This afternoon this 1979 radio interview with Tony Abbott came into my Twitter feed, via @wiredjazz. It's interesting listening, but my gut reaction to it being tweeted about today, and posted in 2010, is that it's a long time ago and it seems disingenuous to criticise Abbott for (albeit horrific) attitudes he held over 40 years ago, when he was at uni. Or is it? To be fair, I was at uni a decade later than Abbott, but my core values haven't changed yet. However, my position on lots of things has. I tried to think back to what I believed in the early 90s and it's quite tricky. I suspect I wouldn't like to be confronted with an interview I did back then.
For starters, I definitely believed that men and women think differently. I know this, because I spent some time doing gender based research with respect to physics education. I still think that men and women have broad tendencies to difference (although I suspect I see it as much messier than I did then), but now I focus more on how that comes to be, and on how to cater to difference without worrying about how it lines up in terms of gender.
I've learned a whole hell of a lot about marginalised, oppressed groups of people. I've always held equality dear, and always felt that the Government has a responsibility to make equality and equity happen, but I've radically changed my views about how that's best done. No doubt I will continue to change my views as I learn more, hear more points of view and have more of my assumptions shaken out.
It's a little difficult to tell from an eight or nine minute interview the nuances of whether he's demonstrating deep seated values or his then current views on the best ways to achieve the fulfilment of those values. The former are, I would say, still relevant, whilst the latter would (should?) have been modified extensively over 42 years. The clear, strong commitment that Christian values should guide politics is probably the one thing that stood out for me in that interview. That sounds to me like the kind of belief that doesn't change, ever. I also think there's plenty of recent history evidence to back up that claim. The banning of RU486 is a stand out, but there's plenty more.
The other slightly chilling part of the interview was his obvious disgust at uni students "who seem to think of themselves as women, ... homosexuals or what have you" rather than "students". I don't know whether he's managed to crawl out from under this mountain of delusion that there is nothing that makes "women, blacks, migrants and homosexuals" any different from him, but as a serial student, and a member of communities, I still "seem to think of [myself] as a woman". In 1979 Tony Abbott was wary of and alarmed by people like me. Is 40 years long enough for that kind of leopard to change his shorts?