Editorial: Morrison exposed by failures on sexism and vaccine rollout—step up the pressure to sack him

Scott Morrison’s refusal to act on sexism and sexual assault is seriously damaging his support. Morrison’s approval rating among women has dropped 16 per cent since February. And the two-party preferred poll has Labor ahead of the Coalition 52-48.

The new Women’s Taskforce announced as part of his Cabinet reshuffle includes Linda Reynolds, who covered up Brittany Higgins’ rape, and Amanda Stoker as Assistant Minister for Women. Stoker has shown no interest in standing up to sexism, dismissing claims of bullying against women in the Liberal Party as “pathetic”.

She is a Christian right culture warrior who speaks at anti-abortion rallies and has contempt for transgender people, describing people’s right to affirm their gender identity as a “dangerous and radical transgender agenda”.

The taskforce chair Marise Payne, who Morrison labelled the “Prime Minister for Women”, has been completely invisible while the revelations of rape, sexual assault and sexism in parliament have surrounded the Liberals.

Morrison is determined to keep Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds in Cabinet despite calls for their sacking. Although they have moved portfolios both will keep their $360,000-a-year salaries.

Porter’s decision to sue the ABC for defamation over the rape allegation against him guarantees Porter and sexism will be media headlines for months. And Porter will be back in parliament in May where he is sure to face questions.

But sexism and sexual assault are not just a problem in parliament and the Liberal Party; almost every woman has her own experience of harassment or assault.

The disgust at Morrison’s inaction is so widespread because the Liberals actively entrench sexism and discrimination against women.

The farcical consent videos commissioned by the government show just how out of touch they are. They have so little empathy and so little understanding that they will always be part of the problem.

The Liberals have cut back JobSeeker to poverty levels, making it even more difficult for single mothers to survive. They have done nothing to make childcare more affordable, extend parental leave or fund services for women. Yet they can find $1 billion to build missiles.

Domestic violence services are facing unprecedented demand following the pandemic, yet face a $150 million funding cut. Women’s legal centres also face a “tsunami” of requests to deal with cases of violence against women but are desperately short of funding.

The Coalition has announced a women’s safety summit for July to discuss a new national plan on violence against women. It is window-dressing on their sexist system.

As Hayley Foster, the head of peak body Women’s Safety NSW argued, “We can’t wait until 2022 to act. Hundreds of thousands of women and children need help now. We cannot turn our backs on them when they need us most.”

Vaccines

After blustering last year that he had put Australia “at the front of the queue” to access COVID vaccines, Morrison’s rollout has descended into chaos. Globally, there is a real vaccine shortage due to the rich countries refusing to waive patents that would have allowed countries to make cheap copies of the vaccines. Now the profit-hungry big pharma manufacturers are plagued by production delays.

This has intensified “vaccine nationalism” as the rich countries rush to secure doses for themselves.

Morrison gambled on the AstraZeneca vaccine as it can be produced in Australia (and guarantee CSL profits), turning down advice to develop the capacity to manufacture other types of vaccines based on the mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna.

Now shortages of Pfizer and the very rare but serious blood clot side-effect from the AstraZeneca vaccine means it is unlikely everyone will receive a dose by the end of the year.

The Coalition played the vaccine nationalism game, signing four vaccine deals in an effort to jump ahead of other nations. But it is now a victim of the political game it played—with developing countries and workers in Australia too, paying a price for the Coalition’s greed and short-sightedness.

Morrison is now behind in the polls and seriously vulnerable. Labor’s small target strategy is letting him off the hook but a fightback for workers’ rights, climate action and against sexism could help finish him off.

The union victory at McCormick sauce shows that strikes can win.

The women’s March 4 Justice protests put huge pressure on Morrison. In Sydney, youth survivors of sexual assault have called another protest on 8 May to sack Porter, Reynolds, Laming and Morrison.

School Strike for Climate activists have also called their first climate strike since 2019 for 21 May—targeting Morrison’s plans for a gas-fired recovery and further expansion of fossil fuels.

The guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin in the US is a victory for the Black Lives Matter protests and shows the power of protest to challenge racism and sexism.

Large protests and strikes are the key to resisting Morrison and the bosses, and fighting for system change.

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