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‘i will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man’: the campaign for a qualified minister for women

Petition-starter and filmmaker, Matthew Joyce, with ex-PM Julia Gillard

Petition-starter and filmmaker, Matthew Joyce, with ex-PM Julia Gillard

‘I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not. And the government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.’

Thus spoke ex-prime minister Julia Gillard last year. Whoops! Famous last words…

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to appoint himself Minister for Women created a media uproar. The move has been condemned by ministers of both main parties and has produced scathing responses in The Guardian, The Independent, The Age, and the The Sydney Morning Herald, amongst others. But so far there has been a surprising lack of engagement with the issue from politically inclined non-government organisations like GetUp and Avaaz.

Despite the silence, within a week of Abbott’s startling announcement, a privately made online petition has formed to pressure the new government to appoint a less controversial minister to take the folio.

The petition, ‘Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Appoint somebody qualified to be the Minister for Women’, states: ‘Tony Abbott has appointed himself as the Minister for Women in Australia. This is clearly unacceptable as his views on women’s rights and equality will take us back 70-100 years’.

The statement goes on to list the numerous sexist and homophobic comments that Abbott has made over the years.There has been a huge response for the privately started petition, which achieved its 10,000 signature goal in only 8 days.

‘It was really just a gut feeling that I had after reading the article in the Australian Independent News Media. It felt like if I didn’t do something about this now I wouldn’t be able to live with myself’, writes the NSW petition-starter and filmmaker, Matthew Joyce.

‘I believe that Tony Abbott will try to maintain some form of control over women’s issues in order to dismiss the importance of women’s issues. I believe this stems from an actual belief that men are better than women.’

The final petition will be emailed to Tony Abbott’s office as well as distributed in hardcopy to each member of cabinet.The petition will continue toward a 15,000 signature goal, with Joyce also seeking a team to create a commercial and use responses from the petition to gather celebrities, activists and politicians to pressure Tony Abbott into appointing a new Minister for Women.

For the first time since the Howard government was elected in 2004, a majority government has been formed. That is to say, there is now a Liberal monopoly of parliament, something that allows policies and laws to be passed without due consideration by MPs from varying backgrounds and political interests. And as Prime Minister Tony Abbott has, over the years, made his ideological interest in the affairs of women across Australia very clear, we can’t help but shudder over the implications of absolute power.

In 2005, GetUp launched its first campaign on the back of the landslide election of the Howard government. Its aim: to take note of the policies passed by the majority government and hold it accountable for the power that it wielded. This election we are faced with the same monopoly, but despite the outcry over our new Minister for Women and the possible repercussions on important women’s issues like abortion, contraception, health and equality in the workplace, as yet none of the major NGOs have attempted to fight this decision.

Online movements for social change have exploded in the last fifteen years, initially beginning with email petitions by organisations like MoveOn in 1998 and Amnesty International, whose first email campaign, ‘Stamp Out Torture’, in 2000, won The Revolution Awards. Non-governmental organisations have since demonstrated their ability to use online petitions to set prisoners free, fight corruption and spread information to every corner of the globe. More recently, not-for-profit organisations like GetUp and Avaaz, as well as for-profit websites like, have been hosting free online tools for internet users to easily create their own petitions and spread causes through viral marketing strategies.

Since starting his petition using these online DIY tools, Joyce has been contacted by a number of women’s rights organisations and activist groups who have offered their support.

‘10,000 signatures seemed to me in the beginning to be a fairly unattainable number and boy was I wrong. So I’m steadily building up a database of people to help when it comes to the next stage. It’s amazing to think that it was only a week ago I started the petition. So much has happened in that short period of time.

‘We’ve seen Tony Abbott time and time again not just ignoring women’s rights but abusing women. He has a history of doing so. We’ve also seen amazing women like Julia Gillard, whom I’ve met twice, standing up to Tony Abbott with that amazing historical speech…Tony Abbott can do a lot of damage to the perception of equal rights by not making women’s issues a priority issue of his government.’

Abbott’s new cabinet combines a lack of female ministers in parliament with a lack of portfolios for vital community issues such as Science, Climate, Mental Health, Disability, Aged Care and Energy. Women aren’t a high priority for the Liberal Party either, despite Abbott’s emphatic statements about a ‘whole of government approach’. The Liberal Party’s Policy for Women mostly consists of limiting “women’s programs” to areas of domestic violence which, while important, relegates women’s issues to victimisation in the home. The government promises an additional $1 million in funding to violence against women over the next four years through the White Ribbon campaign, an “information pack” about domestic violence for immigrating spouses and is introducing the controversial paid parental leave program, which adds $5000 to superannuation for mothers earning minimum wage and $50,000 for mothers earning over $65,000 per annum. These simplistic policies are heavily contrasted by Labor’s election campaign under Gillard, which attempted to spotlight positive and empowering policies such as women in the economy, improving the wages of pink-collar workers, women in leadership roles and improving assistance for working women.

The consistent newsworthiness of this issue and the instant response garnered by Joyce’s petition showcases the strength of opposition to Abbott’s controversial appointment in Australia. The large vocal response to Abbott’s decision, and the fact that the Women’s folio seems to be kept by Abbott largely for publicity purposes, shows that a concentrated push by the public and media outlets is increasingly likely to achieve success. If we stand together on this issue, men and women, demanding that Women’s Policies not be limited to having babies and being victims, then perhaps soon we will have a cabinet member with an actual interest in championing a wider scope for women’s programs.

34 thoughts on “‘i will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man’: the campaign for a qualified minister for women

  1. Watching Julie at the Oprah house made me proud to be a woman. This country has got a horrible reputation for sexism and Abbott has finally shown it for what it is and its leaking through all the decisions. It should be against the law for a man who is so clearly threatened by women to be in this position. Ps. Religion and Politics should not every be allowed to marry!!

  2. Let women speak for women.

    Men do NOT have the same genetics as we do and I certainly don’t want someone want to put women down and disrespect them like Mr Abbott does.

  3. Our new Prime Monster, Tony Rabbit, is probably the dullest we’ve had since Billy McMahon. Cunning and brawn he has in abundance; but when it comes to statesmanship and the ability to engage in logical debate, he falls well short of the mark. And why he views himself as a fit person to be Minister for Women needs some explanation.

  4. Talk about leaving the fox in charge of the hen house! I DO NOT WANT this man with his archaeic view on women and womens rights in charge of me or any women for that matter. What does he know about womens issues? His comments about women are misguided, inappropriate, unthinking and show his true feelings and bias. How many women does he have in his cabinet? Surely that is evidence enough? Man up Tony, and appoint a woman for this position!

  5. Sorry but I will not write to Abbott or anyone in that ugly government, because I do not recognise him as PM, it is an illegitimate government in a farce of an election, not a free, fair and unbiased one, he needs to be got out, not appealed to – he will only do what serves his own purposes which are selfish, despotic and completely lacking in human compassion. He is a disgusting human being.

  6. Julia Gillard really inspired me. After seeing all the negative news, pictures in the press and then meeting such an upstanding uncompromising woman who is completely dedicated to positive changes in our country how can you not be inspired. The fact that Tony Abbott sat across that table in parliament and learned nothing from this inspirational being leads me to believe that Tony is a cold hearted soulless alien.

  7. Well done.
    The reaction by the Australian people is clear.
    This Govt is insufficient in it’s representation of what concern’s women, therefore families, and voter’s.
    I want Abbott to step down.
    What’s the next step?

  8. Women know women and women know what we want and why or why would Mr Abbott think he knows what’s best for Us?

  9. Julia has never taken a backwards step. The ‘misogyny’ moment of politics in Australia was long overdue and reflects the position of many women in their day to day to evening activities. Tony Abbott has not redeemed himself in public life, and is in no way qualified to be a minister for women.

  10. The human tragedy in all of this is that the electorate put Abbot into power – facilitated by the one-eyed Murdoch press. Failing to learn from the Campbell-Newman experience, we all have to live with this man until the next election. The main problem is this PM is essentially as thick as two planks – and therefore in a perfect position to be manipulated by the LNP men in grey. We are in a country where uncritical opinionated right-wing prattle passes as fact in papers such as The Australian. Which Murdoch “journalist” will take Abbot to task over women’s rights because it’s a just cause? I miss the likes of John Pilger!

    • Yes, I agree, that there’s little faith we can place in our conservative newspapers for fair and unbiased analysis. The aim is always the same, to uphold the illusion of the power of the ruling class, their hold on the reins
      of profit and power, to maintain the status quo.
      To what end? Will we ever see that truth is the power? Will we one day rise to uphold that? Women listen, you are not just women, you are the power to change the world for the better, above politics, money and greed. Young women, learn from the past, ask for respect. Ask for change, create peace and prosperity. It’s great to see young women being so concerned and creative. I salute you all here at Lip.

  11. would love to have had the opertunity of being in the audience at the Opera House, Julia was an inspiration to me and I was very proud when she became Prime Minister.Unlike Abbot who looks like a “duck out of water” I am no longer proud to be an Australian.This is not an Abott government it is a Murdock/Abott government.

  12. The only reason Tony was presented as the leader, as Malcolm Turnbull showed in the very early days he would not be dictated too by the power people, this weak minded person who portrays himself as an True Blu Aussie,, is a puppet, it is a sad state of affairs, that there were so many Australians who could not see through such a fragile personality, what we do aboout it, remains in the hands of the voters.. hopefully they will see, this man possiby passed his high school exams by cheating.

    • Also, Turnbull blinks incessantly when talking directly to news cameras, which is distracting from his erudite messages. He’s very eloquent. but this eye blinking must be frustrating for him and those who support his statesmanship potential. In a way the public elected him behind Abbott, not the Oxford Ocker Tony Abbott!!!

  13. A male prime minister is inappropriate to consider himself informed enough about women to represent them. Please appoint another woman to cabinet to carry out this role.

  14. The horrible thing is that this sad twisted little man will be thrilled if we put all our energy into fighting once again for woman’s rights, it’ll give him more space to focus on the building of Port Abbott and Abbott highway while destroying our “Great Barrier Reef” if I was a religious person and im not, I’d be frantically praying for him to fall from a very great hight, like a plane with no parachute ?????????

    • Good points but I think it’s amazing that Raphaelle Race has the insight to put Tony Abbott and his gang under the scrutiny of young women. She is objective and knows whatever he puts into effect as PM influences their future as citizens as much as it does as women. It’s his crass disregard for evolving women’s issues, precisely, being a healthy future as citizens. That includes a healthy environment and economy. It’s good to have a challenge of waking up unconscious right wingers, it makes us all the more conscious.

  15. As a woman born overseas and having lived here most of my life —I felt having a female PM was the most wonderful thing for this country—–to break down the male style of this country —-as it is very much known for in my home country. However the treatment she received was so horrible it broke my heart and proved the male dominance of this country is as strong as ever. Women are second class here with the power brokers who decide how things go in this country and Abbott is the current leader of that pack. Look what happened to Carmen Lawrence in WA—-How long will it take to improve this? I fear I will not live long enough to see it.

  16. Tony Abbott is a completely cold blooded ruthless political survivor. He has no interest in anyone else’s views or opinions and his mind set is fixed in cement by his catholic faith and jesuit training. He is opposed to women on a number of issues, including control over their bodies, and is completely unsuitable at any level to act in the capacity of Minister for Women. The excuse that he is cutting costs by cutting the number of cabinet ministers is NO justification for this action.

  17. At the risk of being the only contrarian in this comment thread..

    I think it’s important to make a distinction between the merits of Julia Gillard as PM, on the one hand, and the way in which she was treated as our first female PM, on the other.

    If we look at what Gillard did as our first PM, I struggle to find how anyone on the Left can use words like “inspiring” and “feminist” to describe a person whose policy achievements were the Malaysian Solution, the denial of same-sex marriage with traditionalist arguments, and the forcing of hundreds of thousands of single mothers on to Newstart. Nor was she known for, or a strong proponent of, any gender-specific (let alone feminist) ideals during her time in parliament prior to becoming PM.

    On the other hand, no reasonable person can deny sympathy for the insiduously disrespectful manner in which she was treated as PM and her brilliant ‘misogyny speech’ was not just a passionate rejection of that treatment for herself, but also for all women in the workplace who could relate to such treatment. In a sense, she has become the personification of that rejection of backhanded sexism in the workplace and, to that extent, a great inspiration.

    I think we have to be careful in respecting her fortitude in that regard, but without falling into the seductive trap of casting her as a sort of feminist superhero.

    Perhaps the best indication of how things could have been different is if Malcolm Turnbull had remained Opp. Leader, and the Libs had eventually won the election, based on Turnbull’s regal image and personal charisma, then Gillard would most likely have departed the public scene known only as the Malaysian Solution PM.

    Ultimately, I think we need to respect, not worship. Respect the manner in which she responded to the backhanded sexism she was dealt as our PM, but not, in hindsight, bestow upon her feminist accolades that her Govt did not earn.

    • At least she was honest enough to make these changes and cut-backs before the election – which in itself is rare. How would you manage in a hung parliament with a ferocious, lying, hypocritical opposition and a biased media, it’s a wonder she got anything done at all – I cannot imagine how she endured and you think what Abbott is doing is OK – where is your head at – in the liberal swill bucket?

      • “How would you manage in a hung parliament with a ferocious, lying, hypocritical opposition and a biased media”

        So, in your opinion, the only way to manage a hung parliament is to force single mothers on to Newstart? And, sure, the opposition are hypocritical and ferocious, but can you find me a quote from any of them (or anyone in News Ltd) pressuring Gillard to do this in the lead-up? Lastly, do you think that a hung parliament always requires governemnts to introduce hard right policies, regardless of the party in power?

        • No I did not agree with the single parent cut-backs and I wrote and told them so at the time, but I am saying that at least they were honest about it and did it before the election and I notice Abbott has not offered to repeal that and in addition has said he is going to take the school kids bonus. As far as the other things you refer to I did not like it all, but I think they were basically cornered by so much negative,destructive campaigning which had been going on since the last election and the abuse, a biased media which prevented them from even coming for air, they turned in on themselves and in desperation tried to go down the same road as Abbott – it worked for him ! At the end of the day they are human beings, whereas I’m not too sure about Abbott et al. But it sounds as though we are in agreement about most things – just looking at it from a different perspective.

    • Julia Gillard, FIRST WOMAN TO BE PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA MEETS IN CANBERRA with FIRST USA AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESIDENT! No woman nor African American have risen higher in either country in political office. Surely this is Julia’s great destiny! Right or wrong and it hasn’t been that wrong, she still did it, she changed politics forever in this country. It WAS messy, it had to be!!! Give her a break!!!!!

  18. It strikes me that in liberal Australia – a woman at her very best can only ever be half as good as a man at his very worst !

  19. Pingback: Sign the petition against Tony Abbott as Minister for Women | existencia de raquel

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