ACT Liberal politician Mark Parton said comments he made about a lack of inclusion for heterosexual white males over 30 have been “taken out of context”.
Mr Parton came under fire on social media for statements he made during a debate about social inclusion in the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday.
“I always find it fascinating that we focus on all of these groups that we’re not going to leave behind, but if you are a heterosexual, employed, white male over the age of 30 you’re not really included in anything,” he told the Assembly.
Mr Parton pointed to high suicide rates among men, particularly in the 30-to-54 age group as the reason for his concerns.
“I know that those on the other side would say that heterosexual, employed, Anglo males have opportunities aplenty so we don’t need to look after them, they’ll be OK,” he said.
“When we commit to inclusion, we shouldn’t be picking favourites, we should be including everyone.”
This morning Mr Parton told ABC Radio Canberra that his comments had been “taken out of context”.
The former commercial radio host conceded there were “a hell of a lot of opportunities for white males” but said he was attempting to highlight the Labor Government’s ability to “pick and choose who to include and who to help”.
“More and more people are being pushed into the margins now,” he told ABC Radio.
“If you’re from a minority group then there’s a serious chance that the Government will reach out to assist you and include you, if you are not a member of a minority group then you’re pretty much going to be left to fend for yourself.”
Mr Parton pointed mostly to rate rises and financial hardship as reasons why white straight men over 30 might feel excluded.
“So what you’re telling me is that when I get approached, as I have been, by a number of white males in that age group, who feel that for a number of reasons they’ve been marginalised … that I should just say to them ‘just hang on a second buddy, because white blokes have over the history of this nation made the rules, you’re not marginalised’ and just dismiss them?” he asked Mornings presenter Genevieve Jacobs.
‘Men pay too much tax, don’t chuck sickies at work’, supporter tells Parton
Mr Parton acknowledged the negative response to his comments on social media, but said he had also received praise for his statements.
“When people have responded to me, applauding me for this speech, they don’t dare do it in a public space, because they know they’ll get smashed,” he said.
Mr Parton read a number of emails on air from male constituents that thanked him for his comments, including one from Ian that read:
“We pay too much tax, we’re discriminated against in the family court system, we don’t chuck sickies at work, we get accused of being a kiddie-fiddler if we engage a child in conversation, we are bypassed for promotion as management fill quotas for other groups — but are then expected to clean up the mess when the damage is done, we are sexist pigs if we compliment a woman.”
Mr Parton denied he was “dog-whistling to the conservative voters that he was one of them”, but when questioned whether some of the white, middle-aged men feeling marginalised “simply feel bitter about life in general”, he said that was a “valid comment”.
Mr Parton has previously announced that he supports the Yes vote in the upcoming same-sex marriage survey and said he had gone out of his way to support LGBTI people. He said it was not his intention to cause offense.
Better ways to raise male suicide issue: equality campaigner
Yesterday, gender equity campaigner Virginia Haussegger said if Mr Parton wanted to draw attention to the serious issue of male suicide, there were better ways to go about it.
“If Mr Parton is suggesting that a particular cohort of men is struggling with mental health issues, as a result of missing out on attention, then perhaps it would be best to invite serious discussion about that important issue, rather than take a swipe at minority and disadvantaged groups who are in need of focused funding initiatives,” she said.
Mr Parton did not reiterate his concerns over high suicide rates among middle-aged men during his interview on radio this morning.
Australian Men’s Health Forum president Julian Krieg said the men Mr Parton was talking about were not purposefully excluded, but simply “overlooked” in the discussion about suicide.
“We know that 75 per cent of suicides are men and we know that this is one of the really high-risk groups,” he said.
“These sort of men need to be included in this discussion … and because they’re not part of the conversation, they become a statistic.
“So there’s an issue around males and how they communicate and what we’re doing to get men to actually think about their involvement in preventing suicide.”
Mr Parton has previously made comments in the Legislative Assembly, during a debate about poker machines, that “more people [were] addicted to chocolate than gambling”.
He was elected to the Assembly last year and is the opposition spokesman for racing and gaming.