Imagine telling someone that you’re suffering from life-threatening medical conditions and you are so hard up that after you’ve paid your rent you only have $400 a fortnight left – and then imagine going on to tell this person that at 67 years of age, you’ve had to work at an adult sex phone line to make ends meet.
And as you say this, the person listening smirks and winks, basically indicating that all that you’ve said before you mentioned the adult sex line has been nullified; that their level of empathy to your plight and condition is pretty much zero.
This is what happened to "Gloria" from Warburton who called up to speak to our Prime Minister on ABC radio Melbourne 774.
Mr Abbott of course didn’t realise he was being filmed at the time, hence allowing his true reactions to show. Only once he spotted the camera did his face drop and he suddenly changed tack. But it was in those few seconds, when he didn’t realise that the public may have been watching him that we got to see the real Tony Abbott. Only then did we witness perhaps the level of empathy he and those within the Liberal party have for those "doing it tough" – as Abbott himself said of Gloria’s plight.
In recent days it’s come out how Joe Hockey, before announcing some of the most savage cuts to the Australian public, hosted a $50,000 dinner paid for by the taxpayer. How before making the Budget announcement – where the poorest 20 per cent of Australian families will pay $1.1 billion more than the richest households - Joe Hockey danced to the tune of "The Best day of My Life".
All of which does make one wonder – does the Coalition really care about those doing it the hardest? Those on the lowest incomes, the pensioners, the sick, the unemployed?
From the looks of it, it would appear not.
In fact, Joe Hockey revealed that he would’ve liked to have gone harder on the Budget but dared not due to fears that it would have had a negative impact on the economy. It is inconceivable that if Joe Hockey was allowed to make all the cuts he wanted what sort of impact it would’ve had on those on the lowest incomes – one pictures a carcass of an animal that’s been gnawed to the bone.
As for Mr Abbott, it may have been just a wink and a smirk but it spoke volumes – not only about how our current government is dealing with those on the bottom rung but also its leader’s attitudes towards women.
After all, our PM is also the Minister for Women’s Affairs – which should mean that he has greater empathy towards what women like Gloria are going through. It should, but it doesn’t.
Lest we forget Mr Abbott’s labelling of the Liberal candidate for Lindsay, Fiona Scott, as having "sex appeal" or his numerous comments towards women including our rights to withhold sex, or do the housework, or even have an abortion – all which demonstrate his incredibly backward attitudes to such matters.
The Liberal party has gone on the defence of course following the backlash from yesterday’s gaffe. As soon as it happened a spokeswoman walked through the Press gallery "assuring reporters Mr Abbott did not wink to pass judgment on the caller".
Then this morning Tony Abbott went on a talk show to plead his innocence - admitting the wink was a mistake and saying he’d made the gesture in response to the interviewer rather to what Gloria had been saying.
But the damage has been done. There’s been much fury on social media, with many labelling the Prime Minister as "creepy" and a "misogynist". Gloria from Warburton herself has gone on to call the PM "sleazy and slimy" and the Greens MP Sarah Hanson-Young has called Mr Abbott a "grub".
This has likely led to a further slide in the latest polls which have seen a slump in the Prime Minister’s approval ratings.
It’s not often we see the PM drop his public persona – yesterday’s events were just a brief insight into his true nature. As a result the government is likely to go on the defence. Expect more carefully choreographed media appearances by the PM where no gaffes are likely to be recorded, and even less public appearances – as he’s already shown by cancelling a meeting at a university for fear of protestors.
The government’s hope is that somehow the public will forget what’s been said and done.
My hope is that the public is smarter than that.
We won’t and we can’t have the wool pulled over our eyes by a government that no longer seems to care about or have our interests at heart.
Saman Shad is a storyteller and playright.