alleged rapist of a woman, who has since committed suicide.
Imagine, if you can, that a prayer room inside the Parliament is used for sex among staff and politicians, and for sex workers who are brought into the Parliament for the pleasure of politicians.
The leader of the country then refuses to address a rally of thousands of angry women, but in a national press conference says that women should be thankful they live in a vibrant democracy because “such marches like these are being met with bullets in countries not far from here.”
No, you can’t really imagine that you, can you? I am sure many women can.
Well, welcome to Australia in March 2021. Forget the pandemic; there are almost no cases.
Australia is grappling with a run of misogyny and violence against women which has shocked the nation and will, in the months to come, cause irreparable damage to the country’s reputation
You can also forget the bush-fires, floods, storms, poisonous snakes, mice plagues, drought, venomous spiders, crocodiles snacking on tourists and sharks snacking on surfers.
Australia is grappling with a run of misogyny and violence against women which has shocked the nation and will, in the months to come, cause irreparable damage to the country’s reputation.
It has surfaced, not in a seedy football or rugby club, but in the corridors of its Federal Parliament in Canberra, the bastion of the boys, or “the swinging dicks”, as named by a former female Foreign Affairs Minister.
Women are furious. The men in power have so far proved to be tone deaf. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Christian evangelist who is often parodied as the “daggy Dad” or “Scotty from marketing” is out of his depth. Drowning. Scrambling.
More and more revelations of alleged rape, indecent assault and organised in-house sex are coming to light almost every day. Two of the most senior ministers in the government, the Defence Minister and the Attorney-General, both on stress leave related to the above incidents, face sacking.
The scandal is unprecedented, but it has been boiling under the surface of Australian politics and society for years, even centuries. Many readers will remember that famous “misogyny speech” by the first Australian woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012. You can watch it below.
But even this speech sounds lame compared to the incidents of the last month.
It began with the alleged rape of woman staffer Brittany Higgins, aged 24, exactly two years ago, who worked for the Liberal party, the ruling conservative government.
Here’s some background:
The fury is mounting. You can hear it in the white cold reports of journalists from the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the most credible and fearless source of news in a media landscape dominated by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The Australian Government initially reacted to some of the allegations by announcing it would sue the messenger, in this case, the ABC. But that threat has become yesterday’s news, as day by day more extraordinary incidents come to light.
The prominent and respected journalist Laura Tingle captured the anger of many women and men in Australia with this national report about the “sick culture” of Canberra, aired on the ABC this week.
Really, you can’t imagine it, can you? Unfortunately, yes, we can. It happens. It happens in “vibrant democracies” at the highest level. It happens almost everywhere.
The Prime Minster, on whose watch it all happened, offered another feeble tin ear apology.
“Blokes don’t get it right all the time,” he said.