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Newsletter 384

Published April 5, 2021
Another great photo op pays off!

Of all the dumb things ever said by our Dear Leader it’s hard to go past his claim that Marise Payne might now be called “The Prime Minister for Women”. No sooner had he made this declaration, as part of his new ‘Libs Heart Women’ campaign, than some irritating journo asked if that meant he wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister for women as well as men.

No, no, of course not! What he’s trying to do is bring together a team of ministers who all care deeply about women – just like he does. As of last week.

Let’s overlook the fact that Marise Payne has not been especially talkative about the events of the past few weeks, while her new Assistant (Prime) Minister for Women, Amanda Stoker, has already been denounced by Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, for some rather lenient views on sexual assault. In addition there are now portfolios for “women’s safety” (Anne Ruston) and “women’s economic security” (Jane Hume).

The sudden overkill of “women’s” ministries – which were never thought necessary in the past – has that familiar air of phoney decisive action that will effectively change nothing. From being completely blasé about women, Scummo is now a born-again feminist, but it will take a lot more than a few reshuffled ministers to change the blokey attitudes that have become second nature within the Coalition. It’s also a smokescreen for the fact that instead of sending ministers who are under a cloud to the backbench, he prefers to simply shift them (temporarily) into less visible portfolios. The exception is putting an ideological zealot such as Michaelia Cash into the Attorney General’s chair. Ms. Cash is still to give us a satisfactory account of how the news of a pointless raid on union offices was leaked from her department to the media.

And let’s not mention the fact that the irredeemable Andrew Laming is still tolerated within Coalition ranks even while he’s off doing “Empathy Training” because of a habit of abusing and intimidating women, and thought it a fun stunt to snap a photo of a woman’s undies as she bends over. Talk about laugh! Can’t they take a joke?

Showing where his real priorities lay, the PM raced off to a footy match between the Eels and the Sharks. Although he keeps telling us he’s a fervent Sharks supporter he obviously couldn’t been seen in their changing rooms after they’d been whopped. Instead he visit the Eels’ changing rooms for one of his beloved photo opportunities. He got what he wished for, as a marvellous picture of sports scientist, Tahleya Eggers, glaring at him, went viral. When queried about the picture, Eggers said:“I will not respect a man who has the time to shake hands of men who have won a football match but is ‘too busy’ to attend the March for Justice.”

What! Didn’t she see his new reshuffled Ministry? With all those bloody women in it? Where’s the gratitude? Where’s the respect?

There’s a palpable sense that Scummo is slipping up big-time on this issue. His “woman problem” is now a political problem of the first magnitude, and it has the potential to hang around for a very long time.

The art column this week looks at William Yang’s retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery, which shows the surprising breadth of his œuvre. When one thinks of William it’s usually in relation to the gay community, the social page snaps, or his attempts to reclaim a Chinese heritage that was kept from him in childhood. These form three major components of this exhibition but there’s a lot more to his work. The glue that holds it all together is his preoccupation with autobiography, through which he tells stories that start with himself and eventually draw in almost everybody. Yang’s skill is the ability to make his own, idiosyncratic condition into The Human Condition.

For the fim column I’m reviewing Florian Zeller’s The Father, which features an outstanding performance by an aged Anthony Hopkins, who plays a man gradually succumbing to dementia. The tale is told in such an arty manner that we often find ourselves looking through subject’s eyes, and becoming just as confused.

I’m also including a blog on the travelling light-show, Monet and Friends, which the Herald asked me to assess last week. I’m not entirely negative about this kind of popular spectacle but I’m not sold on it either. It’s a bit like Scummo’s policies: they look spectacular on the surface but eventually reveal themselves as more charade than substance.