In parliament, Morrison said: “It is good and right, Mr Speaker, that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations. This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker. Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr Speaker; not here in this country. This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.”1
This is perhaps one of the strangest things I have heard Morrison say: That women, in addition to needing to protect themselves from rape by not going out, getting drunk or being alone, should now be grateful for not being shot at for demonstrating.
It is extraordinary that he is more concerned with the fact of the March For Justice, rather than the reason women and their supporters marched. While I suspect that this effort is simply due to some ham-fisted, tone-deaf speechwriter cocking things up when asked frantically by Morrison to write something about the many, many thousands attending the march, it does make you wonder if there was more to it. After all, Morrison has done this sort of thing before. In his apology to the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, he inserted the word ‘ritual’ into the phrase ‘crimes of ritual sexual abuse’. There was nothing ritual about the abuse they suffered, but he inserted it to give a nod to his favoured conspiracy theory demographic, the QAnon nutters. This is one of the favourite QAnon conspiracy theories that the world is run by paedophiles who eat babies and drink their blood in some sort of ritual2. In this case, I do wonder if Morrison is using the same technique to appeal to the far right and other misogynists to let them know that women have nothing to complain about; after all, they are not being ‘met with bullets’?
While I have always been struck by the similarities between Morrison and Trump, in that both are malignant narcissists, this latest effort by Morrison only makes me suspect the comparison is closer than it seemed before. In one of the presidential debates between Biden and Trump, late in 2020, the moderator Chris Wallace asked whether Trump would condemn white supremacists and tell them to stand down during protests over police killings and racism. Of course, Trump maintained that “almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” Then in a disturbing passage, Trump said: “Proud Boys – stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what… Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.” The Proud Boys, a far-right, anti-immigrant, men-only group with a history of violence, took Trump’s comments as being “historic” and an endorsement3. In that light, I wonder what misogynists in Australia will make of Morrison’s comment. Will they take it as an endorsement?
As Les Stonehouse said: “Morrison, thanks for not shooting people demonstrating against violence. Now, if only women could walk through a park at night.”4