Australian Notes

Australian notes

12 September 2020

9:00 AM

12 September 2020

9:00 AM

Mike Carlton does not deserve his gong

Welcome to modern Australia, where encouraging the strangulation of women, calling them crazy, dim-witted, halfwits and ‘Miss Piggy’ is not just acceptable, but rewarded with our nation’s highest honour.

So, too, are attacks on Jewish people and anyone not holding your particular political views.

These are the lessons I have learnt since the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honour Awards when former journalist Mike Carlton was awarded an Australian honour, an award recently confirmed by the Council of the Order of Australia.

Unfortunately for me, this is personal.

When I appeared on the ABC TV program Q&A last year, Mr Carlton live tweeted ‘Never have I admired Jimmy Barnes so much as tonight.  How does he not leap from his seat and strangle the Liberal shill on his right?’.

Bad enough that this is dangerous and sexist language. Around Australia non-fatal strangulation is now an offence in nearly every jurisdiction, and is widely recognised as an action almost entirely perpetrated by men against women.

Worse, Mr Carlton’s comments were made during a show when singer Jimmy Barnes described horrific acts of violence against women, including his brother-in-law tying his sister’s hair in a barbed wire fence and almost beating her to death on their wedding night.

Mr Carlton’s comments also came just weeks after I held my seat of Boothby at the 2019 federal election, despite a deeply aggressive campaign against me from GetUp!, Labor and the unions, being stalked and having my campaign office vandalised and being called a ‘skank’ and a prostitute who charges $60 an hour.

But Mr Carlton’s denigration of conservative women is not limited to me.

According to Mr Carlton, ‘I’m not sure what a Rita Panahi is. It sounds like one of those lolly pink, sticky sweet Indian rice puddings.’ (Rita Panahi is a respected Herald-Sun journalist and Sky News Australia and 2GB commentator).

‘Dunno who or what is this Daisy Cousens. But she can’t write and she’s as thick as cow shit’, and ‘I don’t think even the RWFWs take Crazy Daisy seriously…’. (Daisy is a conservative commentator on Sky News Australia).

The Australian’s Sharri Markson is a ‘weapons-grade halfwit and Murdochracy toady’ and her colleague Judith Sloan is ‘fat-headed’, ‘dim witted’ and ‘Miss Piggy’.

In the context of these examples of his broader body of abusive tweeting, it was surprising to formally learn of the lack of standards applicable to our Honours system.

I was under the mistaken impression there were some standards left in this nation, like tolerance, respect and decency.

However, the Council of the Order of Australia has decreed that unless you have been subject to a conviction, penalty or adverse finding you can say whatever you like, no matter how dangerous, derogatory or despicable, and still hold our nation’s top honour. The Council will not look at your service to the nation through a broad lens that considers your contribution as a whole, rather, through the narrow prism of the work for which you have been nominated.

I am therefore disappointed I will be forced to resort to my least preferred option of locating some sort of formal sanction to address Mr Carlton’s Award, especially when his disturbing views are well-known and easily discoverable. He had to resign from his employment at Fairfax for his appalling treatment of Jewish people. His attacks on conservative women are extensive and repetitive, and he has never, ever apologised.

When I stood up to Mr Carlton’s abusive behaviour towards me and Sharri Markson, he replied ‘What a pathetic little twerp you are: a Liberal party hack of no notable attainment and no evident future. I do not abuse women and it is defamatory to say I do. Stop whining.’

Speaking to Fairfax, he said calls to strip him of his award was ‘a piece of malicious bullying by the rabid right-wing culture warriors at News Corpse … followed up by a couple of the madder right-wing Liberal party MPs’, which I assume means me.

While I’m not surprised by Mr Carlton’s ongoing abuse, I am surprised by a number of things in relation to this matter.

I am surprised by the attitude of some in my government that this is simply a matter of freedom of speech; is it any wonder we lack women in our ranks?

I am surprised by the inconsistency between the decision by the Council of the Order of Australia that anything goes in terms of standards, and statements on the Order of Australia website.

The website claims nominations for awards should include ‘examples of how they [individuals] have demonstrated outstanding qualities’ and ‘what they have done to make things better for others’.

As His Excellency the Governor-General the Hon. David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) says himself, ‘the Australian Honours and Awards system provides the people of Australia the opportunity to recognise and say “thank you” to those whose efforts make our communities and our nation a better place’.

Mike Carlton’s abusive tweets have not made things better for others. He has not demonstrated outstanding qualities. His views do not make our nation a better place.

Notably, it is the Governor-General who has final say on who receives our nation’s Honours. Which leads me to the most surprising aspect of this all.

Back in 2016 Australian of the Year, Lieutenant General (Retd) David Morrison popularised a saying about gender equality, but later revealed he had borrowed the line from one of his senior leaders.

The leader? Former Chief of the Defence Force, then Governor of New South Wales, now His Excellency Governor-General, the Hon. David Hurley.  The saying? ‘The standard you walk by is the standard you accept.’

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