Time to terminate Cormann

The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.

First, Cormann has joined Joe Hockey and Arthur Sinodinos in making an idiot of himself. There’s now no-one among the key economic ministers who has any real credibility left. Add to that the hopelessness of the key spending ministers (Andrews, Dutton and Pyne) and it becomes clear that the Budget fiasco was, as they say, no accident.

At this point, it’s hard to see how the government can turn the economic debate around, even given a radical reshuffle of the existing team. Their best hope is probably that attention will remain focused on foreign policy.

Second, coming on the heels of a string of similarly disastrous statements from prominent rightwing figures (Barry Spurr, Alan Moran, Aaron Lane) it’s a pretty clear indication of how the Australian right talks when they think no one is listening, or forget that they are on record, and how far out of touch they are with today’s social mores.

Essentially, they are living in a bubble where they imagine that media figures like Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones represent the views of the majority of right-thinking people. In reality (most obviously in the case of Jones, but equally true of Bolt and Devine) these are people who make a good living by taking the views of the most bigoted 10 per cent or so of the Australian population (AFAICT, Australia is no better or worse than most other countries in terms of the prevalence of bigotry), and reflecting them back to the same audience in a more-or-less coherent form.

Except in rare and much resented cases like libelling people on account of their race, the Bolts and Devines are protected by the rules of free speech and the fact that they serve the interests of the Murdoch press. But that’s not true for politicians, thinktankers or participants in public inquiries. In these venues, as I know from my own experience, anything you say can and will be used against you. Unfortunately, for the Australian right, the racist, sexist and generally nasty stuff that goes down a treat at Young Liberal meetings and similar can no longer be laughed off when it gets out in public.

98 thoughts on “Time to terminate Cormann

  1. @Alan Moran

    So if it is political correctness that leads to “treating one form of extremism with empathy” it could be that Amanda Vanstone and her guest on today’s program, Theodore Dalrymple have become politically correct.

    I listened to an interview on Counterpoint just a few hours ago in which these two beacons of good and common sense found that they both could rustle up some understanding of the reasons that young muslim men – in Britain particularly but not France – are so disgusted with Western Civilization that they would want to destroy it and establish another type of civilization.

    They sounded very empathic to me; apparently there are things about our Western Civilization that they don’t like. Who woulda thought?

    Did you ever think that there could be some things that might need ‘critiquing’ about Western Civilization?

    Of course as is politically correct on the biased ABC, the left did get blamed for everything wrong about the debate in Australia in another interview on today’s program. Apparently the problem is that “some people simply don’t want to talk about it at all, either for fear of being culturally ‘insensitive’, or stoking a ‘white backlash’.”

    So foolish all this being sensitive stuff.

    But apparently Amanda has noticed that “we (are) treating Islam as a strange exotic religion which sits outside the mainstream of Australian society,” and that “it is a major Australian religion, with an established community of some forty years’ standing”.

  2. @Ikonoclast
    Kyol Blakeney is Aboriginal, BTW. My son has participated in this minor but significant revolt against what I can only describe as “old privilege”. All power to them. Here’s a scalp worth taking. The leftdd’s misplaced sense of gentility around the political classes, has forgotten how to take scalps. This is a good scalp to take. The establishment, should it choose to circle the wagons, is on a hiding to nothing. Nothing outrages the young so much as the mere scintilla of a hint of exclusion on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, class or by whatever identifier you can imagine. Neoliberalism promised radical and equalitarian forms of inclusion within the market and the agora. Whenever it fails the test of inclusion, as it does routinely, it is judged accordingly. Not long to go now before these kids assert a new politics.

  3. Julie Thomas @52, your comment reminds me of a column by Angela Shanahan (written and published pre-9/11, of course) that looked optimistically at the prospects of an alliance between Catholic and Muslim conservatives against the baleful influence of secular feminism. This theme of a Catholislamic alliance against secular feminism, abortion, contraception, lesbianism, population stabilisation, etc., was regularly reprised in various quarters during the 1990s.

  4. Warning: rant ahead.

    Cormann’s comments about “girly men” are a direct attack on subordinate masulinity. They are an attack on al those men who don’t conform, don’t subscribe or are alienated from the dominant, hegemonic model of masculinity. There are, however, more of us than there are of them. I think that JQ’s insight, which is that they are occupying the populist high points, is correct. Cormann’s words are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. They’ve nowhere else to go but down.

    I apologize to all for misunderstanding the nature of the attack on Julia Gillard, which was gendered. Now I see it in full light, the gendered attack, against Shorten’s masculinity. Sorry to women. I acknowledge a fail, big time. We need to defend women and “girl men” by creating a solid front between women, who live in the conditions of a war against women, by men, and we need to form a common front between women and “girly men”.

    La lotta continua.

  5. @John Quiggin

    The relevant official policy of the University of Sydney says:

    ‘The University’s ICT Resources exist and are maintained to support the work of the organisation. The University reserves the right to monitor the use of its ICT Resources and to deal appropriately with Users who use its ICT Resources in ways contrary to the conditions of use set out in this policy.’

    It expands on that by saying:

    ‘Limited minor and incidental personal use may be allowed, but it is a privilege and must not interfere with the operation of ICT resources, burden the University with incremental costs, interfere with the User’s employment or other obligations to the University and is subject to compliance with University policies. Users should be aware that personal use of the University’s ICT Resources may result in the University holding personal information about the User and/or others which may then be accessed and used by the University to ensure compliance with this, and other policies.

    ‘Use of ICT Resources is not considered private. Users of ICT Resources should be aware that they do not have the same rights as they would using personally owned equipment through commercial service providers.

    ‘The University’s electronic communication systems generate detailed logs of all transactions and use. All Users should be aware that the University has the ability to access these records and any backups. In addition, system administrators have the ability to access the content of electronic communications and files sent and stored using the University’s equipment.’

    So it seems to me that Barry Spurr can’t argue that fair warning wasn’t given; and the policy also says:

    ‘The University will not tolerate its ICT Resources being used in a manner that is harassing, discriminatory, abusive, rude, insulting, threatening, obscene or otherwise inappropriate.’

    If he thinks that nothing he wrote was rude or otherwise inappropriate — well, I suppose he’ll have the chance (it should certainly be offered) to argue that case to the official university investigation.

    On the other hand, the corresponding policy of the University of Queensland seems not to go into all those details with equal thoroughness, so if you choose to use your official university email account to be rude about people, your university may have more difficulty mounting a case against you for it. Credit where credit’s due: in this area I think it’s the University of Sydney that has done the better job of policy-writing. I await the results of the official university investigation with interest.

  6. Cormanns pejorative implies that he isn’t a girlie man. I would say that considering his funny haircut, petulant delivery and penchant for placing large cylindrical objects in his mouth, he has become the object of his derision.

  7. Julie Thomas :
    I listened to an interview on Counterpoint just a few hours ago in which these two beacons of good and common sense found that they both could rustle up some understanding of the reasons that young muslim men – in Britain particularly but not France – are so disgusted with Western Civilization that they would want to destroy it and establish another type of civilization.

    lol, ah counterpoint and the lovely Amanda V. I need to be out in the car between 4 & 5pm. It’s wonderful listening to Phillip A. Tue – Fri but Mondays are radio off. Can’t stand the barely concealed bile from Amanda V. A lot of pollies revert to decent sensible people when they leave politics. Amanda not so much.

  8. @Paul Norton

    Paul there was no mention of the dreaded feminism and how it has ruined society, but there was a bit where both of the old people, and you could hear the gears creaking as they pondered the ramifications, noticed that the images that the dreadful leftist media use to illustrate stories on Muslims, are always of young women who are not necessarily representative of real Islam and ….. this was a concern, these images of Islam were always of attractive women. Oh no! That can’t be right.

    Send them off to the Magdalen Laundries, those attractive young women who are way too clever for their own good.

  9. There was one of those old men who think they are the high point of evolution on the teaching staff at the Institute of Advanced Education that was turned into a University during the time I was there as an undergrad in the psychology dept. He used to turn up in the morning, open his office and then leaving his office door open he would leave the Uni grounds to attend to more important business; he was on a large number of boards in the town apparently.

    Students and lecturers in the know about this man’s behavior would warn naive students who would wait outside the open door to see him. The teaching institutes had a much more relaxed policy back in the 1990’s about contact between staff and students and waiting outside the door to talk to the lecturers was quite common and did lead to some quite wonderful interactions in most cases.

    The teaching staff at this institute that became a university were terrific and I can’t thank them enough for their dedication and hard work and the interest they took in students. I really wish my son who is doing a psych degree there now was able to have the same experience.

    But there was this one lecturer and the problem that I saw was that all the dedicated and wonderful staff did all they could to avoid acting on the valid complaints that students made about this staff member. Complaints that I heard about were that he called a ‘mature aged’ female student “girlie” and another “dearie”, and that he had not updated his course material for so long that the text book was out of print when I did the course.

    Photocopies were made available for those who could not find a second hand copy.

  10. @David Allen

    I agree about the usual barely concealed bile that is the usual vibe from Amanda Vanstone and the guests she chooses, but it seems to me that there has been a change of attitude there. It is more a resigned sort of approach to the left, and there even seemed to be some sort of attempt to justify her failure to understand the complexity of the problems she and they have been ignoring and denying.

    Not that she or any of her usual suspect type guests are able to put these ‘feelings’ they are having, into a coherent or structured argument.

    I check out Counterpoint regularly since it started. I was quite startled to hear Michael Duffy on my RN and understanding that Libertarianism was actually a thing that some people believed in was what motivated me to take an interest in politics; I hadn’t even registered to vote before then.

    But poor Amanda, it can’t be easy for conservative women to find any self-respect or realise that they have been collaborating with the alpha males to the detriment of all other types of human beings.

  11. A couple of thoughts. Firstly re the “Girly Man”, there are interesting studies on the characteristics of countries including things like their degree of consensualism in decision-making, individuality v collectivist thinking (see https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=geert+hofstede), and something loosely describable as dgree of maleness/femaleness. In many of the characteristics evaluated Australia typically occupies a position midway between the countries of NW Europe (more consensual, less overtly “male”) and the US. It is tempting to see people like Corman and indeed Abetz as relishing the greater apparent maleness and individuality of Australia, without the risk of personal failure involved in trying it out in the US.
    Secondly, one of the many ways one could characterise governments or management regimes generally is on a 2-dimensional matrix where the dimensions are – nasty/humane/kind, and incompetent/harmless/competent. A position combining nasty and incompetent is I think rare, but we are learning about it.

  12. JulieT, thanks for that reference to the Magdalene Laundries, I knew nothing of that. The Catholic Church has so much to answer for. If Jesus Christ were alive today and knew what had been done in his name he would be horrified and condemn the whole organisation, from Tony Abbott to the Pope.

  13. @jungney
    Jungney – are you serious in what you said @ 5 above? I will reply on the assumption that you are.

    First of all your apology is welcome. I in turn will apologise properly for telling you to F off back on LP. I think I did a sort of kind of apology there, but I will do a real one now. Sorry, I over reacted and was rude.

    With courtesies observed, I’d now like to say I’m glad that you see that gender played a significant part in the attacks on Julia Gillard (from both the left and the right). But I’m kind of a little – dismayed (you’ll notice that I’ve learnt to be polite online these days) – that it seems you realised it when a male politician was denigrated as “girlie”. Anyway not to worry, there is more rejoicing over the whatsiname lamb (lamb?) etc. (I’m sure someone here will be able to correct me on that quotation)

    And on the general subject, I have concerns about the first sentence in JQ’s post:

    The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.

    Does that mean that using “girlie” to insult someone “isn’t too significant”? Or does it mean something else?

    (One of these days you guys will all realise how incredibly patient and fair I have really been, considering the circumstances)

  14. @Val
    Val, my recollection of old discussions is of one where I argued that it was both possible to be critical of Gillard at the same time time as offering solidarity against misogynist attacks. Sadly, as I state above, I think that was incorrect. I always took the view that Gillard could look after herself and saw her @I won’t be lectured on sexism by that man@ as evidence of her capability. However, I now acknowledge that attacks on her were attacks on all women.

    So, my alarm at the use of this phrase “girly men” isn’t so much a new development as just me burring up at yet another example, a supremely crude one at that, of hegemonic masculinity ascribing secondary status to men who are peripheral to the dominant model and, of course, to women as well.

    Cormann is a jackpot of gender stupidity. Long may he remain under public scrutiny.

  15. Nice succinct use of words, “jackpot of gender stupidity”, it is the kind of elegant economy that Corman aspires to but just cannot achieve.

  16. I think Cormans comment is at the lower end of sexist insult but it certainly is one ,and people in positions of power like him carry extra responsibility to behave properly. He should at least apologise to the girls and women of our nation.

    While I see problems with gender relations in the Islamic world ,and at the risk of sounding like a terrorist sympathiser ,I also think the Western gendered setup is clearly dysfunctional. For the record -I think the problems (ours and theirs) are overwhelmingly cultural ,probably built on a base of some biological differences. This gives me hope for the future .

  17. Val,

    “”The flap about Mathias Cormann’s Schwarzeneggerian description of Bill Shorten as a “girlie man” isn’t too significant in itself. But in the context of other developments, it suggests a couple of patterns that represent big problems for the Abbott government.”

    Does that mean that using “girlie” to insult someone “isn’t too significant”? Or does it mean something else?”

    I agree, it is not good ‘girlie’ being an insult. Penny Wong’s comments were good I thought:
    “I just think if we use girl as an insult what are we telling our sons and our daughters about being a girl? You’re saying it’s somehow less confident, weak, whatever the imputation – I just don’t think that’s sensible. Imagine if we used any racial term in the way it was used. I think we would all be outraged for the same reasons.”

    It is interesting that Cormann used a similar excuse to Spurr in that he argued that by using ‘girlie man’ he was not saying anything about girls?!? APparently ‘girlies’ is a completely separate word from ‘girls’ (I would be interested if he ws made to give a definition of the word ‘girlrlies’ to see how he manages to come up with a definition that is not gender-specific):
    “I am not talking about girls. I am talking about economic girlie men,’’ the minister told News Corp’s Sunday papers. “I don’t think there’s anything gender-specific here. Not girls, girlies; it’s very different. I hope you are not going to say I am a sexist misogynist.’’

    He also said he was referring to Bill Shorten being ‘too weak to repair the budget’ – thus seeming to demonstrate that he was connecting ‘girlieness’ with ‘weakness’ – both of which he seems to equate with having a decent wellfare system. If it wasn’t so dismaying it would almost be funny imagining the discussions among the treasury –
    Public Servant Trasury Official : ‘Maybe only giving under 25s income support for 6 months of the year is a bit cruel and could have bad results increasing crime and sex work, perhaps we could fix the budget in a less unfair way’
    Matthias Cormann and Joe Hockey : “Aaargh – girl germs! Stay away from us with all your economic girlie germs”

    On Julia Gillard, I think it was quite hard for the public at the time, especially since a lot of the reasons about replacing Rudd were not given until well after the event, and it is still a bit hard to wortk out what is true. I thought how the prime ministers changed without a proper debate and vote in parliament was very improper. But the gendered nature of the attacks on Julia Gillard was also very apparent – I think in some ways it shows how our public discourse is not in a very good state – there is more making and reporting of offensive invective, and less proper discussion and argument.

    At the local level this is not so bad, there is still a bit of name-calling , but generally being so offensive to others in the local community is considered very bad manners by most people and discouraged. Macedon Ranges Council had an interesting episode earlier this year where some male councillors were seen as being quite sexist and dismissive and not listening to women – but there was a lot of letters and complaints made about it, so there was a lot of public pressure for the council to address sexism. This does not seem to work at the Federal level at all, where they do seem really quite out of step with mainstream acceptable community views.

  18. What a horrible mishmash this


    It is way past time that after declaring allegiance to the Queen, they declare their responsibility to serve the interests of all Australians for the betterment and well being of the community.

    Properly invested the Corman effect should never arise.

  19. So true about the Young Liberals, Professor. They come out with outrageous stuff and seem to have little or even no idea of how out of touch they are.

  20. Oh well, inspirited by Gough’s death I’m minded to retell a tale about the days when the Austrlianment government was a parliament during which one of parliamentary sessions Fred Daly put the question to parliament that “the Labour Party has a youth wing, known as the Young Labs, and the Liberal Party has a youth wing known as the Libs, and therefore Mr Speaker, I want to ask is it true that the Country Party has a youth wing, and if so are they known as …”. I’m pretty sure that uproar ensued.

    A sad day but one on which to note that the time for talking is over.

  21. @jungney
    I’m told there was also an occasion when a particular Country Party member was giving his valedictorian speech, which he closed with the words “and I’ll alway be a country member!”, to which Whitlam responded “I remember”.

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