The nauseating views of Warwick Marsh, revealed by Crikey following a reader’s tip yesterday, have cost him his men’s health ambassadorship. Nicola Roxon this morning described his views as abhorrent and, when he declined to repudiate them, sacked him.

Good riddance and the less said about him and his loathsome ilk the better.

However, Barry Williams, head of the Lone Fathers’ Association, has “publicly and unequivocally disowned” the homophobic views pushed by the “Fatherhood Foundation”, and kept his role for now.

Williams blamed yesterday’s revelations on “extreme feminists”. Yikes. I’ve never been called that before, not even in my hilariously SNAG uni days. With all due respect to Mr Williams, you don’t have to be any sort of feminist to find those views about gays and lesbians deeply offensive. A functioning moral compass is all that suffices.

Williams was deliberately selected because the Government wants to target men who are, in Roxon’s words, “disfranchised, disengaged”. There’s merit in that idea and a group like Lone Fathers offers a vehicle for accessing such men. We’re therefore into the difficult area of maximizing the effectiveness of a health policy versus condoning the extreme views of an organization composed of often embittered men angry at ex-partners and the Family Court.

Part of Williams’s brief as head of his Association is to promote the view that men are as much victims of domestic violence as women. This is a persistent theme in his newsletters. All victims of domestic violence deserve support services, regardless of gender, and all perpetrators deserve appropriate handling via the criminal justice system. Anything that encourages male victims of domestic violence to be more open about their experiences is worthwhile and complements the aims of the men’s health ambassadors program.

But Williams goes to extremes in his advocacy for male victims of domestic violence. In 2006, he was a co-signatory of a response to “the anti-male UN report on ‘Violence against women'”, which argued that reporting of domestic violence was biased against men, including several claims that women are greater perpetrators of domestic violence than men — such as “a recent international study of severe violence among dating couples, 55% was mutual violence, 16% was male ­only, and 29% of violence was female­ only.”

Saliently, the response also claimed that domestic violence programs “have been shown to result in widespread violations of due process protections… weaken families, bias divorce proceedings, and deprive children of contact from their fathers.” That statement goes beyond advocating for male domestic violence victims. Way beyond.

These views aren’t unrelated to men’s health, but they’re not quite in the same league as the drivel peddled by Marsh. Even so, no Government should be entirely comfortable with such people as a representative of a taxpayer-funded program.

Not that Williams is entirely the cleanskin about gay and lesbian issues that his comments make him out to be. The Lone Fathers’ Association has given space to Marsh in its newsletters to promote his views on “gender disorientation pathology” and criticise attempts to end discrimination against same-s-x couples as “evil”. Williams himself has criticised same-sex couples as unable to provide appropriate “mental and moral development” for children and unequal to heteros-xual couples.

This morning Roxon took responsibility for the appointment of Marsh and said that she wished more background checking had been done. Roxon has been badly let down by either her office or her bureaucrats or both. There are two ways Marsh would have been appointed – either on the recommendation of the Minister’s staff, or on the suggestion of the Department of Health and Ageing. But even in the former case, some background checking should’ve been done by bureaucrats in the relevant program area (presumably the Population Health Division). Perhaps it was and it was provided to Roxon’s office, who ignored it. Either way, it’s an unnecessary and sloppy lapse in judgement.

Unnecessary and sloppy also applies to the appointment of Tim Mathieson. What sort of political tin ear does Roxon have to think this was okay? Mathieson will probably be perfectly serviceable in the role but his lack of qualifications of any kind is fairly glaring. Then again, worse appointments have been made before and will be made again by both sides. Dennis Jensen this morning put out a press release about it, loaded with hair puns. “I don’t want to split hairs on this but I’d urge you all to be asking her some curly questions.” For Jensen, it was impressively close to amusing. And that’s about what it deserves.

Peter Fray

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