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Female Coalition Senator on the sexism in Par -

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Female Coalition Senator on the sexism in Parliament
Eleanor Hall reported this story on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:25:00

ELEANOR HALL: One member of the Coalition who has already made it clear to her party that she wants to see more women and a broader range of views is Queensland Senator Sue Boyce.

She was in the Senate when yesterday's debate was taking place in the House of Representatives. But she says she was watching events closely.

When Senator Boyce joined me a short time ago I asked her how she reacted when she heard her leader Tony Abbott conclude his speech by alluding to the offensive Alan Jones remarks saying Ms Gillard's
Government should have died of shame.

SUE BOYCE: Look, I think it was an unfortunate choice of words but I don't think that Mr Abbott was deliberately alluding to Alan Jones's comments. He has talked about this Government dying of shame from because of its hypocrisy and broken promises in the past.

ELEANOR HALL: Did you recoil when you heard it?

SUE BOYCE: I thought, oh dear, would have been better not to use those words now.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you say that Mr Abbott has been using that phrase for many months but given the furore of the last week is that really an excuse?

SUE BOYCE: I don't think he needs an excuse. In the circumstances it would have been better to choose other words.

ELEANOR HALL: Were you surprised at the vehemence of the Prime Minister's response when she called Mr Abbott on what she said was a history of his sexism towards her personally?

SUE BOYCE: Look, I wasn't surprised by the vehemence of it. I can understand that using those words, dying of shame, would, you know, to her have been an extremely provocative phrase to use. So I wasn't surprised by the vehemence of it. But I don't really accept the premise of Tony Abbott having a history of sexism and misogyny.

ELEANOR HALL: The Prime Minister said she was offended by a series of comments. Let me put a couple of them to you. She said she was offended by Mr Abbott's comments that abortion is the easy option. How comfortable are you with a comment like that?

SUE BOYCE: I'm not comfortable with that comment at all but nor am I comfortable with the Prime Minister referring to Christopher Pyne as a mincing poodle.

ELEANOR HALL: Speaking of Christopher Pyne, he says that this was a case of the Prime Minister pathetically playing the victim. Do you accept that sort of characterisation?

SUE BOYCE: I think the Prime Minister found it useful that she was able to make comments from that position of being the one who had been badly done by. But I don't think there was a deliberate attempt to play the victim.

ELEANOR HALL: Was there any part of you that as a woman applauded her standing up against sexism like that?

SUE BOYCE: Look, I applaud any woman who stands up against sexism. I guess in this situation I feel I don't applaud using taunts about sexism as a political tool or weapon. I don't think you can say that comments, sexist or misogynist comments are strictly the domain of one party or the other.

Everyone has done it, it shouldn't happen, but I don't think that the Prime Minister has demonstrated real bipartisanship on the topic of misogyny and sexism when she couldn't condemn the text message comments that Peter Slipper had made.

ELEANOR HALL: But in terms of political double standards are you comfortable that despite the attack on his character by your party yesterday, today the Coalition says it is prepared to accept Peter Slipper's vote?

SUE BOYCE: I was just saying to a colleague before that I imagine Peter Slipper will be the most fated man in the House of Reps in the next few months. Both parties will be keen to have his vote. And I guess it's a situation where you put yourself in the position that you accept that vote for what you perceive to be the greater good which in our case would be overturning the Gillard Government.

ELEANOR HALL: Some might say the greater good simply means a political double standard. I mean, why is it appropriate to accept Peter Slipper's vote when the Leader has just been in the Parliament there condemning his character?

SUE BOYCE: Well I guess given that he is now an Independent member of the House of Representatives, someone is going to have to accept his vote and, you know, the vote is there.

ELEANOR HALL: Well you said earlier this week that you'd like to see the person who replaces you when your term ends reflect the broader views of the Coalition and that you'd like to see more women. In what way has the Coalition become a narrower party under Tony Abbott's leadership?

SUE BOYCE: I don't think that it's become a narrower party under Tony Abbott's leadership. I think the issue for us in terms of having more women is about developing some sort of formal plan to ensure it happens. But I don't think the party's become a narrower party under Tony Abbott.

ELEANOR HALL: What do you mean then, if you don't mean that it's become narrower?

SUE BOYCE: Well, what I'm saying… we have the danger, we face the danger of not being the broad church that John Howard used to so proudly talk about. And I think I was simply sounding a warning bell.

I do think that there has been more dominance of the conservatives in the party. But I don't think that has brought us to the extent of saying that there is no room in there for people with socially progressive views to express those views.

ELEANOR HALL: Is Tony Abbott's leadership putting women off?

SUE BOYCE: Not to my knowledge. I mean I'm very well aware that Tony Abbott has a problem with women view out there. But it's not a reality for me and it's certainly not a reality for other women I know.

ELEANOR HALL: So why is it out there?

SUE BOYCE: Good question. I know the Government has picked up on it. I think perhaps Tony's conservative views on issues like abortion as we spoke about before, would affect some women in the community. But then again there's a very large number of women who would agree with his views on abortion.

ELEANOR HALL: And your personal dealing with him? You've never felt there's an element of sexism?

SUE BOYCE: No. Not at all.

ELEANOR HALL: Are you comfortable though, even when he says things like men are more physiologically suited to authority than women?

SUE BOYCE: Do you know, I wasn't aware that he had ever said that until I heard it on the news in the last couple of days. I mean, in stark isolation, yes it doesn't seem terribly useful, but I don't know the circumstances of it.

ELEANOR HALL: But if he has actually said that, what's your reaction?

SUE BOYCE: No, but I'd want to know the context, Eleanor, of how he said it and when he said it.

ELEANOR HALL: Senator Boyce, thank you very much for joining us.

SUE BOYCE: Thanks Eleanor.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Queensland Coalition Senator Sue Boyce speaking to me a short time ago from Canberra.