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Apr 17, 2012

Ian Macdonald adviser quits after sexist email rant

A senior adviser to Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald has launched a colourful broadside against a feminist academic over an opinion piece bemoaning the lack of women in Campbell Newman's government.


A senior adviser to conservative Queensland Liberal National Senator Ian Macdonald, Max Tomlinson, has resigned from his position after launching a misogynist spray against a feminist academic.

This week, Tomlinson wrote to Cairns-based activist Dr Carole Ford complaining about a Courier Mail article penned by Ford on the lack of gender equality in the new Queensland parliament. He called Ford a “sourpuss”, told her to “get a life” and explained that men were superior to women “because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone”.

Last night, the former News Limited staffer was hung out to dry by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who told Crikey the comments were “completely unacceptable”. “It is repudiated by me and the Coalition,” he said. An Abbott spokesman confirmed Tomlinson’s departure this morning.

The fracas started on Monday, when Ford wrote a mild op-ed headlined “Women Struggle for a Political Voice” noting that the George Street benches had been “reduced to a virtual political boys’ club” under the new LNP regime where just 18% of government MPs are women compared to 49% under Anna Bligh.

But the intervention enraged Tomlinson, a Townsville-based media adviser, who previously worked for years at News Limited’s Townsville Bulletin.

He quickly dashed off a private email to Ford, obtained by Crikey (read below), goading the Cairns Women’s Network coordinator with a challenge to run for parliament if she didn’t like the status quo. But he didn’t rate her chances: “… like most women, you probably don’t possess the necessary drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess. It’s not a personal criticism; it’s a fact of biology.”

“Where, for example, are the great female explorers, mountaineers, warriors, inventors, chefs?”, Tomlinson mused. “Blokes dominate most areas of human endeavour because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone.”

Tomlinson, whose has two journalist sons, confirmed the authenticity of the email when contacted by Crikey, explaining he had made a “personal comment” to the “rabid feminist” in a “private capacity”. Ford was previously an ALP candidate, he added.

“Hell hath no fury, you know what these feminists are like, if you say something they don’t like they want to have your balls on the desk … go for it girls, have a bit of fun,” he told Crikey. His message to Ford remained loud and clear: “C’mon, get a life my darling, life goes on, it’s all about ability not gender.”

In his email, subject-lined “Please get a life”, Tomlinson contrasts Ford’s “Sisterhood” with his wife of 40 years, who proudly undertakes home duties and is often dissed by other women at cocktail parties what they find out what she does.

“Women like my wife are the life-givers, the embodiment of sacrificial love (the purest form of love), the primary keepers of the flame of civilisation that separates us from the animal world, and yet the Sisterhood frowns on them for not joining the anti-male club that you so typefy [sic].”

Tomlinson said that the reader comments reacting to Ford’s piece “essentially reflected what I said … perhaps I was bit more colourful”.

Ford ran for Labor in the Victorian state seat of Nepean in 2002, narrowly losing out by 100 votes to Martin Dixon. Tomlinson is also a former parliamentary hopeful, having been preselected by the LNP for Thuringowa in 2010 before later withdrawing on “doctor’s orders”. Gallingly, Labor roads minister Craig Wallace was rolled in the seat by replacement LNP candidate Sam Cox at last month’s election, erasing Wallace’s 16.8% margin in a pitched battle with the Bob Katter’s Australian Party. In 2010, Tomlinson had previously helped run Ewen Jones’ successful bid for the federal seat of Herbert.

This morning, Fairfaxs Brisbane Times satellite ran a curious story on the yarn without linking to Crikey in contravention of usual journalistic standards. Online journalist Bridie Jabour referred to Senator Macdonald as “Senator McDonald”.

Ford told Jabour that it was “extremely disappointing that any man in 2012 would think that way.”

“It surprised me that in this day and age people would get angry about a request for woman to have better representation in parliament. It’s astounding that people would be angry that we make that request.”

The full email text …

Dear Carole,

I have just read your pathetic piece in the Courier-Mail. While I generally ignore the bleatings of sourpusses like you, your piece was so depressing and negative that I was moved to find your email address and simply say: Get a life.

The world would be a better place if people like you stood for political preselection and learned the hard way that ability is not measured by chromosomes.

Question: Why don’t you have a go? Answer: Like most women, you probably don’t possess the necessary drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess. It’s not a personal criticism; it’s a fact of biology. Where, for example, are the great female explorers, mountaineers, warriors, inventors, chefs? Blokes dominate most areas of human endeavour because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone. That was part of Nature’s grand design to enable men to be stronger, more fearless and more determined than their sisters. Sorry, Carole, fact not fiction.

Women occupy a special but different place in the world to that of men. I’ve been married to a wonderful woman – a proud mother of four successful adult children, not a nuclear physicist – for nearly 40 years. For yeras [sic] I’ve heard women like you ask my wife at cocktail parties, functions and dinner parties: And what do you do? The clear inference in the pregnant silence that follows my wife’s answer that she is a proud home-maker makes my skin crawl. Women like my wife are the life-givers, the embodiment of sacrificial love (the purest form of love), the primary keepers of the flame of civilisation that separates us from the animal world, and yet the Sisterhood frowns on them for not joining the anti-male club that you so typefy [sic].

The anti-male world of conspiracy theories in which you and the Sisterhood inhabit is the complete antithesis of the world in which positive women thrive. Women who can’t cut it in – what did you call it?, the boys’ club – can easily cover their inadequacies by claiming bias, s-xism, misogyny, chauvinism etc. etc. ad infinitum. It’s so tiring to read such twaddle.

Face reality, my dear. Smell the coffee. Try to turn your sour, negative, anti-male view of the world into something more positive and productive. Demonising men may be your life’s quest but fewer and fewer people are listening.

I repeat: GET A LIFE.

Kind regards,


Max Tomlinson


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60 thoughts on “Ian Macdonald adviser quits after sexist email rant

  1. Sam Clifford

    Shorter Tomlinson “Women will never be good for anything other than sacrificing their hopes and dreams to raise a man’s kids”.

  2. paddy

    LOL Well it *IS* Firstdog’s birthday week.

    But he’s getting such a sh*tload of comedy gold from our cousins up north, I’m beginning to think this whole Queensland landslide business is a cartoonist’s plot.

  3. Cuppa

    The Age, 25 March 2011

    […Later, Leader of the House Anthony Albanese accused Mr Abbott of ”a misogynous” parliamentary interjection. Nationals frontbencher Luke Hartsuyker had ”referred to the Prime Minister as ‘the witch’. Abbott added, ‘Where’s your broomstick?’,” Mr Albanese said. Both Mr Hartsuyker and Mr Abbott withdrew their interjections]


    Abbott stars at sexist awards night
    Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 2010:

    [Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has taken out two Ernie Awards at the 18th annual forum that names and shames public figures for making sexist comments throughout the year.


    At the awards show in Sydney last night, Mr Abbott won a Political Silver Ernie award for such comments as “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing.”

    He was the favourite to win the political category after being nominated eight times this year.


    But he was given a run for his money this year by his treasury spokesman Joe Hockey.

    Mr Hockey was twice nominated for the political Ernie this year, including his election campaign gaffe: “{Treasurer} Wayne Swan is to surpluses what Paris Hilton is to celibacy”.]


    [The Four Corners program quoted a young Tony Abbott as saying that “it would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”.]



  4. lorraine benham

    Oh what a sad, sad guy. Let’s offer him a cup of tea, a bex and good lie down. Imagine walking around with that anger and angst stuff going on inside your head, day after day. Gotta feel sorry for him.

  5. Arty

    “Blokes dominate most areas of human endeavour because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone.”

    No, nature equipped them with something called “women” without which men would seek to exist.

  6. pam walker

    What an ignorant man Mr Tomlinson seems to be. In response to his advice I have a few words I’d like to offer, free of charge – get a brain!
    If this is the quality of advice Campbell Newman and the LNP will be relying on, I don’t see that government being in power for long in Queensland. I’m assuming of course that Qld women, like their “sisters” down south, will find Tomlinson’s views (for example below) ignorant and offensive.
    “Like most women, you probably don’t possess the necessary drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess. It’s not a personal criticism; it’s a fact of biology.”
    It’s a good thing that Mr Tomlinson is happy to rely on his testosterone because he gives no evidence of possessing any rational intelligence.

  7. Fran Barlow

    hormones not chromosomes! Sensible policies for a sensible Queensland! All right-thinking people think so. {LOL}

    I think it also telling that he thinks, apparently, that neither Carole Ford nor his wife have a life — albeit that the latter has given up hers in an act of sacrificial nobility to the cause of men.

    Gosh — the ALP dodged a bullet when he lost in 2002.

  8. cyberfysh

    Queensland voters have opened Pandora’s box – who knows what will fly out next??

  9. Chris Johnson

    Max Tomlinson is displaying serious symptoms of nodding dog fever. A journalist confined to offering narrow advice on visionless policies must be spitting chips at the endless spruiking Dr Ford does on boundless spirited topics of relevance to modern Australia. Seething and simmering over feminism, motherhood, parenthood and basic life matters after 40-years of marriage sounds like not much has been learned along the way. Seems to me its Max who needs to get a life and a new job.

  10. Andybob

    Does Max get a say about preselections ?

  11. fred

    Can we trust Tony Abbott? Is this really repudiated by the coalition, given that this man is an adviser to a shadow minister. And given many of Abbott’s sexist comments in the past it is of serious concern to all women that an Abbott government has the potential to include such mysogynists in its ranks.

  12. bluepoppy

    I love these macho types who think women have not achieved anything. Just one of the reasons I don’t vote Liberal because many of them are anything but liberals.

  13. Ken Dally

    I saw Tomlinson’s cousins on the weekend protesting outside the Global Atheist Convention. You could pick them by their beards, white robes and signs calling for the death of a woman who dares speak against them and has to have a permanent security detail for protection.

  14. Jenny

    Dear Queensland, welcome to the 17th century…. or is it the 16th? I get confused, being a lowly victim of biology and all…

  15. Damotron

    You can take the journalist out of News Limited but you can’t take News Limited out of the journalist. What’s Max going to do next, take legal action against her for having an opinion that’s different to his!!!!

  16. Mort

    Not surprising, pretty standard honest description of conservative values and thoughts on women.
    TA is only distancing himself because of the problem of the “female vote.”
    No don’t it is still hilarious in the backrooms.

  17. Georgie Jeffreys

    I am overwhelmed with disgust. How can the world care so much about Samantha Brick’s ramblings, but so little about this? Why on earth are there not more comments and conversation being formed? Attitudes like those of Max Tomlinson illustrate why women continue to suffer from undercurrents of sexism within today’s society. Vomit.

  18. Andrew McIntosh

    “…the primary keepers of the flame of civilisation that separates us from the animal world…”

    What the deleted?!

  19. CliffG

    Just ask David Gibson about how wonderful men are compared with women. They drive much better, don’t they and get caught speeding again while under suspension! Now that’s testosterone.
    What a bunch and they’ve been given a huge mandate. Silly stuff. Just keep your eye on the Barrier Reef and the little that remains of the Daintree rainforest. Maybe even Newman of Bananaland will come to realize he needs more women. But where will he find them among the scone bakers of Queensland’s conservative women, daily sacrificing themselves ever so nobly for their husbands? Just so far behind the rest of this nation!

  20. geomac

    Without having to think too hard a few names come to mind . Bodecia , Cleopatra and the uranium women scientist who I can,t recall . The WW11 woman in the french underground , the white mouse ? Heaps more but for guts and determination in the face of frenzied attacks in print and parliament I would cite the PM . Prissy Pyne would have wilted long ago under such attacks and he has a skin like a rhino , needs it too .
    The blokes a tool and should acknowledge that both sexes have their strengths . At the same time you can have a Hanson or a Penny Wong . A Joyce or a Bob Brown .

  21. mrsynik

    I think Joh might be about to leap from his grave with glee at these antics. If nothing else, at least the banana benders voted in an entertaining government albeit a seemingly bigoted one.

  22. HaTeMaiL

    One look at Can’t-do Campbell and his you instantly realise it’s his missus who runs that household… good thing too because he can’t be trusted with a toothbrush.

  23. Boo

    Imagine how pissed Tomlinson will be when he figures out that a lot of very smart, capable women out there reject his definition of ‘sucess’ and pursue their own ideals. Without kitchen sinks and debt slavery to chain the masses to, whats plan b?

  24. Holden Back

    Ah, Freedonia!

  25. Scott

    If he had been married to his wife for 40 years, he is bound to be in his 60’s.
    Do you really want to beat up on the oldies? When their views and opinions reflect legitimately formed earlier values from times that bear little reflection to today?
    In my opinion, it’s best just to say “Thanks, Grandpa” and then move on.

  26. Tom McLoughlin

    Truth to tell – this guy’s outing is very useful:

    – A great laugh it is so dinosaur and flawed.

    – Get’s the monkey off the back of SNAGs who feel really uncomfortable about this kind of covert bitter boomer balderdash in the work place (though presumably not as annoyed as women).

    – gives the opportunity to conservative leadership to take another small step toward modernity – I mean I watched someone called Greiner on The Drum last night – female criminal lawyer no doubt related to Nick Greiner, and she was a real television talent and brain.

    – what was that skip? Women as a generalisation have a physical advantage of greater endurance? Oh, so that’s why my pint sized bushwalker leader last Saturday walked me into the ground.

  27. Nici

    Funny how we do not possess the ”drive, determination and decisiveness that men innately possess” but are prepared to nail men’s balls ”on the desk”. Whose desk? My desk? His desk? There you, overthinking things again.

  28. Davosown

    “Where, for example, are the great female explorers, mountaineers, warriors, inventors, chefs? Blokes dominate most areas of human endeavour because Nature equipped them with something called testosterone.”

    One could argue this point by saying, ‘Nature instead equipped women with wisdom so that they did not go off and do silly things that could get them killed,’ of course neither statement is true. Men and women have both made astounding achievements in various fields.

  29. Holden Back

    Hey, nature equips all humans with testosterone- even women! It’s a matter of balance.

    Sorry, I just made the stupid assumption that Tomlinson had any idea what he was talking about.

  30. Derby

    Tomlinson’s email was clearly intended to intimidate and undermine Carole Forde. This is a serious problem for women in the public eye attempting to have a point of view. Many women academics, journalists and activists are getting harrassed and abused with vile rants in emails or online comments that are often an exact example of the gender inequality that they are addressing. This must contribute to some remaining silenced or censoring themselves thereafter. It is really no wonder there aren’t more women in parliament. We really should all condemn this sort of behaviour.

  31. Son of foro

    What about Australia’s greatest ever PM, Jeanette Howard?

  32. Lawyercat

    Marie Curie Geomac.

  33. eric

    Where is Suzie on this one ?? Way to hard to bag her beloved LNP?

  34. Flynn Thompson

    Can’t wait until pearls like this bloke are staffing Parliament House next year!

  35. SimsonMc

    Hi Everyone

    If you ever wanted an example of the flies to shite theory at work, have a look at the reader’s comment section of the Courier Mail and contrast that with Brisbane Times and here. Truly mind boggling.

    I know we have not adopted daylight savings up here but my understanding was that we were only an hour behind, not several centuries. My advice to all you southerners is that the next time Bob Katter and Co talk about succession from the rest of Australia, don’t be polite, take the opportunity and save yourselves. You’ll be glad you did.

  36. David

    No matter how much window dressing Abbott does, the truth is the Coalition is headed by and full of mysogynists. Abbott and many of his collegues have form, they have been caught out many times but the gutless media refuses to call them on it. God help this country, the women in particular, if Abbott ever gets his grubby hands on the Prime Minister chair.


    I saw an interview of the Ayatollah Kohmeni in the late 80’s………there are similarities……..quite a few.

  38. Schnappi

    Qld in just 3 weeks scrapped litery awards to save money,then gives a job for the boys(Costello)which costs more than the savings.
    Sacks a Police Minster.
    Senior Advisor quits before being sacked.
    Appears to admit the treasurer and his staff are not up to the job,by employing costello.
    As newman is an abbott clone,the country would desrve what it would get electing abbott.

  39. Peter Ormonde

    I’ll try again…

    Women? Vote? Queensland? No it will never happen.

  40. cicero

    I think the comments by Joh Bjelke are completely out of line…..oh sorry, I thought I was reading a historical piece from the seventies. I see nothing’s changed up there. The way Anna Bligh led the state during the floods and cyclone was tireless and inspirational and we’ve now got this boofhead saying women aren’t up to the job. Queensland… beautiful one day, dark ages the next


    This guy was there, and probably spewing, when women could get bank loans, hold jobs when married, get ‘no fault’ divorces, become Prime Ministers or Bishops and in all those years, never once realised that men had made the rules to stop them doing any of those things for centuries.

    But alas, men are failing to keep women dutifully in the kitchen, so sad old men like this one are left to send ranty emails to any woman who wants to keep moving towards real equality.

  42. Flowenswell

    I’m amazed and amused that a ‘political advisor’ would go a so far out of his way to flagrantly demonstrate his ignorance of pretty much everything about the world (not least of all biology) in which he lives and works. Tragic and anachronistic; Tomlinson would be much better off asking his wife to take care of the public correspondence for him while he has some quiet time mowing the lawn and tinkering in the shed.

  43. GAT (Melb.)

    The ‘Kind Regards’ at the end is a lovely touch


    Did anyone else read ‘pregnant silence’ as a bit weird? Pregnant pause is a known phrase, but this one?

  44. Tom McLoughlin

    Well maybe David, maybe not. I get the feeling Tony Abbott wants to see his daughters take on the world and win.

  45. davidk

    I think we were told Campbell and co. would be taking the state in a bold new direction after the election. You can’t say they’re not true to their word.
    Where is SB when you want her? She must be outraged.

  46. drovers cat

    Testosterone: the world’s most dangerous chemical

  47. Schnappi

    QLD EX Police Minister deing questioned by the police should he be stood down, as abbott and newman called for thompson to be stood down,seems liberal crooks , and wrongdoers get a free ride from the press and brainwashed and bribed lberals.

  48. zut alors

    Tomlinson may have resigned but he’s at large in Qld, folks – untethered.

    People who use the expression ‘get a life’ usually strike me as inarticulate nitwits. I believe they parrot this expression originally from a US comedy series. Of course.

  49. Anne Cooper

    This is the thinking behind the anti Gillard position. Not her galling successes, or even her failures. It’s her gender. And the mining tax…

  50. AR

    Any chance of an article or interview with Mrs Tomlinson?
    BTW, Tombo, for examples of societies where “…the primary keepers of the flame of civilisation that separates us from the animal world…” are absent from the public domain, have a look at the sclerotic muslim world now (and the Latin world until relatively recently).
    Look up Reformation, Renaissance & Enlightenment – or have someone with opposable thumbs do it for you.

  51. Stevo the Working Twistie

    I sincerely hope that every job interview he fronts up to is held by a woman. Tool.

  52. Karen

    Sounds like Joe Ludwig was right after all (on speaking of Anna Bligh’s loss) – ‘they don’t like women in Queensland’. Nice post script though – Max Tomlinson humiliated and sacked for being a king to*ser.

  53. Hoojakafoopy

    The only reply appropriate to Tomlinson’s “Get a life” is “Shut up and die.”

  54. wbddrss

    AR I do not necessarily disagree with thrust of your argument except:

    “have a look at the sclerotic muslim world now (and the Latin world until relatively recently).”

    poor comparison, try Korea, Japan or China.

    I feel your analogy is irrelevant as Australia has been falling behind the rest of the world for quite a few decades. And when we do have a few good years under John Howard nobody seems to be able to explain it.

    Bad luck that women in QLD did not support Anna Bligh. If they did appreciate her good work then maybe Labor would still be in power in QLD. I certainly liked & appreciated her handling of the flood. On TV & on the ground at the coal face every day & in spectacular good form.

    Now Julia Gillard(JG) is going to cop it. So lets just think about those subtle genetic differences. The problem for JG is that:

    A) Women appear to work best whilst working for Men;
    B) Whilst Men don’t perform best working for Women.

    I know this is just an opinion & slightly un corroborateed & speculative but it appears to fit JG’s predicament as well.

    The problem is not JG’s but the males under her who all come across a bit “green” & wet behind ears under JG. Poor controlled assertion because they do after all work for a politically correct women. Tony Abbott is unconstrained & both men & women under Tony Abbott sit back & let Tony Abbott take the risks knowing full well that males under JG have both hands tied behind their back by political correctness. They really do appear to be a tame lot under JG, really well domesticated.

    I am just running this up the flag pole. Maybe I am wrong and just have too many pre-conceived ideas. Any one else out there sensing the same phenomena.


  55. The Pav

    This guy is just…………..words fail me and I would not want to be considered in any way agreeing with him


    There is a point about the lack of respect for stay at home parents.

    My partner stayed home to raise the kids. It was our choice & we’ve worn the economic pain ( none actually we just haven’t bought the consumer crap that we didn’t really need and camping holdays were the best fun and cheap),

    Howver both men & women did not respect my partners decison When we married I was earning less so our decision was based on economics

    Now the kids are grown we are both working & my partner is charging along the promtion pipeline.

    But.. Now my partner is back in the work force the diffence in people’s reaction gives rise to wry amusement for us both

  56. The Pav


    Howver both men & women did not respect my partners decison When we married I was earning less so our decision was based on economics

    should read

    “However both men & women did not respect my partners decison When we married I was earning less so our decision was NOT based on economics”

  57. Schnappi

    Having just read “Wife Stabbed” do I have to wonder if the wife stabbed was a female or a male.perhaps the the media could get their reporting right,or at least ask tony baloney a question he has to answer ,should stabbed wives be named as male or female.

  58. Recalcitrant.Rick

    I’m with Eric, Suzie, Suzie, Suzie, nothing to say? Good!

  59. Malloch Lachlan

    I agree that the e-mail in question is offensive.

    But I am curious that elsewhere in this dicussion, Joe Hockey’s Ernie nomination for a [supposed] election campaign gaffe was mentioned: “{Treasurer} Wayne Swan is to surpluses what Paris Hilton is to celibacy”.

    What is sexist about that remark? Is is sexist to suggest that Paris Hilton is so attractive that she drives men away from celibacy? I don’t get it . . . and I’m very educated about all these issues and much more. Is it now sexist to suggest that a famous young woman is attractive, is sexy?

    If Joe Hockey’s remark is not your cup of tea, not funny to you, then fine, no probs. But it’s weird to nominate him for an Ernie award for saying this, isn’t it ?

    I know I’ll cop a lot of schtick for asking this but I think it’s even worse to live in a society where everyone is so cowed that we can’t even ask questions. . .

  60. Graeme Orr

    Oh dear. And how can it not be ‘measured by chromosomes’ yet determined by gender? It must then all be socialization. But then that’d mean it was all patriarchy…

    A student and I published a not dissimilar op-ed in the same paper, same week, about the absence of an opposition in Qld and structural/electoral options to avoid the pendulum becoming wrecking ball, a la Beattie 2001 and Newman 2012.

    Got the usual mix of curious, partisan and imaginative responses. But no personal sprays.

    But then the student and I both are XY.

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