Diary

Gadfly
Reshuffle kerfuffle and Hillsong scuffle

Until now, the rarely seen but oft-referenced Jenny Morrison was considered the grand vizier behind the prime minister on all issues related to women. Reports suggest she spent her time guiding Scott Morrison away from the rocky outcroppings of misogyny and towards the open seas of empathy, like a reverse siren. Based on recent performances by the prime minister of (purportedly) Australia, though, it’s starting to seem as though her calls are going unheard.

How else to understand Morrison’s undying support for Andrew Laming, the Queensland MP who’s been accused of hiding in bushes to photograph women, and taking upskirt photos of women, all while finding the time to attack women on social media with false accusations and continuous abuse? Maybe it’s Laming’s efficiency that Morrison respects so much. Or perhaps, whenever the PM turns to his most trusted adviser on women’s issues, Jenny has to rely on the teachings of the Hillsong Church.

This is the same church that’s punished not just one of its most prominent members, Carl Lentz, for cheating on his wife many years ago by firing him, but also fired the wife he had cheated on, which kind of says everything you need to know about Hillsong values. In the wake of that scandal, many women in the church came forward about a culture of inappropriate sexual behaviour that has long been overlooked and denied, which does sound oddly familiar. And lest all the blame be placed on the church’s founder, Brian Houston, his wife and church co-founder Bobbie Houston has shown equally questionable judgement. Recordings were recently uncovered of Mrs Houston telling wives to not get “sloppy” with pelvic floor exercises or their orgasm would suffer, to avoid getting so fat that “you need a hydraulic crane to turn over in bed” and to get their teeth done so their “mouth is desirable” to their husbands.

This week’s cabinet reshuffle, which had all the artistry of a children’s party magician waving one hand in front of your face while reaching with the other into his pocket for a comically large mallet, marked the official end to Jenny’s unofficial position. Morrison said Marise Payne would co-chair a taskforce on women’s equality. The noted marketing genius then offered up a new sound bite with which his critics could beat him, describing Payne as the “prime minister for women”. This is an exciting development for half of Australia’s population who so far hadn’t had any prime minister at all.

Other cabinet announcements include promoting Peter Dutton to the role of prime minister for looking like Voldemort, Michaelia Cash to prime minister for whiteboards, Karen Andrews to prime minister for bullying staffers and Amanda Stoker to prime minister for backing people who give a platform to convicted paedophiles.

The prime minister for being creepy in the workplace

Watching parliament at work is always unpleasant. Everyone says “Mr Speaker” far too often, politicians all do this fake laughing thing when attacking each other with schoolyard put-downs that would embarrass most grown-ups and generally behave in ways that make you grateful they are in Canberra, far away from anything and anyone that actually matters.

However, parliamentary proceedings have now taken a turn. In the past, we all assumed the MPs staring at their phones while ignoring one another were simply reading emails or catching up on the news.

Instead, it turns out, they are possibly sexting.

In New South Wales, Nationals state MP Michael Johnsen has been discovered offering a sex worker $1000 in a stream of messages while seated in parliament, which is easily $100,000 less than what anyone deserves to be paid for having sex with Michael Johnsen.

The sex worker has since alleged that Johnsen sexually assaulted her, and an investigation is ongoing.

While we await the results of that investigation, we’re forced to contend with the image of Johnsen sitting in question time while in a state of engorgement, and maybe it’s time to dissolve Parliament House in acid and build a new one.

The prime minister for vaccines, what vaccines?

As Brisbane emerges from a snap lockdown, intended to stop the spread of the British variant of Covid-19, one can’t help but reflect that it would’ve been nice to have been vaccinated by now.

Instead, the Australian target of four million vaccinations by the end of March is running behind schedule; 3.4 million vaccinations behind schedule to be exact.

It’s the kind of failure so monumental in scale that it should become a standard hyperbolic metaphor for other failures:

“Oh wow, I was going to call you back, but I forgot. I totally vaccine rollouted that.”

Or, “Did you see ScoMo’s press conference? He vaccine rollouted that, hard!”

At this point, Australia has administered only two doses per 100 people. To put that into context, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2020 study into sexual assault in Australia, 2.6 Australian women per 100 have experienced sexual assault in the past 10 years. Which means, at the current rate of rollout, Australian women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than vaccinated against Covid-19. The prime minister really vaccine rollouted this vaccine rollout.

The prime minister for attacking female journalists

Aaron Patrick is a journalist who writes for The Australian Financial Review. He’s exactly how you’d imagine him to be: looking as though he was moulded from wet dough in the basement of the Institute of Public Accountants, with a vast collection of blue
and salmon shirts and ties to reflect his mood.

He’s the kind of white guy who says things on Sky News like, “The number of occasions where young black Australians are killed by police officers is mercifully small.” He then follows up that work of fantasy fiction with a sequel by saying, “Australia – years ago – took concrete steps to try and stop black people from dying in custody.” This is news to the families of the four Indigenous people who died in custody in March alone.

Patrick this week wrote a column about news.com.au journalist Samantha Maiden, and thought it necessary to inform the public that she was suspended from her high school and that her colleagues have at times found her abrasive.

Turns out, Patrick is about as good at profiling women as he is at understanding racial history and politics.

Whenever a woman dares to raise her head and consider the glass ceiling placed over her, Australia’s conservative media can be counted on to send out a series of columnists duty-bound to remind her of her place. Maiden is just the most recent focus of the ire of this cabal, which defends to the death the importance of meritocracy while all managing to be astoundingly mediocre at their jobs.

In a series of actual acts of journalism, Maiden has exposed the government’s systematic mistreatment of women in the halls of parliament, beginning by breaking the story of Brittany Higgins’ allegations of sexual assault.

Aaron Patrick’s biggest claim to fame, meanwhile, remains being so bad at economics that one of his own colleagues – the AFR’s gossip columnist Joe Aston – was compelled to write a critique of Patrick’s work. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 3, 2021 as "Gadfly: Reshuffle kerfuffle and Hillsong scuffle".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.