Federal Politics

Witching hour at Peter Dutton's office as protesters call for sacking over text

Women who say they are "mad about misogyny" and fed up with sexism have protested outside the electorate office of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, calling for him to be sacked.

Dressed in witches' hats and carrying broomsticks, the group expressed their anger about Mr Dutton's use of gendered language in a now-infamous text message to News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden.

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'Witches' call for Peter Dutton's resignation

Mad about misogyny and not charmed by sexism, Melbourne's mad witch community gather to protest the sexist treatment by Minister Peter Dutton.

The minister called Maiden a "mad f---ing witch" in an SMS intended for his parliamentary colleague Jamie Briggs that was accidentally sent to Maiden herself.

Protesters say Mr Dutton's remark was one of a number of sexist incidents to take place in Australia in the past fortnight, including Briggs' indiscretions in a Hong Kong bar and cricketer Chris Gayle asking journalist Mel McLaughlin out for a drink during a post-match interview.

"The witching hour": About 15 protesters gathered outside Peter Dutton's office north of Brisbane.
"The witching hour": About 15 protesters gathered outside Peter Dutton's office north of Brisbane. Photo: Sam Pidgeon

Briggs was forced to resign from the frontbench, while Gayle has paid a $10,000 fine and may yet be thrown out of the Big Bash League.

But the protesters, assembling under the banner of "Mad F---ing Witches", argue Mr Dutton has escaped relatively unscathed. He has apologised to Maiden, who accepted the apology, describing him as a "good minister" and saying he did not deserve to go to the backbench.

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Protester Sam Pidgeon said Mr Dutton's contrition was not good enough.

"It's not ok to say, 'well, he apologised for sending the text message," she said. "Sending the text message by mistake to someone isn't the issue here. The issue is that we have a senior member of cabinet who is referring to women as mad f---ing witches."

The women say Peter Dutton's apology in insufficient and he should be sacked.
The women say Peter Dutton's apology in insufficient and he should be sacked. Photo: Sam Pidgeon

Ms Pidgeon, a Labor Party member who is also vice-president of the non-affiliated Queensland Teachers' Union, said about 15 people gathered outside Mr Dutton's office in Strathpine, Brisbane on Friday to call for his removal.

The minister has angered women before. In 2010 he defended telling the then health minister Nicola Roxon to "get on her broomstick", a remark he was forced to withdraw in Parliament.

About a dozen protesters also gathered in Melbourne's Federation Square.
About a dozen protesters also gathered in Melbourne's Federation Square. Photo: Van Badham

"His sexist language and the way he is portraying women whom he happens to disagree with is completely unacceptable and has no place in Australia in 2016," Ms Pidgeon said.

About a dozen protesters also gathered in Melbourne's Federation Square bearing signs declaring "Witches' rights are women's rights" and "We'll put a spell on the patriarchy".

The group has launched the "Dutton Witch Project" to have the minister ousted.
The group has launched the "Dutton Witch Project" to have the minister ousted. Photo: Sam Pidgeon

The term "witch" is generally thought of as a gendered insult when used by men to describe women. Feminist author and commentator Jane Caro told Fairfax Media: "By saying 'mad f---ing witch' you are actually painting a picture of something that is very different from 'mad f---ing idiot', which would have been fine because it's an equal opportunity insult."

Mr Turnbull has cautioned Mr Dutton over the incident, calling the text message "inappropriate". But Greens leader Richard Di Natale has called for the minister to be sacked and be replaced by a woman.

Labor has continued to push for an investigation into who leaked a photograph of the female public servant who complained about Mr Briggs' behaviour in Hong Kong, but the PM has resisted those demands, suggesting an inquiry would likely come to no fruition.

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