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Tag Archives: equality

Democracy: The Genie is out of the bottle

Equality and freedom are two core component of democracy. Whether it’s me, you or Malcolm Turnbull walking into that polling booth on election day – everybody’s vote is equal and we are free to vote however we like.

But there’s a lot more to democracy than that. In the often quoted words of American President Abraham Lincoln:

Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.

The concept of democracy has been around for thousands of years, but the way it works in practice has started to change this century. And that change has seen the average person in the street unwittingly gain more power in the political process – here’s how…

The balance of power in a democracy

A democracy is arguably the only model of government that aims to distribute power equally – to give everyone an equal voice, an equal say. But history has shown that we – the people – are not particularly good at holding on to democracy.

Democracies have risen and fallen over the centuries. And when they’ve fallen, it’s been pretty much the same story every time – the average punter has let the balance of power that exists between the rights of the individual and the rights of the government shift too far in favour of the government. While this sometimes happens as a violent coup, more commonly it happens as people give up freedoms – like their right to privacy – one at a time. In the words of the 20th century’s most famous enemy of democracy, Mr Adolf Hitler:

“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time. To erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf)

Historically, one of the reasons that people have let democracy slip away from them is that they have taken it for granted.

In Australia today, many people take democracy for granted because they misunderstand the crucial role that democracy plays in controlling so many key aspects of our daily lives. From what we learn in school, how we drive, how much pay we take home right through to which foods we are able to buy at the supermarket – there is scarcely an aspect of what we do that isn’t impacted by legislation which is created and managed by the government – and therefore ultimately controlled by the democratic process. And yet rather than embracing democracy – people are disillusioned by it.

Disillusionment with democracy

The main institution that most people associate with democracy is their right to vote for a Member of Parliament (an MP) to represent their area (or electorate). That MP – at least so the theory goes – takes their place in the House of Representatives and should be a voice for the people of their electorate. And through that MP – so the theory continues – we all have a say and a vote in how our country is run.

That’s how it’s supposed to be. But in practice, when we head to the polling booths these days – unless you vote for an independent – your vote is normally for one of two political parties rather than for someone to specifically represent your electorate.

When you combine this with the fact that elected MPs often act like they are voted in to rule over us rather than to serve us – the result has been many that many Australians have lost faith in the very concept of democracy, feeling both that their vote doesn’t actually represent their views and that those entrusted with political power through their vote are not using that power particularly well.

In the last federal election, despite it being compulsory to vote, the Australian Electoral commission estimate that one in five eligible voters didn’t vote! And one in four young voters didn’t even bother to enroll.

In fact, in a Lowy Institute poll earlier this year, only 65% of Australians felt that a democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. And among 18 to 29 year olds, it was under 50%. When the Lowy Institute delved into the reasons for this – it turned out that it wasn’t that people thought we should become a fascist state. In fact, the most common reason cited for not believing in democracy was:

“democracy only serves the interests of a few and not the majority of society”

Since democracy as an institution was intended to achieve the exact opposite of this – then the most important thing that this poll tells us is that there is something very wrong with the way we are ‘doing’ democracy today in Australia, and that if we don’t lift our game, we are at risk of losing it.

The good news is that although many don’t realise it, the face of democracy has been changing this century – and strangely enough, as a result, the balance of power has been shifting back in the people’s favour.

The changing face of democracy in the 21st century

The forgotten pillars of democracy

Despite the fact that the role of the average punter in the political process is often associated almost solely with our right to vote, the reality is that there are a number of other core principles of democracy that we often forget about – including our right to freedom of information and freedom of speech.

Our ability to take advantage of these freedoms has changed drastically this century – and that change has brought about what is arguably one of the biggest shifts in the way democracy works since Aristotle first said “Let’s have a show of hands” back in Ancient Greece. This shift has happened not through our antiquated parliamentary houses and the parliamentarians who sit in them – but through the information revolution brought about by the internet. Thanks to the internet, we now have far greater:

  • Freedom of Information through ready access to unfiltered primary sources of information around the Globe; and
  • Freedom of speech through an ability to both voice our opinion and connect with others in a way that we never have before.

And many politicians don’t like it.

Politicians are quite happy to talk philosophically about the importance of ‘Freedom of information’ and ‘Freedom of speech’ – because in days gone past, these were principals which in practice would cost an individual a tremendous amount of time, effort and money to use. This dissuaded most from doing so – and instead we all had to rely on the ‘fourth estate’ – the media – to check out and validate politicians’ claims and press releases.

This meant that the average punter had very little – if any – opportunity to personally check out whether what politicians were telling us was true. And we had very little opportunity to have a say about what was going on – other than through an organised protest march or perhaps a letter to the editor or your local MP. The media acted very much as an information filter – and on the whole , we had no option but to believe them and hope that they were doing their job to validate facts, identify discrepancies and tell us what need to know to make an informed judgment about who is running the country.

(Given the quality – or lack thereof – that comes out of some of the mainstream media outlets today, a number of whom seem to act more like extensions of the government’s press office than newspapers – this is somewhat disturbing.)

This century however, with so much information readily available on the internet, we don’t have to rely on the media to do our fact-checking for us. Each of us can download an individual politician’s expenses from the Department of Finance and see for ourselves exactly how many chopper rides they’ve taken. And once accessed, we can readily share this information with people around the globe – both known to us and unknown to us – in a matter of seconds.

The boundaries have shifted

Greater freedom of information and freedom of speech has brought about a shift in the boundaries of the democratic power-base. We – the people – have unwittingly claimed back some of the power that has been stripped away from us over the years. Politicians don’t have to wait for a poll now to hear what people think – they can go online and read all about it – in online comments on mainstream media news site, on independent news site like the AIMN, on social media, on blogs – the list goes on.

Where previously politicians could cultivate a relationship with key people in the media, and to some extent manage and control what was presented to the general populace and what was amplified – this has now become a lot more difficult. We now have a far greater say in what we think is important than we did before.

This shift in the balance of power has literally brought governments down. You need look no further than the recent Arab Spring democracy uprisings in the Middle East, which many argue would not have happened without social media.

Of course anything powerful can be used both for good and for bad – and we have also seen examples of how the internet and social media has been used to harm. But even taking that into account, the power to have a say in the destiny of our nation is now at least partially back where the founders of democracy intended it to be – in the people’s hands.

We now have REAL freedom of information and REAL freedom of speech – where previously we just had it in theory. Ok, maybe ‘real’ is a bit strong – we are living in the age of ‘on-water matters’ after all. So let’s just say that our ability to exercise freedom of information and freedom of speech is much greater now than it ever has been.

The Genie is out of the bottle

The internet – or information Genie – is out of the bottle, and governments around the world are feeling the pinch, and rushing to do what they can to get that Genie back under control again.

This change is upsetting the political apple-cart – and there are those in power who don’t like that they can no longer control the narrative quite as well as they used to be able to. Our recently dethroned ex-prime minister Tony Abbott was well known for criticising twitter – calling it ‘electronic graffiti‘ and Australia ‘at its worst’. And the government of Nauru recently shut down social media primarily to silence opposition.

The challenge that we now face is to understand and take advantage of this power shift, to use this Genie to correct the boundaries around our government’s power and restore the balance.

With these newly accessible freedoms, we can more actively participate in democracy – we can drive change from the bottom up instead of waiting for our politicians to get out of their hermetically sealed bubbles steeped in outdated political traditions. Without these freedoms, we risk going back to a nation fed on what the media tells us, blithely oblivious to key aspects of what our government is doing on our behalf and in our name.

There’s more to this …

Politics is not something many people talk about often. Democracy even less so. There’s a lot more to cover on this topic, so I’ve split the discussion on this into four articles – this one plus a further three – coming soon – which will cover:

  • Voting: it’s all about the money
  • Information: it’s all about control
  • Democracy: it’s all about you.

And finally – remember curiosity didn’t kill the cat, complacency did

One of the things our disengagement with democracy has done is to make many feel disempowered – like the things that are happening in the world today, or even just in our nation, are somebody else’s problem, that there is nothing that we can do to fix them. They aren’t somebody else’s problem. They are our problem. And there is plenty that each of us can do. Many pollies want us to stay out of it, to stay disengaged – a public that doesn’t ask questions doesn’t create problems.

But heed this warning from a previous president of the United States – John Adams:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long……There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

The way to stop this from happening is to get and stay engaged with what is going on politically. To have your say. To engage with others about real issues.

Public opinion matters big-time now – arguably more than it ever did. And you play a role in forming that opinion every time you have a conversation with someone about national and global issues. It turns out we really are all only separated by six degrees – even less so within an individual country. This means that the conversations you have with your friends, family, colleagues and even online connections matter. Whether those conversations are in person, on Facebook, on a news site, a blog or on Twitter – it’s those conversations that change public opinion. And changing public opinion impacts the way our government acts.

That’s true democracy in action.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

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The Challenge for the New Minister for Women

Today we welcome a new Minister for Women – Senator Michaelia Cash. In December 2013, I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Tony Abbott. I outlined quite extensively my concerns for legal discrimination and discrimination by default. I received a very prompt response from Senator Claire Moore of Labor which was very comprehensive and addressed all of my concerns.

However, I still awaited a response from the Minister for Women who said that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia.” After months of requesting a response, Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens took up my case via email to me. Finally, in April 2014 I received a response from Senator Michaela Cash, Minister assisting the Minister for Women. I thank Senator Waters for her tenacity and persistence.

Senator Cash advised me in her letter that the Liberal National Coalition is “committed to delivering policies that ensure both women and men have equal opportunities to contribute to society and live free from all forms of discrimination.”

In her letter to me, she also praised the work of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and noted, “Elizabeth Broderick has demonstrated leadership on a number of issues raised in your (my) letter.”

Elizabeth Broderick’s term as Sex Discrimination commissioner ended in September 2015 and to my knowledge a replacement is yet to be appointed. The Attorney General, George Brandis told the Debrief Daily, that a replacement was under consideration, but no announcement at this point. This is just two days prior the Commissioner’s post being vacated. The Office for the Minister for Women does not appear to be keen to source and push for a replacement, knowing a vacant chair was immenent, for a Commissioner who has done such great work.

Senator Cash also advised me in her letter that her Government has also “Made a number of commitments that will seek to drive forward gender equality in Australia.” Senator Cash then outlined a number of policy priorities. As this is 15 months after this letter was penned, let’s have a look at Senator Cash’s responses and how they stack up. I see these as challenges for the new Minister for Women:

Relocating the Office for Women – This was advised by Senator Cash to be one of the “first priorities and a key election commitment.” Senator Cash advised that this will “Strengthen a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women and sends a strong message across government about the need to consider women in the development and implementation of policies and programmes”

How did this stack up? – Unfortunately, this priority has not achieved the outcomes it said it would. The strong message sent across government with one, then two women in Cabinet reduced this strong message to a whisper. When we take into consideration the number of women in Cabinet who identify as a feminist and actually sincerely believe in gender equality then this strong message is merely tokenism and placed on mute.

At the time of Senator Cash’s response, women in leadership roles were sparse. However, today, the new Prime Minister has now in increased the number of women in cabinet to six, which is now a makeup of 22% women and 78% men. This still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of commitment to policy input by women.

The better social and economic outcomes are not evident from this move and there are quite a number of budget cuts and policies, which are harmful to women. Cuts to family payment, the attacks on government paid parental leave, cuts to funding to community services such as “Girls Time Out” in my community, which assists young pregnant mothers to name a few. (GTO has since been refunded after a fight brought on by the State Labor member for Keppel).

Pregnancy discrimination, Paid Parental Leave and Lifetime Earnings – Senator Cash agreed with me that we must reject discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. Senator Cash then outlined the Liberal’s panacea for all things women – the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and directed me to a report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to work National Review.

However, Senator Cash did not mention in her letter that this review was instigated by the Attorney General on 22nd June, 2013; which at that time was Labor’s Mark Dreyfus.

On 22 June 2013, the Attorney-General’s Department asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a national review on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination in relation to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave

How did this stack up? – As we know the Liberal’s panacea to all things women, the PPL, was abandoned by the Government and they also went on an attack on women who had already bargained with their employer for PPL and screamed that they were ‘double dippers.’ This is a derogatory term, aimed to stigmatize women. Not the Government’s greatest achievement.

As per the pregnancy discrimination issues raised in my letter; as discussed above, it appears the Liberal Government has done no work of its own in this area and the work was commissioned by Labor. The findings certainly have not been in the forefront of the Government’s agenda and to this point remain relatively silent, unless you make an active choice to read the report.

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare – Senator Cash directed me to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare. At this point, it was in the early stages and was not expected to be finalised until February 2015. I found this inclusion a little confusing. I had not raised any specific concerns about childcare affordability etc., in my initial letter. My concerns were mainly specific to the discrimination of pregnant women in the workforce, the impacts of the casualisation of women and the impacts and discrimination experienced by women returning to work from maternity leave. The questions I raised were not specific to the childcare framework, but more focused on missed opportunities for training, promotion and leadership, breastfeeding discrimination and negative and inappropriate comments from managers and supervisors. However, after a review of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare recommendations, none of these recommendations addressed my concerns.

How did this stack up? – In this instance, the Minister assisting the Minister for women, read my concerns as affordability of childcare and did not address some of the ingrained cultural issues within workplaces, enabled by existing legislation to redress discrimination for women in the workplace. Although, the recommendations have not been developed into policy at this stage, some of the recommendations concern me within the wider framework.

The recommendations aim to encourage all mothers to return to work. There is little support in terms of policy direction from the Government for women to stay at home. Under both the Liberal and the Labor Governments, the choice to mother at home has been taken away from women who want to provide a stable, continuous home environment for their children, by forcing mothers to return to work. In regional areas, there is not the support structures, transport infrastructure or jobs to place this additional burden on single mothers. Some mothers from low socio-economic backgrounds do not have their own transport or support network. This policy direction does not place women at the centre of the debate and should be a supported choice to return to work, not a regulated forced requirement to obtain income to support self and child/ren, which in my view discriminates against women who want to make the choice to stay at home. This choice is afforded to wealthier women, who have the privilege of a second income that can sustain both mother and child at home.

The entire policy framework of women and work is from one of ableism and is not supportive of women with a disability. With no Disability Commissioner and none named in the new Turnbull Cabinet Ministery, I fear this will not be redressed.

Another concern is that child care payment is always viewed as a combined income situation. To overlay this against the concerns we have at present with the rise of domestic violence, I strongly believe it would be pertinent for the government to review this to support women to be able to independently earn their own income. Not all women, have access to income or shared income in all situations and financial control is a common factor amongst victims of domestic violence. Please view the recommendations linked above.

Women on Boards – Senator Cash outlined in her response that “the Government is committed to supporting women into leadership roles, and we are engaging with the business and community sector to support women’s representation of leadership and on boards.” Senator Cash also informed me that the government is engaging with the National Women’s Alliances.

How did this stack up? – Senator Cash advised they were working with the National Women’s Alliances. This alliance was formed by the Gillard Government in 2010. Senator Cash may not have known at the time of her response to me, but regardless, this alliance’s funding will now cease in 2016. As a woman from a regional community, I hope as Minister for Women she will announce the refunding of this alliance.

Violence against women – Senator Cash assured me that, “A key priority of our policy agenda is to ensure that women and their families are safe from violence.” Senator Cash also reassured me that they are continuing with the previous Labor plan to reduce domestic violence. I also note that Senator Cash advised that they have increased funding to White Ribbon.

How did this stack up? – The nation is aware that we have a domestic violence epidemic with a very high number of women violently murdered in a domestic violence situation so far this year. The Government has remained relatively silent on this issue and has not championed any real commitment to assisting women at risk of or fleeing domestic violence. Some of my concerns: cuts to family payment, increasing financial pressure in homes, the four week waiting period for Newstart, which will see young women at risk of homelessness and violence, the cuts to Indigenous legal aid (now refunded), cuts to community programs which are vital to support for young women. The increasing casualisation of women in the workforce, providing little stability for families and the lack of seriousness in responding to developing a committed immediate framework and funding much needed and required services.

Women at Risk – This is a response to women fleeing as asylum seekers and the discrimination within the current processing framework (for more detail see original letter linked in the opening paragraph). Senator Cash advised that they have a “Continuing objective of the empowerment of women” and they have increased 1000 places for women at risk in their humanitarian intake.

Senator Cash also advised that “the Government will ensure that Australia’s refugee and humanitarian resettlement program provides places to those we can help most and those most in need.” Senator Cash did recognise that women and children are the most vulnerable in this group and “deserve to be given a very high priority in Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program.”

How did this stack up? – To date, the Government has been marred by accusations of the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. The Human Rights Commissioner’s report and Senator Hanson Young’s vocal reporting into the conditions in camps and other professionals speaking up about ill-treatment and abuse, physical and sexual of women in camps, the secrecy and lack of empathy by the Government gives me no confidence at all that the Office of Women considers women seeking asylum, with any seriousness or commitment. This needs to be urgently addressed, in light of recent developments.

What was not addressed in Senator Cash’s response

There were a number of areas not addressed at all in Senator Cash’s response to my original letter. These are discrimination for women pertaining to the areas of:

  • Rape and the Justice System
  • Denial of right to safety
  • Casualisation of the workforce and insecure employment
  • Gender Pay Gap, including lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’
  • Superannuation
  • Marriage Equality
  • Indigenous specific issues I outlined relating to many of the above areas and support for mothers and children of the stolen generation.
  • Abortion Law
  • The under-representation of women in Parliament

How did this stack up? – Frankly, I felt a long-awaited response from the Government, which took the tenacity of Senator Larissa Waters to take up my cause and finally receive a response from the Office of Women months later, was disappointing to receive so many areas not addressed. Also, as you can see in the other responses outlined above, I was disappointed that the Government claimed ownership of Labor initiated programs and reviews, through absence of this information and 15 months on, no real progress in policy to redress discrimination for women.

I will never know if the former Prime Minister and Minister for Women, still believed that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination” after considering the matters raised in my original letter, as this was not addressed.

Where to now? – I hope that the new Minister for Women does believe that women do indeed suffer legal discrimination and discrimination by default. Personally after Senator Cash’s tirade on the ‘sisterhood’ in the senate, my personal preference would have been Marise Payne to take on this role, as I believe Senator Payne has spoken out on a number of occassions with seriousness on issues that women face. I hope as Minister for Women, Senator Cash changes her rhetoric and attack as displayed in this video. Otherwise, she cannot be taken seriously in this role.

I hope that now Senator Cash is the Minister for Women, she has more scope to tackle head on some of these areas that need to be addressed urgently.

I fear that the impacts from the Government’s wider policy in welfare, humanitarian programs, social support programs, education and health are ingrained in an ideology harmful to women. I seriously doubt many of these areas I have outlined as my concerns for equality for women can be redressed, as these wider policy frameworks coupled with the rhetoric and narrative of the Government can and do act as antecedents and enablers of discrimination to women.

I strongly believe that the liberal and conservative ideology of the Liberal National Coalition impedes and prevents proper progress in the area of equality for women and a change of Government is the only solution. However, only time will tell.

Originally posted on Polyfeministix

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Boys Club Beneficiary Gives Opinion On Quotas and the Quality Of Women

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.

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

 

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White Supremacist says Ms. Hanson is misunderstood

The Reclaim Australia Movement is conducting a rally in my home town of Rockhampton and Pauline Hanson will be the guest speaker at the event.

In our local newspaper (The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin) and local groups on Facebook, there has been commentary regarding this event. Reclaim Australia purport that it is not a racist event, but inclusive of everyone.

Bro Michael Ireland of the Church of Creativity (founded by white supremacist leader Ben Klassen) has now established a local chapter in the Rockhampton community. The Church of Creativity is a white supremacist movement, which has a doctrine built on the notion of “nature.” That is God created white people and white people essentially need to take charge of the earth or else it will spiral towards a path of destruction. (No links in my blog to this rubbish – sorry).

To put into perspective where this white supremacist church has established itself; I will detail the population demographics of Rockhampton.

Rockhampton is a town in Central Queensland, and sits on the Tropic of Capricorn. The traditional owners of the land in Rockhampton are the Darumbal People. The Aboriginal Township of Woorabinda is 170 km west of Rockhampton. There are 6.5% of people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Rockhampton, which is higher than the state average of 5%. In addition, 12.5% of Australia’s South Sea Islander people live in Rockhampton and although the dominant population ancestry groups are Australian, English and Irish; Rockhampton has a growing trend of Indian, Filipino, South African and Vietnamese people (Profile.Id, 2013 & Dept of Communities, 2014).

Bro. Michael Ireland had this letter published today (15/07/2015) in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in defence of Pauline Hanson. I have published my response below, which has been submitted for consideration as a Letter to the Editor.

bro michael ireland

 

My Response

Perhaps Bro Michael Ireland should rename himself “the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It is very misleading to the public when an individual uses the title of “Bro”, indicating he is using the title to speak on behalf of a religious faith.

Bro Michael Ireland does indeed belong to a Church. The Church of Creativity, Rockhampton. Some of his opinion pieces have appeared on the Church of Creativity Website. He starts opinion pieces with, “Racial greetings to my fellow White brothers and sisters.” He urges people to obtain a copy of the true bible for the white race – The White Man’s Bible. In other opinion pieces, he refers to Christian People as “Christ-Insanes.” This certainly speaks to the hypocrisy of the use of the title ‘Bro’, which is normally understood within society as relating to a Christian faith.

Perhaps when Bro Michael says that Pauline Hanson is misunderstood; he does not recognise that Ms. Hanson’s version of equality is in fact inequality. When he calls into question homeless shelters for Indigenous homeless youth, and blames the Government’s investment in Indigenous programs as ‘guilt over colonization’; he does not stop to consider that there are considerably more barriers to achieving equality for Indigenous people than there are for those of non-Indigenous backgrounds. He does not recognise that when it comes to working towards equality, not everyone starts from the same starting point.

I am not an Indigenous woman, but I am a local woman and I feel great pride when Darumbal Elders such as Wade Mann give the Welcome to Country at events. It fills me with an overwhelming feeling of pride for the area I live in; a feeling of awe at the beauty of the land and animals described and an intrigue and excitement of stories I was never taught at school and I look to Uncle Wade with respect as an Elder and a leader in our community.

When Bro. Ireland’s doctrine states, “We believe that without the white race any worthwhile culture and civilization are impossible” He does not recognise how other cultures can enrich us and teach us and how we can learn respect for customs and traditions. Multiculturalism helps us to stop being insular and selfish and gives us the gift of inclusiveness.

When people promote Ms. Hanson today, they do so on the platform of creating a ‘non-Muslim’ Australia. They seem to forget that Ms. Hanson has ridden on the back of negativity and fear mongering of Asians and Aboriginal people. Ms. Hanson’s 1996 Maiden speech to Parliament warned Australians of the damage that Aboriginal people and Asians do to our society. Now that the fear and hatred has turned to Muslims, she is milking that cow until it is dry. It would be a safe bet that if people started to be scared of the Irish, Ms. Hanson would jump on that bandwagon to serve her own pockets. Ms. Hanson is the Jimmy Swaggart of the Nationalist set.

The growth of the Patriots and White Supremacist movements can be summed up in the words of Aboriginal Elder and former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Patrick Dodson:

“In a climate of uncertainty and fear, without strong and visionary leadership, people panic.”

 

Originally published on Polyfeministix

 

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