It’s clear that Nicola Roxon was deliberately targeting certain groups of men in her selection of men’s health ambassadors — particularly the “disfranchised, disengaged” men who are most prone to ignoring their physical and mental health and staying silent about it. This approach was sensible. The “worried well” are the most over-serviced segment of health consumers, and we need to do more to ensure men, particularly low-income and middle-aged men, talk to their families and doctors about their health.

That’s the sort of logic that presumably prompted Roxon to appoint the head of the Lone Fathers’ Association and a deputy head of the TWU as men’s health ambassadors. Striking the right balance between appearing to endorse all the views of an appointee, and reaching groups beyond the reach of normal programs, is a difficult and probably rather subjective process.

But it shouldn’t have been difficult to see that the appointment of an extremist “fatherhood” advocate who has for years peddled wholly objectionable views about gays and lesbians was wrong. Warwick Marsh has now rightly been sent packing by Roxon, but he should never have been appointed. The simplest background check would have revealed his record of homophobia. And there remain concerns, too, about Barry Williams’s views on same-sex couples and violence against women.

Coupled with the clearly nepotistic appointment of Tim Mathieson, whose claims to the role don’t appear to extend beyond listening to blokes while cutting their hair, this has undermined a worthwhile program. Other ministers would do well to learn the lesson: when appointing someone to a role, make sure you know exactly who you’re getting, and what they’ll look like to the rest of us.

Peter Fray

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