Horrific murder of family provokes strong reaction from readers

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Online readers of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have a lot to say, making 39,366 comments on 761 stories last week .

The horrific murder of Queensland mother Hannah Clarke and her three children dominated the online conversation. There was a strong emotional response from our readers after sex therapist Bettina Arndt supported a police detective who questioned whether the murders were a case of domestic violence or "a husband being driven too far".

Hannah Clarke with children Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3.

Hannah Clarke with children Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3.

Fed Up won the respect of many readers by summing it up this way: "Driven to murdering his estranged wife and children? Give me a break. No justification for these actions ever."

"Calls grow for Bettina Arndt to be stripped of Order of Australia", by journalists Tate Papworth and Michael Koziol, was the most commented-on story of the week. Victorian Liberal state MP Tim Smith had demanded Arndt be stripped of her Order of Australia.

By Wednesday, the federal Senate had passed a motion condemning Arndt's comments as potentially bringing the Order of Australia into disrepute.

Order of Australia recipient Bettina Arndt.

Order of Australia recipient Bettina Arndt.Credit:Joshua Morris

Many readers appreciated the words of Ne, who wrote: "I'm sorry, Bettina Arndt, I must have missed the bit where any of the grieving, traumatised friends and relatives of this murdered family, or any appalled, bewildered citizen mourning for the victims has described the atrocious Baxter as 'representing the evil violence that is in all men.' You appear to have got your script from David Leyonhjelm, who maliciously and mendaciously suggested that Sarah Hanson-Young said that 'all men' are rapists (when she said nothing of the kind).

"As a lifelong man of the left, I applaud the honourable stance taken by Tim Smith, and I thank him.

"Most men would never perpetrate a violent obscenity like that committed by Baxter, that much is true. But these heinous acts are almost always committed by men. We men need to acknowledge that, and take ACTIVE responsibility."

Move On's comment also resonated with our readers: "Bettina Arndt there is only ONE version of the truth, feminism has NOTHING to do with this crime. NOTHING justifies setting four humans on fire."

amusedmuse wrote: "In response to Arndt that Rowan Baxter 'may have been driven too far', I'd like to know what the three children could have done in Arndt's eyes to provoke him. It's outrageous to victim blame not only the estranged wife but the three small children by association. The fact that she has been given this award diminishes it's prestige. She wouldn't be the first person to have their honour revoked surely."

Academic Jenna Price's opinion article, "How to stop men killing their wives and children", also prompted a big reaction from commenters.

GlennVic wrote: "It's time to start talking radical and 'outside the box' solutions, so I think the suggestion of monitoring is worthy of more discussion. I doubt there's a silver bullet solution though - there would need to be a range of initiatives but I'm encouraged that discussion has started on the radical.

"Equally I'm despairing at the comments on here pointing out stats on violence at the hands of women. I'm a man (divorced with kids) and I can't for the life of me understand how anyone would think this is the time to raise these arguments. Us poor bloody men ... yeah right! Let's fix the one woman dying every week at the hands of their male partner or ex-partner first before we men start boo-hoo'ing about how vilified us poor males are."