Narrow escape for Lisa Wilkinson

– Brush with infamy

“Awkward moment averted for Lisa Wilkinson at Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial.”

That was the lively headline which led the news on the Sydney Morning Herald website on Wednesday, concerning the start of the Lehrmann trial. The journalist described the arrival of Lehrmann and the numerous legal teams at the crowded Sydney courtroom. She went on:

“Then, 10 minutes before proceedings were due to begin, Wilkinson floated through the doors in a powder pink suit, and the only free spaces in the front row were on either side of the man who was suing her. A frantic rearrangement ensued.

“Some people leapfrogged seats to make way for Wilkinson, giving way to an invidious new scenario in which she would be required to sit next to the men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt.

“Lehrmann, observing the shuffle, turned away to stifle a chuckle. But Arndt was gracious enough to move down the aisle, leaving a vacant seat at the end of the row for Wilkinson to alight upon at the precise moment she turned from conferring with her lawyers, and she sank into it as naturally as a queen assumes her throne.”

Pretty funny, eh? It certainly was amusing to have a box seat just down from the celebrity television star as she learnt the worrying news that the ABC, one of the other parties being sued by Lehrmann, had agreed to settle. You may remember the ABC’s malicious decision to leave the video of Higgins’ Press Club speech up on their website for many months after the criminal case had fallen apart.

So, the ABC bailed, clearly deciding they couldn’t win against Lehrmann’s defamation claim.  Not good news for the lady in the swish pink pantsuit. And the tension showed, even in her heavily reworked face, as the court watched her interview on The Project with Higgins, with everyone knowing many of her heroine’s allegations had since fallen apart.

All fun and games with plenty of entertainment to follow. Much is being made of Lehrmann’s cross-examination revealing inconsistencies in largely irrelevant details but the fact that two media companies have already settled shows there’s unlikely to be a killer blow to come. And the defence team now has the opportunity of cross-examining Higgins using all the evidence not presented at the criminal trial, which is bound to lead to some extraordinary revelations.

The four-week trial is being broadcast live on YouTube. This link will feature the Lehrman trial when the court is in session.

The tragic 2,500 empty shoes.

Briefly, an update on my trip to Canberra last week for the Zero Suicide event on the lawns of Parliament House. It was incredibly moving seeing those rows of 2500 empty shoes representing the men who have killed themselves this year. We heard heart-breaking stories from families left behind – who so bravely spoke about their tragedies in this public event.

Here’s a brief video giving an overview of the memorial – produced by Dads4Kids, one of the many men’s groups who came together to make this all happen.


You might also enjoy listening to Mary O’Brien, who runs a rural suicide organisation called Are you Bogged, Mate? I interviewed Mary years ago when she first started speaking out about the high suicide rate in rural areas, pointing out how many of these blokes were driven to take their lives by family law battles. She’s now touring the country speaking about rural suicide – rural men are twice as likely to take their lives as metropolitan men. Five times more likely than metropolitan women.

We lose a farmer every ten days in this country – and this crisis has led Mary to give up her work as an agricultural scientist to devote herself to calling out the health authorities’ failure to tackle male suicide properly. “Everything I read was bullshit,” she says, spelling out the misguided approach being taken to male suicide.

She’s also concerned about the downplaying of male suicide by our key statistical bodies and points to this Australian Bureau of Statistics graph – clearly showing the glaring difference in male and female suicide rates.

The ABS highlighted this telling graph in their reports on suicide trends until 2020 when it suddenly disappeared, to be replaced with two separate graphs – one for men and the other for women. Obviously, this obscures the fact that suicide is overwhelmingly a male problem.

What’s left in a prominent position is this misleading graph:

What a surprise! Suddenly the gender differences have almost disappeared, with suicide rates for 35-39 year-old males and females appearing basically the same. The reality is suicide rates for males are more than 3 times higher.

The cunning trick is the chart doesn’t actually show the proportion of total suicides as the heading implies. Instead, female suicides are shown as a proportion of just female suicides and male suicides as a proportion of just male suicides. What a crock!

Mary O’Brien is hopping mad about what she regards as gross misrepresentation of this data – distorting the vital ABS information she has long used in her talks on male suicide.

It would be interesting to see how the stats boffins would explain this fudging of the data – and that’s just what we hope to find out sometime soon.  One result of my meetings with Opposition and cross-bencher senators and MPs last week was the welcome discovery that there are many who are keen to ask questions in parliament about why our suicide policies are failing. We’ll start working on that in the New Year, arranging to put heat on key decision-makers who are underplaying the male suicide crisis. Watch this space…

We’ve also decided to do a major push with key health authorities, asking why younger men visiting doctors and mental health practitioners are not being red-flagged if they are involved in relationship breakdown – given the coroner’s report data showing this is the key trigger for suicide of men aged 25-44.

Our health authorities do this when a woman shows signs of depression post-partum – making sure she receives the help she needs to reduce suicide risks. We must demand these vulnerable men are similarly directed to appropriate resources. If you have connections with mental health authorities and would like to help with this initiative, please contact us.

So, the Zero Suicide event inspired big plans and it was wonderful talking to so many men’s organisations keen to get this issue on the map. Our big problem is mainstream media which did a brilliant job ignoring the event – despite the organiser Paul Withall having sent over 1,000 emails to media groups seeking publicity. One of the few exceptions was Angela Shanahan, writing in The Weekend Australian, who pointed out that ABS data shows 47 male deaths from suicide per week. As she explained, 71 females die from fatal domestic violence per year, which equals 1.36 per week. “So male suicides, which are 35 times as numerous as deaths from DV, should also be everyone’s issue,” she rightly concluded. Here’s her article.

As I stood awaiting entry to the courtroom this week for the Lehrmann trial, I was struck by the number of eager young female journalists keen to get in – no doubt many from the Brittany Higgins cheer squad. As with the predominantly female members of the press gallery who ignored passage of our new draconian family law bill, these are products of our captured universities which are dutifully churning out cultural warriors always ready to turn a blind eye to the war on men. It’s a chilling thought that these women are our future.


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