Federal

Jun 17, 2010

Vote Last Steve Fielding

Steve Fielding's buffoonery in the paid parental leave debate has given way to something altogether more offensive. Labor has a special responsibility to put him last this election.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

There's never been any doubt Steve Fielding is a prize idiot. His idea of senatorial behaviour has chiefly revolved around ludicrous stunts, apparently random voting and trying to inject himself into any debate going, frequently on the most offensive terms. None of which would, under most circumstances, be an obstacle to a successful political career. Yesterday, however, he managed to reach a new low beyond buffoonery, reaching into malice and gender hatred that appalled even right-wingers in the Senate. Fielding, interviewed by the ABC this morning, showed a remarkable gutlessness in insisting he hadn't been the first to suggest that women might become pregnant and then have abortions entirely for the purpose of accessing paid parental leave. Wrong. Fielding was the first to raise the issue. "Drug addicts and welfare cheats can get pregnant, then after 20 weeks have an abortion and still pocket the government’s cash," he said in his speech before the bill had gone into committee. He was the first person to raise the issue despite numerous senators on all sides debating the bill on Tuesday and before him yesterday. And in fact, Fielding has been spouting malicious garbage about paid parental leave since at least Tuesday morning when, on the doors, he said the government's scheme "is putting prisoners and prostitutes ahead of stay-at-home mums". The line didn't really get the sort of media run Fielding is used to, so he had another go yesterday, tweeting:
About to talk in the Senate about PPL. The govt is giving prisoners and prostitutes the payment while stay at home mums get nothing
Welcome to Steve Fielding's version of the Madonna-whore complex: stay-at-home mums and prostitutes and prisoners. Quite how people in prison or on welfare or in marginalised employment are going to get access to parental leave wasn't something Fielding offered to explain. Even more conservative members of the Coalition have woken up to what Joe Hockey understood several years ago when he was workplace relations minister -- that paid parental leave is a workforce participation measure, not a social policy. It's about the fact that we desperately need to maximise the number of skilled people in our workforce (or as Hockey put it more simply "we're running out of workers"). Support for stay-at-home mothers, whatever the rationale for it might be, is a wholly separate issue. Not, apparently, for Fielding, who happily equates working women with prostitutes and prisoners. But it wasn't on such fraught and admittedly complex gender and social issues that Fielding made his stand, but on the line that women would deliberately get pregnant and then abort in order to obtain benefits under the scheme. Sarah Silverman has a joke: "I want to get an abortion. But my boyfriend and I are having trouble conceiving." Fielding must have heard her and thought she was serious. And just to show he has real class, Fielding did it in the context of debate around access to the scheme in the event a baby is stillborn. Even strong pro-life advocate Barnaby Joyce (who, unlike a lot of conservatives, takes his pro-life convictions seriously enough to be a dogged opponent of the death penalty), was outraged:
What are your motives on this one, Senator Fielding? What are you trying to do here today? What is your motivation? Is this a sincere and honest approach on which you have spent a period of time lobbying people, discussing the issues and going through the proper mechanisms and processes? Have you done that, Senator Fielding? Or have you just brought in a highly emotive issue without actually consulting or doing the footwork? What is your primary motivation? Can you tell the chamber about all the people that you have discussed this with? Can you tell the chamber about all the lobbying you have done on this issue? Or is this merely a political ploy of yours? If it is, I think it is absolutely disgusting.
We don't know what Stephen Conroy thinks of Fielding's efforts yesterday. Which is a pity, because Conroy, in particular, and the Victorian Labor Party more broadly, are the Dr Frankensteins responsible for this creature, stitched together in 2004 from half-baked political smart-arsery and anti-Green sentiment. True, other parties can claim a bit of the credit -- both the Australian Democrats and Meg Lees' political deathbed lash at her old party, the 'Australian Progressive Alliance' -- preferenced Family First (candidates: Fielding and Danny Nalliah) as well. But Labor can claim credit for ensuring Fielding was elevated with Labor preferences ahead of the Greens' David Risstrom. Labor has a special responsibility for Fielding. His malicious intervention yesterday shows he is no longer simply a buffoon, he seems eager to incite hatred of women. Labor should now face the same demand that the Liberals faced in relation to Pauline Hanson and One Nation back in the early years of the Howard Government. They must put Family First last on all how-to-vote cards in the forthcoming election. The Liberal Party -- some quickly, some like John Howard not so quickly -- eventually did the right thing in refusing to preference One Nation. Labor should show it has similar resolve to put Fielding last.

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71 comments

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71 thoughts on “Vote Last Steve Fielding

  1. Socratease

    @postielinley: She did, but the bastard survived.

  2. David Sanderson

    “None of which (various idiocies) would, under most circumstances, be an obstacle to a successful political career.”

    This is unfortunately very true. If you listen to ordinary parliamentary ‘debate’ for as long as you can bear it you soon become painfully aware that there is not much fissile material in the brains of most parliamentarians. Nationals MPs are the worst but it is painfully bad from all sides.

    There is a pressing need to dilute the hacks with some real political and rhetorical talent. I occasionally hear excerpts (selective, I know) from the UK parliament and they do sound more intelligent and civilised than what we are served up here.

    It must be possible for things to improve. Mustn’t it?

  3. SusieQ

    Mark Duffet and others you are right about lazy, apathetic people who vote above the line – makes life easy for parties to do all sorts of deals that we find out about afterward. As for Fielding, well, he is beneath contempt.

  4. sickofitall

    One thing almost impressed this old cynic: Barnaby Joyce has consistency in one thing, being opposed to the death penalty and abortion. That’s a point to him. (I’m pro-choice and opposed to the death penalty.)

  5. Venise Alstergren

    Senator Steve Fielding Ha! I don’t know who I hate more Fielding, or the other Steve; Conroy.

    Let us not forget the crucifyingly asinine STEVE FIELDING, and his amazing revelations after taking a trip round the world to find the truth about Global Warming (warning, the faint-hearted should avoid this bit) ❗

    When interviewed by the media, on his arrival back in Oz, he stated “Global Warming doesn’t exist because God didn’t invent it”. (the writer heard him on the Neil Mitchell program -I think. Is this 3AW?)

    After that little effort nothing, absolutely nothing could surprise me. The man is a walking example of why the deeply religious should never enter politics.

  6. Sancho

    Don’t forget that Howard also lifted One Nation’s most disgusting and rabble-rousing policies before pushing it down the preference list. If Fielding’s rant catches on with religious nutters, the same thing might happen again.

    And Marylin, Conroy isn’t just filtering porn. He’s creating a blacklist of bloggers and politically-sensitive sites that Australians won’t have access to. Child porn is a cheap and shallow cover for it.

  7. Venise Alstergren

    SANCHO: Even worse to follow. Yup, the police will have the right to search everyone’s computers to search for anything in your computer history you may have looked at. LOOKED AT!

    So if someone sends me a comment to click on, and I do so, only to find it is an accidental porn site. I will be blamed for looking at it. THIS IS DEMOCRACY AT WORK? ❓

  8. sickofitall

    As the case of Andy Muirhead may demonstrate, offenders get caught. The filter is useless. When you rank under Barnaby Joyce, you should leave. and both fielding and conroy rank under barnaby joyce.

  9. Jim

    Rarely have I heard such bigoted ignorance from an elected representative as Mr Feilding’s comments yesterday on maternity leave. His ugly-minded comments about make it clear he shouldn’t be elected to any public office, especially parliament. Family First… more like, Bigots First.
    We voters need to start checking out who we’re really voting for in the Senate so self-righteous, sanctimonious bigots like Feilding can’t sneak in the back door again.

  10. David Sanderson

    The Conroy-haters should take a cold shower or do whatever else is required to quiet their fevered brains.

    I concede that Fielding is an unattractive personality but he is doing a competent job bringing in the NBN which will remain a huge infrastructure gain long after the current kerfuffles are forgotten.

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