Rest easy, ladies, we got ourselves a taskforce – a Cabinet taskforce, no less – who are going to fix women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and well-being by putting a gender lens on policy.
It will be made up of 4 men and every woman they could scrape together – the same women who have, by their silence, enabled a toxic workplace to flourish. The same women who have ridiculed affirmative action describing it as playing the gender card. The same women who have voted for so many policies that have been detrimental to women. The same women who have been called ‘handbags’, as they are trotted out to defend the boys club.
Even discussing how women are affected became ‘identity politics’. Feminist became a derogatory label.
In 2014, after 40 years of production, the Commonwealth government stopped producing the Women’s Budget Statement as part of the official Budget papers. Hey, we had the Prime Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, to look after us. Why worry our pretty little heads about all those confusing numbers when we have ironing to do.
Assisting him was Michaelia Cash who, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day in 2014, said “In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”
They got rid of the schoolkids bonus, a timely payment that helped families pay for school needs, preferring for the mining companies to keep their super profits.
They argued to reduce penalty rates, mainly impacting women and young people.
They slashed funding for shelters, legal aid, and community support programs because a surplus was their only goal and they wanted the most vulnerable to fund it whilst giving tax cuts to the wealthy.
And far from delivering on the promised improvement to Paid Parental Leave, they labelled women as “double dippers” if they combined the current government assistance with a workplace entitlement.
In 2018, Jane Hume, our new Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation, the Digital Economy and Women’s Economic Security, dismissed the idea of quotas to address the dismal number of women in her party.
“For women that don’t get there, the trick is to work that little bit harder. Don’t get bitter. Get better. Work harder. Nothing that is worth getting doesn’t come without hard work.”
Ms Hume said she “really disliked being patronised as if I am a minority. We are capable of anything but we are entitled to nothing. We have to work for what we want.”
She was then asked if an African migrant living in Melbourne “had just as much chance to get into parliament as somebody who goes to a private school in Toorak? Does she have the same connections and networks and start with the same family?”
Hume also wants us to use superannuation for everything but funding our retirement – family violence, home deposit, emergency expenses – consigning many more people to a life on an inadequate pension. And you can bet your nelly that the legislated increases in the superannuation guarantee will be abandoned, further widening the gender gap in retirement income.
These are the women who, after revealing the shocking bullying and harassment they endured during the leadership spill, were silenced by either promotion or getting rid of them, choosing party loyalty or personal ambition over holding perpetrators to account.
We have a mute Minister for Women who wouldn’t even meet with the March4Justice. Assisting her is a woman who is anti-abortion, anti the “transgender agenda”, who thinks men are victims of scurrilous allegations of sexual abuse, and who thinks men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt was deserving of an Australia Day award for “services to gender equity”.
Despite the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on women, the October budget delivered by Josh Frydenberg concentrated its stimulus in the male-dominated areas of construction, energy, transport and manufacturing.
Many had pressed the government to use stimulus spending to invest in social housing, support for the caring professions, child care, aged care and disability care, as well as the female-dominated sectors also hard hit in the wake of COVID-19. These recommendations were made not just because of the loss of employment, but also because COVID-19 exposed the opportunity to reform a number of systemic issues and would likely provide a greater increase in employment.
But long-term planning and investment in society isn’t this government’s best thing.
Announce a taskforce of the women who you know won’t make waves. Tell them they are all being promoted. Then get back to the boy’s business of making rich people richer.
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