May 12, 2022

Editorial

Commentary

Blokes yelling at each other

The ABC’s inimitable Annabel Crabb, in her regular email newsletter, this week spent some time meditating on that debate. 

She said: Voting began this morning in more than 500 pre-poll stations, an ominous reminder that Election 2022 now in its decisive stage.

Very soon, we will find out whether Scott Morrison is a) the most brilliant campaigner of his generation, who built a goat track to political survival by peeling blue-collar blokes off the Labor Party or b) the guy who didn't fully clock on it was too late that women really meant it when they said they were fed up.

For a year now — more — it's been clear that women are cheesed off. They were more likely to lose their paid jobs when the pandemic hit in 2020 and pick up the extra unpaid work at home. More likely to be the one in the family who's lying awake worrying about child care and aged care (both of which are also —not coincidentally — sectors in which women are more likely to be employed, and more likely to be badly paid.) More likely to be on the front line dealing with frightened elderly relatives, or depressed teenagers for whom mental health assistance is hard to find.

Women voters reading budgets over the pandemic might have noticed significant spending to support sectors like construction and manufacturing in which they are less likely to be employed, and negligible assistance for sectors in which they are over-represented.

The signs have been everywhere that women are on the move. First literally, in person, when tens of thousands marched in protest at the treatment of women in the parliament. Then, when independent female candidates showed up to contest inner-city electorates on the issues of climate, accountability and respect for women, an army of volunteers materialised.

The institutional response of the Liberal Party to this onslaught of capable females has been to deploy traditional tactics, suggesting that the women are hypocrites, inexperienced, vengeful, or "groupies" — the puppets of a wealthy man.

The pair of polls published this morning — Newspoll and Ipsos — suggest that the Prime Minister is struggling overall.

But there's a deeper story; voting patterns by gender reveal a serious enthusiasm lag for Morrison among women.

Ipsos reports that among women, 51 per cent prefer Labor and only 32 per cent prefer the Coalition. When Newspoll asked respondents who was best placed to address cost of living, 45 per cent plumped for Albanese and only 38 per cent for the PM.

What is Morrison doing to address this suspicion from women? It's actually quite hard to establish whether he thinks it's a serious problem.

Anyone who made it through Lego Masters last night to watch the election debate on the Nine Network, saw a pair of blokes yelling at each other, and talking over the patient Nine moderator, Sarah Abo. Morrison, who no doubt read the polls this morning and may have noticed the persistent raised eyebrow from the female respondents, nonetheless trooped off to the seat of Gilmore to be photographed with some military hardware. (There's $8 billion being tipped into the purchase of helicopters, a craft which successive Australian governments have proved themselves to be incredibly bad at buying. Almost as bad as submarines, which is saying something.)

Asked while he was there if he regretted the optics of talking over Abo, the PM seemed puzzled. "I don't think gender had anything to do with it, frankly.I don't believe gender had anything to do with it. I'm surprised why it would."

History is littered with men of Morrison's vintage who wake up one morning to a Dear John letter, and realise that the women in their lives were serious about how annoyed they were. Is this one of those situations?