News National Q&A: Australia’s ‘best kept secret’ revealed
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Q&A: Australia’s ‘best kept secret’ revealed

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ABC
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Liberal MP Sharman Stone has aired her anger at Australian women who risk brain damage to their unborn children by drinking while pregnant.

“The thing about alcohol that concerns me most is the violence of the unborn child when a mother drinks while she’s pregnant and then endangers the baby’s brain,” Ms Stone said during Monday night’s episode of Q&A.

“Australia has some of the highest rates [of foetal alcohol syndrome] per capita … it is one of our best-kept secrets.”

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The full impact of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is unknown in Australia, but according to the Australian Drug Foundation it is thought to be significantly underreported.

The ingrained culture of drinking is partly to blame, Ms Stone said.

“Because our drinking culture is so strong, we believe if you’re a middle-aged woman you have the right to have your red with dinner even though you’re pregnant at last at 41, how dare someone tell you what to do with your body?” she said.

“I think the baby’s got a right to be born with their brain intact.”

The relationship between alcohol and violence was also discussed.

Theodore Dalrymple, a retired English prison psychiatrist and now scholar-in-residence at the Centre for Independent Studies, told the panel his research had found jealousy was the most “powerful factor” before violence.

“I worked in a poor area – many of the men derived almost all their self-respect and self-importance actually from the exclusive sexual possession of a woman while themselves being very unfaithful.”

Not all of the panellists agreed.

“I’m stunned, I must say. I probably would have thought that actually what drives it is misogyny, is actual dislike of women and not understanding them,” feminist icon and provocateur Germaine Greer said.

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Greer ‘digs herself a hole’

Ms Greer sparked further debate when she shared her views about “real women”, a definition that excluded transgender women.

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Panellists were feminist icon Germaine Greer, author and columnist Theodore Dalrymple, Liberal MP Sharman Stone, Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh and Aria award winning oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros. Photo: ABC Q&A

Audience member Steph D’Souza, who said Greer’s work was usually a “source of inspiration”, questioned this belief.

The vocal feminist replied that she accepted a black and white approach to gender was “wrong”, but went on to say that transgendered women, like Bruce Jenner, should be regarded as a third gender, not as true women.

“I don’t believe that a man who has lived for 40 years as a man and had children with a woman and enjoyed the services – the unpaid services of a wife, which most women will never know, that he then decides that the whole time he’s been a woman.”

The back-track drew surprise, even from Q&A host Tony Jones: “At the beginning of your answer I thought you were digging yourself out of the hole and now I wonder if you’ve just shovelled it back in.”

Greer quickly shot back: “I belong in this hole.”

Australia’s refugee contribution ’embarrassing’

Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh said it was “embarrassing” that Australia has not fulfilled its September 2015 pledge to take an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees for permanent resettlement in 2015-16, up from 13,750.

“We’ve been ready and waiting now for over six months,” Senator Singh said.

“We are the only Western country that has only settled such a tiny amount. It’s embarrassing. We are ready and waiting, the services are here.”

Ms Stone disagreed, saying it took time to find appropriate housing and services.

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