Even in his early days as prime minister, Morrison had many moments that were characterised as ‘Trumpian’ and ended up in the international press for all the wrong reasons.
One was when he said: “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others (i.e. men) doing worse.”
He actually said that. And worse still, it wasn’t off the cuff or a case of the words coming out wrong. It was in his written, prepared speech for International Women’s Day in 2019. At a time when his government’s women problem was under the glare of public scrutiny.
Over the past three years, Morrison has failed to act on this problem, on climate change (think Glasgow) and on integrity (recall the broken promise for a federal anti-corruption commission) to name a few issues. And this has given rise to independent campaigns across the country in what are regarded as safe Liberal seats.
As certain candidates emerged as real threats, the Liberals responded to them in the same way they did to me. Although the incumbent MPs in these seats face perfectly fair and democratic challenges, their attacks use demeaning language and devolve into senseless and nasty personal hit-jobs through the patriarchal prism of entitlement and sexism.
And they go after those who represent the greatest threat to the party and its power: Zoe Daniel in Goldstein, Allegra Spender in Wentworth, and Monique Ryan in Kooyong. An esteemed former foreign correspondent, a successful businesswoman, and a paediatric neurologist respectively.
Articulate professional women who have worked hard their entire adult lives in substantial careers, where their success would have been impossible without high intellect, good judgement, sound values and strong ethics.
Women who have raised families and lived and cared for their local community and for their country.
And yet the Liberals have shamelessly called these women “puppets” and “fake independents”, and their campaigns everything from “a front for the Labor Party and the Greens” to “a fraud” and “immoral”.
All of this is not only insulting and disgusting – it can be harmful and incite further abuse. Not just of these women and their families but of their staff, volunteers and the tens of thousands of people who are supporting them.
These are women with whom, as a former Liberal, I share the same values and beliefs – in truth, integrity, inclusion, climate change action and a future-focused economy. Values and beliefs that have taken a backseat in Morrison’s party to such an extent that they may as well take the word ‘liberal’ out of their party name completely, just as MPs have taken it off their campaign material.
The Liberals do not ‘own’ these seats and these women are not “anti-liberal”. They are “pro Australia”, and our country is lucky that women of their calibre are running for office.