Bettina Arndt was made a Member of the Order of Australia last month.
Bettina Arndt was made a Member of the Order of Australia last month.

Arndt’s defence of killer dad proof she’s gone too far

Bettina Arndt's recent defence of Rowan Baxter shows why she should be stripped of her Member of the Order of Australia award, our nation's second-highest honour.

Baxter doused a car containing his estranged wife Hannah Clarke and three young children in petrol and set it alight last week. His children aged six, four and three and their mother all died in unimaginable pain.

And yet Arndt blamed feminists rather than Baxter himself for this horrific crime.

In making such comments, Arndt is not providing a "significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men".

She's providing apologies and excuses - and she's been doing it for years.

She doesn't advocate for any men I know.

Sure, she should be free to express her vile views, but she shouldn't do it with the stamp of approval from such an exalted platform.

Arndt pounced on comments made by Queensland police officer Mark Thompson, who was originally heading up the Baxter case.

Thompson was asking people to come forward with information when he said: "Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence and her and her children perishing at the hands of her husband?

"Or is this an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues that he's suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?"

He said police would keep an "open mind".

He wasn't suggesting Baxter was driven too far by his estranged wife, just that other motives may be in play.

Given the sensitivities around such issues, it was shortsighted of him to sound as if he was excusing a man who murdered his three children and estranged wife in this way.

Unlike Arndt, Thompson wasn't playing into the hands of male abuse apologists, but it was appropriate of him to stand down from the investigation.

Hannah Clarke and her three young children were killed by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter in Brisbane last week.
Hannah Clarke and her three young children were killed by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter in Brisbane last week.

However, Arndt couldn't resist capitalising on his poor choice of words, dismissing the "faux outrage" of those who objected to his comments.

She said: "How dare police deviate from the feminist script of seeking excuses … and explanations when women stab their partners to death, or drive their children into dams but immediately judging a man in these circumstances as simply representing the evil violence that is in all men."

And: "feminists are part of the problem, not the solution".

Doesn't Arndt realise there can be no justification whatsoever for such an act?

For too long, she has been peddling the line that men who kill, abuse and molest women and children are victims too - pushed too far by the family court system and false claims from vengeful exes and demonised by society.

Arndt has a long history of downplaying abuse. She's said molestation can be a "a loving and pleasurable act". She's said a scout master who sexually abused boys was "a good bloke" and that such "minor abuse rarely has lasting consequences". She's also twice interviewed convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester, accusing his young female victim of being "sexually provocative".

Such comments are enormously hurtful and downplay the impact of the sexual abuse on victims. The comments make their hurt and pain little more than collateral damage in the gender wars.

Feminists are not to blame for the actions of men like Rowan Baxter. But nor are men like him depraved nutters acting in isolation. The gendered patterns of violence - in which men are mostly the perpetrators and women their victims - reflect outdated and damaging social beliefs. These include that women are men's property, that they don't have the right to end an abusive relationship, or say no to a sexual advance, or fight back when they're being raped. Violence against women and children perpetrated by men will only stop when these underlying views are no longer held. This is not blaming all men, it's blaming destructive views held by some men - and some women like Bettina Arndt.

Sadly, Arndt is not the only one who's come under fire in recent days for being on the wrong side of such debates.

My colleague Andrew Bolt has been widely criticised for pointing out that the schoolboy victim of St Kevin's College was "hit on" by his athletics coach Peter Kehoe, but they hadn't had sex.

Bolt didn't defend Kehoe as such, but pointing out that "no sex occurred" appeared to minimise the abuse that took place over nearly two years. This may not have been his intention, but this is how people took it.





Bolt also defended the actions of former St Kevin's College principal Stephen Russell for providing a reference for Mr Kehoe and questioned why the victim returned to the school after the court case. Bolt, I should note, has since apologised.

It's a reminder of the need to put the victims first and ensure we don't minimise or undermine the impact of such crimes. We need to speak out against those who do so. And we need to challenge the destructive gender stereotypes that lead some men to think they own women, which gives them the right to control, abuse and even kill them.

Susie O'Brien is a Herald Sun columnist.