Whiteboard a sign of absurd political culture
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.
Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash.