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Our Minister for Women misses the point … again

In 2012, Tony Fitzgerald summed up the state of politics in Australia with this observation (firewalled on The Australian):

“… insiders see problems with insiders’ eyes, recognise only some of the problems and few of the causes and suggest insiders’ solutions with voters as mere bystanders. The usual, and sometimes intended, outcome is a flurry of superficial activity, appointment of a suitable group of other insiders to report, lengthy discussion of their report, considerable navel-gazing, a feel-good pronouncement and business as usual.”

How very true.

We have endless committees and very expensive reviews and then ignore their findings and recommendations. Instead of implementing solutions, we waste money on talkfests.

Which brings me to our Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer.

Kelly is an improvement on her two predecessors in the role in that she is a woman and also a feminist. (Mind you, it would be hard to find someone worse than Abbott and Cash.)

She has been very busy announcing lots of stuff of late.

“The minister for women is committed to addressing gender imbalances through leadership and financial literacy initiatives” writes Katharine Murphy.

O’Dwyer has started a fighting fund to get more Liberal women elected to parliament, contributing $50,000 herself. She is also launching networking sessions in Parliament House for her female parliamentary colleagues and started a Leadership for Women course for female parliamentary staff which will focus on strategic planning for career progression.

In the May budget, the minister announced $65 million for a new not-for-profit organisation with “a focus on improving financial literacy.”

“I want this to be for financial literacy and capability what Beyond Blue has been for mental health,” she grandiosely proclaimed.

During the week, Kelly also announced $500,000 for an inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

She has also promised to deliver a women’s economic security statement in September (reportedly with a budget allocation of $100 million) which she said would “make sure that women have the economic capability, the economic resilience to make choices about their lives”.

So we have a campaign fund and coffee club for Liberal politicians and a seminar for their staff, a new organisation, an inquiry and a statement. They will fit nicely with the tens of millions spent on advertising.

Meanwhile, family benefits have been cut, funding for legal aid has been slashed, refuges have closed, men’s help groups have folded, early intervention community programs have been defunded, over 100,000 are homeless, elder abuse is rampant, anti-bullying programs have been attacked, and women continue to be beaten, raped and killed.

It’s all very nice for high-flying women to empower each other but what about those women who are struggling to survive? They don’t need investment advice. They need a way to put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads. They need to know that they have a place to be safe.

I agree that economic independence is a desirable goal that provides choices but Kelly seems to think that the only reason many women are not financially independent is because they just don’t understand how the system works.

We understand well enough, it’s just that the majority of women do not have enough left over to worry about whether to put it into superannuation or a negatively-geared property or shares.

Single parents don’t need lessons on economic literacy – they need practical help.

Victims of domestic violence don’t need advertising campaigns – they need safe havens, legal help, and paid DV leave.

It isn’t women that have to get smarter, it’s society that has to change.

Women joining the workforce began to break their isolation and dependence on, and often obedience to, the male ‘breadwinner’. However, in many cases, women are now doubly exploited through lower wages and unpaid labour at home.

As for sexual harassment in the workplace, Ms O’Dwyer said she was prompted by the #MeToo movement yet, when asked if she had ever encountered sexual harassment in her male-dominated workplaces, she declined to comment, saying it wasn’t about her.

But she has just funded a nationwide inquiry that will, presumably, ask others to speak out about their experiences. That takes courage. Why do politicians (and their staff and the press gallery) refuse to tell their stories? They seem too scared to speak up yet ask others to take that risk.

We don’t need a national survey. We need all women, particularly those who have a public voice, to speak up about just how prevalent this scourge is and how unacceptable that sort of behaviour is. Exposure and solidarity have done a far better job to create momentum for change than any policy and procedure documents.

Not only are women suffering a gender divide, there is also a serious class divide in the Western capitalist world.

While globalisation has shifted billions from abject poverty to relative poverty, it has brought with it unbearable inequality, brazen greed, climate change, and the hijacking of our parliamentary democracies by bankers and the ultra-rich.

Insecure work, low wages, and high household debt have combined to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy.

As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.

The power of unions has been undermined, membership has declined, and industrial action been made largely illegal, with very expensive fines to further discourage withdrawal of labour as a negotiating tool.

Helping women achieve leadership roles is not really any use if they just then help the women who are already flush with choice and opportunity.

We need women who understand the struggle of those not born into privilege, the 50% of people who earn below the median wage, those who have sacrificed any thought of job security let alone satisfaction or even, at times, safety, the tens of thousands who suffer domestic abuse, those who are forced to exist on welfare, and those who cannot afford a home.

Help them first. In real, tangible ways. Maybe then we can find time to talk about ‘financial literacy’ without sounding completely oblivious to the real world.


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  1. paul walter

    Lantern-jaw showed her true colours on that Insiders interview on the banking royal commission a month or two back.

    Not to be believed, not to be trusted, just another Hunt type show poney.

  2. wam

    The lnp have the traditional christian view of women.
    Their women are quiet, submissive and in complete control 75% of the time.
    Economically able to manage the housekeeping money but mathematically challenged with respect to worldly economic understanding.

    The rabbott put women’s equality into perspective when he conceded there were exceptional women like sophie mirabella whose facial contortions and indignant rages are not unlike those of ‘cash and kelly’.
    As I was writing an ex-hawthorn footballer was showing some examples of soccer players’ umpire cheating ‘diving’. At the end he held up his hands and exclaimed ‘gentlemen you are male!!’.Anyone who watches women’s sport, except tennis, knows that artifice is not a tactic.
    But the men of david jesus and mohammed wont change by osmosis from weinstein or pell they need a far bigger force
    perhaps 50% is a good start. Can that ever be reached even with the support of some men.?

  3. paul walter

    That is actually an interesting point, wam, the first para in particular. Feminists and or Marxists would go along with most of that post.

    Cash and Bishop are also examples of the phenomena, as are Dutton and Abbott on the other side of the socialisation spectrum.

  4. Jaquix

    Excellent point, Kaye. As usual the Liberals have no idea. it also struck me that Abbott and Cash are both IPA members, and I’m pretty sure ODwyer is too. If so, isn’t that remarkable? From what I’ve seen, no less that 8 of Turnbulls Ministers are IPA. That too is remarkable. eg Cormann, Morrison, Fifield, 2 Speakers, I do wonder if Murdoch gave him a list?.

  5. Cool Pete

    If Kelly O’Dwyer wants to increase the number of women in Liberal Party roles, here’s what she needs to do, and it will save money on talkfests and inquiries, DEVELOP MORE FEMALE FRIENDLY POLICIES. Just look at some of the women in the Liberal Party. Cash is the daughter of a prominent Western Australian Liberal politician and wouldn’t have a clue what average women face! Bishop has never known poverty! And I don’t think O’Dwyer has either. Cash was only by a whisker better than Botty (so was my cat’s shit).

  6. Kaye Lee

    Marxist writing on the role of the nuclear family in providing, perpetuating and indoctrinating a docile workforce is interesting.

    Max Horkheimer regarded the family as an essential part of the social order in that it adapted every individual to conformity to authority. He argued that if men are the sole breadwinners, this ‘makes wife, sons and daughters “his”, puts their lives in large measure into his hands, and forces them to submit to his order and guidance’. Marx felt the same way stating that “Marriage is…incontestably a form of private property”. The economic dependence of the family on the father made men more conservative about radical social change which might undermine their ability to provide for their families, while the development of obedience to the authority of one’s own father was a preparation for obedience to the authority of the state and one’s employer.

    They argue that the family structure socialises children ‘into capitalist ideology’, which ‘prepares them to accept their place in the class structure, provides an emotionally supportive retreat for the alienated worker and so dissipates the frustration of the workplace, and impedes working class solidarity by privatising the household and generating financial commitments which discourage militant activity’.

    The feminists also weigh in. Meighan suggests that “For men, the denial of opportunities for excellence under capitalism leads…to a search for power and self-esteem in the sexual arena” Ainsley goes on to explain that “When wives play their traditional roles as takers of shit they often absorb their husband’s legitimate anger and frustration in a way which poses no challenge to the system”, and Cooper states that “The child is, in fact, primarily taught not how to survive in society, but how to submit to it”.

    Perhaps that’s why conservatives are always banging on about traditional families.

  7. Carol Taylor

    To me the entire attitude of the Liberal Party reeks of condescension. Funding is withdrawn from domestic violence services (the woman only has herself to blame for making poor relationship choices) however as far as ‘financial literacy’ goes, these women know far more about finances than these Liberal born into privilege women will ever know. Budgeting? Isn’t that something daddy’s accountant organises for you? Living within ones means? Does that mean thinking twice before grabbing that jacket from Decjuba, after all it’s just an off the rack item? The condescension in the attitude that poorer women needed to be taught ‘financial literacy’ appalls me, when most women live their entire lives being ‘financially literate’ – it’s either be financially astute or you don’t survive.

  8. Kaye Lee

    That’s exactly how I felt too Carol. The notion that it is a lack of financial literacy holding women back is insulting claptrap. How many shelters and temporary housing could we build with the money Kelly is wasting on inquiries etc?

  9. Kyran

    NOTHING this ‘government’ does withstands even the most cursory of glances, let alone scrutiny. It cannot, and should not, be forgotten, this ‘government’, Kelly O’Dwyer’s government, removed DV from the COAG agenda last year to devote the entire schedule to ‘terrorism’, a far lesser threat to Australians, let alone women. DV has remained off the COAG agenda since then.
    In a puff piece yesterday in The Guardian, Katherine Murphy allegedly interviewed O’Dwyer. You may recall Murphy was the one who famously declared Barnaby Joyce’s private life off limits to any self respecting journalist, ignoring the whole gender inequality issue and conflating it with some cheap tawdry desire to satisfy a salacious curiosity. In the interview, O’Dwyer is quoted;

    “I think a lot of people have discussed sexual harassment as a ‘be nice to women’ issue,” she says. “I think it needs to be reframed as an economic issue, because sexual harassment not only has very significant personal consequences for the individuals concerned but it also has financial consequences.
    “It means a woman might be denied hours of work, might be sacked, might be forced to look for another job because it is unbearable in the workplace, might not be able to get a reference from her former employer because she’s been harassed by them or because she’s made a complaint within the organisation.
    “It can have very significant personal and economic impacts for that individual and obviously goes to their financial security, and it also has impacts on the business, there’s absenteeism, there might be compensation claims … I wanted with this inquiry to have some practical solutions.
    “We can all admire the problem or we can focus on what some of the solutions are. I look forward to understanding this issue better.”

    In the off chance you are blind, deaf, dumb and incredibly stupid, only the IPA and her privileged white male Christian brothers would consider sexual harassment a “be nice to women issue”. Only she and her privileged male cohort would ignore the fact that the removal of penalty rates disempowered women more than men, that their ‘tax cuts’ (the greatest tax reform of all time, which won’t come into effect for years) disproportionately favour men, that their messing about with paid parental leave and superannuation reform disproportionately and adversely effects women.
    In addition to her ministering for women, she is also the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, a portfolio in which she could immediately and effectively achieve something for the millions of Australian women adversely effected by the privileged male cohort she is a party to. She is also the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, a body that has had dozens of political appointments, the vast majority of which have been male. Not to mention the regressive stance of so many public service bodies that are rewinding the advancements previously gained for women in the PS.
    As for “We can all admire the problem….”. Is there anyone seeing a ‘problem’ as something worthy of admiration?
    As for the $50k she is contributing to her ‘Vanity Fare’, I seem to recall reading that the Fizza said he would ‘match’ her contribution. I also seem to recall reading that neither one of them would say if the money was to be paid from their personal accounts or from ‘electoral allowances’. Our fiercely independent MSM have not sought to clarify the matter.
    We now have, one more time, a media in breathless exuberance about our ‘government’ in action. All the while, we are left with the reality of our ‘government’s’ inaction.
    Thank you Ms Lee. Your tenacity is awesome. Take care

  10. Carol Taylor

    Kaye Lee, lurking in the background is the attitude that it’s women who waste money on fripperies and that we need to fill our little feather brains with something a bit more serious such how to manage money. Men of course have no such problems; men NEVER waste money now do they?

  11. Kaye Lee


    I always look forward to reading your contributions. We all have a role to play in keeping it real. Our politicians squabble and spit and jockey for position. Other than furthering their own ambition, their driving motive is to increase profits for business. That is not what governments are for. They should be protecting us from the rapacious greed of unethical corporations. They should be providing for, and protecting, our vulnerable. They should be maximising the opportunity for everyone to become positive contributors to our society. Businesses should be forced to value their workers, not just their shareholders.

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

  12. Kaye Lee


    I do all the finances for both home and business and keep a very tight rein on spending. I went away for a week with my girlfriends and came home to find son and husband had bought a boat. Sigh…..

  13. Topenda

    This brings to mind a friend whose family is very wealthy. Despite being a very left-oriented, active social justice warrior socially and professionally (although she does not need to work due to aforementioned family wealth), she was horrified to realise that I didn’t have a financial advisor.

    Yeah, because all single mothers from a lower class background, with no assets, getting by on parenting payments and casual work cleaning houses, while studying for a degree, need a financial advisor… :/

  14. Kyran

    Indeed, Ms Lee, keeping it real is a struggle. Regrettably, not a new one. While we are, undoubtedly, the best connected generation of all time, we are incessantly fed absolute rubbish as a distraction to the reality around us.
    There was a program in India on micro financing the impoverished to give them a start. The ‘borrowers’ were nearly all female, the default rate was near zero and the ‘capital improvement’ to the economy, local and national, was enormous. Yet that is the same country struggling with the most vile abuse of women under the auspices of an antiquated caste system. The answer to it is the same answer to so many of these issues. Education. Not of the victim, but of the perpetrator.
    As for the struggle not being new, or necessarily gender specific;

    “So it is obvious that if a man is to redeem his spiritual and moral ‘lag,’ he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.”
    “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

    The tragedy in that is not the words. They are hardly new and entirely relevant to today. The great tragedy is that those words were an excerpt from Dr King’s Nobel Peace Prize address.
    In 1964.
    Thank you, again, Ms Lee. Take care

  15. johno

    Well said Kaye and commenters. Re spending, the powers to be want us to keep buying crap. Consume, consume you plebs, while we sit back and gild the lily.

  16. Terence Mills

    Recently a bill to ban protesters from harassing people within 150 metres of abortion clinics passed the NSW Parliament with overwhelming support but curiously the current and former ministers for women voted against it.

    Pru Goward the current Family and Community Services Minister — who also served as Women’s Minister in the past — voted against the bill because she is a “strong and visceral believer” in the right to free speech.

    So what she supports is the right for protesters to hector and harass women attending these clinics even if only for advice but she has no empathy for the women and girls attending these clinics at a time in their lives when they most need support and consideration.

    Goward’s attitude is quite strange considering that her daughter Kate Fischer (now known as
    Tziporah Malkah ) went through a traumatic abortion at age sixteen. Malkah/Fischer said in a recent article ; ” I was numb. I couldn’t afford an abortion – I didn’t have insurance – so my modelling agency loaned me $5,000 for one of the best gynaecologists in New York. I wasn’t going to go to some shop around the corner and get a coat hanger. I paid them back eventually but they had to tell my mother. I still think about it.

    Liberal party women seem to be fashioned from the a particular mold or should that be mould !

  17. Vikingduk

    The LNP wet dream — all women become hand maids/slaves, all children possessions to be molded while us men rule the world, any future asylum seeker boats be sunk, any survivors machine gunned.

    Yes, the evil in the hearts of humans knows no boundaries, knows no peace, no love, no compassion.

    Seems to apply to a growing majority.

    Make Art Not War

  18. Vikingduk

    Meanwhile, the rotten brothers, those things called dutton/pezzullo plumb the depths of their cruelty, their hate, their rotten to the core personalities to find ever increasing ways to inflict punishment. Out source health care to Taiwan for those rotting in our off shore gulags, f#ck yeah, deport those that have lived here for years in some cases, f#ck yeah, separate them from their children, f#ck yeah.

    What an absolute miserable species we become, live exports dying on their cruise, let’s get righteous, demand an end to sheep dying on these death ships, MSM Jump up and down, horrible, inhuman, they scream, must end now they bleat.

    Out of sight out of mind, who gives a f#ck for the suffering humans, their fault, aspirations weren’t high enough. The LNP way, the suffering humans here and those in our prison camps, f#ck them, all we need do is aspire higher, get a better job, you should have been born to wealthier parents, suckers.

    Now shut the f#ck up, pay your bills no dissenting, we are born to rule, the rest of us suck it up, believe the lies, the bullshit and just suck it up

  19. Carol Taylor

    Kaye Lee, what I think that I detest the most is condescension dressed up as help. I believe that all recipients receive ‘assistance with finances’, so why would the Liberals draw attention to that nuff-nuff group of individuals called women as needing help in particular? Clearly the usual blame-game, that if women are struggling with finances, struggling to find safe and secure accommodation for themselves and their children, then it is clearly all their own fault.

  20. diannaart

    Interesting the well of total silence from right-wing women. Kaye Lee noted:

    “As for sexual harassment in the workplace, Ms O’Dwyer said she was prompted by the #MeToo movement yet, when asked if she had ever encountered sexual harassment in her male-dominated workplaces, she declined to comment, saying it wasn’t about her.”

    Don’t women from the traditional, conservative world EVER experience sexual harassment? Do males from the right only harass women from the left or those who are apolitical? I very much doubt it.

    One reason for Ms O’Dwyer’s reluctance to talk about herself, is one I can imagine only too well – how understanding would her male colleagues react if women of the right started publicising their #METOO moments?

    All a part of that culture of condescension as noted by Carol – that if women are having problems it is their own fault. Which meshes neatly with the entire “if people worked hard enough (even on paltry incomes) they would save enough to become wealthy beyond their dreams”.

    BTW, $500,000 towards an investigation into workplace sexual harassment? $500,000 doesn’t even buy a house in the poorer suburbs.

  21. wam

    spot on, carol.
    My darling, and my mother, are and were, wizards at understanding and operating finances. but despite successfully running homes and, my wife, (the largest senior school and correcting the mistakes of many ‘senior’ men’) self depreciate in the face of mansplain.
    It is clear that most men cannot see the power of the women in their lives. This is not hard from the keg whilst ogling and discussing men’s business, assuming their women are discussing babies, royal; weddings, scones and menopause

    The nation party is ripe for attack on its poor effort in the bush and WA shows billy and tanya need to forget the polls and heed the words of john kennedy ‘don’t think DO’.

    The TAX is not FAIR so do something billy and tanee or the by-elections are going. as albo indicates. the way of the next election You have three targets go forward or retire. The LNP are not your colleagues and neither are the dixxxbransimkims. They all deserve to be treated equally.
    ps what we term harassment and demeaning is the norm for lnp

  22. Helen Holmes

    Women in low-paid jobs (many of whom have lost pay when Kelly and her cronies slashed Penalty Rates) will surely need advice where to ‘invest’ their $10 a week tax break. Spend it on an extra loaf of bread and packet of cheap cheese or invest it in the Haymans Islands account? Decisions, decisions :-O Women like her earning over $200k can darned well pay for their own investment advice, not on public funds!!!

  23. paul walter

    For me, the keystone is Kaye Lee’s didactic post referring to Horkheimer and posts like Kyran’s and say Vikingduk’s, 11.02, flow from it.

    Socialisation, sexualisation, reification and commodification are terms that refer a complex, from the cradle, set of inputs that determine much of how people react in ongoing life, regardless of the notion of free will…yes, right back to the beginning ..boys are blue, girls are pink.

    My free will itself is largely determined by upbringing and culture and much as I prefer to feel that I am an objective rational person fully in control much of my responses to life are conditioned often to the subconscious level.

    Still, free will is also the site at which a person seeks to mediate to discern reality, something you have to understand if you want to survive and to what point assumptions must be tested and roadmaps followed or become obsolete.

    It will never be easy as competition for resources continues, but if enough people grasp an accurate sense of reality, is that not how civilisation progresses, albeit glacially?

    But it does require work and is a pain. But its also rewarding when a bit of thought shows something in its reality; when the penny drops and a bad situation can be ameliorated. So I don’t deny my conditioning but attempt to navigate it, and the fights won are few and far between but rewarding when things go right and life becomes easier with a clearer conscience if unquestioned assumptions bring grief, something experience may teach folk.

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