Five reasons Tony Abbott shouldn't be women's minister

Australia's new prime minister Tony Abbott has appointed himself women's minister. Here are five reasons he's not up to the job

Australia’s new prime minister, Tony Abbott, has appointed himself women’s minister (as well as the minister in charge of indigenous affairs, deregulation, national security and relations with state governments – he isn’t limiting himself.) Here are five reasons why he’s not up to the job.

 

1. He has appointed just 1 female minister in his 19-strong cabinet

When Abbott was once asked about the under-representation of women in Australian politics, he answered “there’s an assumption that this is a bad thing.” Of course he’s right, how ridiculous it is to assume that women could bring anything to political discussions in the country! And how glad Australian women should be that Abbott will now be speaking for them.

I should mention that as prime minister, he’s softened his position somewhat, saying “I am disappointed that there are not at least two women in the Cabinet.” Because with Abbott on your side, two women cabinet ministers would definitely be enough…right?

 

2. He has said that equality between the sexes is “folly” because women are wired differently to men

Abbott once said “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

When challenged on this in 2010 he said that he didn’t want to “repudiate what was said, but I don't want people to think that what I thought as a 21 year old is necessarily what I think as a 52 year old.” It’s hardly the strongest rejection of views that appear to have come straight from the 1870s rather than the 1970s. Presumably employment equality won’t be especially high on Abbott’s political agenda, but perhaps knitting-circles and cupcake bake-offs will be.

 

3. Whether he’s talking about his opponents or his supporters, he just can’t help being sexist

Whether by challenging former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard to make an “honest women of herself” or standing next to placards describing her as a "man’s bitch”, Abbott seems incapable of avoiding sexist attacks on his female opponents. Nor is he interested in clamping down on sexism within his own party. When a party fundraising dinner for Liberal candidate Mal Brough featured a menu including "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box”, he described the menu as “tacky” but refused to withdraw support from Brough.

His dealings with women in his own party have been equally dubious. Asked earlier this year to compare two female Liberal candidates he said they both had a “bit of sex appeal”, sounding more like a pervy uncle (or to use his words a “daggy dad”) than a party leader. He could have described their intelligence, their dedication to their party and their electorate, or their political insight, but he didn’t seem capable of judging them on anything other than their looks.

 

4. His views on sexism and abortion are deeply worrying

Abbott has said that he won’t change Australia’s abortion laws, but he’s previously held an anti-abortion stance, once describing abortion as the “easy way out.” His views on sex should be concerning to women too, as he's been quoted as saying that “the right of women to withhold sex ... needs to be moderated"

 

5. Australian women deserve better

The pay gap between men and women has increased 2 per cent in the past decade to 26 per cent. 38 per cent of employees in Australia have said they prefer employing men to women. 1 in 4 Australian children in single parent families (predominantly headed by women) live in poverty. Australian women deserve someone better than Abbott to reverse these injustices.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott poses with his daughters and wife. Photo: Getty

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.