Malcolm Turnbull says he would call himself a feminist, like it is some movement he can just join with no invitation, no credentials, and no effort. Much like the rest of his life really, except feminism is not as easy to join as lunch at a men-only club, or the Liberal Party. Some of us have standards.
The quote was immediately butchered to claim that Malcolm Turnbull is a feminist – which he demonstrably is not. We know this because at the same time he nervously joked about the ironing. Women who are feminists do not posture and perform for the cameras about who does the ironing when outing themselves as feminists. That is a thing that men who are not feminists do. Men like Tony Abbott.
Malcolm Turnbull says he would describe himself as a feminist – he just left off the end of the sentence: ‘to garner votes’. We know we can find this implied premise in the sentence because we know Turnbull would say anything to win votes. Saying things, after all, is a lot easier than devising actual policy, like wealth distribution that does not transfer wealth upwards, or standing up to the lunatic homophobic right, or even standing up to his own Treasurer, Scott ‘release the costings’ Morrison.
This is a man we pay $500,000 per annum to traipse around, looking like death warmed up, while telling us fibs. That is, when he is not making a dribbling fool of himself in an embarrassingly transparent attempt to connect with the 99% whose net worth comes in under $200 million.
I speak, of course, of the tasteless and mawkish daddy video. The one about which Turnbull clarified separation arrangements regarding the marital bed. I’m not making that up.
Some of us did engage with what Malcolm put on show, which is to say, his mummy issues. This is so predictable that it must have been at least partially the point. It is not a feminist point, nor a feminist thing to do. It is a trollish thing to do. He is trolling a dead woman, his own late mother, who gave him life on this earth.
If this seems a long bow, here is what Turnbull said when asked why he released the video:
It’s important to honour your parents, Mark. It’s important to honour your father.
See what he did there? It was probably not even deliberate. He is a man running for office and running on empty. What’s a bit of defensive erasure and misplaced anger at his late mother, on the national stage?
Turnbull has form in trolling women. His first announcement as Prime Minister was to restore one third of the $300 million that had been ripped out of services for women escaping violence. A third of that third was earmarked for ‘awareness-raising’. This is a Liberal Party favourite. It is code for fat cheques to donor mates who run or have interests in advertising companies. See ‘ideas boom’ for further evidence of this garbage substitute for policy.
Meanwhile, unlike feminist-run women’s refuges, ‘awareness-raising’ (profiteering from misery) is not a proven success at stopping men’s violence towards women and children. The ads are essentially designed for comfortable Liberal voters to tsk tsk at how terrible is domestic violence while nodding knowledgeably: isn’t it nice that nice Mr Turnbull (or that nice Mikey B in NSW) is ‘doing something’.
Something like spending taxpayers’ money on advertising campaigns designed to make conservative voters feel better about voting in a cabal of racist sexists who can not sell a policy in a seven week election campaign but they can keep a torture camp or ten up and running.
Similarly, in his first cabinet, Turnbull announced NSW Senator Marise Paine would become our first woman defence minister. He was swiftly reminded that Ros Kelly was a junior defence minister in the Keating government. Minor quibbles. What Turnbull wanted was the grandiose claim, the great man in history narrative, the ‘first’ status – using a woman or two to get there is of no moment to him.
Incidentally, how much have we heard from the Defence Minister when it comes to terror announcements, overseas fighter deaths and the like? Nothing? Has George Brandis taken over that role? How about threats to the nation state, non-existent as they are compared to most places in the world? Anything? Or do we see that role fall to Peter ‘BorderForce’ Dutton, when he is not tripping over his own shoe laces, or the rubbish falling out of his mouth?
Paine may be the first woman to be a fully fledged Australian Defence Minister, but that does not mean Turnbull was not merely trolling women while the men retain the bombs and terror and brassy uniforms stuff for themselves.
But we were talking about Turnbull and his relationship with his parents, who both died last century. If the outbreak of amateur reverse-Oedipus analysis was not predicted, Turnbull and his team are even more embarrassingly incompetent than even I thought possible, and I have zero regard for the man or his team. I see no skill in policy or politics. Simple abuse of incumbent power, explored at length here, is all I see.
In short, the single dad schtick is a narrative for which I have zero empathy in this context. Here is why. I am a sole parent. I have actual parenting to do. Turnbull is 61 years old, his father has been dead for 30 years, he holds the most powerful job in the country.
What does he want from us? This whiny, needy, multimillionaire thinks the best way to woo my time is with a tacky pitch to the dudebro vote with a posthumous poverty narrative wrapped in meritocracy mythology. Nuh-uh. No.
My take is the infamous Turnbull judgement (again). Like the decision to talk about the ironing, a line which, to a sizable portion of voters, immediately recalls his predecessor. Or his decision to feign outrage that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten dared to state a known fact: that women take by far the most responsibility for childcare.
Remember the GST increase thought bubble and tax-based federation revolution that lasted mere days? Here, too, Turnbull has form. As a backbencher in 2005, Turnbull spent months undermining then-Treasurer Peter Costello on tax policy, and released his proposals with apparently no insight into the toes on which he trod – judgement, judgement – or the opprobrium he would incite. His proposals sank without a trace – because Turnbull could not read the political landscape.
Yet on ascension to the prime ministership, Turnbull exhumed the dead tax cat and threw it on the table. Only to discover that the Australian electorate was no more interested in his sweeping gestures than was Costello. Funny, that.
Then there is the constant sloganeering – also reminiscent of Abbott. In fact, except for the unsubstantiated hypothesis that Turnbull is better suited to Prime Ministering than opposition leadering (he has proven to be terrible at both), it is Abbott who comes up rosier in any comparison with respect to sloganeering. This is because Abbott was not exposed as a serial plagiariser as well as a predictably repetitive liar.
Yet here is Turnbull blathering jobs and growth until he is grey in the face, drearily invoking the least successful Liberal Prime Minister since at least McMahon. No wonder the team decided a circuit breaker was in order. What a pity they did not hit on telling the truth about policy as an alternative approach.
Unlike those who are remunerated to assemble actual insights into the Prime Ministerial performance, I see no point hashing over marriage equality, the republic, and climate change. We all know Turnbull has blown these policies; and that such abject failure has ‘disappointed’ those who were sure he was up to the Prime Ministerial job.
In a kind of creepy-daddy-karma twist, a poll in his seat of Wentworth published this week, men over 55 who are most ‘disappointed’ in Turnbull’s performance. I can just see their silver heads bobbing sadly as they tell pollsters in a sorrowful tone. No, we are not angry with him, just disappointed.
Which brings us full circle to the emotional immaturity Turnbull unwisely put on display to the Australian electorate. As one mate remarked, it is almost as though this is a therapy session. To which I replied that the whole tawdry exercise seems like the electorate has been press-ganged into providing group therapy – for a man who wants for absolutely nothing – and I for one resent it.
I am a feminist. I have actual parenting to do. Not half a century ago. Right now. Whether the Prime Minister is feeling nostalgic has no bearing on current housing costs, or the state of public education, the casualisation of the work force, the fact that coal and CSG mining are trashing country for generations to come.
As better minds than mine have noted, he did not even have the grace, or brains, or antennae, to link the video thing to restoring sole parent supports removed by Gillard. That would at least have played the feminist card more effectively. Cynically, but even cynical-yet-effective would be a step up from vacuous attention-seeking.
Malcolm wants me to divert my attention to him – and thus away from my income-insecure job, and my children, and parenting responsibilities, and family and friends and writing and actual policy and promises. Really? For a purported position on feminism and a tear-jerker bro clip that erases his dead mother and exploits his dead father?
This poorly-judged attempt to humanise a sitting prime minister who is also a multimillionaire – a man who wants for nothing, nothing … is little more than a transparent plea to the Australian electorate that we gratify his seemingly bottomless hunger for power and insatiable desire for approval.