What's with right-wing Australian commentators? Last week a familiar theme re-emerged with the attack by Steve Price on Jacinda Ardern on Channel 10's The Project.
Price was "sick and tired of that woman" who too many felt "could do no wrong". Moreover she should spend her holiday money in her own country, Hamilton and Canterbury for example.
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Going to the Gold Coast was, Price had it, "virtue signalling". It was nothing of the sort: the virtue that Price was signalling (prime ministers should not take their breaks overseas) was all of his own making. But it made no sense. Australia's own prime minister had just taken an overseas holiday which brought him much flak for its timing and the secrecy with which it had been organised.
But as most people recognised, PMs need to get away occasionally and can holiday where they like. What was Price actually doing? He was bloviating, seeking relevance, reinforcing his profile with his own audience which disapproves of anybody who is not conservative. That includes Ardern.
His diatribe was as unedifying and illogical as it was self-serving, and next day he apologised as he recognised how silly his comments had been.
Price's attitude to Ardern has been seen often in the Australian media. Alan Jones infamously advised Scott Morrison to "shove a sock down her throat", for which he too had to apologise. He got attention by making the comment, and he got more by apologising. He uses this strategy periodically.
Tirades against people not of a conservative stripe are part of what Price and Jones do for attention and relevance. The same applies to Andrew Bolt of Sky TV and Melbourne's Herald-Sun. These men seem to reserve their harshest outbursts for women whose politics they abhor.
That does not mean only women come under fire. Jones has attacked men on a very wide front - emergency service leaders to businesspeople and political figures from all sides - but his language is at its most inflammatory (even violent) when he targets females.
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Remember his outbursts against former prime minister Julia Gillard (who he wanted thrown overboard in a chaff bag), and Louise Herron (the CEO of the Sydney Opera House) when she refused to screen a horse-racing advertisement on the sails of the famous building?
Andrew Bolt was particularly strident on Greta Thunberg, whose Asperger's had him calling her "mentally ill". This is classic "argumentum ad hominem", whereby you attack the person rather than the argument. Usually it means you can't deal with the argument.
Amanda Vanstone, a minister in John Howard's government and now a commentator, similarly piled on to Thunberg in the Sydney Morning Herald by questioning her motives and her sincerity rather than what she was saying. This was a mature woman attacking a young one, giving no credit for thoughtful, firmly expressed judgements which have had much influence on her own generation and beyond.
But back to Ardern. She is regularly assailed in New Zealand for being a left-winger - the latest case being the Southland farmer who cut words into a field advising her to go back to Russia - but the nasty edge is usually missing. Sometimes, as in this case, the comment is creatively expressed, and sometimes it is faintly amusing. The verdict of the Morrinsville farmer who judged her to be "a pretty Communist" probably amused Ardern herself.
Not all Australian comments about Ardern are nasty, of course. A feature of the past few months, after the Christchurch massacre and again after Whakaari/White Island, has been the several letter-writers to major newspapers who have wondered whether we could have Ardern as our own PM.
She has been well and truly noted over here, and positively except on the political right. Her empathy irks them, and they are frustrated that she is well received in Australia.
• Former Aucklander Chas Keys is an Australian/New Zealand dual citizen and a freelance journalist who lives in Newcastle, NSW.