In October 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech in the Australian parliament was viewed by millions worldwide. Her target was the then-opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is now PM.
However, his claims on 11 December 2014 of sexism towards his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin have raised the issue again: “Do you really think my chief of staff would be under this kind of criticism if her name was Peter as opposed to Peta?”
Peta Credlin has been criticised for her rivalry with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, as veteran journalist and blogger at The Conversation Michele Grattan reports:
Now the two are in a test of strength. It’s not as electric as has been portrayed this week when they were described as “like two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank” (the expert advice, incidentally, says you need large tanks for those fish).
According to Grattan, the attacks go much deeper:
The objections to the Abbott office are about Credlin’s centralisation and control.
…Credlin was the one closest to him in the trenches of opposition. But her degree of power, her management style, her omnipresence and her high visibility are eroding his authority.
Unsurprisingly, the PM's remarks have met with disbelief and ridicule by many online. This tweet came from a political opponent:
— Vicki Ward MP (@Vicki4Eltham) December 11, 2014
Alex McKinnon at news and pop culture website Junkee has not been the only one to use the ‘I’ word, in his satirical piece: Tony Abbott Claims Criticisms Of His Chief Of Staff Are “Sexist”; World Implodes From Irony.
Today will be remembered from now until the world is swallowed by a vastly-expanded sun, for today is the day Tony Abbott discovered sexism exists, and that it is a Bad Thing.
Accusations of hypocrisy have been common. This comment by Juanita Phillips, TV news presenter at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, has been a very popular retweet:
PM tells coalition colleagues to take a “good hard look at themselves” over gender treatment of Julia, oops, Peta.
— Juanita Phillips (@Juanita_Phillip) December 11, 2014
Others are more pointed in their comparisons:
— theEDITOR (@smnaustralia) December 12, 2014
HAHAHA, what a crack up! Abbott's comments about Credlin make me laugh!! This from a man who accused JG of using the “gender card”. #auspol
— Team Australia SUX!! (@trollhater4444) December 11, 2014
Ah okay then. So sexism = okay towards a female PM of the left, but not a female chief of staff of the right http://t.co/eS4roAcISr
— Jingle Bells Brown (@JB_AU) December 11, 2014
It has bemused many people that Tony Abbott has members of his own Liberal Party in his sights, including members of his government:
Extraordinary. In defending Peta Credlin, Abbott accuses his Liberal colleagues of misogyny. Terrible stuff that misogyny. #auspol
— Errol Brandt (@e2mq173) December 11, 2014
Some have wondered if this new approach might bring some positive action:
— Santa On Raj (@senthorun) December 12, 2014
There are doubts that the prime minister will be able to put the gender card back in the pack:
Abbott plays gender card over Credlin: THE PM has stoked a new gender war in defence of his chief-of-staff, sa… http://t.co/0w1lrAwzZX
— News 24h AUS (@news24haus) December 12, 2014
Marie Ryan seems to capture the general feeling:
How many other peeps had to pick themselves off the floor when Abbott declared Peta a victim of sexism? http://t.co/SlDL1ACOPu
— Marie Ryan (@cybahound) December 12, 2014