Abbott v Gillard: It’s time to drop the sexism

Colin Benjamin /

American folk singer Pete Seeger used to sing, “Our leaders are the finest men, and we elect them again and again…that’s what I learned at school.” Maybe today’s generations are learning a different lesson and coming to a different conclusion about the gender of our leaders.

There is a false assumption that hostility towards the nation’s two leaders is gender-based, with women preferring Julia Gillard and men going for Tony Abbott. An analysis of thousands of interviews conducted by Morgan Research over the past two years suggests that 53% of ALP first preferences were from women and 47% from men. For Liberals, this was closer, with 49% from women and 51% from men. For the Nationals it was 46% women and 54% men and for the Greens the gap was the other way round, with 56% from female and 44% male voters.

The wife of the leader of the Opposition tells us that “Tony does get women.” Margie is right to stand up against those who are playing the man rather than the policies. The rest of the nation wants leaders who take them into their confidence by setting out a clear path back to job security and business confidence, not scrapping about remarks in the adolescent environment of student politics.

What is more interesting, however, is the reaction to the statements of Alan Jones and Bob Ellis about Gillard’s dad. The former has apologised for saying that John Gillard “died of shame” over her political “lies”.

Ellis declared “She fled an important conference, and a meeting with Hillary Clinton, because three of her soldiers had died by gunfire in a war, and went not to the warfront but Canberra. She fled an important conference, and a meeting with Vladimir Putin, because her father had died at 83, and fled home weeping to Adelaide.”

This leads to some alternative perspectives on the rationale for the massive response to the insensitivity to the daughter’s grief. It is very likely that it was an age-group and geographic difference between people’s varying interpretation of Jones’ comments.  A valid and considered analysis of the surge of media-driven polls is likely to show that:

* Distance from the GPO in each state is a better predictor of opinions than the gender of the voters.

* The younger the voter, the more they are likely to reject both major parties.

* The older the voter, the more likely they are to be against gay marriage and more likely to support conservative candidates from either party.

* People who are looking for more full-time work (or, in fact, any work) are more favourably disposed to the PM than those who are closer to
    retirement or who are no longer interested in getting a job.

* Pre-boomers and baby-boomers are more locked into the traditional right versus left orientation, while younger generations are more issue
-bound and prepared to vote against incumbents

* Households that do not get carbon tax compensation with incomes over $80,000 a year are more hostile to the PM, regardless of gender.

More important than any of these assumptions would be to check on the views of those who are not prepared to say which way they are likely to vote next year, as this is likely to show many more women than men. 

Gerard Henderson, News Ltd and Julie Bishop’s defence of Abbott is right on the money. We need an outbreak of facts and a semblance of considered reality in place of media hype. It’s time to drop the sexism and deconstruct the hysteria. 


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