Mostyn wanted

The right savages the government’s pick for governor-general, who is exactly the kind of woman they need to win back

It’s always telling when The Betoota Advocate’s pre-emptive take is not far off the reality. The headline for the satirical outlet’s piece on the announcement of well-respected businesswoman and equality advocate Samantha Mostyn as our next governor-general reads, “Soft Cock Albo Appoints A New Governor-General Who Hasn’t Even Completed Basic Weapons Training”, satirising the fact that Liberal governments usually give the role to military men, not progressive women. The real right-wing meltdown has been just as ridiculous, with half of News Corp slamming the PM’s decision as “divisive”, “woke” and an “insult to mainstream Australians”. (Some reckon The Australian’s tantrum is further proof that the PM made the right call.) Anthony Albanese must have known this backlash from the right was coming, even though Mostyn’s appointment has been praised by leaders across the country. It goes to show that even if we don’t have a war veteran in Government House, we can still have a culture war, as the Murdoch media thrashes against its waning influence in modern Australia.

What exactly is the right’s problem with Mostyn, other than the fact they didn’t get to pick for the first time in a while? Mostyn, who chaired the government’s Women’s Economic Equality taskforce, is an “influencer par excellence” according to former colleagues, and “an elevator of voices of people who ordinarily don’t get one”, with “great compassion and empathy”. She has been a board member at major companies and nonprofits, including Transurban, Beyond Blue and the AFL, where she was the first female commissioner and drove the push for a women’s league. When she is sworn in on July 1, she will be only our second female governor-general – although many note a lost opportunity in failing to appoint our first Indigenous head of state. It’s worth noting that the Coalition has welcomed her appointment, publicly at least, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton acknowledging her contribution to business and sport.

But the fact that Mostyn holds progressive values has right-wing knickers in a knot. Matthew Sheahan, the executive director of right-wing campaign group Advance, has labelled her “the worst kind of corporate activist”, pulling up old social media posts in which she calls for truth about our colonial history. NSW Libertarian John Ruddick has got the same tweets, suggesting it is “ignorant” to say that Australia was invaded (newsflash: it was). One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is deeply unhappy, telling Sky News that “the Australian people” should nominate who they want as governor-general, in what sounds rather like advocating for a republic. Monarchists, meanwhile, reckon this is part of a “political plan to bring on a republic”, complaining that “someone who has so aggressively attacked the heritage of modern Australia should never be allowed to become its executive head of state”.

But it’s Janet Albrechtsen who has offered the more bizarre rant. The Australian columnist took time out from reporting on dubiously obtained text messages to suggest that Mostyn is a “quota queen” who has only been appointed to the “cushy job” because of her gender. Mostyn, or “Ms Woke” as she is dubbed, is exactly the sort of woman Albrechtsen despises, with the opinion columnist mocking her long CV rather than acknowledge that perhaps this is why she was appointed. Albrechtsen claims she would rather be shot than given a role because she is a woman – though some might suggest her willingness to say what men can’t might have something to do with the rather cushy job she holds at The Australian.

Of course, Mostyn is not that radical of a choice for governor-general (one can only imagine the howls of outrage from News Corp if it had been Marcia Langton or Linda Burney). She resembles, more than anything, a teal independent – the kind of smart, accomplished woman that the Coalition continues to drive away with its culture wars and climate denial. As former Liberal adviser Niki Savva writes today, the Coalition is still not taking this problem seriously, elbowing out women and then rubbing their noses in it. Mostyn, meanwhile, is exactly the kind of person the Liberal Party needs to win back – if only News Corp would let it.

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