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Women on top

By Bettina Arndt - posted Wednesday, 3 July 2024

A picture speaks a thousand words. Look at this line-up, showing all the ACT Supreme Court judges. This formidable female-dominated bench wouldn't exactly inspire confidence if you were a poor sucker facing a last-ditch appeal of a guilty verdict following a false rape accusation.

All the more so when the bench is led by Chief Justice Lucy McCallum who recently grumbled in a newspaper interview about the "intractable problem" of "ensuring an accused person has a fair trial." Women's groups are working hard to solve her problem, with all sorts of inventive solutions that do away with any notion of a fair trial – like an alternate court system with a lower standard of proof.


Whenever there's a big job announced in Australia, you can bet your bottom dollar that the prize will fall to a woman – even when that means the newcomer is decades younger and less experienced than her predecessors.

Gender is the trump card wiping out all other merit-based considerations. It must be rather maddening to be a high achieving Australian man clawing your way up the ladder knowing that the top rung is no longer available.

Often the result is just absurd. Here are the governors of the six Australian states – once again, there's just one token man. The recent announcement of "equity advocate" Sam Mostyn as Governor General really took the cake, particularly when Albo announced this week he was proposing an astonishing $200,000 increase in her salary.

Perhaps none of this would matter if we could be assured that this new breed of female top dogs would simply do their jobs, without using their positions to constantly promote women at the expense of men. But across the board we see women in power misusing their positions to stitch men up or grind them down.

Queensland Chief of Police Katarina Carroll was forced out of her job when officers began to revolt. The police service had been found by the state's anti-corruption watchdog to have engaged in "corrupt manipulation" to achieve a 50 per cent female hiring target. The report found 200 meritorious male applicants missed out on joining the force due to this corrupt practice.

And it is hard to forget that Australia's very first female top cop, Christine Nixon, also ended her career in 2009 thoroughly disgraced when it was found she spent the morning of Black Saturday, Australia's worst bushfire, with a 90-minute appointment at the hairdresser followed by a 45-minute meeting with her biographer. In the evening, as the town of Marysville burned to the ground, she was having a leisurely meal in the pub.


And then there was NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb who desperately needed a reset after a series of unforced errors plagued her leadership. She was renowned for being an appalling communicator, failing to promptly address the media when police officer Jesse Baird was murdered, and following the tasering of a 95-year-old grandmother. Luckily, she was given a reprieve when she was able to bask in the glory of a female police officer's heroics in the Bondi Junction attack.

Now she is making a name for herself tackling the scourge of domestic violence. She's launched a series called Operation Amarok – where so far more than 3,500 domestic violence offenders have been rounded up and arrested. Nothing like scooping up thousands of wife batterers to win applause from the media. No one is going to bother to ask about the evidence supporting these arrests.

Clearly our female top cops haven't exactly covered themselves in glory; and it is interesting that men have been slipped back into the job in Queensland and Victoria. Right now, Webb is the only remaining female chief.

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Bettina Arndt is a social commentator.

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