Abbott the father deserves more respect

I'll tell you what's creepy: journalists and media taking an everyday comment from the probable next leader of our country about his daughters being "not bad-looking" and sexualising it like a pack of sticky schoolkids who can't watch a deodorant ad without sniggering.

There are many subjects upon which I do not agree with Tony Abbott but his decision this week to appeal to Big Brother's household of twenty-something fame whores while standing beside his daughters wasn't a bad one.

Did we really expect a policy pitch in 24 seconds? Why not try to manufacture some semblance of empathy with young Australians by showing he also lives and regularly talks with other young Australians - his children?

Yet a father saying his daughters were "not bad-looking" was immediately translated as ''vote for me because my daughters are hot" by one reporter. Even more vile was the characterisation by another writer, for an esteemed masthead, likening the appearance as a "man flanked with babes like an oily ganglord entering a nightclub".

Politicians have long decided it's acceptable to put words into people's mouths, invent motivations for others and just plain make up stuff when they feel like it. But we're truly lost if this has become the accepted method of operation for our media.

Words, as we're constantly reminded by Abbott's critics, matter. "Not bad-looking" has no sexual connotations, particularly when said by a father, while "hot", a word never uttered by Abbott, implies sexual arousal in the observer.

Motives, as we're constantly reminded by Abbott's critics, matter. Standing beside your children in a political campaign is as old as politics. Abbott has gone out of his way on many occasions to describe the intelligence, opinions, aptitude and energy of his three tertiary-educated daughters, yet it is a gender-aware media-writer that diminished them as "babes ... entering a nightclub".

Abbott, certainly, has perception problems when it comes to his attitudes to women, but to suggest a man complimenting the looks of his children is sexist or reduces them to ornamentation is just crude, offensive barrow-pushing.

The innuendo the comment was somehow, vaguely incestuous - and let's not kid ourselves this wasn't one of the snide implications of this piece - should be met with contempt and illustrates the lengths so many sulking reporters will go to to tarnish a politician they do not agree with.

I can't say I'm overly excited about the prospect of Abbott as our next PM, but I am looking forward to seeing the father-daughter relationship given some prominence and respect over the next three years.

If you watched Annabel Crabb's excellent Kitchen Cabinet interview with Abbott and two of his daughters on Tuesday night, what you'll plainly see is a 55-year-old man who has raised bright, opinionated 20-something children who respect and actually like being around him.

How many parents can make that claim?

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