In the 2010 federal election, the Liberal Democrat Party in New South Wales polled around 96,000 votes. In 2013 their first-placed candidate polled around 416,000 votes. This analysis shows that the party increased its vote by over 50 times, or 5000% between 2007 and 2013.
Wow! That party is on the up and up! It must be quite something, right?
Well, no. According to the winning candidate, some people “voted for us because we were first on the ballot paper – there is always a sizeable number of people who don’t care… Then there are some people who mistook us for the Liberals, probably the Liberals, but they could also have mistaken us for the Christian Democrats or even the ordinary Democrats.”
In his own words, David Leyonhjelm was elected by the donkey vote, lazy Liberal Party supporters, a few illiterate Christians, and someone who forgot the Democrats folded.
Here is the same information in formal logic terms. There are correlations between the facts – quadrupling the vote, the number one spot on the ballot papers, Liberal Party voter apathy – from which we can draw conclusions. Correlation is not causation. Correlation can, if researchers have sufficient context and skill, be evidence of causation. What this means is that there are plausible reasons – correlated facts – that explain what probably, in all likelihood, ahead of any other random non-correlative or non-fact based explanation, caused an otherwise implausible outcome.
Of particular note here is the fact that the candidate himself posits that he was not elected on his policies or abilities or appeal, but due to the facts of the party name and its placement at the top of the ballot paper. He is an elected representative who is not representative of the electorate, and in the parlance of liberalism, his position was not achieved on merit.
This pro-gun, anti-feminist, aging white male ‘libertarian’ nevertheless took a seat in the Australian parliament on the recently increased backbencher salary of $203,020 a year (plus expenses). Not bad for a lazy liberal constituency and some donkeys. At the same time, penalty rates have been cut for some of Australia’s most insecure and lowest paid workers. The government has legislated future income tax cuts of over $7000 a year for people who are paid – wait for it – over $200Kpa. Low and middle income workers get about $10 a week.
The total cost to the budget bottom line is an estimated $140 billion over ten years – the time period chosen by a government facing certain defeat in the next 18 months to sell what are basically budget booby-traps. Structural deficits in the Howard-era model. Pre-legislating to sabotage an incoming administration may seem extreme, but is really nothing more than variation on a very familiar theme. The post-electoral budget blackhole scream was long a best-selling performance, until then-Treasurer Peter Costello introduced the Charter of Budget Honesty in a moment of panic. Like all tory policy, this became an opportunity to tell lies in set pieces designed for the dissemination of dishonesty.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people who would notice $10 a week – or $7000 a year – remains unchanged. The conditions for income support have become ever more immeasurably, horrifically, breathtakingly, cruelly, and fatally, worse.
Anyway where were we? Oh yes. Before coasting into the Senate on the previously unexplored opportunities of the lazy Liberal donkey combo, Leyonhjelm was a failed candidate for Liberal Party pre-selection. And since then, collecting millions in AEC campaign allowances on the way – on top of that $200Kpa – he has, like the racist Hanson, voted with the conservative Coalition government 60 per cent of the time.
Who cares? Well, very few people, until the day the parliament rose for the 2018 winter recess and South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young stood to read into the Hansard the disgusting remarks this aging white male ‘libertarian’ regularly shouted across the chamber – sexual harassment, given the Senate is her workplace – under parliamentary privilege. What followed was a full week of media coverage.
The ABC, among less credible and trusted news organisations, chose to provide a platform to the sexist senator to repeat his revolting remarks, multiple times, which he merrily did. This is entirely predictable. There he was, talking talking, and given every opportunity to legitimise, validate, disseminate and amplify his crass and nasty message… by the 730 Report, on ABC Sydney radio, on Radio National.
This is irresponsible and dangerous. Here is the evidence.
David Leyonjhelm speaks directly to a group in our society euphemistically known as MRAs, or Mens Rights Activist. These men are aggressive, angry, violent or potentially violent, and their core culture is derived from separated fathers. Violent men who have less domination and control over a woman who has left them and their children than they once exercised are extremely dangerous.
In a developed country with universal health care, the most dangerous time in a woman’s life is leaving an abusive male. One third of all homicides were preceded by domestic violence. Not coincidentally, the vast majority of mass shooters in the USA are men who have previously abused women they know. The same is true of the ‘terrorist’ Man Haron Monis, a man who probably was mentally ill, unlike all the white males who kill family members and are unreflexively offered this benefit of the doubt. Monis was known to have sent letters to the Attorney General, flagging his questionable stability, but nothing was done. His actions were later used to justify more ‘anti-terror’ laws; but not to increase funding for women’s shelters or mental health services.
The angry violent men who blame women, particularly feminists, for their inadequacies are the audience Leyonhjelm wants to reach. His purpose is simple: re-election to the Senate. This is the workplace where he harasses Senator Sarah Hanson Young with nasty innuendo that he has repeated widely on multiple platforms, courtesy of including three times on the ABC Sydney radio drive program in one half-hour segment.
Every time media invite Leyonjhelm onto a panel or interview, he is increasingly enabled to reach this audience of angry men. It does not matter what false equivalence is later offered up as ‘balance’, such as interviewing Senator Hanson-Young the next day. Any media professional who thinks that irrational and angry men who are comforted and encouraged by the remarks Leyonjhelm puts into the public domain will tune in the next day to carefully weigh up the ‘other side’ is a fool who a) knows nothing about angry violent men; and b) has been played. The damage is done.
At the end of a week when Leyonhjelm was indulged all over the airwaves and his hideous opinions discussed at length in print and online, a separated father shot dead his two children in cold blood and then killed himself. Another man has been arrested for burning down a house with a woman inside. She is dead. Two more men have been arrested for murder. Both victims were women with whom they were or had been in a relationship.
Here, then, are the facts which correlate in time and topic. A pro-gun, anti-feminist politician who speaks directly to angry violent men was provided with widespread exposure to espouse his nasty hateful views across multiple media platforms. These decisions amplified his views well beyond his otherwise tiny audience. Given the credibility and trust in which the ABC in particular is held, these decisions validated and legitimized him as an elected representative. Remember, he was elected by a donkey vote and some lazy Liberal Party supporters. He needs exposure to survive, and was given it.
So by the end of that week of saturation coverage, the average rate at which men kill women in this country – which is one per week – had tripled. Then there was the child-killer. So four times as many men killed five times as many victims as are usually killed per week in what are euphemistically called ‘domestic violence incidents’.
That is the correlation. Is there a causal connection?
My answer is yes. First, the increase is so great as to not be statistically insignificant. Sorry to be so cold, but this is the kind of logic that males with influence, but who are none too informed on male violence, demand of women. I said earlier that correlation is not causation, and that correlation can be evidence of causation, if the person joining the dots has the context and skills to do so. When the person with the requisite skills and knowledge is a woman, and a pro-gun anti-feminist has been given a platform to communicate with his constituency of angry men, the Science is Facts!! crowd start shouting in defence of violent men at women survivors of domestic violence.
So, we muster more logic, tedious and unnecessary to anyone with an ounce of humanity as this ought to be, and do the thing, which is to account for other possible variables. For example, we know that men are more violent to more women in particular sets of circumstances. These circumstances include big sporting occasions, holiday periods, and the hotter months. The football factor is so pronounced that there are advertisements in the UK showing how many more men will beat up women when England loses, which it just did, in the World Cup.
Were these factors present the week during which Leyonhjelm broadcast his misogynist views to his angry male audience via a complacent and complicit media which can only perceive ‘balance’ from its own programming perspective? No. There was no footy grand final, no long weekend, no commercialised religious tradition. It is the middle of winter.
There is one other conclusion available: that at the end of a week when the media widely disseminated and legitimised the crass and misogynist norms of a male parliamentarian, we saw a significant but completely random increase in the number of men killing women and children. Maybe.
In news that will surprise nobody who knows anything about male violence, in the aftermath of the slaughter this week, an even less plausible thesis has been offered.
Like David Leyonjhelm, the institutions in our society are white and patriarchal. This is true of politics, the parliament, government, bureaucracy. It is true of media and families, corporations and industry, religion, universities, the arts. What this means, and it is not a complex proposition, is that the executive, the people with the most authority and influence over other people’s lives, is dominated and controlled by white men.
What has this apparatus in its wisdom ponied up in response to saturation coverage of a man whose politics encourage violent men? A campaign to reinstate the womens shelters which were smashed by premier Mike Baird in New South Wales? Funding and support for women to secure safe and affordable housing for themselves and their children? A spotlight on the billions wasted on anti-terror measures when men terrorise women and children in their own homes every day of the week?
Remember when Malcolm Turnbull basked in the label of feminist by announcing that he would reinstate a third of what his predecessor Tony Abbott had cut from funding for womens services? He allocated a third of that money, which was a third of what was cut, to ‘awareness-raising’ by advertising campaign. Nice little earner for ad companies, but that is a lot of safe beds foregone to say that male violence against women and children is bad. The same government only backed down from funding cuts to legal services ‘in the face of massive, sustained opposition from the sector, every state and territory government, and the Senate crossbench.’
Turnbull and his Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, then implied that a not-cut amounts to increased funding. As Alex McKinnon correctly notes here,
‘When paired with such an abysmal performance, the faux-concern worn by government figures whenever domestic violence is in the public eye starts to look hideously strategic. In 2015, then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull waxed lyrical on the need to “start a conversation” about family violence.’
What we have here is not new, or original, or creative. It is not innovative or problem-solving or courageous. In the midst of peak violence week, Fairfax produced this headline: Leyonhjelm has ignited outrage that is years overdue. It is not a terrible article. Its author, the highly respected Stephanie Dowrick, has many good points to make. And I, too, hesitated to write about Leyonjhelm at all, given a week of exposure culminated in a week of men killing women and children at such a massively increased rate.
But this is just my own little platform and I felt strongly that the case for correlation as evidence of causation had to be made. Sometimes a blog serves the simple purpose of saying, yes, I do think these phenomena are related. I have done my homework. I do understand the arguments. And I wrote about it.
My response is both emotional and logical. I am a domestic violence survivor, and so are my three children. And? None of us should have to parade our pain to legitimise an emotional response to the levels of violence that are tolerated and enabled by white hetero-patriarchy, which cares only for its own. I am also a teacher to future lawyers on logic and critical thought, and co-authored a text book in the field. So I have extensive scholarly knowledge and extensive lived experience. This does not stop many men in multiple contexts presuming to hold greater insight than I do.
Violence is emotional, and I should not have to out myself as a survivor or tout my academic credentials to make such a straightforward ontological point. But I do, because here we are. None of us get to resign from patriarchy.
I am not here for the absurd argument that a gun-loving woman-hater started a conversation or that this is a good thing. I am not here for the erasure implicit in the bland observation that people are talking about it now when we have been talking about it for years. I am vehemently not here to allocate credit to a vile politician, and the media who legitimised his views, with having done anything, anything at all, to assist women and children escaping from a violent man. If you think ‘police can’t do anything’ or the courts ‘hands are tied’ or that AVOs are ‘just a piece of paper’, wait until I tell you about the efficacy of the commentariat congratulating themselves for having a conversation.
If you can see the blood on all their hands, and are stuck in workplaces and social environments and conversations with people who can not, this post is for you.