WHERE’S Anne Summers? Or any of the other wailing chorus normally so keen to point out the error of our sexist ways? How strange that the ABC has been running the news of Clive Palmer’s attack on Peta Credlin without any feminist commentary bemoaning this latest example of our nation’s misogyny. 

In parliament on Monday, Palmer made offensive smears against Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, implying Credlin was responsible for the government’s paid parental leave policy to ensure she would “receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant”.The accusation was inappropriate on many fronts. The PPL policy was heralded by Abbott in his book Battlelines, published before Credlin came to work for him. Credlin is covered by parliamentary staff conditions that already offer a very generous leave scheme. And Credlin has admitted that she has struggled to fall pregnant for some time despite resorting to IVF.

Palmer’s hurtful remarks have received solid media coverage, with politicians on both sides of parliament condemning his comments as sexist and ill considered. But that’s pretty much it. No comments from outraged feminist commentators. No interviews with Elizabeth Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner; no pontificating from the female voices who normally dominate this type of debate.

“What you heard was silence. A still and telling silence,” commented Mamamia editor Jamila Rizvi in her column yesterday. She’s a former policy adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments. Her article — “Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin deserves better than this” — attacks the sisterhood for failing to call Palmer to task for bringing the personal into politics, for making a leader’s staff member the story and for using someone’s agenda against them in policy debate.

“As feminists we shouldn’t be sitting in silence, we should be shouting that from the rooftops,” she admonishes.

But silent they are. Just as they were silent when Julie Bishop was being pushed and shoved by student demonstrators. Or Sophie Mirabella was prevented from lecturing when students stormed her lecture theatre. Or when it was suggested Abbott’s daughter Frances unfairly received a scholarship, or Tim Mathieson wrongly accused Margie Abbott over her lack of charity work.

Rest assured that if women on the Left had been the victims in any of these events there would have been female commentators and journalists lining up to ascribe these attacks to sexist behaviour.

When Abbott winked in response to ABC presenter Jon Faine’s raised eyebrows in a chat with a telephone sex worker, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Clementine Ford immediately leapt into print, describing him as “sleazy” and “slimy”. The columnist proudly displays her political biases — she has boasted of having made $4500 in two days selling “F. k Abbott” T-shirts. Yet what was she writing about today? No mention of Credlin or Palmer — instead her story focused on forcible shaving of underarm hair.

Most remarkable of all is the coverage of the story by our ABC. Isn’t it rather odd that this issue, which dominated news reports throughout the day, failed to rate a mention in Monday night’s Q&A — a program that prides itself on dealing with current controversies? Little chance of this happening if a senior Labor woman had been smeared in this way.

Whenever there’s a controversy involving sexist behaviour, the ABC makes a practice of underlining the seriousness of the issue by adding expert comments — often an interview with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner or some academic on the dangers of misogyny. The fact this story didn’t rate more serious treatment is just one more example of the persistent bias displayed by our public broadcaster.

Far more important than the number of minutes given to interviews with politicians on opposing sides, the true measure of the insidious political partiality that grips the ABC is the stories that are highlighted, the way they are treated, the experts used to prop up some issues but not others, and the issues that just never get a run. Credlin is on the wrong side to be given proper victim treatment.