Wendy Machin is a girl from my home town, just a few years older than me. We’ve met probably half a dozen times in total, and our families know each other. It’s even possible that we may be distantly related, but I’m not sure about that. Wendy and I attended the same high school – it wasn’t hard. Our small town only has one high school. Wendy studied Communications at the Institute of Technology (now UTS) and a few years later, I studied Communication at Mitchell CAE (now Charles Sturt University.)
Wendy is without doubt a feminist role model for small town girls like me. She was elected to North Sydney Municipal Council at 25, until she stood for election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in the seat of Gloucester, which included our home town. That was the first election I voted in. The seat of Gloucester was a very safe National Party seat, and Wendy won the by-election as a member of the National Party. Wendy was the first woman to represent the National Party in the Legislative Assembly, rising to be Deputy Speaker while still a single woman in her early thirties.
These days, Wendy is the President of the NRMA (Road Service, not insurance). She’s also a mother, a farmer, a wife, a private consultant in PR and Issues Management and has served on the boards of various NGOs, including Save the Children (NSW), the National Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. She has also been the Deputy Chair of the Australian Republican Movement. She is a master at multiskilling – and has a Masters in Commerce.
Wendy Machin is the perfect example of a women who can, and has, done what she wanted to do. I'm not suggesting that Wendy's life has been perfect, but it has been blessed by the opportunities created by feminists of previous generations, not notably, the 60s.
Wendy is a puzzling blend of conservative politics and progressive actions. With her history as a member of the Young Nationals, then a National Party politician, she is without doubt comfortable with conservative values and policies. Having said that, she has broken through barriers and blazed a new trail for women in conservative politics in Australia, she's blasted a hole through the glass ceiling at the NRMA, and she continues to set the bar in multi-skilling.
Yesterday, the NRMA under Wendy’s leadership, refused to withdraw their advertising from the Alan Jones Breakfast Show. The NRMA is the first major company to remain with Alan Jones’ show. An explanation was posted yesterday on their Facebook Page (left).
I know that Wendy is aware of Mr Jones’ recent comments, and that she finds them as inappropriate as I do. I also know that she is a Communications professional like I am, and that she is are aware of Mr Jones’ history of bombastic and biased political pronouncements, his half-truths, his extreme climate change denial and on-air provocation and intimidation of guests who do not share his opinions. The fact that Wendy is a National Party member means she might well share a few of his opinions and might not have felt the wrath of Mr Jones herself. That's not relevant.
The crushing response to Nic Lochner’s petition asking businesses to pull their advertising from 2GB – 116,000 signatures – and the successful and sustained campaign by Destroy the Joint prove that this new conversation is not just another social media meme.
If anything good has come from the Mr Jones’ comments, it’s that it has been a catalyst for a new conversation in Australia, a conversation not just about women and misogyny, but also about standards of behaviour, about respect, and about what we are willing to accept from our media, our colleagues and our society. Finally, we're talking about where the line is drawn.
More than 80 major advertisers have decided that the line is drawn on this side of Alan Jones’ style of broadcasting and public speaking. They have cancelled their advertising on The Alan Jones Breakfast Show and are standing together to support the women (and men) who are driving the appeals for more respect, more civility, more care within our communities.
The town where Wendy and I grew up is a small town. We would have known many of the same people, the same classy women who set the standards in small town Australia in the 1960s and 1970s: my grandmother Queenie Easton, our cousin Isabel Carpenter, Grandma Queenie's peers Joan Lucock, Ina Mallyon, Glad Skinner, Ruth Gardner and of course, the Machin family. They would never accept the kind of bully-boy tactics and verbal insults that we’ve heard on the radio in recent years, and they’d be disappointed in us if we did.
I don’t want to return to a time where I have to wear a floral frock from Osti, and a pair of gloves to play canasta while I wait for my husband to come home from work, and I can’t believe Wendy would want that for her daughters either. What we do want – and what we deserve – is an informed media that respects its audience, its government, and the society in which it operates. Alan Jones does not meet that criteria, and by associating the NRMA with Mr Jones, Wendy Machin is aligning “Our NRMA” and herself with his now tarnished brand.
As a communications professional, I would advise the NRMA to cut ties with Alan Jones and cancel any advertising booked on his show. It's not simply a commercial decision; it has meaning. It doesn't matter how many times the NRMA publishes its denials about supporting Alan Jones, or how many press conferences they give, as long as the NRMA still advertises on Mr Jones' show, it has positioned itself on the Jones side of the line, and the wrong side of history.
Wendy has responded via my Facebook page: Wendy Machin Hi Sally - I thought it was you, another Wingham girl. I read your blog. Pretty fair and I am glad to see yet another product of Wingham out there and doing well. You are right when you say I do not like the remarks Jones made. You new my Dad and when he died that was a great loss to me. I felt hurt for Julia Gillard when I saw what Alan Jones had said - it was so unkind and just so so wrong. Her Dad, like mine, was no doubt a proud father as he watched his daughter get to the top of politics in this country. I too have a similar Communcations degree as you and I appreciate that people will be critical of the NRMA advertising schedule including the Jones time slot. As you can imagine I am now being subject to a lot of personal pressure. There are several important issues here and they should not be confused. The really important one is proper standards of decency in our community - particularly in our community and political leaders. The media has a crucial role in leading the standard of debate upwards. I fully support that and I think the record will show that I have never indulged in personal attacks or "sledging" (although I have received a bit). The other issue is about businesses of all sizes trying to get on with their job. For many this includes advertising. The 2GB morning time slot has a lot of listeners and for the NRMA this is an important group for us to talk to. Some of the ads you are concerned about were in the traffic report - pretty logical oplace for a motoring organisation to go to given who we need to talk to. Social media is just like a lively debate at the pub - only online so more can see it. Everyone has an opinion and that is their right. But here too, as on radio or in Parliament, we should respect each other. The nasty targeting of some small businesses as part of this wider issue is unfortunate. They and good companies like NRMA should not be punished for another's wrong actions. Surely the best way to send a message is listen to another station?