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Tony Abbott's Women in White a Symbol of What's to Come

When great political change transforms a nation, there is often a defining image that comes to symbolise it. The iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster from the 2008 US presidential campaign, for instance, embodied the spirit of a nation that was seeking social change and to make history with its first African-American president.

One of the most striking visions during prime minister-elect Tony Abbott’s acceptance speech on Saturday night was that of his three daughters, Louise, Bridget and Frances, by his side, co-ordinated in white dresses. Though the short hemlines and tight fit would be out of place at a Catholic First Communion, the connotations of religious faith and female moral purity were unmistakeable.

Abbott defined himself as the election contender with the “not bad-looking daughters” during a televised address to Big Brother housemates and championed the “sex appeal” of Fiona Scott, the Liberal candidate for Lindsay, yet the white dresses provide a far more telling indicator of what a Coalition government promises for Australian women.

Abbott is evidently proud of his daughters’ good looks, but he is clearly not entirely comfortable with the idea of them having sex, infamously describing their virginity as “the most precious gift” that they could give to someone. His personal views on the undesirability of sex before marriage also invade his politics. As health minister under the Howard government, he stymied the availability of the “morning-after” pill RU486, and lamented about abortion being used as “the easy way out” for women.

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