The Trouble with Tony

There’s something visceral about the way we women respond to Tony Abbott.

It’s a gut reaction. Deep down we know he’s no good for us.

We can locate some vague feeling of unease but, when it’s there in the latest opinion polls, the Liberal Party should have a long hard look at their pin-up boy.

Women can see through the façade of the fit, charitable family man who’s partial to a spot of… what?

No one knows what Tony does in his spare time. Does he have any? Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Most women know Malcolm Turnbull likes to blog about his dogs.

Liberal, Labor, the ladies like Malcolm and his wife Lucy.

His heartfelt eulogy for his departed dog Mellie had most of us crying buckets.

Tony’s problem is that women don’t like him.

It’s all there in the latest opinion polls if anyone cares to dig a little deeper.

Essential Media’s January poll found 53 per cent of women disapprove of Tony Abbott as Opposition leader; 29 per cent approve.

His disapproval rate among women has jumped two points since August, while approval has dropped four points.

“He is much stronger with men than women,” according to the CEO of Essential Media Communications, Peter Lewis.

The results from Newspoll are equally telling.

Aggregating the results over the last quarter, on the question of who would be the better Prime Minister, one point separates Julia Gillard on 39 per cent and Tony Abbott on 38 per cent.

But if you, like the late and beloved Mellie, keep digging, a disparity emerges.

42 per cent of women prefer Julia Gillard; 33 per cent Tony Abbott.

“There is a significant gender imbalance,” Newspoll CEO Martin O’Shannessy told me.

What is it with Tony? Is anyone listening to what women have to say?

Take his position on equal pay.

In a landmark test case yesterday, almost 150,000 community sector workers – mainly women – were awarded pay rises between 19 and 41 per cent.

These are Australia’s unsung heroes.

They care for the disabled, run homeless shelters, and counsel families in crisis.

Fair Work Australia found their work was undervalued because of their gender.

“We’re hoping this decision will go towards putting a dent in the 18 per cent pay gap between men and women in Australia,” Sally McManus from the Australian Services Union said.

The Prime Minister put out a statement saying the decision was “good for the sector, good for caring workers, good for women, good for families and good for the economy”.

But there was nothing from the Opposition Leader.

That’s because in 2010, Tony Abbott refused to commit a future Coalition government to supporting the equal pay case.

In the Australian Women’s Weekly that year, Helen McCabe wrote, “On the problem of businesses paying women on average 16 per cent less than they pay men in the same jobs, Tony is unaware there is still a problem”.

This was the same interview in which he described a woman’s virginity as “the greatest gift you can give someone”.

As Virginia Hausseger opined on the SMH website, “Abbott’s logic suggests a female’s most precious and important asset, above all else, is her sex”.

The next month, he made the assumption that only women do the housework.

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that… their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up,” he said.

Then there’s abortion.

Ethicist Leslie Cannold remembers a speech from 2004 when Mr. Abbott described it as “an objectively grave matter [that] has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience”.

During the RU486 debate he shouted, “Mr Speaker, we have a bizarre double standard in this country where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder, but a woman aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice”.

It’s only a matter of time before the Mad Monk is influenced by the ‘personhood’ push in the United States, which gives embryos the rights of a human being.

Such vexatious views have since gone through the spin cycle.

In an infamous 7:30 Report interview, Mr. Abbott said we should only trust his scripted statements.

Like his ‘commitment’ to paid parental leave.

It was strategically inserted into his book Battlelines before being thrust – uncosted – onto the party platform.

Of course, it’s never going to happen.

You’ve heard of oil companies ‘greenwashing’ their image through environmental causes?

This is nothing more than ‘pinkwashing’.

His latest inability to commit to a National Disability Insurers Scheme says the same.

Women are the carers in this country.

Can’t he feel their frustration and pain?

In the words of political commentator Bruce Haigh, “his compassion for the downtrodden and needy is wafer thin”.

If you think I’m some kind of man-hater, think again.

I love men. I even married one. Fortunately, he thinks women are equals.

Tony doesn’t – despite his happy snaps surrounded by three daughters and a doting wife.

This isn’t going to change any time soon.

Tony Abbott’s unscripted comments over several decades reveal a patronising attitude towards women.

As a result, we don’t trust him.

Well, not all women.

There’s a coterie of conservatives who want to shackle him to the bed with a string of pearls for a right royal rogering.*

The rest of us sit back and wonder when someone from the Liberal Party will realise that Tony has a women’s problem.

And just the mention of that term has them heading for the golf course.

*I apologise for putting this image into your heads.