Well, it’s been an interesting week for women, hasn’t it. Friday June 18, as Sydney-siders were standing in coffee queues ready to start the new day, David Jones announced the resignation of CEO Mark McInnes. McInnes, the Golden Boy the retail world tendered his resignation due to behaving “in a manner unbecoming of a chief executive to a female staff member” at two company functions. Six days later, in a move that stunned the country, Julia Gillard became the country’s 27th Prime Minister, and the country’s first female prime minister.
Let’s deal with the victory first. Like many other Australian’s I have a bad taste in my mouth about how Prime Minister Gillard came to power. It wasn’t the feminist victory I’d barely dared imagine and I felt sick about the back room dealings of the Labor Party. Which in hindsight is ridiculous – especially for a woman who can damn near enact the entire series of The West Wing. Politics is a dirty business: if you’re not made of steel, I don’t know why the hell you would get involved. As the morning went on, I began to realise that Australia now had the opportunity to go to the polling booths, and for the first time in it’s anglo-saxon history, vote a woman, on her own merits, into the Lodge.
I feel sorry for Prime Minister Rudd, I really do, but like I said, politics is a ruthless cut-throat game. It was brutal, but with Abbott catching up to Labor in the polls, and the efforts of the mining industry, they did the only thing they could have done. As stomach-turning as it was, I’d rather have the ALP Bully-boys running the show, than Tony Abbott. I love the 1950’s – love them – but I don’t want to go back there, and I’m terrified that Tony would have made little Johnnie Howard’s government seem like halcyon days. I mean, think about Australia with the Mad Monk at the helm.
Watching Ms Gillard sworn in (by another woman – with the colours of suffrage pinned to her coat, God love her), I began to get that fire in my belly. I wanted to quit my job and go work for Julia, I wanted to throw my weight behind her and get her elected. I know she’s traditional left-wing – which means we’ll get an exciting election this time around, what with Tony being a Capital C Conservative.
But still those right wing labour party bully boys make me nervous. Actually, it seems the NSW right wing, whether Liberal or Labor, are trouble-makers. I hold the right wing Liberal party responsible for John Brodgen’s demise – had they not done such a hatchet job on him, he’d be at Macquarie Street right now, and my train might be clean and on time for once. Of course, he’d have privatised public transport, so my fares would have quadrupled, but that’s another soapbox.
According to the media analysis over the weekend (ok, Barry Cassidy and the insiders crew – it was a busy weekend!) it was the rumblings in the western Sydney electorates about “boat people” that started to put the wind up the NSW Labor right. That’s well and good; people have a right to have their fears voiced and heard, but I’m extremely nervous that the ALP policy on refugees will take a step towards the right, and we’ll start locking people up because they want a better life. Yes, we have to defend our borders (I’m learning a lot about boundaries at the moment) but surely not at the cost of our humanity, which is what I believe we lost under a Howard Government. I look forward to hearing what sort of PM Miss Gillard is, and what direction she plans to take the country in.
While I have huge reservations about the price Prime Minister Gillard will have to pay for her elevation, I am thrilled that I now have the opportunity to volunteer and do what I can to get the first female Prime Minister elected on her own merits. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think she’s a shoe-in, we should not underestimate the deeply ingrained patriarchy that Australia is. Whatever you think about Tony Abbott, he is an appealing candidate to both men and women, and I don’t think for a second anyone should take it for granted that it’s going to be an easy fight.
Which brings me round to the David Jones debacle. It was a (female) ABC journalist, who put it to Chairman Robert Savage, that Mark McInnes’ behaviour would come as no surprise to those in the retail industry, nor to the media. Over the coming days we were to hear that there had been complaints about Mark McInnes going back 20 years. 20 years. If a journalist on the Daily Telegraph knew that McInnes was a “pants man” how could the board of David Jones not know? They are either incompetent or lying; either way the lot of them need to be sacked. Perhaps they could let Kristy Fraser-Kirk, who has shown incredible courage by standing up when countless other men and women didn’t, have the top job.
But the board’s actions aside, I think the Mark McInnes scandal poses deeper questions. He’s not the first man to come undone because he couldn’t keep his hands to himself, or comprehend that when a woman says no, sometimes she means “get the hell away from me”. I’m frustrated that Mark McInnes was allowed to get away with sexual harassment – and that’s what it is – for 20 years because no one had the guts to say “your behaviour is not acceptable”. He thought he could get away with it, because he did get away with it for twenty years. And then he was rewarded for it with $2 million cash plus all his shares. I’d really like someone to explain how he gets to keep any of his entitlements. And I want to know what’s going to happen to Kristy Frazer-Kirk.
I think it’s time that men and women told these organizations that their actions are not acceptable. I’m a DJ’s cardholder, and I have been for 15 years. Next week I’ll be settling my account with DJ’s, and sending my card back to Mr Robert Savage, Chairman, telling him I will never shop at DJs again, because I refuse to believe he did not know what his CEO was up to. If you are as frustrated and disappointed and fed up as I am, and tired of the pants men of the world being rewarded for their conduct, then I urge you to do the same. It’s time we hit companies where it hurts – their bottom line.
I would like to pay my respect to a man that behaved with dignity this week. Watching Kevin Rudd walk out of the Labor caucus meeting, flanked by Hon.John Faulkner, I really had to admire him. I’m not sure I’d have had the guts to face the media. I respect Prime Minister Rudd for the honesty and vulnerability with which he gave his final speech. Listening to the list of things he had accomplished, I remembered the euphoria of election night, watching the Liberals annihilated across the country, I danced when I realised John Howard has lost his seat. And then the dreamlike state after he’d taken office, I remember saying to The Chai “Am I dreaming?” And then the 26th Prime Minister took his seat on the back bench for question time. Mr McInnes – this is what “Conduct becoming a CEO” looks like.
It’s a shame Prime Minister Rudd came undone the way he did, because he gave me something I thought I’d lost – my pride at being Australian. And that’s something no right wing bully boy can ever take away from him – and hopefully me.