New standards of decency in Canberra?

Rebecca Barnett writes: Re. “Crikey says: a witch-hunt Labor created” (Friday). Crikey writes in relation to the “new” standards of behaviour required by the leading political parties on misogyny s-xism that it has become a “witch-hunt demanding ridiculous standards of behaviour”. I disagree, as a member of the voting public I would very much appreciate politicians increasing their standards of behaviour to this level. I would like our politicians to feel sufficiently capable of if not physically tackling a comedian who has made statements that they cannot tolerate at least doing so verbally.

We talk a lot about tolerance (and here I am by no means suggesting we are sufficiently tolerant) that we forget that there are some things that just cannot be tolerated, s-xism and misogyny included. I personally don’t care if Slipper chooses to send private text messages comparing female g-nitalia to shell-less mussels, I have more important things to spend my time thinking about. This is where the Australian media has missed a major point, Gillard’s speech has not been viewed worldwide as a defence of Slipper it has been applauded because she stood up and directly confronted an issue she clearly feels strongly about. We need standards like this from politicians if we are ever to drag politics of the two party, non-participatory, alienating style of politics that we have entered.

D Taylor writes: Re. “Is the social media fury at the press gallery misplaced?” (October 11). I agree with Bernard Keane — most people (and not just those on Twitter) thought the Press Gallery verdict on the PM’s speech (given mostly by hard bitten males) seem to miss the point.

I disagree that it did not resonate with ordinary people. Perhaps he hasn’t time to mingle with “ordinary people”. I do, most of my colleagues, friends and relations are “ordinary people” and 90% of those I have spoken with agree that the PM’s speech was long overdue. Many are surprised that she put up with so much for so long.

Most women have put up with the kind of “s-xist” treatment — meaning the snide comments, the blue jokes, the puerile suggestions that they are “not quite up to the task” that they would do much better to stay home and cook and have babies, or that there is something weird about them if they do not — that we have seen and heard of for decades.

Many women are either unable or unwilling to say or do anything about it, because they know it will unleash a torrent of abuse from the usual suspects and may well cost them their jobs or at the least make their working lives much more difficult. Some grin and bear it — others gnash their teeth and remain silent. All those women and many decent men who sympathise with them are pleased to see a woman like Ms Gillard take up the cause and lay it on the line that she will not put up with it any more.

The fact that she quoted several instances of “s-xist” behaviour — usually directed at her in her present position — coming from Abbott directly across the table in the Parliament served to enhance the credibility of her words.

That they were said in defence of the process — rather than the man himself — of dealing with the Speaker, whose text messages she had condemned as “offensive and s-xist”, is not the point. The government was never going to support Abbott’s motion to remove him, especially now that we know from Rob Oakeshott that Slipper was on the verge of resigning.

That the press gallery set about deriding her for not doing so, says more about their values and prejudices than hers.

Julia Gillard’s credentials as a feminist are not at issue — her entire life provides ample evidence of her struggle. A few more snide remarks and headlines from the press gallery will do nothing to tarnish her reputation.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Those Slipper texts and a life of decision in women’s mags” (Friday). I didn’t really question Peter Slipper’s removal from the Speakership until I read Marina Go’s defence of it.

Does she really think that all politicians who make obscene or s-xually explicit comments in private conversations should be removed from office? Now that really is a slippery slope.

Selling Medibank Private is just nutty

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Keane: time to sell at least part of Medibank Private” (Friday). If I want right-wing nutterism I’ll read bits of the Herald. Bernard Keane has obviously learnt nothing from history. Selling Medicare Private would no doubt be just as good a move for the average punter as selling the Commonwealth Bank and splitting the NRMA.

Bali nervousness not just about terrorism

Mark Newton write: Re. “PM safe in Bali” (Tips and rumours, Friday) Crikey wrote: “We don’t know why Indonesia first claimed then retracted that there was a serious and credible threat to Australians visiting Bali for the 10th anniversary of the bombings.”

Ha — I know exactly why they did that: It’s because nobody has ever been fired for being overcautious about security.

You’re some bureaucrat in Indonesia, and have been asked, “Is there a threat?” With utterly no idea whatsoever, what should you say?

If you say, “No,” and you’re wrong, you’ll go down in history as the person who missed the attack, lose your job, possibly face charges for criminal negligence if your job description happens to include preventing attacks, etc.

On the other hand, if you say, “Yes,” and you’re wrong, nobody will much care.

So there’s always pressure on bureaucrats, police, and intelligence agencies to exaggerate any threat that they’re uncertain about. It’s ubiquitous; You see it in almost every single bit of news coverage about national security from just about any country, whenever a responsible person is asked to quantify risks.

The cost imposed on our society by security measures justified by largely imaginary threats should not be underestimated.

Peter Fray

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