Dear Prime Minister, I Wish You Had a Son

Babette Francis - ONLINE Opinion, 26 June 2014

Well Tony Abbott thought he had one, but it turned out the baby boy he and his partner of long ago gave up for adoption was not his, and I wish he had been because as it turns out the Prime Minister is surrounded by feminists and/or career women and there does not seem to be any balancing input from ambitious males in his life. Mrs. Abbott works in child care, Tony's three daughters are successful career ladies, his sister left her husband and is lobbying for same-sex "marriage", and from all accounts, his Chief of Staff , Peta Credlin, is a very formidable woman. To cap it all, the Prime Minister has appointed Natasha Stott Despoja, former Australian Democrats leader, as Ambassador for Women and Girls. Where are the men, young or old, relatives, friends or colleagues, influencing Tony Abbott? Invisible if there are any.

To their great credit, Tony Abbott and his youthful partner did not even consider terminating their unplanned pregnancy: the baby they gave up for adoption has turned out well and I wish he was a member of the Prime Minister's family, but DNA tests showed he is not Tony's son. Also to the Prime Minister's great credit, he has resisted substantial pressure to legalise homosexual "marriage".

But whatever possessed the Prime Minister to appoint Natasha Stott Despoja as Ambassador for Women and Girls? Piers Akerman pointed out in the Telegraph (19/12/13) the position was always a money-wasting nonsense. At least Gillard's appointment of the first Ambassador for Women and Girls was Penny Williams, a career diplomat, who presumably was already drawing a salary. But instead of abolishing the position, Tony Abbott's appointment of Natasha Stott Despoja, former leader of the Australian Democrats, is as Akerman describes it, "keeping your enemies too close for comfort". As if he didn't have enough trouble with the Greens, is Abbott now trying to resurrect the defunct Australian Democrats?

Akerman points out that instead of abolishing this nonsense position, " appointing Stott Despoja to the position, the Abbott forces have spat in the eye of every conservative and, more importantly, every conservative woman who has fought tirelessly through the dark years of opposition to keep the conservative flame alive when it was under heavy attack from the very forces which saw Stott Despoja as their champion..........the appointment presenting Stott Despoja with a new pulpit from which to promulgate her anti-conservative views, and the prospect of a permanent open microphone at the ABC to amplify her every thought bubble". The appointment of Stott Despoja would make some sense if she tackled the real oppression of women which occurs in Muslim-majority countries - but I have not seen any evidence of this. What did she do about the death sentence and l00 lashes imposed on Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan who was accused of apostasy, gave birth while in prison, was released but has now been re-arrested at the airport while trying to leave Sudan? What is Natasha Stott Despoja doing about the Christian girls frequently kidnapped in Pakistan and Egypt, forcibly converted to Islam and forced to marry their captors? What is she doing about Aisia Bibi, mother of five young children, on death row in Pakistan for over five years on spurious charges of blasphemy?

In a perceptive column in The Weekend Australian, 23/24 May 2014, headed "Abbott should heed the silence of friends, not foes", Grace Collier wrote: "Rather than focusing on the shrieking rage of enemies, the government should focus on addressing the disappointed silence of friends".

One of the greatest disappointments of the Prime Minister's friends is his commitment to an over-generous Paid Parental Leave which discriminates not only against mothers who stay out of the paid workforce to care for their pre-school children, but also discriminates between career women with high-flying CEO's getting far more than lower-paid workers such as teachers and nurses. This is added to the injustice of allowing Gillard's policy of raising the tax-free threshold to $18,200 (i.e. a two-income childless couple can get $36,400 tax free while a single-income family with children gets only $18,200) while lowering Family Tax Benefit B.

The Prime Minister claims his PPL is a workplace entitlement like sick leave or holiday pay but these are paid for by the mothers' employers and factored into their cost of doing business, while Abbott's PPL is paid for by a great big new tax on big businesses plus contributions from hapless taxpayers.

On this issue, Tony Abbott has alienated the core conservative constituency of the Coalition: rural women, full-time homemakers (usually the mothers with more than two children), pro-life voters, practicing Catholics, evangelical Protestants and homeschoolers, who will feel a burning sense of injustice that supermarket prices will go up and their husbands will be taxed to pay PPL for elite women. No amount of whipping reluctant Coalition MPs and Senators into line will fool conservative voters who will be motivated to join the minor pro-life and pro-family parties. Their preferences will not necessarily flow back to the Coalition, and indeed some of the government's problems with the Senate both now and after July l can be traced back to the Coalition ignoring the concerns of its natural conservative base.

With the Green's now rejecting a hike in the fuel tax after initially indicating they would support it, the Government has a several billion dollar hole in its budget, and the Prime Minister has a perfect excuse, if he needed one, to postpone implementation of his PPL.

In the meantime he should consider appointing an Ambassador, or rather an Ombudsman for Men and boys. I get many anguished letters from men complaining how they have been passed over for jobs and promotions because of affirmative action policies favouring women - not only by the Government but also by big corporations. Men do far worse than women on basic well-being indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality, imprisonment, alcoholism, drug-taking, homicide (both as perpetrators and victims), road accidents, success at matriculation and university entrance, and boys outnumber girls 4: 1 in requiring remedial education at school.

Dear Prime Minister, how I wish that baby boy had been yours.