It’s pretty chilling to open up the Saturday newspaper and see an article on Federal Government talks about the family with a well-known fascist. On June 21, “Why Howard suddenly started to talk about custody battles” appeared on the front page of The Age. John Abbott, leader of the Blackshirts — but described only as a fathers’ rights lobbyist — has the ear of State and Federal politicians regarding changes to Family Law which would introduce “rebuttable joint custody,” or equal custody between the parents.
Patriarchs united. Along with reactionary men’s organisations, church groups and academics, Abbott has teamed up with like-minded parliamentarians — such as Labor MP Mark Latham, Children and Youth Affairs Minister Larry Anthony, One Nation Senator Len Harris, Senate President Paul Calvert and anti-abortionist Senator Brian Harradine — to launch a “Fathering Forum.” Its 12-Point Plan includes the creation of a Ministry of Fatherhood, redressing the “gross inequality” between funding for men’s and women’s issues and reviewing all laws affecting fathers.
Women’s gains in the gunsights. What brings about this union between fascists, government and opposition politicians? Women’s rights — which endanger profits and patriarchs alike. We’re witnessing the Howard Government’s assault on women’s independence. In its efforts to restore the patriarchal home of yesteryear, it is determined to overturn the gains of the feminist movement over the past 30 years. Through its systematic cuts to women’s wages, childcare and access to welfare and its ideological war on single mothers, the Federal Government is frogmarching women back into economic dependency. To halt the “fertility crisis,” caused by working women making choices, it now proposes a $5,000 payment as a substitute for paid maternity leave. Howard’s proposal for “contestable” shared custody is another body blow to the feminist movement, trapping women in relationships they don’t want — and, as approximately 100,000 cases of domestic violence show, they must leave.
Howard and his anti-feminist parliamentary brethren are not fascist. But they are joining in a common cause with a fascist: a person whose political ideology meant that millions of working people — unionists, queers, disabled people, Jews, radicals and independent women — were sent to their deaths in the 1930s and 1940s. This despicable alliance reveals that the Howard Government is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to trample on our rights and freedoms, all the while making the country safer for global capital. And the inclusion of ALP politicians in this unholy alliance reveals how completely corrupted this party has become.
For all working people — women and men — the ultimate answer is a feminist one. By fighting for the right of every woman to independently make choices about her life, we’ll put this profit system out of business and build a different one, based on solidarity and shared wealth. Children would love it!