Cash outburst not warranted
I SPENT over a decade working for senators before I moved to the lower house. There was a level of collegiality then and using the cover of parliamentary privilege to square off, with its protections against defamation, was considered the low road. It was called “coward’s castle” for that reason. Today, maybe MPs think everything is fair game after the Prime Minister opened season on the private lives of politicians.
But I can’t defend Michaelia Cash’s outburst this week. No real conservative can because the political contest should always be about the battle of ideas, not crude accusations.
I have long admired Cash because she has a backbone and is quick with evidence to back up her arguments. She is tenacious and fights her corner with the best of them, especially on industrial relations. I guess that’s why I find her threat, using “coward’s castle” in Estimates last week, to name young women in Bill Shorten’s office “about which rumours in this place abound” so disappointing.
With that accusation, she impugned the character of every woman in Shorten’s office and indeed, women staffers in general. Having been one of that same tribe for 16 years, I find it offensive, too, and the cheapest slur you can hurl at a hardworking, professional woman. Imagine if a bloke had said it. What’s happened to our polity that we’re now in the business of using staff as weapons when it should be policies and outcomes that determine political success?
I’ve been the subject of baseless rumours and it is debilitating. They follow you into every meeting, they change how you deal with other males in your workplace, they make you think twice about sharing a cab with someone or speaking up in a room of men. They hurt your family and you think about pulling back.
And that’s the purpose. To put women in their place. As a staffer, you have no way to return fire. I know Cash claims she was bullied into it by her Labor counterpart but I’ve watched it closely, and that’s rubbish. She’s a senior Cabinet minister — if that’s her only retort then she’s not the impressive performer I thought she was.
Senator Michaelia Cash.