White­board a sign of ab­surd po­lit­i­cal cul­ture

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

SO hys­ter­i­cal is po­lit­i­cal commentary in this coun­try that a hum­ble white­board this week be­came the fo­cus of out­rage and hours of anal­y­sis.

This was the white­board wheeled across a par­lia­men­tary cor­ri­dor on the or­ders of a fe­male se­cu­rity guard who felt sorry for the be­sieged Lib­eral Se­na­tor Michaelia Cash and de­cided to shield her from cam­eras.

Cash had not asked for the pro­tec­tion. But that didn’t stop the in­cu­ri­ous and the reck­less from leap­ing to the con­clu­sion that the Jobs Min­is­ter was run­ning scared af­ter her in­flam­ma­tory out­burst about Bill Shorten’s of­fice on Wed­nes­day.

No, Cash never ran away. She faced up to the mu­sic day af­ter day this week, through re­lent­less hours of cross ex­am­i­na­tion in Se­nate Es­ti­mates hear­ings, at­tacked by the worst of La­bor’s worst, and aban­doned by con­ser­va­tives who should know bet­ter.

She did not have a “brain snap”, as her ever-op­por­tunis­tic for­mer leader Tony Ab­bott put it.

When she fi­nally let fly at La­bor’s misog­y­nist bully Se­na­tor Doug Cameron, it was for good rea­son. She was de­fend­ing young women in her of­fice who have been tar­geted by a de­lib­er­ate La­bor cam­paign of sex­ual in­nu­endo in or­der to desta­bilise their boss.

That is the back­story be­hind all the hyp­o­crit­i­cal sanc­ti­mony di­rected at Cash last week, and it has up­set her staff, and forced them into un­com­fort­ably de­fen­sive fam­ily con­ver­sa­tions.

Cash was warn­ing La­bor that peo­ple who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and that if Cameron came af­ter her staff, she would go af­ter Shorten’s.

“If you want to start dis­cussing staff mat­ters be very, very care­ful be­cause I am happy to sit here and name ev­ery young woman in Mr Shorten’s of- fice over which ru­mours in this place abound. If you want to go down that path to­day, I will do it,” she said.

“… do you want to start nam­ing them for Mr Shorten to come out and deny any of the ru­mours that have been cir­cu­lat­ing this build­ing now for many, many years?”

If Cash had her time over again she says she would have used dif­fer­ent words, to tar­get Shorten, not his staff. Of course, as the cur­rent #me­too fad demon­strates, when you threaten to re­tail ru­mours about young women in an of­fice, it is not the women you are threat­en­ing, but the man abus­ing his power. It is no shame for the women, who are the vic­tim-he­roes of this cul­tural mo­ment.

Still, Cash did with­draw the com­ment — “If any­one has been of­fended” — when she was pressed by the sanc­ti­mo­nious for­mer CFMEU of­fi­cial Se­na­tor Penny Wong, who rushed in to cover for Cameron. For a party whose leader once ac­cused Ab­bott of “misog­yny” for look­ing at his watch, Cameron telling Cash to “set­tle down” and “take a chill pill” must have sounded warn­ing bells for La­bor’s en­abling sis­ter­hood.

In any case, the point re­mains. La­bor is play­ing a dirty, dan­ger­ous game, trawl­ing over Coali­tion staff move­ments, and Cash had to fight back. It is also true that there have been shock­ing ru­mours about se­nior La­bor fig­ures, un­sub­stan­ti­ated and not re­ported. That is at it should be. But nor should ru­mours be em­ployed as sneaky weapons in Se­nate Es­ti­mates.

If you watched the ex­changes on Wed­nes­day morn­ing you would have seen ex­actly what Cameron was up to. In the wake of the Barn­aby Joyce scan­dal and the Prime Min­is­ter’s sub­se­quent ban on min­is­ters sleep­ing with staff, Cameron was im­ply­ing some­thing un­to­ward about staffers mov­ing to Cash’s of­fice from other of­fices.

“Does this per­son, your new chief of staff, will he or she come from some other Lib­eral or po­lit­i­cal of­fice …. Did they come from a Lib­eral of­fice, a he or she.”

Cameron pre­tends he was just pur­su­ing Cash over a me­dia tip-off about a po­lice raid on the AWU. But Cash doesn’t buy it and neither does the PM or con­ser­va­tive Cab­i­net col­leagues Peter Dut­ton, Michael Sukkar and Zed Se­selja, who stoutly de­fended her.

Cash is one of the most coura­geous politi­cians in par- lia­ment and has han­dled with aplomb the Coali­tion’s tough­est port­fo­lio of em­ploy­ment (now jobs). The leg­is­la­tion she has steered through par­lia­ment un­der­mines the cor­rupt La­bor-union nexus. So Cash is the unions’ mor­tal en­emy, and thus La­bor’s.

Cameron, the Glaswe­gian-born for­mer AMWU boss, has been as­signed the task of de­stroy­ing her.

But she gives as good as she gets. For in­stance, she has con­fronted Cameron for de­fend­ing a CFMEU or­gan­iser ex­posed in the unions royal com­mis­sion for sex­ist bul­ly­ing of fe­male Fair Work in­spec­tors, in­clud­ing call­ing one a “f...ing slut”, and play­ing Who let The Dogs Out on a loud­hailer ev­ery time another en­tered a work­site.

Cash is one of the few con­ser­va­tive women in par­lia- ment, and a gen­uine fem­i­nist, not a virtue-sig­nalling seeker of gen­der power, but an in­stinc­tive and valiant de­fender of other women.

And yet when the go­ing got tough last week, Ab­bott and his for­mer chief of staff Peta Credlin led the “con­ser­va­tive” at­tack on Cash. Again, it was re­ally about Turn­bull and their rag­ing thirst for re­venge.

Cash was kicked while she was down last week by the Ab­bott bad­dies, not be­cause they were of­fended by her com­ments, but be­cause they re­vile her as one of 54 party room “traitors” they will never for­give for vot­ing to re­place him in 2015.

That’s the other back­story be­hind the Cash hys­te­ria last week: the re­lent­less Ab­bott in­sur­gency which weaponises even the fee­blest La­bor at­tack.

Picture: Kym Smith

Lib­eral Se­na­tor Michaelia Cash.

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