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Using the 'dad tag' is fine, PM, but you can't pick and choose when you wear it

Opinion

If Scott Morrison is drawing on his experience as a father and husband to demonstrate his empathy, he shouldn’t get to choose the issues on which the ‘dad’ tag is used, writes Madonna King

Print article

Scott Morrison should be applauded – not ridiculed – for invoking his daughters in response to Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

The problem for the Prime Minister, though, is he’s playing a game of picking and choosing – using his daughters as the reason for action on some issues, and not on others.

Like affirmative action. Schools policy. Cyberbullying. Workplace discrimination. Youth affairs. Domestic Violence. Mental health, particularly programs relating to anxiety and body image.

Politics is not a Game of Pick A Box and the Prime Minister shouldn’t get to choose the issues on which the “dad” tag is used.

That’s a marketer’s game, and Scott Morrison needs to leave the Scotty from Marketing moniker behind.

We all use our experience to be better at what we do; whether it’s a challenge, in our careers or how we parent. So it is reasonable that Scott Morrison would consider his daughters in factoring how he should deal with the Brittany Higgins accusations.

People are routinely selected to carry out tasks, because of their lived or specific area of experience. Being a father should be no different. Just as being a mother can provide valuable insight into a range of issues, beyond lunchbox preparation and homework problems.

That means, it should be a good thing for Scott Morrison to draw on his experience as a father to consider how Higgins has been treated, the ongoing impact she might be feeling, how his government has responded, and crucially, how we destroy the culture at the centre of such accusations.

It was even refreshing, perhaps, that he admitted he was prompted to think this way by his wife Jenny, the mother of his two daughters.

“Jenny and I spoke last night and she said to me, you have to think about this as a father. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?” he told reporters.

“Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so, as I’ve reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say.”

If that’s true, and drawing on his experience as a father allows him to do it, he should be congratulated. If that’s true.

The outcry over his reference to being a father carries an accusation, perhaps based in experience, that he is using his daughters in this case.

And that’s where his position looks rocky.

Where is his assessment in other policy areas, based around his experience as a father?

Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children were brutally murdered a year ago – almost to the day – and the Commonwealth’s response to domestic violence remains paltry. What if that was his daughters?

Where is the same consideration when it comes to representation on boards and in parliament? Doesn’t he want his daughters to have the same opportunity as their male peers? If so, what is he doing about it?

What about in mental health policy, where parents and schools are struggling with a plethora of mental health issues affecting our teen girls: anxiety, self-harm, a struggle to find resilience? Can he draw on his experience as a father to navigate some more funds for those areas?

What about the school system, where educators are weighed down by a tsunami of demands unrelated to the curriculum. Do Scott Morrison’s daughters’ teachers deserve a pay rise?

Does he ever think of the two young girls from the Biloela Tamil family who are living their lives on Christmas Island, when he thinks of his own two gorgeous girls?

The list is long. And Scott Morrison’s opened himself up to accusations he has used the “dad tag” because he hasn’t used it in other instances.

We should not attack a politician or any leader for drawing on their experience as a parent. Indeed, we’d have better policy if they identified more with some of the issues at the heart of parenting

The problem is when they use it only when it suits them.

 

 

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