Tony Abbott a sexist, not a misogynist, says outgoing senator

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 3:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 9:07pm


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is "a sexist" rather than a misogynist, a retiring politician from his party says, adding he was one of many in parliament.

Liberal Senator Sue Boyce, who is leaving politics at the end of the month, described former prime minister Julia Gillard's fiery misogyny speech in 2012 targeting Abbott as "powerful", and said it was "a brilliant speech" in building support for the country's first female leader.

But she said Gillard should have labelled Abbott sexist rather than misogynist.

Gillard's speech prompted a row at the time over the definition of "misogyny", with Abbott's defenders accusing her of misusing the word and saying he did not "hate women".

If we want more women in cabinet we need more women in parliament
Senator Sue Boyce

The row prompted Australia's most authoritative dictionary, the Macquarie Dictionary, to broaden its definition of "misogyny" beyond a hatred of women to also denoting a prejudice against them.

"Sexism" is defined as discrimination based on gender.

"But singling Abbott out as a sexist was not reasonable either," Boyce added, saying he was one of many "subtle" sexists in parliament.

Boyce said Abbott was also more willing to listen to the views of women compared with many of her other male colleagues.

The latest criticism of Abbott came a month after he was slammed for winking during a testy radio chat about the tough May budget with a female pensioner who worked on a sex phone line.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in her book Hard Choices, which was released earlier this month, that Gillard faced "outrageous sexism" and that "women in public life still face an unfair double standard".

Boyce, who represents Queensland, scored her and her conservative Liberal Party's success in lifting the number of women in politics as "one out of 10" in her valedictorian speech to the Senate last week.

"It is obvious that if we want more women in cabinet we need more women in parliament," she said. "The current 22 per cent figure is just not good enough. Improving this pathetic figure must be the job of every party member and every party employee."

Boyce said the debate over asylum-seekers in Australia was "fraught with dog whistling" and that she "would like to see us behaving more humanely".

Under Australia's tough offshore detention policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are now sent to camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing and permanent resettlement after a short turnaround period on Christmas Island.

The United Nations and refugee advocates have criticised the policy and said conditions at the detention camps were too harsh.