Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a blow from an unexpected quarter this week. Under the headline, “PM Pays High Price for Cheap Outrage,” News Corp’s Sydney tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, drew further attention to Morrison’s treatment of women.
The trigger was former Australia Post CEO Christina Holgate’s Senate inquiry testimony on Tuesday. Holgate was dragged into the spotlight last year when Scott Morrison made an example of her for giving Cartier watches as bonuses to top Australia Post executives at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Morrison evidently considered her an easy target, and indeed it has taken Holgate until now to get her own back. In the Senate this week it emerged that Holgate had authority to give bonuses of up to $150,000 to the four executives, who had secured a $220 million deal to bring banking services to Australia Post.
Yet Holgate was publicly humiliated following Morrison’s attack. She has said that in particular, she resented being depicted as a prostitute in a cartoon in the AFR.
“I don’t accept there were any gender-related issues here at all,” Morrison said this week. “This is about the issues of taxpayers’ money.”
Yet when Morrison did give an apology of a sort, he did not say sorry for forcing Holgate out, but only for hurting her fragile little feelings. “I gave a very strong response,” said Morrison. “I see that has caused some very strong reaction from Christine and hurt her deeply. That was not my intention, and so I regret that.”
Thus, Wednesday’s newspaper stands saw Morrison criticised for “cheap outrage.” News Corp’s chief federal political editor James Morrow wondered if the perception that Morrison is deaf, blind and dumb on gender issues could be resonating with more than just the perennially anti-LNP.
“The PM should not think it hasn’t been noticed by diehard Liberal voters,” wrote Morrow. In fact, “It’s not just the feminist left who worries that the PM ‘just doesn’t get it.’”
It’s difficult to say whether this hit – low-key by News Corp standards – signals a more substantial shift. It may simply be a short-lived quid pro quo for Morrison’s failed attempt to call out Sky News for a workplace harassment incident during his Brittany Higgins apology.
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