Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy has joined growing calls for commentator and ‘men’s rights activist’ Bettina Arndt to be stripped of her Australia Day honours, calling it an insult to victims of sexual abuse.
Writing to Governor-General David Hurley, Hennessy expressed her “alarm and concern” at Arndt’s appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia, urging Hurley to cancel the award.
“Taking into account Ms Arndt’s well-documented opinions, public commentary and media appearances, which include sympathising with a convicted paedophile and blaming and shaming victims – this award is an insult to victims of sexual abuse and to those of us who work hard every day to prevent it,” Hennessy wrote.
“Violence and sexual abuse remain one of, if not the, biggest law and order issues in our country and is the daily reality for too many women across Australia. I fear the impact such an appointment could have on the important work of tackling these devastating crimes.”
Arndt’s public views – which have included expressing sympathy for convicted paedophile Nicolaas Bester, and accusing his victim, Grace Tame, of engaging in “sexually provocative behaviour” – are not only abhorrent but dangerous, Hennessy said.
“Gender inequality is a key driver of family violence and sexual offences and it can only be addressed effectively by working to change ingrained social norms, behaviours and attitudes about gender,” Hennessy continued.
“However, Ms Arndt’s views and activities diminish the devastating experiences of victim-survivors of family and sexual violence, promote division and discourage victim-survivors from taking steps to ensure their survival and safety.”
More than 30,000 people have now signed a petition for Arndt’s award to be revoked.
It comes just days after an extensive investigation by New Matilda revealed that Arndt, who has been described variously as a psychologist, clinical psychologist or doctor for the past 35 years is nothing of the sort, neither holding a PhD nor being registered as a psychologist. (Arndt strongly denies allegations she ever sought to mislead people, and has published a lengthy statement on her Facebook page claiming she was “not doing any thing wrong”. She claims to hold postgraduate qualifications in clinical psychology.)
The nominations process for an Order of Australia is notoriously secretive, with nominations strictly confidential – even to those who are nominated. The process can take up to two years.