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We are all Matilda, betrayed by Tony Abbott

Like Australians, Matilda is not protected by the person who should be her foremost defender.

Like Australians, Matilda is not protected by the person who should be her foremost defender. Photo: AP

I have many flaws, at least according to my children. But the biggest is my obsession with musicals. I can sing my way through South Pacific, take a detour past Rydell High and arrive, shrieking with pleasure, at Next to Normal. These songs are not actually recognisable when I sing them - or that's the view of the ingrates.

We have a government which isn't standing up for us. 

So my enthusiasm that Tim Minchin's (and Roald Dahl's) Matilda the Musical will soon arrive in Australia is unbridled.

'You need governments to stand between innocent citizens and greed machines ... but Tony Abbott's is removing ...

'You need governments to stand between innocent citizens and greed machines ... but Tony Abbott's is removing protections of all kinds.' Photo: Andrew Meares

Based on the Dahl book, it's the story of Matilda Wormwood, whose father bullies and hectors her on a regular basis. She is made to feel hopeless and helpless. One evening (or did I just imagine the time of day? I developed a personal relationship with the book after reading it endlessly to my ingrate children), well, one day, Matilda is speaking to her father. He turns on her.

In the movie, the words go:

''Listen, you little wiseacre: I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong; and there's nothing you can do about it.''

Absolutely heartbreaking. Here is this person who is meant to be protecting little Matilda, and all he does is demean her, belittle her.

She is the underdog, despite her many talents, yet she is not protected by the person who should be her foremost defender.

Which is how we should all be feeling right now.

We have a government which isn't standing up for us. It's standing with the overdog. It's using the excuse of red tape and overlegislation. It's removing protections of all kinds. And it's not as if we can individually stand up for ourselves. You can't fight big by yourself - you need governments to stand between innocent citizens and greed machines.

Case 1: Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, on Monday in a speech at ANU, said the federal Attorney-General wanted to make amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. In other words, if you hate being called a boong or a yid or a spic on the streets, you better stop caring. Any changes to 18C will unleash a barrage of race hate.

This is mainly to appease the Coalition's biggest fan, Andrew Bolt. I can imagine he did not enjoy one bit being told in 2011 to pay money to the lawyers for the people he described as ''professional'' Aborigines. The changes to 18C would allow people to say whatever the hell they please.

Tim squeezed in a couple of minutes to speak to me before he gave his lecture. He said: ''If you remove 18C, you are removing one practical way ordinary Australians can speak up against racial harassment.

''Imagine if you worked for a big multinational and your boss was racially abusing you - or maybe you are a customer who has been abused, this way you have the means to get your abusers into a room to make them hear the harm they've caused you. It gives ordinary Australians the power to hold others accountable.''

The rest of us understand exactly how devastating it can be to be belittled in that way. Not Andrew Bolt, though. His response on the day the court found against him was: ''This is a terrible day for freedom of speech in this country.''

As opposed to a great day for getting people to think before they open their mouths and insult others based on race.

Case 2: Every time you get paid, some of that money gets put into an account you can't touch until you are decrepit. Someone takes care of that money on your behalf. When the time comes for you to get your hands on that money, you'll probably go to a financial adviser to get help with making it last. Apparently, for those of us freed from the shackles of work, it can be a pretty orgasmic moment.

Except some of those financial advisers have thought more about their own retirements than ours. Yes, they were promoting investments that they knew were dogs because some of those dogs came with doggy bags.

Now we have new legislation to protect us from the kennel, but that's being watered down by Arthur Sinodinos. His idea is that people who make financial products should be able to bribe - the words they use are ''pay a commission to'' - financial advisers to get us to invest in particular products. Because that worked so well with Storm Financial.

Case 3: We struggle to get gender equality into Australian workplaces (or anywhere, really). And one of the ways to make equality happen is to have the data that proves it doesn't exist.

Now the federal government is considering relaxing gender reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

The proposal is that companies with fewer than 1000 employees would be exempt from reporting on gender balance. Which would mean most of us would work for companies that would not have to report. The very companies that don't have the pressure to be publicly accountable would again slip into the pattern of hiring what's easy, what's traditional.

And all that's just in the last little while. If you are interested in more ways the federal government wants to crush Matilda, read Sally McManus' blog on what she calls Tracking Abbott's Wreckage.

We are all Matilda now. Our only hope is that we can have the same happy ending.

Twitter @jennaprice or email

Correction: This article initially incorrectly said Andrew Bolt was told in 2011 to pay money to people he described as "professional" Aborigines.  No order was made to Mr Bolt to pay compensation. He was, however, required to pay the plaintiffs' court costs.


  • If you’re going to run an article accusing the Prime Minister of betrayal, you might want to have some substance. Lifting restrictions on freedom of speech and some red tape reduction (small-medium sized business gender reporting) aren’t exactly substance.

    Not to mention the not-so-novel concept of paying commissions to financial advisers (from memory the unions also get commissions for providing “income protection cover” at places like Holden).

    Oh, and putting some union organiser up as a poster girl won’t really help the argument either. Isn’t McManus helping organise the …. ahem …. “non-partisan” march in March on Parliament House in two weeks’ time ?

    Betrayal - really ? The Ides of March approach – now that was betrayal.

    Date and time
    March 04, 2014, 9:52AM
    • Well said Andrew. Well it sounds like you or is it Peirs. Whoever really wants to send us back to the beginning of last century.

      Weston NSW
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:20AM
    • I can see why these laws need to be in place Hacka. It's because people like you believe the issues they address are of no substance.

      mid north coast
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:22AM
    • Lifting restrictions on freedom of speech? You mean hateful rascism? The very thing Christopher Pyne is deploring today about it happening in universities? Yes, why of course how silly of me, it is of course these protections that's restricting public debate in this country! Finally we will be unshackled and be able to speak our racist minds!

      What a sad period in the history of our country.

      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:23AM
    • And the best bit is the tax payer chips in and pays her for it.

      J Walker
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:23AM
    • Hacka, Bolt can continue to be offensive as long as his offensiveness has some basis in genuine research and or fact - unsupported hate speech isn't 'freedom of speech' for mine.

      The industry is still arguing about Sinodinos' watering down of consumer protections in FOFA; it's not an insignificant issue.

      Large, small or any other business are not being unduly worn down by the requirement to tick boxes on how many women they employ.

      I skipped by the introductory comments but Jenna's 3 points are entirely valid. Thanks though, important to know the Peta' perspective.

      The distractions and ad hominem didn't really add to the strength of your spin.

      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:40AM
    • So how does trying to quiet down the ABC increasing freedom of speech?

      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:42AM
    • You’re right Hacka. That was a pretty low level and short list of the abuses we are suffering at the hands of Abbott. It hardly backs up her arguments. I’m sure we can come up with a much longer and more significant list. In fact here’s one someone prepared earlier:

      And the elephant in the room in terms of Abbott policies is the TOTAL AND COMPLETE ABSENCE of ANY PROACTIVE POLICIES. How will he create jobs?

      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:43AM
    • Hacka ..... spot on !
      It is plainly obvious the critics of Mr Abbott, mostly do so just because he is leader of LNP, and are blinded critics without reading substance. There is no doubt had Mr Abbott's words come from Shorten or Milne, they would have been revered as socially responsible !

      Pistol Pete
      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 10:54AM
    • jofek - even if you believe that these three issues are valid, you could hardly argue that they are major ones. In each case they're tinkering on the fringes of the particular subject matter.

      To draw the conclusion that they constitute some sort of betrayal is laughable, but i guess we shouldn't be surprised.

      QED illustrates the point well - "abuses we are suffering at the hands of Abbott". You luvvies seem to struggle with democracy. Luckily most Australians don't.

      Date and time
      March 04, 2014, 11:00AM

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