ioncredible, veramente, (and yet crushingly predictable, somehow) that Andrew Laming would have the audacity to make an appeal for privacy while finding the time to front his local radio station and dish some alternative “facts” about unsavoury incidents that have forced him to signal time on his parliamentary career.
Also incredible (and yet not, somehow) that the Nationals MP Anne Webster would need to make a formal complaint to the party leadership after being sexually harassed by a male colleague in the House of Representatives chamber (a public place last time I looked) during a week where the government was lurching from disaster to disaster.
But here we all are, mired, it would seem, in the worst reality television franchise ever to have been green lit: Blokes Being Reprehensible at Your Expense.
Monday did deliver one plus. At least the government’s “blokes just not getting it problem” is now sufficiently potent to have prompted a promise of a structural adjustment to the way the Coalition deliberates.
Scott Morrison is bringing forward more women in senior positions to help men who should already get it, get it.
Monday’s cabinet reshuffle has obviously been driven by politics, not by a sudden burst of self-guided enlightenment.
But the structural shift Morrison has flagged has some promise, if delivery follows announcement.
When I characterise the change as promising, there are some obvious caveats.
It remains enormously frustrating that a modest phalanx of Liberal women (configured into a squad, a cabinet taskforce, led by Marise Payne) has to be deemed responsible for helping blokes who should already get it – blokes who possess all the means and opportunity of getting it – to get it.
It really would be better if the men running the government just got it without the set dressing because as it stands, women are being asked to deal with the problems created by their own marginalisation while at the same time being called upon to reprogram the people intent on perpetuating the conditions marginalising women.
This feels like a rat wheel nobody can get off.
The whole palaver will be galling, but ultimately worth it, if the new listening structure imposed on institutionalised deafness can ultimately drive change by changing habits and mindsets.
But from where we stand today, this remains moot.
We’d all better hope that the Liberal women who have been selected to run the government’s in-house re-education camp take the significant moment Brittany Higgins has created for them and run with it rather than hanging back politely and tip toeing lest they offend because they are concerned a less able bloke might be wheeled out to replace them just as soon as this immediate crisis passes.
We’d better hope that these women are prepared to speak for all Australian women, and the men in the leadership group actually listen, because the prospects for any meaningful change rely on those two things happening.
Speaking and listening.
From where we stand today, neither of these two eventualities are guaranteed.
Transiting now from the substance of the thing to the look of the thing, the prime minister’s other problem is obvious.
Morrison is trying to reboot his government to make it look like a critical mass of the Liberal and National parties actually want to reside in the 21st century, while relying on the support of a rogue backbencher who apparently abuses some female constituents, and who reframes what appears to be an act of up-skirting as taking a “completely dignified” picture of a woman in her workplace “kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasn’t going to fit in the fridge”.
The only reason Laming is still in politics today is because Morrison needs his vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. Without Laming, Morrison would have to govern in minority.
Morrison had a script on Monday about Laming being committed to changing his ways through empathy training, and coming back to Canberra with a completely different attitude.
But the government is now hostage to Laming’s history.
That history remains a counterweight to the official epiphany.
The troubling reality the prime minister faces, as he tries to pilot the government out of a crisis, is Laming is now both exile-in-waiting and kingmaker.