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Memo to drunk male MPs: You can't get away with it any more

We have come a long way in the past 10 years in the condemnation of sexist, drunken behaviour by politicians in front of female colleagues. Ten years ago, a politician propositioning a journalist, pinching another's bottom in the Marble Bar and calling the Premier's wife a "mail-order bride" was almost a capital offence.

The shame and self-loathing of John Brogden was such that, and in the pits of his darkest despair, he felt he could attempt to carry out the punishment before the trial. It is a tribute to his courage and the community's sensitive flexibility to such behaviour when taken in context, that he is again a powerbroker in a society where John Profumo, 20 years earlier in the UK, would have never been allowed to re-enter.

Frontbencher Jamie Briggs said work took him away from home 165 nights last year.
Frontbencher Jamie Briggs said work took him away from home 165 nights last year. Photo: Andrew Meares

History is replete with countless episodes with ordinary-looking men in political power, with a few drinks under the belly, thinking they have become God's gift to women, when overseas, lurching between beauties who would, they expect, immediately fall to their knees if told they had piercing eyes, especially after a peck on the neck to soften them up.

You can't get away with it any more. In Brogden's day, so much was misunderstood about the innate insult of such remarks that the ultra-sensitive ladies man, Tony Abbott, days after the incident, was asked publicly about a particular health proposal, is said to have replied: "If we did that we would be as dead as the former NSW Liberal leader's political prospects."

That cruel remark was at least gender, if not humanity-neutral.  Such was the thickness of his butch skin, Abbott began his address at the Kenthurst branch meeting of the Liberal Party the same day reportedly by saying, "I just want to make it clear that I have never made an inappropriate joke, I've never pinched a woman's backside and I've never made inappropriate remarks to women". It's a wonder it took 10 years to get rid of him.

Whatever else she did in parliament; Julia Gillard exposed that dark bred-in-the-bone side of Australian misogyny that sat like the character in Wake in Fright, in the shape of Abbott. 

I throw these stones not from some lofty ivory tower, but from the prison many of my colleagues have put me in for the same silly, stupid behaviour. Australians are not cavaliers, but cheeky larrikins. So it was not the female diplomat that fell on Jamie Briggs' sword, but he himself, pushed by his colleagues.

Dutton, rhymes with mutton, tried to show Queensland solidarity and put his piggy-pinky finger on the address of the journalist he was calling "a mad … witch'' and another pinky finger on "send", when intending to send it to his comrade-in-nobody's-arms,  Briggs. He didn't use his lack of sobriety to absolve his idiotic behaviour. 

Men who don't understand women do so inevitably by calling them mad. And this particular woman journalist exercised a rare charity by forgiving him and saving his career. Such is the difference between men and women. 

It's one thing to condemn the behaviour of our pale, gin-soaked leaders on junkets in places once called colonies with the cavalier, broad-grinning Caribbean cricketer's cheerful attempts at humour, obviously a testosterone-driven man high on himself who just hit 41 runs off 15 balls, and his awkward attempts at flirting.

When George Clooney bats an eyelid at an interviewer in his flirty, cappuccino way, the world does not come down like a tonne of bricks by calling him a sleaze. Chris Gayle is of a generation in their mid-30s who think they are expected to behave flirtatiously in the carnival atmosphere of a raging, warring game.  

The June Dally-Watkins School for manners and seduction techniques might not have hit Jamaica when Gayle was going through school. Caribbean sportsmen were traditionally championed as swordsmen on and off the cricketing field. So it's a bit cruel to label him a sleaze and forbid him to play again in this country if you've ever read the accumulated tweets of Shane Warne. 

Of course there will come a time when female journalists are interviewing extraordinary athletes in the middle of a game, and it is expected that everyone will behave as if it were Sunday School.

On the other hand, I've long pondered why the female journalists who are chosen to interview these swaggering athletes could never be described as "plain" or below average facial symmetry than contestants in Australia's Biggest Loser. Perhaps the media could give more considered thought to choosing talented sporting journalists with the wit, charm and deep knowledge of cricket like Magda Szubanski to cut down on the tendency to flirt and to assist in the advancement of careers of talented journalists less blessed by God in the looks department.