‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Or so Lord Byron said – and if anyone would know, it’s him. And in Australia this week, there are two women who are feeling fury, bitterness and a burning desire to get even over what they see as a great injustice done them.
One is the former foreign minister Julie Bishop who has been dissing the government, while smiling sweetly through gritted teeth, remarking that her peers in foreign governments have been asking her why Malcolm Turnbull is no longer prime minister and commenting that Australia, in some quarters, is now seen as the Italy of the South Pacific.
Her comments were not helpful to the government and were, essentially, not intended to be. Bishop would have been better served, instead of speaking to the media, investigating why not one of her Western Australian colleagues, reportedly, backed her in the leadership spill.
The other woman threatening to raise hell is, of course, the sacked head of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, whose face and words have made headlines for the past two days after it was announced that Justin Milne, ABC Board Chair, had terminated her employment.
Feminists and Friends of the ABC (often they come in the package) were furious, but, like Bishop and Guthrie, who did not see it coming, now find that instead of being ‘taken on the tide that leads to fortune’, are pretty well left beached. There is not much they can do, though Bishop smarts on the backbench and Guthrie is examining her legal options.
Perhaps Julie Bishop really did think she would win the leadership from Peter Dutton, seen as too burdened with unpleasant baggage from his Home Affairs portfolio. Perhaps Michelle Guthrie avoided or ignored warning signs signalling her tenure at the ABC was in trouble.
Neither of these smart, competent, supremely confident women saw it coming, though surely this is the essence of leadership, how to read the wind and trim the ship’s sails accordingly.
Bishop probably should and no doubt will be mollified, if she wishes to be, with the offer of a plum promotion – and her former Department will miss her (they have named a meeting room the ‘Julie Bishop Room’ in her honour).
Michelle Guthrie has threatened litigation but the government must stand firm and not allow taxpayers to fund a hugely expensive legal action. If Guthrie wishes to pursue her legal options, the ABC should be made to pay for it, for her five-year contract was only at the halfway mark.
The ABC – despite all the feel-good pictures and slogans, is viewed by many as an expensive bureaucracy that seems to be speaking only for, and only to, inner-city elites.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have to negotiate a careful path through this minefield of angry, disappointed female feelings. Because Byron really knew what he was talking about.
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