So Federal Minister for Health Sussan Ley has ‘stepped aside’ while there is an investigation into her personal expense claims, just like Bronwyn Bishop, former Speaker and Minister, did. Did Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Peter Slipper or Steve Irons amongst others do this when their expense claims were questioned and found wanting? No. I’m not defending any of them, but it does seem there is a prima facie case that women politicians either react to or are treated differently than men for similar offences. And this seems to be a world phenomenon.
Why are so many women being burned?
Right now, Dilma Rouseff, the President of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner, the ex-President (2015) of Argentina and Park Geun-Hye, the President of South Korea – all women (and there are very few women Presidents) have all been or are expected to be forced out of office for corruption. And we might add that Christine Lagarde, former French Minister and now Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, was found guilty by a French court of corruption while her IMF predecessor, the much despised Dominique Strauss-Kahn, survived several court cases and law suits related to his sexual affairs. Glad I’m not a woman politician…
One explanation of course is that they are all guilty, so what’s the problem? But, even if this is the case (which it probably is…), what about men politicians who have behaved similarly? In Brazil, Rousseff was actually the protege of her predecessor, Lula da Silva, who has also been accused of corruption, but has not been charged. And her successor, Michel Temer, has similarly been accused but not charged.
In Argentina, corruption seems to have been the norm, but only Kirchner has been forced from office, though Peron was removed by the military. In South Korea, Park is the first woman President in all of Asia…but also the first to be impeached, despite being the daughter of a past President and the strong links known to exist between government officials and the major South Korean chaebols. And she is only accused of having been ‘influenced’ by one of her assistants (Choi Soon-sil, also a woman), who seems to have been the one to benefit from Park’s decisions.
In Australia, Ley’s initial ‘crime’ was to claim around $400 for accommodation for a trip in which she made an official speech and bought an apartment, but a list of expense claims are now being scrutinised. But she paid it back…and then stood down! Would many men politicians do that?
Each of these cases are individual, if not unique. I haven’t made a study of all cases of political corruption across the world, but it does seem that – in these days of lack of individual political responsibility – women seem to be being burnt at a much higher rate than men. I don’t believe this is because women are more corrupt than men – the reverse seems a more likely conclusion.
Perhaps it’s just a power thing. Men cling to power more or better than women. Perhaps it’s a gender thing. Men don’t like women ruling them, so they work harder at undermining women. I’m sure Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton would agree with that. Perhaps it’s an ethics thing. Women are more ethical than men and step down more readily when challenged.
What to do?
Women readers probably say ‘Ho hum. This is life for us. Life is not equal.’ Men probably haven’t thought about it. And don’t, because it’s uncomfortable and best ignored or avoided.
Unless women are prepared to stand together and support each other better – even some of their baddies – they will continue to lose out to the men baddies, because men won’t give the power away easily.