“The recovery means nothing for the more than two million workers who are still looking for a job or for more hours, this government is leaving millions of people behind,” said Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president.
“We have heard a lot about economic recovery, but for many Australians this is still completely out of reach,” O’Neil added.
The ACTU’s general assessments are shared by Labor MP Brendan O’Connor, the shadow minister for employment.
“Labor welcomes any additional job to the labour market,” O’Connor said on a doorstop interview in Melbourne on Thursday.
“It’s really important now, at a time when many Australians are finding it very difficult to find work or to find enough work, that we see opportunities in the labour market, and there’s been some modest signs of that.
“But there’s still a very long way to go,” he added.
The hurdles which the government has yet to clear consist mainly of the unemployment rate and a state of wage growth having been stagnant under seven years of consecutive LNP governments.
“There’s over 15 percent of Australians that are either looking for more work, or looking for any work and not being able to find it. And that needs to be therefore the goal of the government to look after those workers who are underemployed, unemployed, and also deal with the persistent low wage growth,” O’Connor said.
“We have people even when they are employed are finding it difficult to make ends meet, because of the very, very low wage growth,” he added.
And the solutions to those issues are not simple ones, either, according to O’Connor – especially when the Morrison government continues to stand by its failed and doomed initiatives with blind faith.
“What we’ve seen from this government is it’s very happy to help some, but not help everyone,” O’Connor said.
For example, the JobMaker initiative announced by the government last year was to help people recover after the end of JobKeeper. However, no worker over the age of 35 will be provided any support in looking for work, now or indeed when JobKeeper ends” at the end of March, O’Connor added.
Both O’Connor and O’Neil share the similar view that one stopgap for the economy lies within the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies: extend them beyond their current planned March 31 expiry dates.
“For those hundreds of thousands of Australians that are reliant on JobKeeper, for those thousands and thousands of businesses that are reliant on JobKeeper, they have only ten more weeks before that support ends,” O’Connor said.
“And so it’s Labor’s view, and others for that matter, that there may well be many Australians that will find themselves unemployed at the end of JobKeeper, and we advise the government to properly consider extending JobKeeper for those sectors of the economy that have still been very hard hit as a result of this pandemic,” he added.
“Many sectors still badly affected by the pandemic, such as tourism, aviation and universities, are being left struggling and without support,” said O’Neil.
Further to these points, O’Neil says that the current government lacks vision to fix the economic problems brought on by the multiple crises of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting once-in-a-generation national recession that Australia still finds itself in the grips of, despite recent modest gains.
“A genuine recovery from the pandemic and the associated recession requires sector support, job creation and wage growth.
“It is more important than ever for the government to look after working people, not set them back by cutting JobSeeker payments and ending JobKeeper,” added O’Neil.
“The federal government needs to do more,” O’Connor concurred.
Employment minister Michaelia Cash, whose shortcomings to adapt JobActive since February have been exposed (Photo from abc.net.au)
O’Connor also points out a significant statistical shift in existing employment advocacy programs which the government and its employment minister Michaelia Cash has failed to address in adapting its programs to the changes within rising unemployment numbers and the jobs culture as a whole.
O’Connor singled out the JobActive program, citing that it has doubled in size – from 700,000 users to 1.4 million – since February and pre-pandemic times.
“There’s been no proper examination of the effectiveness and efficacy of the Jobactive program. That needs to be attended to and examined by the government,” O’Connor said.
“But what that really says is there are many, many Australians whilst they are employed, they’re not employed with sufficient hours so they are still engaged with employment services seeking to find new work, more work, so that they can make ends meet,” he added.
O’Neil and the ACTU, meanwhile, point out that the dichotomy of the Morrison government languishing in a still-struggling economy amid cutting the JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies and pushing its proposed industrial relations reform legislation possesses counter-productive effects towards backing its ultimate claims that the economy is recovering.
“The Morrison government’s plans to cut income support and introduce industrial relations legislation which cuts workers’ pay and conditions will worsen unemployment, increase insecure work and further drive down wage growth,” O’Neil warned.
In October last year, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash issued a media release about the China Free Trade Agreement.
“The landmark China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will unlock immense benefits for Australians for many years to come,” Minister Cash said.
“As well as adding billions to the economy and drive higher living standards for all Australians, this deal will ensure thousands of jobs are created across all States and Territories.”
“It greatly enhances our competitive position in key areas such as agriculture, resources and energy, manufacturing exports, services and investment – these are industries that already generate many jobs but importantly they are sectors where we will see extraordinary opportunities for future jobs growth.”
Sounds good, until you read a report issued by the Minister’s Department of Employment last month titled the Employment Outlook to November 2020 which states that, for the five years to November 2020, employment in manufacturing is projected to decline by 45,700 (or 5.3 per cent), mining by 31,900 (or 14.1 per cent), and agriculture by 9,400 (or 3.1 per cent).
The largest fall across all sectors is projected for Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Part Manufacturing (down by 27,500 or 58.3 per cent), following the announced plant closures by major car manufacturers. A number of other sectors in Manufacturing are also projected to decline such as Clothing and Footwear Manufacturing (5,600 or 34.6 per cent), Other Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing (4,900 or 7.7 per cent) and Furniture Manufacturing (4,100 or 11.6 per cent).
The report also shows that, despite advertising campaigns by billionaires and compliant politicians suggesting otherwise, mining contributed only 11,300 to employment growth over the last five years and the future is not rosy.
Employment is projected to decline for a number of mining-related sectors. The largest decline is projected for Coal Mining (8,800 or 20.5 per cent), reflecting weak global demand. Employment is also projected to decline in Metal Ore Mining (7,900 or 11.9 per cent), Exploration (6,700 or 18.0 per cent), Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (4,800 or 6.5 per cent) and Other Mining Support Services (3,000 or 15.4 per cent).
As Barnaby Joyce talks about how well he has done with record prices, Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming is projected to record one of the largest falls over the period (14,000 or 16.3 per cent).
Over the past few decades the Australian economy has continued to shift away from lower skilled jobs towards a higher skilled, service based economy and this trend is projected to continue over the five years to November 2020, with the strongest employment growth, in percentage terms, projected for those with Diploma or higher qualifications.
The employment level of Labourers is projected to fall by 14,600 (or 1.3 per cent) in the five years to November 2020. Overall, the majority of the occupations projected to decline fall within the lowest skill levels, where seven of the bottom 10 occupations have a skill level commensurate with a Certificate III or lower (for example Product Assemblers and Bookkeepers). The remaining three of the 10 bottom occupations have a skill level commensurate with Certificate IV or Certificate III with at least two years on-the-job training (Secretaries, Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers and Metal Fitters and Machinists).
What is the government’s plan for jobs for these people?
Australia’s largest employing industry sector – Cafés, Restaurants and Takeaway Food Services, also supported by domestic tourism and further increases in international arrivals, is projected to make the largest contribution to growth over the five years to November 2020 (up by 84,300 or 14.9 per cent).
The largest projected occupation increase is for Sales Assistants (General) (up by 65,800 or 11.9 per cent), the bulk of whom are employed in Retail Trade. Healthcare workers and carers are strongly represented with employment projected to increase by 51,400 (or 20.0 per cent) for Registered Nurses, 43,000 (or 30.6 per cent) for Aged and Disabled Carers, and 39,000 (or 26.1 per cent) for Child Carers.
It should be noted that this government wants to cut penalty rates, have already blocked wage increases for aged and child care workers, and have slashed hospital funding, all of which will impact on our biggest projected growth occupations.
Structural changes in the labour market favour service industries which tend to be concentrated in eastern capitals. Employment in metropolitan areas is projected to increase by 9.5 per cent over the next five years, compared with 5.8 per cent projected for regional Australia.
At the more detailed regional (SA4) level, employment growth is projected to be strongest (in percentage terms) in Sydney – North Sydney and Hornsby (up by 35,200 or 15.1 per cent) and Sydney – Eastern Suburbs (23,600 or 14.4 per cent), while the largest projected increases in employment (in thousands) are for Melbourne – Inner (48,400 or 13.9 per cent) and Gold Coast (35,700 or 11.4 per cent). By contrast, employment is projected to fall by 300 (or 0.7 per cent) in South Australia – Outback and very weak growth is projected for Queensland – Outback (100 or 0.2 per cent) and Western Australia – Wheat Belt (600 or 0.9 per cent).
The free trade agreements were supposed to create jobs. Lord knows, they tell us that often enough, but the facts show otherwise. It is apparent that the FTAs will exacerbate low-skilled and regional unemployment, hitting those who are least resilient and most likely to sink into poverty. It’s all very well to talk about breaking the cycle of welfare dependency but this government is actively destroying jobs and industries as they entrench the interests of major corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.
And Malcolm’s coup has done nothing to turn things around despite his “jobs, jobs, jobs” rhetoric.
Over the first six months of 2016, the pace of employment growth has slowed considerably, with the level of employment rising by just 0.4 per cent. The decade average growth is 1.8% per annum (this period includes the GFC).
In monthly terms, the latest ABS Labour Force Survey showed a trend employment increase between July and August 2016 of 0.08 per cent, which remains below the monthly average over the past 20 years of 0.15 per cent. The rate of growth in employment has remained below this average for the past eight months. The trend underemployment rate increased to a series high of 8.6 per cent in August 2016.
As Turnbull and Bishop lecture the Americans about the TPP, it should be understood that it has very little to do with free trade creating jobs – moreso extending monopoly powers of American corporations, while maintaining tariffs and quotas for US farmers, and entrenching power and governance among the wealthy.
Today saw the release of what, at first glance, seem promising improvements in employment in Australia.
The headlines are saying that unemployment has dropped from 6.2% to 5.9%. Supposedly 58,600 jobs were created in October, 40,000 of them full time, with monthly hours worked increasing by 19.1 million hours.
Those are, of course, the seasonally adjusted estimates, which are subject to a great deal of volatility. Trend estimates are considered the best indicators of the underlying behaviour in the labour market.
If we refer to the trend estimates we get a slightly different story which shows the unemployment rate remaining steady at 6.1% with 18,800 jobs created and monthly hours worked increasing by 5.7 million hours.
Since October 2014, trend employment has increased by 260,500 persons, while the civilian population aged 15 years and over grew by 288,200 persons over the same period, so job growth has fallen short of population growth by some 27,700.
The Labour Force Survey is based on a sample of about 26,000 dwellings and covers approximately 0.32% of the civilian population of Australia aged 15 years and over. Extrapolating from these figures is therefore subject to sampling variability.
The ABS acknowledges this and publishes, under the heading sampling error, a 95% confidence interval ie there is a 95% chance that the true value of the estimate lies within that interval. These figures highlight just how wrong the headline figures could be.
We can be 95% sure that employment went up by somewhere between 400 and 116,800 in October. That’s a hell of a range, 58,600 +/- 58,200, and there’s a 5% chance that the real figure lies outside even that very large spread.
Likewise for the number of unemployed people. We can be 95% sure that it ranged anywhere from decreasing by 71,600 during that month to increasing by 4,800: 33,400 +/- 38,200. The unemployment rate could be anywhere between 5.5% and 6.3%.
So when you see Scott Morrison and Michaelia Cash preening at the various press conferences today, keep in mind that these figures are likely statistical noise with trend figures presenting a different picture. I hope the trend will eventually bear out these improvements but I certainly wouldn’t put money on it.
Now I know many people attach all sorts of connotations to the term feminist, many critical, but all it means is an advocate for women’s rights, something we desperately need more of.
Unfortunately, our new Minister for Women thinks “that movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now”, a view she shares with Miranda Devine who used her own delightful turn of phrase, saying “feminism is now well past its use-by date. It has just become an excuse for unhinged individuals with Daddy issues to indulge a mean streak.”
I guess the bar wasn’t set too high when our previous Minister for Women spent International Women’s Day at a local fire station receiving an award for his volunteer service.
Then again, both Ms Cash and her predecessor come from the party that chose to hold its International Women’s Day lunch at the men only Tattersall’s Club so nothing should surprise. In fact Tony Abbott said the women should consider it a victory that they were allowed to attend, a mark of how progressive the Liberal Party were at breaking down the bastions of male dominance…for one day, invitation from a male member required.
There are countless examples of why feminists must continue the good fight. Here are a just a few that were brought up at the recent Ernie Awards.
The discrepancy between the Matildas and Socceroos was laid bare when it was revealed Australia’s national female footballers would be paid less in match fees if they made the final of the World Cup in Canada than the Socceroos get for a single group-stage game. As it turned out, they reached the quarter finals, better than the men have ever done.
National women’s soccer, cricket, and basketball teams are flown economy as a matter of course, while the male teams travel in business.
When Nick Kyrigos got a bit flustered in a tennis match, he went for the age old “I f*cked your old lady” sledge. Ok, that isn’t quite what he said – his pitiful outburst was even more cowardly.
Too often, when men fail, they need someone else to blame and so it was when our cricket team was annihilated in their recent bid for the Ashes. According to Ian Healey, it’s because having their wives and girlfriends on tour was a distraction. Funny how all the rest of us are able to go to work each day, focus on the task at hand, and then return home to our families in the evening.
With 63 women dead from domestic violence incidents this year, Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has had some success in bringing long overdue attention to this scourge. Her courage has been amazing yet she must endure people like Mark Latham whose many attacks include tweeting “@RosieBatty1 Australian of the Year dividing the nation on the basis of gender. You owe my wife daughter and mother a massive apology.” Seriously?
When much-loved and best-selling Australian author Colleen McCullough died earlier this year, the Australian newspaper published an obituary which began: ”Plain of feature and certainly overweight…” Will the peacock mentality never end? When will women be judged by their achievements and contribution to society?
If Malcolm Turnbull wants people around the world to say gee they really respect women in Australia, I would suggest our Minister for Women better realise that we need some advocacy to change the endemic disrespect and discrimination that is alive and kicking more than a century after the battle was begun.
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.”
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’
Indigenous specific issues I outlined relating to many of the above areas and support for mothers and children of the stolen generation.
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.
“In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.” – Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women, March 2014
Senator Cash was born in 1970, the year I started high school. Even though feminism, or women’s liberation, was a burgeoning movement, all girls were still obliged to do sewing and cooking and all boys had to do industrial arts.
A few years on and Gough Whitlam came to speak at my school. The world was changing for people my age in so many ways. Anyone could now aspire to go to university. But there were many places that we could not go and there were many men and women, including Tony Abbott’s mentor Bob Santamaria, who saw no reason to change the status quo.
Pubs had Ladies’ Parlours where a few adventurous women wearing hats and gloves sipped politely on a small shandy while their husbands held court in that male bastion, the public bar, where women were most definitely not allowed. As women began questioning their right to be considered a member of the ‘public’, we were told that they swore too much in there and we wouldn’t want to be there. I remember telling a publican that I would forgive them their lack of vocabulary. He didn’t let me in.
And then there was the snooker room. If you went to the club together, it wouldn’t be long until the men disappeared downstairs to that other female-free zone, the snooker room. Having played a lot of pub pool whilst at University, I rather fancied myself at the game, so one day my girlfriends and I decided to join the boys in the snooker room at the club. We set up the table but before we could break, the club manager was straight over saying we had to leave. When I asked why he said it was the rules. I said “Yes, I know. I want to know why it is the rules.” His response was that we would hold up play so I promptly challenged him to a game.
By this stage every guy in the room was listening and they all started urging him to take up the challenge and I must say, with a smile and good grace, he accepted. He wasn’t quite as jovial after I beat him though he did shout me a drink. The rules changed a month later at that club. It took much longer elsewhere.
Fast forward to a few years after marriage, both of us working full-time, no kids, no debt, deposit saved for a house. Off we go to the bank manager for a loan to buy my parents’ house for a very good price. We were rejected because I was “married and of child-bearing age so your wage cannot be considered”. This was the mid 80s.
We have much for which to thank the feminists of the past but for Michaelia Cash to say “that was an ideology from many, many decades ago” is unbelievable. This is the woman who is supposed to be representing women’s rights at a decision-making level and she seems to find the word feminist to be some sort of derogatory label for ungrateful women who just can’t move on.
“Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. And this isn’t just about who has the bits that make the babies. Australian women earn less from the very first year after they graduate from university and TAFE.
Women still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties.
Women are almost 51 per cent of the population and yet we hold less than 30 per cent of elected positions in the federal Parliament. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions.
Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes.
We earn less, we are heard less and we are hurt more.
And all of this pales in comparison, to the women around the world who still do not share the basic rights, safety, freedoms and equalities that here in Australia we all take for granted.”
A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. Isn’t that what our Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Woman should be doing?
Feminism is aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.
Feminists have campaigned for women’s rights such as women’s suffrage, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Activists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women.
Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but men have also reaped many rewards from the feminist movement.
It gave our economy a huge and long-lasting boost as women entered the workforce. It has led to better relationships and more satisfying sex for all concerned. It heightened awareness of gender discrimination helping men who were also victims. Contraception gave men and women more sexual freedom and abortion also gave them an option other than an unsatisfying marriage. It caused the definition of rape to be changed to include men. It gave men more time off to be with their kids. It demanded that the media change its representation of men from the stereotypical macho muscle man and encouraged men to rethink outdated masculinity standards and gender roles. More men entered fields like nursing and teaching.
Feminist is not a gender-specific term. It applies to men and women who recognise the equality of the sexes, the right to equal opportunity and pay, and the shared responsibility for unpaid work. So it’s rather off-putting when our federal minister responsible for women says it is “ridiculous” that identifying as a feminist should be a prerequisite for her job.
When asked by a journalist at the National Press Club during the lead-up to International Women’s Day in March, whether or not she considered herself a feminist, Senator Cash replied:
“I consider myself a very lucky person whose parents told their four children to achieve, you work hard … All I know is that I believe in women … but I also believe in men.”
Right. Let’s not alienate the men, as advocating for women’s rights is bound to do. Know your place and don’t cross the line or you will be labelled a misandrist. Just ask Julia Gillard.
And as for working hard, Michaelia decided to work hard at entering politics from a young age. She is the daughter of Western Australian state MP George Cash and, by age 18, was an executive member of the Curtin University Young Liberals from 1988 to 1990 where she studied public relations, politics and journalism, and then the Western Australian Young Liberal Movement, where she held numerous positions including state vice-president. She is a member of the state council and was the president of the Moore Division. She also served on the party’s state executive.
Ms Cash also expressed her admiration for Julie Bishop, describing her as “stylish” and admitting she has “a bit of a passion” for the Foreign Affairs Minister. It is obvious she is trying to emulate Julie’s style if not quite with the same aplomb.
On rare occasions, politicians make inspired speeches that strike a chord. On even rarer occasions, these words reverberate around the world. Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was one such moment. Not only did millions around the world sing its praises, some very talented young Australians turned it into song, literally.
And then there was Michaelia Cash’s vitriolic rant in the Senate directed at Penny Wong after Rudd replaced Gillard as the leader. Listen to the way she spits out the words “her own sisterhood” and “Emily’s List” (a political network in Australia that supports progressive women candidates to be elected to political office). Listen to the sneer with which she emphasises the word MISS Gillard – the barren adulteress.
During a Women’s Day event, Tony Abbott referred to himself as a “feminist”. In comparison to Michaelia, Tony’s looking almost good.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969