Whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for (some) answers – by setting up a Royal Commission into Northern Territory correctional facilities – or not really looking – by refusing to do likewise in relation to alleged abuses of asylum seekers on Nauru – the essential answer is actually staring him in the face. He just doesn’t seem to see it.
Something akin to Bill Clinton’s famous political put-down of George W Bush, “It’s the economy, stupid” applies here. “It’s the Work Health and Safety Act, Malcolm.”
Government departments and non-government institutions that have failed to prevent child sexual abuse and other mistreatment of children or adults in their care have so far not been brought to book, because no-one seems to have joined the criminal law dots.
Joining the criminal law dots
Ask yourself this question: what do the following institutional settings – an Immigration ‘detention centre’ on Nauru, a Northern Territory juvenile correction centre, a South Australian care institution for abused children, a boarding school, a State (or NGO) care centre for people with a physical or intellectual disability – all have in common?
Answer: they are all workplaces – places where people work. More specifically, they’re all accommodation workplaces, where people reside continuously for months, years, decades or (in the case of some persons in offshore Immigration detention centres) indefinitely. Only a boarding school gets any occupancy breaks – during term holidays.
All State/Territory laws governing health and safety at work, and the Commonwealth’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (“the WHS Act”), impose aduty on the workplace operator to ensure that both “workers” and “other persons” at the workplace are not exposed to preventable risks to their health (including psychological health) and safety.
Under those laws, the children (and adults) residing at the above-named institutions are the “other persons” whose health and safety the operator must protect.
Under those laws, failure to comply with a protective duty is a criminal offence.
How can WHS laws, if complied with, prevent sexual and other abuse?
The basic answer is fourfold. The operator duty obligations set out in these laws are:
(1) pro-actively preventative – requiring the operator to first identify and list all significant risks to health and safety, then secondly, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, take steps to eliminate or at least minimise all of them;
(2) imposed primarily on theinstitution – that is, on the over-all or ‘head’ workplace operator and its “officers” (such as the CEO) – rather than just on individuals generally (although “workers” do have a duty to “take reasonable care”);
(3) non-delegable – meaning that they can’t be transferred (to another government, for example) or contracted out (to, e.g., a service provider company such as Serco or Ferrovial (formerly Broadspectrum): any attempt to do either is “void”; and
(4) buttressed by the deterrence effect of criminal penalties – such as, under the WHS Act in cases of “reckless” non-compliance with a duty, operator fines of up to $3 million, and officer fines of up to $600,000 and/or jail for up to 5 years.
Peter Dutton knows that his Department is bound by the WHS Act
There’s plenty of public domain evidence that Mr Dutton, as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, knows that the Commonwealth (of Australia) – in effect his Department – is the operator of the regional processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. One item of evidence will suffice.
All of the 2,000 or so “incident notifications” that Guardian Australia made public on 10 August 2016 – documents that Mr Dutton’s Departmental staffers on Nauru sent to Comcare because the WHS Act’s section 38 compels them to do so – have a little box near the top where the name of the party in charge of the workplace must be written.
The name entered on those incident report forms is not “Government of Nauru”: it is “Department of Immigration and Border Protection”.
So, Prime Minister Turnbull, the fiction that the governments of Nauru and PNG are legally responsible for the health and safety of the “other persons” (asylum seekers) who reside at the regional processing centres on their territory now stands exposed.
As a result, the following question – “Who should be investigated in relation to, and possibly prosecuted for, offences against the WHS Act?” – shouldn’t be too hard to answer.
What is apparently too hard, Prime Minister, is for you to ask that question – it seems to be stuck in your throat. (And of course if you do ask it, you’ll have to do something about it.)
The same question must be asked, and addressed, about all detention, custody, care and residential educational facilities across Australia.
What, if anything, have our State and Territory health and safety regulators been doing to make the operators of those workplaces comply with their statutory duty of care to all the “other persons” at those facilities, not just the workers?
Max Costello is a former WorkSafe Victoria prosecuting solicitor and former Employment Law lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT University. He co-wrote submissions to the Moss review and the Senate Select Committee on Nauru abuses.
A Shorten Labor Government promises to pass Marriage Equality within the first 100 days if they win the election. An Abbott-Turnbull Government favours a plebiscite. Both of these cases were argued at the first Facebook leaders debate last night.
Leadership Debate 17 June, 2016 – Marriage Equality Plebiscite
Malcolm Turnbull: I support same-sex marriage, if we are returned to Government, there will be a plebiscite, then all Australians will get a say on the issue. I’ll be voting yes. Lucy will be voting yes. We will be urging people to vote yes. I am very confident it will be carried.
Bill Shorten: Now the argument says, Oh Plebiscite, it’s very democratic. But the truth of the matter is that this is a debate where I don’t believe that people’s relationships and love for each other need to be submitted to a public opinion poll. I think we have seen two terrible events in the last week that shows hate and extremism exists in modern societies. And I don’t want to give the haters a chance to come out from underneath the rock and make life harder for LGBTI people.
Malcolm Turnbull: With great respect to you. I believe Australians are better than that. I believe we can have a discussion about marriage equality. It can be civil. It can be respectful and we will make a decision as a nation and then, as a nation we will respect the outcome.
The debate on marriage equality so far, has been anything but civil or respectful. Therefore, one can conclude Turnbull is one or more of the following:
Responding with empty platitudes
Playing semantics with the words ‘can be’ and ‘will be’
Intentionally arrogant and insulting towards the people who have already expressed they have been harmed by this debate
Ignorant and out of touch with the commentary already occurring within this debate
Supportive of the hateful and harmful commentary from the Anti-Marriage Equality lobby and considers this commentary, a civil and respectful debate.
Let’s take a look just a small taste of how the marriage equality debate has developed thus far. It has been far from civil.
*Warning: This post contains comments and pictures that may be upsetting and hurtful to LGBTI people, their families and allies.
A Taste of the Respectful and Civil debate thus far:
The pamphlets, obtained by Fairfax Media, have been prepared and funded by Chris Miles, a former Liberal MP and member of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
“Not only is the information on this flyer wrong, it will put the lives of young gay people and the children of same-sex couples at risk by reinforcing the message that they and their families are broken.” (Croome, AME)
The Rainbow Noose
Australian Marriage Alliance advertisement opposing marriage equality
“I’m signing this because I’m a child of two absolutely loving lesbian parents and I’m really offended that this advertisement blatantly slandering same-sex parents’ ability to be parents simply based on their homosexuality,” he wrote. “My mums are amazing and I honestly need nothing more than them and their love in my life.”
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said,
“This booklet denigrates and demeans same-sex relationships and will do immense harm to gay students and students being raised by same-sex couples.”
“The booklet likely breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act and I urge everyone who finds it offensive and inappropriate, including teachers, parents and students, to complain to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks.”
Mr Croome said he has received several complaints from teachers in Catholic schools who were horrified to learn at staff room meetings that the booklet will be distributed.
Comparing Marriage Equality to Animal Sexual Activity
A federal Nationals MP has drawn a comparison between same-sex relationships and two rams having sex in a paddock, provoking condemnation for the ‘offensive’ and ‘inappropriate’ statements, with the Greens calling on him to apologise and retract them.
Educating Children and Parents about the dangers of Marriage Equality
In a plea sent to the school, obtained by the Mercury, one parent said: “Although the teachings of the Catholic religion is one of husband and wife I find it inappropriate that the Catholic Diocesan of Wollongong would find it appropriate to be “informed” about this topic by a (group) with a clear agenda leading up to a federal election.’’
“There are many families within our school community that would be extremely offended by this type of ignorant propaganda as they are not a ‘family’ as is defined,’’ the email said.
On Monday he made a comment on Twitter: “Though Orlando is abhorrent, it doesn’t change the real & present dangers of the gay marriage agenda to Aus children.”
People have condemned the insensitive tweet and even called the hopeful politician “scum”.
“Absolutely disgusting. Completely offensive,” one commented.
As I live in a Regional Town, I am dedicating a section just to debate within regional communities.
There are extra complexities to consider in regional communities for LGBTI people. There is no Mardi-Gras. There is no wide-spread community support. Young LGBTI people often move away from the area quickly and there is a high rate of suicide. A harmful and hurtful debate only places further stress on young LGBTI people in regional communities.
“I am sure this has something to do with it. People do not feel welcome here. You get shunned. So people leave and go to places where it is acceptable.”
BuzzFeed News asked Christensen (QLD LNP MP) what he thought about LGBTI teenagers in the area feeling as though a program like Safe Schools is needed.
He (Christensen) likened it to children wanting to eat ice cream.
“Kids love everything. Kids would love free ice cream at school,” the MP said. “Is that good for them? Y’know. Of course they are going to defend something they are being told is good.
“But is it good? Is it social engineering? I think it is clearly social engineering.”
Using the plebiscite as campaign fodder.
The Capricornia Young LNP accuse the Labor candidate of vandalising the LNP member’s office. (The Labor candidate responded in the original thread that she was there to support the rally and was writing “Love is Love” on a heart-shaped post it note. The other person in the photo is the gorgeous Ben Norris from Big Brother, who spoke at the rally.
I attended this Equal Love Rally. We held a peaceful rally. Marched a distance to the LNP Member’s office and those who desired could place a post it note on her door with a message in support of marriage equality.
SMS to the Editor – Rockhampton Morning Bulletin
This is such a small sample from the commentary within the debate against marriage equality thus far and it does not do justice to the plethora of uncivil and disrespectful commentary from the Anti-Marriage equality lobby found within this debate.
This quote from Shirleene Robinson, spokeswoman for Australian Marriage Equality calls for people to understand that language and narrative can cause deep hurt to people.
“Words can inflict terrible harm sometimes and we would ask that people of all opinions remember that,” she said. “The use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among LGBTI people and their families.”
Deciphering the Leaders Debate Comments.
A plebiscite – Abbott-Turnbull Government
I refer back to Turnbull’s comments within the leadership debate:
“….then all Australians will get a say on the issue” “….we will make a decision as a nation”
Normally Turnbull palavers on with great verbosity and his words can be deciphered and reduced to something quite simple. On this occasion he used a few words, but it translates to much more: That is:
“When considering marriage, Australia currently recognises two groups of people: heterosexual people and LGBTI people. Australian law currently only respects the right to marry belongs to heterosexual people and excludes LGBTI people and discriminates based on gender.
The Abbott-Turnbull Government thinks the appropriate way to redress this gender based discrimination is for Australian citizens to decide if LGBTI people are the same as them, or a lesser class of citizen. LGBTI people belong to a minority group.
The Government will ask LGBTI people (the minority group the current law discriminates against) to vote on this.
However we will ask the majority – their friends, their allies, people who are apathetic and indifferent, but we also think it is important to ask people who do not consider LGBTI people ‘the same’ or ‘normal’ and should not have the same rights and also those who harbour a deep-seated hatred and contempt for LGBTI people.
These people will make up of the majority group who will decide whether to uphold discrimination towards the minority group.
To ensure people are informed before they vote, as part of this, we will force LGBTI people and their families, loved ones and allies, to listen to the hateful rhetoric from people who argue that we should uphold this discrimination and LGBTI people should remain as a lesser class of citizen, which could cause deep hurt and harm to this group.
To ensure enough information is out there to decide whether LGBTI people are a lesser class of citizen or not, this will cost approximately 160 million dollars of taxpayer money.
It should also be noted that if a majority votes to continue discrimination towards the minority group, then discrimination based on gender should be fully respected and upheld. “
The Legislative Approach – Shorten Government
The legislative approach states that: Discrimination exists within our marriage law and separates citizens and discriminates based on gender. We will move a bill to redress that discrimination and ensure every citizen is equal under the eyes of the law.
A very wise man once said to me, “There are two types of politicians. Anti-Community and Pro-Community. The Liberals are always Anti-Community. That is why there are always protests against a Coalition Government.
Turnbull has been ahead in the polls since he obtained the Prime Ministership by default. Anyone who toppled Abbott would be the Nation’s automatic Messiah. He could read the back of a Cornflakes packet and the public would still have been cheering. How fortunate for Turnbull.
The party did not want Abbott. The party re-installed a former failed leader, Malcolm Turnbull. Four Corners painted Turnbull as the good little boy who didn’t make any fuss about Abbott whilst he was the Prime Minister. He just sat back patiently and waited for his crown.
The fact that Turnbull did not make any fuss about Abbott or vocally opposed Abbott’s policies or rhetoric, clearly shows that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal National Coalition simply were happy with Abbott’s policies. They just wanted a new face to deliver them and that is what we have now.
We saw the rise of March in March or March Australia during the Abbott years. We also saw massive protests against Campbell Newman’s harsh cuts, job losses, privatisation of public assets and the attack on our civil liberties in Queensland as well as his mantra of selling our assets. People marched and yelled in protest because they were fighting to protect everything that underpins us as Australians – A Fair Go.
Will you join the Protest to support Turnbull?
This leads me to the central question of this piece. Turnbull and the Coalition are ahead in the polls, but are his policies really worth fighting for? Your vote for a Turnbull Government is the ultimate endorsement of your fight for Turnbull and his policies. Would you protest for his policies to save his Prime Ministership?
If the Coalition’s policies are so important to make this country great, why do Liberal members and Liberal supporters and even swinging voters not get out there and protest to make their voices heard? Why do they not get out there and really fight for them?
I ask you this: “If you are thinking of voting for the Abbott-Turnbull Coalition Government are you so passionate about their return in the election that you would protest to keep them?”
To look beyond voting for a face and to really understand what that face represents, let’s take a look at what 10,000’s of people protesting for the Abbott-Turnbull policies would sound like…..
Cuts to Medicare
“If you get sick you should pay, user pays is a better way”
“It’s my taxes anyway, Make the poor PAY, PAY, PAY!”
“Cuts to Medicare should come quick. If you can’t afford it, don’t get sick!”
“Increase GST on everything!”
“GST up NOW!”
“Make the poor pay much more. A GST rise is our winning score!”
“Fast Broadband is a joke. Keep the copper that gets choked!”
“44th in the world isn’t last. We don’t need Internet that’s fast!”
“Rural living is a pity. If you want internet move to the city!”
Climate Change Denial
“Climate Science is a joke. Renewables will send us broke!”
“It was hotter last year! Climate Change is a smear!”
“Coal is good for humanity! Up the Climate Anti!”
Education – Cuts to Gonski
“We don’t need children educated. Gonski should be eradicated!”
“More funding for Elite Private Schools! Funding needy schools is for fools!”
“Education is a privilege, not a right. Down with Gonski, Fight, Fight Fight!”
It’s an election year. It’s time to get serious.
It is time to look beyond Turnbull’s smile and his nice suits and the fact that he is not Tony Abbott. In my personal view, what Turnbull stands for – Mass privatisation, harsh neo-liberal policies and radical industrial relations reform, is far worse than what Abbott stood for. By voting for a Liberal or National party member, you are joining the protest above. Through your vote for a Turnbull Government, you are endorsing the destruction of the quality of life we enjoy in Australia.
It’s time to vote with our hearts and use our vote to stamp out the greed and austerity that underpins the destruction of a fair go in Australia by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.
If you can chant all of the above and stand shoulder to shoulder and march with those who support Turnbull; by all means, vote for your Turnbull candidate. If not, put the Liberal and National Coalition candidates last on your ballot. It is where they put you.
Jamie Briggs, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment in the Abbott/Turnbull Liberal National Coalition Government resigned from the Ministry on the 29th December, 2015, citing his behaviour was an error of professional judgement. A female public servant has submitted a formal complaint, complaining of Briggs’ sexual behaviour. No one knows the exact nature of the complaint made, as we are not privy to any specific details at this time. Newspaper reports indicate that this complaint relates to unwanted sexual advances and/or sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment by men is the “Unsolicited, non-reciprocal male behaviour, that asserts a woman’s sex role, over her function as a worker (Benokraitis & Feagin, 1995).
Seeking “The Wife’s Opinion”
A number of articles written in various newspapers seek the opinion of Jamie Briggs’ wife. I will not link these articles, as I will not reinforce this distraction from Briggs’ behaviour. In fact, Jamie Briggs’ wife should be left out of this altogether.
When I read the various articles in newspapers focusing on his wife’s opinion and acceptance or condemnation of Briggs’ behaviour, I cringed. My mind went back to late 90’s and Hilary Clinton immediately. Hilary Clinton is still harassed about her husband’s behaviour today. Hilary Clinton is still expected to take responsibility for her husband’s behaviour and men in politics try their hardest to use this as a source of shame for Hilary Clinton.
No sooner had the ink dried on Briggs’ resignation, the media immediately turned their attention to his wife.
In doing so, this takes the focus off the man’s behaviour. It gives us something else to talk about other than the man who used his power on a woman who did not consent, nor did she welcome such behaviour of a sexual nature. Briggs abused his position of power. His ethical behaviour is also questioned.
Public Hat or Private Hat
Many argue that Bill Clinton had his ‘private ethics’ hat on, in his interactions with Lewinsky. Many argue there is a fine ethical line between a private ethics hat and a public one for politicians. However, in the case of Briggs, his ethics hat at that time was a public hat, as he was representing Australia in all his actions at that time. His reflection that this behaviour was not up to the standard of a Minister is accurate. He has made the correct decision to step down from his position in the Ministry.
In all organisations, including politics, there is a system of power rules in play. These power rules, like most other rules in society, have been developed through the powerful positioning of white men over a long period of time. (Please note, this article is about the sexual harassment of a woman. The Author recognises such power rules can impact on men, women of colour, men of colour, LGBTI people and people with a disability and other marginalised and disadvantaged groups).
Some of the “Power Rules” in play for the case of Briggs are “Legitimate Power” (power given to a person due to their position) and possibly “Coercive Power” (this is power where the holder of this power may have an influence on career choices etc., Coercive power is often used in a negative way, such as threats of demotion or non-recommendations etc.,). This is a little more complex, as it has many dynamics. Even if coercive power is not direct; a woman needs to face the decision if her complaint will be detrimental to her work-life due to the coercive power of those associated with the aggressor. This is intensified when the aggressor displays the perception that they have such power, (perception of power) even if it is not legitimate.
Unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment of women, intimidates and creates fear at a personal level and has implications at the work level. In cases where unwanted sexual behaviour and the workplace collide, intimidation and fear may also impact the victim’s work-life. Often, this is a source of non-complaint, where women feel reporting an incident of sexual behaviour is not worth the risk. The use of power rules, particularly coercive power in workplaces can have a dramatic impact on a woman’s self efficacy to report unwanted behaviour in the workplace. This should not be delegitimised by shifting the focus of attention to the opinion of the Briggs’ wife.
How women can be used to deligimitise other women’s experiences
Turning the focus to Brigg’s wife takes our attention off the victim. It takes the focus off the victim’s discomfort, powerlessness and distress. The victim should remain the most important person in relation to Briggs’ behaviour, not his wife, mother, aunt or any other women who may be used take the attention off Briggs’ own behaviour.
Also, bringing a third party (wife) into the scenario, this act of abuse of power resulting in humiliation, discomfort and distress, for the victim, diminishes Briggs’ behaviour to the opinion of the third party (wife) and not the opinion of the victim.
Turning the focus to the opinion of the wife, also diminishes the behaviour of the aggressor, when we ask, “What does his wife think about this?”
If Briggs’ was a single man would the media or other male politicians diminish his behaviour by using excuses such as, ‘he was only looking for a soul mate’ ‘She (the victim) must have read him wrong’ etc., etc., as we have seen many times before.
If the behaviour of sexual advance/harassment by men in power cannot be diminished or excused due to ‘bachelorhood’, the next step is normally, to seek to diminish the behaviour through the support of other women in their lives; usually starting with the wife.
As with Bill Clinton, question’s raised in people’s mind’s about Hilary Clinton, “Is it her fault?” “Is she not being ‘good wife'”, “Is the wife ‘not meeting his needs'” etc., etc., All these questions raised in various people’s minds puts the onus on a third party (wife) and lets the male aggressor off the hook.
All politicians and the people who market them desire for them to have ‘Referent Power.’ In a nutshell, referent power is about charisma and using that charisma to influence others and build loyalty (voters). When men are in public life, it is very important for others to try to re-establish referent power for the (fallen) individual male in question as soon as possible. The culture of sexual harassment is still dominated by the needs of the male (ie how complaints about their behaviour will affect their career. What will happen to the man now?). Seeking the opinion of supportive wives, other supportive women and supportive prominent men who may reinforce the ‘goodness and wholesomeness’ of the aggressor, reinforces this culture.
Focusing on male behaviour paves the way for a cultural shift
As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men, where the men have a question of sexual behaviour or any other indiscretion associated with their power above them.
As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men who are in positions of significant power. “Power Rules” exist in the wife’s external environment (political face and an extension of the husband’s work-life) and internal environment (power and control within a relationship). The layers of ‘power rules’ women, as wives of men in power must negotiate, is complex.
For people judging Briggs’ wife’s support for her husband, the illusion of how high her own moral bar is held, simply cannot and should not be judged. She could very well be subject to power rules and her ‘morals or ethics’ could be set at a very different level in private. (In saying, that her moral bar is completely irrelevant). In making any judgements about the wife’s opinion and her morals, we are simply condemning another woman caught in the same power rules as the victim. Power rules created by powerful men. We also remove support from the victim, by shifting our focus away from the unwanted, unsolicited sexual behaviour perpetrated by a man in power.
The only woman I have concern for, and the only woman who should be in our focus is the victim.
It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women feel uncomfortable in their own spaces, fearful, frightened, powerless and even ashamed.
It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women fearful, intimidated and distressed about how these unwanted behaviours will impact on their own career progression and work.
It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and the men who display the same behaviours view women, not as workers, but as sexual objects. This diminishes a woman’s entire gamut of knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes a woman possesses in her workplace. This in turn, diminishes the value of a woman’s labour at work. These men should not be part of public life, particularly where they influence legislation pertaining to women and work, such as Briggs was in the Howard era. (Chief advisor in the Prime Minister’s office on Industrial Relations / Work Choices).
(On an aside note, It brings to question, if Briggs’ Work Choices work, is the motivation for Turnbull promoting an Abbott supporting right wing man.)
Briggs, a man, so hell bent on the idea of Merit as opposed to Quotas, in particular really needs this reinforced over and over and over again, until he ‘gets it.’ Ironically, Jamie Briggs’ own behaviour makes him a shining example of why we do indeed need quotas for women in politics.
The focus in the case of Briggs’ resignation should always be about condemning Briggs’ behaviour and concern and empathy for the victim. Sexual Harassment by men, particularly by men in positions of power needs a cultural shift and that shift should start now.
This week we have witnessed white people instructing Aboriginal people about what is or is not racism. We have witnessed the Speaker of the House who has been exposed to be a serial breaker of rules, receive backing from the Prime Minister to remain in the job which will decide who else breaks the rules. Now we have Jamie Briggs, Member for Mayo, a former PM staffer elevated into a blue ribbon seat by The Boys Club, giving his opinion on ‘quotas and the quality of women in parliament.’ Has the world gone mad?
Just like Ron Boswell on Q & A last week; Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development – is the perfect example of an ignorant, shouty, self-important, narcissistic male politician who thinks they can either talk over the top of women, or view what women have to say as irrelevant. Politicians such as Briggs think that the only opinion that matters is the opinion of conservative men. Politicians like Briggs believe that politics is the rightful place of men. Such audacity coming from a man who was projected into a safe Liberal seat by the Liberal Party Boys Club. You can read the expose of Briggs’ trashy comments by Max Chalmers in New Matilda.
Politicians such as Briggs take a dig at a Quota system, but he doesn’t stop for a minute to acknowledge ‘jobs for the boys’ as quota based at all. He must have a short memory or must be extremely ignorant if he believes that Springborg was appointed Leader of Queensland LNP over Fiona Simpson, based on merit. He must have amnesia if he can’t remember The Liberal Party Boys Club – the prominent and powerful men who backed his own candidate bid for the seat of Mayo.
Let’s have a quick look at the members of the Boys Club who helped out their mate Briggs:
Downer stepped down from the front bench after the election and announced his resignation from parliament on July 14, 2008, initiating a by-election on September 6. The Liberal preselection was won by Jamie Briggs, whose work in the Prime Minister’s Office as chief adviser on industrial relations linked him closely and perhaps dangerously with the development of WorkChoices. Backed by John Howard, Alexander Downer and state party operative Chris Kenny, Briggs won the pre-selection vote in the seventh round by 157 to 111 over Iain Evans, former state Opposition Leader and member for Davenport. The Australian reported Briggs was pushed over the line by the preferences of third-placed Matt Doman, a former staffer to Right faction warlord Senator Nick Minchin. (Exerpt Courtesy of Crikey)
So there we go, a PM staffer winning a candidate bid over a former experienced State Opposition Leader. I’m sure it is all merit based. Let’s weigh the candidate bid up: Giving advice to the PM on the worst Industrial Relations Policy Australia has ever had (Briggs) versus experience as a former State Opposition Leader and experience as the Minister for Environment & Heritage, Industry & Trade and Recreation, Sport and Racing (Evans). Yep, checks out as merit based. Nothing Boys-Club-Smelly about that at all.
I often think of ‘jobs for the boys’ like this:
Hubby and his mates are sitting on the couch watching the television. His wife has just cooked a delicious meal which hubby and the boys have just finished. His wife has just baked a chocolate cake for desert and places it on the coffee table in front of them. His wife goes off to clean up all the dirty plates, wash up, sweep and mop the floor. When his wife finishes all the work, she goes into the lounge-room for her piece of cake. There is one piece just sitting there. She steps towards it. Hubby puts his hand over the top of the cake. “Hang on love.” He says. “Any of you boys want another?” The boys all nod in agreement. Hubby then has a joke and a tussle around with the boys and they all decide which one of boys gets the last piece. It was Dave.
The moral of the story is: No matter how great a woman’s work is, or how much hard work women do, often, when men are in power to decide what women get for their efforts; they will have a woman’s cake and eat it too.
At the ALP National Conference last weekend, the ALP decided to raise the bar and achieve 50% of women in Parliament by 2025. In light of this, some Liberal Party women are also pushing for an increase. This is not a new push for Liberal Party women. Liberal Party women have raised this issue many times before. In light of this fact, I question why this is not a prominent topic for discussion, considering the Liberal Party are in Government and the leader of their party is indeed the Minister for Women. It could possibly be that the boys are too busy eating cake.
I have outlined some of the reasons why we need to redress the imbalance of women in politics and I have outlined some of the challenges faced by women in the Liberal party. I have also briefly outlined my personal view, that we need to ensure that we use quotas in a fair and just way.
It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 44/142 countries for women in national parliaments. According to UNWomen in Politics 2015; Australia only has 26.7% of women in Parliament.
The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women.
However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.
I have outlined the reasons below:
If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.
In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government. Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation. The main reasons are:
No persistent pressure to pre-select women
Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.
Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of female MPs.”
I believe a holistic approach is required. To achieve equality, it is essential to determine the issues for women electorate by electorate, branch by branch. Not just review the policies and procedures and place a blanket decision of quotas on all. What may occur in an inner-Melbourne seat, may not occur in a far north QLD seat for example. The reasons women may or may not put their hand up for selection, may also differ from seat to seat. To achieve a redress of the imbalance, this issue cannot be looked at in isolation, nor can it be looked at from a top down approach.
To redress this imbalance, all parties need to have an in-depth look at the culture within each branch and determine branches where this is an issue. Although there will be branches where women simply will not feel empowered; there will be some branches or electorates for all parties where there may not be a problem for women to feel encouraged to nominate, or be selected. There is no point going in blind and hitting electorates willy-nilly with quotas. I’m all for quotas, but quotas need to be used as a respectful tool, to redress the imbalance. All parties need to understand the underlying constructs of the problem by fixing the imbalance from ground level as well.
We also need to use quotas in a fair and just way so talented men do not get shut out either, or it defeats the purpose. If a tool such as quotas was used as a power-play to politicise the selection of a seat, that is not fair, nor just, nor used for its rightful purpose. For example, if the tool of quotas was used to keep an Indigenous male out of the race, or a homosexual man out of the race or a male candidate who may champion green energy, where many branch members supported coal based energy; I would feel very strongly that this makes a mockery of all the women who have fought for equality. This is why it is very important to understand this issue from ground level as well.
Prominent leaders and executives cannot lead this change with a laizze-faire leadership style. They need to roll their sleeves up and meet with women in branches to understand the culture at ground level, as well as revise policy. A risk management system, along with a system of appeal needs to be put into place.
A review of the 2013 federal election, indicates that The Green’s party ran slightly more women candidates, but no party had more than 50% of women candidates. The number of candidates run also needs to be contextualised into ‘seats that can be won’ against ‘seats that never will be’. There would be no point increasing the number of women candidates in a left party and allocating them to blue ribbon seats and vice versa. A holistic approach is required.
Some positive steps are occurring, but I wait in angst in the hope that a fair, well informed and inclusive system is achieved to redress this imbalance.
Jamie Briggs also needs to go check himself if he thinks for one second that women find his opinion on quotas valid or important.
Yesterday, along with many others I watched the much anticipated marriage equality debate between Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong. I found some of the questions from the press gallery quite predictable. I felt the questions did not really challenge what marriage equality may mean for us as we progress as a nation. I have put together ten questions I would have liked to have asked Cory Bernardi and Penny Wong.
Question 1 – Twelve Year Olds Many young people dream of their wedding. Even at twelve years old I dreamt of my wedding and would often gaze at a good looking boy in my class and wonder if it would be him. If marriage equality becomes the norm, how will the world change for all twelve year olds?
Question 2 – Is it time to really scrutinise marriage? Marriage as currently defined, has no specific parameters of what that actually means, besides the union of a man and a woman. If a man and a woman are married, they can live a life as a sham. They do not need to sleep in the same bed or even live in the same home or even town. They do not have to share parenting, or be good parents or even be parents and there is always a contentious argument of if and when the housework is actually shared equally. Heterosexual married couples do not even have to treat each other with respect or endearment. They do not even have to be in love.
My question is, if we do not question the validity of what marriage means, outside of the bringing together of gender opposites, then why is the anti-marriage equality side constantly debating the morals, scruples and behaviour of the LGBTQI community who would like to be married? If this is such a strong area of concern, how do we redress the imbalance here if the anti-marriage equality advocates do succeed? Should we have more scrutiny of heterosexual married couples?
Question 3 – Gender Transformation If an individual who is married decides to undertake the journey of gender transformation; what do the current laws mean for the married couple if they want to stay together, if both individuals identify and are legally recognised as the same gender? How will marriage equality have an impact on individuals who undertake the journey of gender transformation,and their spouse?
Question 4 – Domestic Violence Domestic violence is a very prominent issue in Australia at present. Domestic violence is often discussed in terms of between a man and a woman, rather than between two people. There is now a shift in reports and language surrounding intimate partner violence, which includes same sex relationships. How will marriage equality assist Governments to legislate for protections for all people in domestic violence situations and enable Governments to fund programs inclusive for all victims of domestic violence?
Question 5 – Atonement Because it is 2015 and Australia still does not have marriage equality, there may be some LGBTQI people in our community who have felt they could not just ‘be who they are’ and may have chosen to live a life married in a heterosexual relationship for whatever reasons they decided this was best for them. If marriage equality is achieved, is it fair to say that there may be some resentment from those who feel they have been forced to make decisions they would not have had to? Is it fair to say that by not recognising marriage equality earlier, we have not allowed people to live a full life with freedom of individual expression and decision making and how do we as a nation atone for this?
Question 6 – A parent’s perspective As a mother to a newly engaged daughter, my excitement is over-whelming awaiting the wedding. Weddings are something which do bring family and friends together for such a celebration of love and happiness. Weddings are seen as a key milestone for so many. I see myself as someone who is privileged to enjoy this excitement and my heart pains for mothers and fathers who do not have this privilege. From the perspective as a parent, how does a Government see their role in interfering in such a personal, individual celebration of love which is only afforded to mothers and fathers given this privilege? This question is particularly for Senator Bernardi, considering his Government favours small Government and is supposed to favour distancing themselves from interference in the private sphere.
Question 7 – Our social fabric One of the biggest arguments for marriage equality is that it will end discrimination and enable equality for all. As per my last question, marriage is currently for those privileged to do so under our laws. If we do not allow same-sex couples to ‘be’ as heterosexual couples are allowed to just ‘be’ then our social fabric will always be woven from those in a position of privilege. How can our social fabric ever be complete when we are unconscious of a discourse that is currently silent about love, understanding and togetherness for all? How will marriage equality assist to weave our social fabric or in Senator Bernardi’s case destroy our social fabric?
Question 8 – Regional and Rural communities I live in a regional community and I am aware that as I have aged over the years, many friends from my younger days have moved on to live in capital cities where communities are generally more supportive of LGBTQI Individuals, as regional and rural communities have not been very supportive in their experience. Some studies also cite very harsh treatment towards LGBTQI people who reside in regional and rural communities with some contemplating suicide or sadly, taking their own lives. What impact will marriage equality have on LGBTQI individuals living in rural and regional communities and what impact will marriage equality have in shaping these communities as a whole?
Question 9 – A Government’s responsibility to understand all groups in society Although liberal feminism has achieved some great progress for women; liberal feminism was criticised by women of colour for excluding their lived experiences of discrimination and their need to redress areas of discrimination. This is because liberal feminists made assumptions from the perspective of middle class white women. Feminism has evolved to now women of colour having a much stronger voice and leading the issues in many areas of feminism. Including more experiences from a broader range of individuals can only result in better informed legislation. There are many areas of social policy and statistics collections where research assumptions are made on research and data collected from a heteronormative viewpoint. For example, there is little data to understand issues for single mothers who were previously in a same-sex relationship.
As it is the Government’s responsibility to develop social policies and legislate for same; isn’t it also the Government’s responsibility to ensure they have an understanding of all groups in society? How will marriage equality impact on the development of social policy and legislation of same? If Cory Bernardi believes these groups should be excluded by default by not having marriage equality legislation to redress this imbalance, does he support ill-informed legislation and policies?
Question 10 – Tolerance and conscience vote versus binding vote. Anthony Albanese (Albo) on ABC Qanda on 1 June indicated in his response to a question about marriage equality and a conscience vote, is that we need to tolerate and respect the views of others to bring them along with us. We have many different pieces of legislation which already make discrimination unlawful. Therefore, the battle against discrimination and inequality has been won on many fronts with political parties or Governments coming together to legislate for change to enable equality.
My question is about a conscience vote versus a binding vote. I question whether a conscience vote is a necessary patience, or a subconscious accommodation for the class of people who understand discrimination well enough in other contexts; but not when it involves stamping out discrimination for something they fear. The same class of people who use religion, ignorance and/or prejudice as a shield to ward off progress. As a progressive, I do not feel I need to respect groups or individuals who actively fight against progress and who uphold discrimination.
So my question is: How do Governments or even political parties make the decision about what is characterised to be morally and ethically sufficient or insufficient to determine whether a binding vote or conscience vote will be used? Also, to truly progress, how tolerant should we be of all views?