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Tag Archives: Minister for women

We need a feminist

Australia now has a female Minister for Women. The only trouble is, she isn’t a feminist.

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.

Take the Matildas.

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.

We need a feminist.

 82 total views

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

 76 total views

The high achievers of the Abbott Government who should keep their Ministries!

Below is a short list of Ministers – the high achievers – who should keep their positions after the reshuffle.

Minister for Women. OK, let’s start with Mr Abbott himself. As Minister for Women he’s responsible for a number of achievements:

  • His signature paid parental leave scheme which was so good that we couldn’t afford it.
  • As he reminded us, removing the carbon tax enabled the women of Australia to use electricity for their ironing instead of warming it on the stove.
  • Stopping the boats which was good for everyone, even women.
  • Commenting on the popularity of women when they were working surrounded by men.
  • Encouraging them to take scholarships in fashion courses.

Minister for Education: Christopher Pyne has also been a high achiever. Recently he announced changes to the Australian Curriculum which promise a greater emphasis on phonics, as well as a greater emphasis on the benefits of Western civilization and Anzac Day. I’m shore u’ll awl agree that fonnix helps stewdents to spel evareethink crektly. Wuns thay spell werds as they sownd, then nowun will complain about bad spelling eny moor. But Pyne has been an achiever from the moment he took over the portfolio proudly boasting that he hadn’t read the Gonski report, giving confidence to all those students who attempt essays without reading their English texts.

The Attorney General: George Brandis, the quiet underachiever. George may have ignored tradition in this portfolio by failing to defend the court system when those “vigilantes” held up a coal mine by resorting to the unfair tactic of using the existing law, but that’s not the only thing he hasn’t done. The list is quite long and, honestly, you’d have more hope of getting through the books in his library, which is another reason to keep him in his current position. Moving his bookshelves again could jeopardise the Budget which is on a path to sustainable surplus sometime after the return of Halley’s comet.

Minister For Employment: He’s hardly been a quiet achiever, not only has he been busy with his portfolio, but he’s had an opinion on same sex marriage and the links between breast cancer and abortions. Of course, you all know that I’m talking about the erudite Eric Abetz. OK, he may be a bit left wing for his uncle Otto and Andrew Bolt but, in case you’ve forgotten, among his achievements are this change to “red tape”:

After streamlining, employers will no longer have to report on:

  • CEO remuneration

  • remuneration of casual managers

  • components of total remuneration

  • numbers of job applications and interviews, and

  • requests and approvals for extended parental leave.

And, of course, last but not leased … and certainly not for sale, the man who professed his loyalty to Abbott right to the very end, we have

Treasurer: Joe Hockey has put us on a path to sustainable surplus. Or so the Liberals keep telling us. Considering we were a basket case just two years ago, Joe’s measures have put us back on track in extraordinarily quick time. Particularly when those nasty senators wouldn’t even allow a number of his vital Budget measures. How can a miracle worker like that be dumped?

Apart from that, I suggest that Mr Turnbull should spill all other positions and draw names out of a hat for ministry positions.

Let’s face it, he couldn’t do much worse than Abbott’s attempts at choosing a ministry.

 

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Minister for Women, you are CRAP at your job

In what other portfolio would a minister who remains consistently silent about his responsibilities to the huge demographic covered by that portfolio, even in the face of a staggering number of the cohort dying, be permitted to retain his job? Yet Tony Abbott continues to claim for himself the title “Minister for Women.”

Has there ever been a greater political insult to Australian women than this? He’s having a laugh. He always was.

In spite of an enormous recent increase in media and public attention directed towards intimate and family violence, the Abbott federal and the Baird state LNP governments have cut funding to specialist women’s services since Abbott won government in 2013.

These cuts have resulted in women’s refuges in NSW urban and regional areas being re-situated under the umbrella of homelessness services, thus denying the specific difficulties faced by women who are not primarily homeless, rather who are fleeing their homes because those homes are inhabited by a violent partner.

Many refuges are now run by faith-based organisations. Experience in addressing intimate and family violence is not a prerequisite for winning a contract, indeed the criteria for determining the awarding of contracts don’t even mention domestic violence concerns.

This Women’s Agenda headline would seem premature: Our Watch Awards celebrate the power of journalism in ending male violence against women. Neither journalism nor anything else has ended male violence against women, and while media attention to the appalling statistics and the stories behind them is absolutely necessary, the power of journalism alone to end violence against women and children is yet to be demonstrated. There has to be action with the talk, and I mean direct action against perpetrators, such as immediate custodial sentences when an AVO is breached, for a start.

As long as we have privileged and ignorant male politicians redesigning frontline domestic violence services in ways that can only make the plight of women and children fleeing violence worse, we will not end that violence, indeed we will only make it easier for perpetrators, as women’s options are eroded. Already, the legal aid situation is so dire a perpetrator can access free advice and representation, but the woman he assaulted may not be so lucky.

The toll of one man’s violence against his partner is inestimable. It has long-term effects on children, immediate family members, extended family members, neighbours, workmates, and when perpetrated in public, as have murders and attacks in the last week in Queensland, has traumatising effects on every witness, and every member of the public who attempts to intervene.

Then there’s the cumulative toll domestic violence takes on services such as police, paramedics, hospital staff, counsellors, and those who provide legal aid services. In terms of its capacity for widespread and generational damage, intimate and family violence is a catastrophic event far exceeding any terrorist threat we face.

Yet the Minister for Women’s only intervention is to cut funding to frontline services when they ought to be urgently increased, and by tenfold.

As a salve and to appear as if he’s interested, Abbott promised an awareness campaign. However, he’s failed to address where women and children will go for assistance and shelter after our collective awareness is raised. We don’t need another government awareness campaign when services are inadequate, or don’t exist. We need the services. Abbott’s promised awareness campaign, in conjunction with service cuts, is one of the most cynical moves this government has made. That is saying much.

Tony Abbott is a crap Minister for Women. Probably the most crap Minister for Women in the world. The sooner he takes his sorry arse out of that portfolio and appoints someone who gives a damn, the better. With Abbott at the top, violence against women and children is never going to decrease in this country, and with his funding cuts he’s making it easier for perpetrators to be left on the loose and unaccountable.

Someone once said you can judge the state of a country by the way it allows animals to be treated. I think you can judge the state of a country by the way its government allows women and children to be treated. And by any measure, this government’s attitude to violence against women and children is absolute crap.

This article was first published on No Place For Sheep.

 

 108 total views

Some thoughts on the gender pay gap

Shannon Fentiman, QLD Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Multicultural Affairs has announced today that she supports ‘positive discrimination’ to close the gender pay gap. Ms. Fentiman said this is ‘definitely something we should have a conversation about. This has struck up a fair bit of conversation across social media. There are a lot of people who are genuinely concerned that this will cause undue discrimination for men; and that there is not really a gender pay gap to consider. Life does seem pretty fair at times, right?

I have detailed at the end of this blog post some information regarding discrimination against women in the workforce. The information below was previously sent in a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, in 2013, but it appears he has made no progress on this matter and to my knowledge has not even attempted to start a conversation about this type of disparity women face.

I know there are a lot of jokes out there on social media about Abbott being the Minister for Women. It would be great if we can just stop laughing about it now; because it isn’t funny when he is stifling progress.

I have a few concerns with how we approach this issue of gender disparity in pay and the workplace:

The first issue is that it was very evident when I completed this research for the initial blog post; that Indigenous women experience more disparity than non-Indigenous women. I feel that this needs to have a specific focus from the Government.

The second issue is the high unemployment rate for Youth. Particularly in regional Queensland areas. For example, there are very limited administration opportunities in regional communities. The public sector, since the cuts from the Newman Government has seen a sharp decline in any recruitment for administration in the public sector in regional communities; particularly entry level administration. Small business has struggled since the GFC, with some improvements being noted in recent times; but small business needs a hand up to give young people employment opportunities as well. Not enabling our youth to access employment now, will increase the existing disparity for women; but also increase generational disparity for both genders in years to come.

The third issue I have is how we approach positive discrimination so that it does not enable disadvantage for men. When we view inequality, we need to view every step of the process and not just the end process of the ‘job interview’ or selection process. We need to view every step towards securing employment, rather than believing everyone is equal at every point of the process. For some who experience other social marginalization, the disparity inequity widens. This is where I feel the argument of “the best person for the job” does fall down.

In communities where there is little administration recruitment occurring and a lot of mining or laboring recruitment, it does create disparity for what women can apply for from the outset. Many women are not suited to the types of laboring or trades jobs advertised in regional QLD communities, but some women most certainly are suited. Where women are the primary care givers, it creates further hindrances to securing employment in a traditional male field. I acknowledge that there are many traditional male jobs and industries not suited to all men, and I also acknowledge that disparity exists for some men to enter into traditional female fields of employment. I also acknowledge that social disadvantages affect both genders.

Therefore, a holistic approach needs to be used to ensure that ‘equal footing’ at the point of application is achieved. This includes identifying hindrances to women and men in individual communities and tailoring Govt assistance to business, encouraging investment or examining the capital city focus of the Public Sector. In addition, the community sector lost a lot of funding in regional communities and this also needs to be looked at, to bring funding back to small local organisations, rather than granting of tender funding to larger national organisations, where most of the senior management, human resource management, accounting, administration or clerical work is done in their head office. Education and training opportunities from high school, vocational and university level also need to be scrutinized as contributors to hindrance.

The fourth issue I have is the differences between metropolitan, regional and rural communities. The Government needs to focus on individual communities, rather than Queensland as a whole to address the issues individual areas face. This goes back to my point that there are simply not the same administration and management opportunities for women in regional areas in the Public Sector as there are for women living in a capital city. No woman who wants to progress in the QLD Public Sector should have to consider moving to Brisbane to do so. This is inequity in itself.

The fifth issue I have is that we need urgent Industrial Relations reform to review the award wages attached to jobs identified as traditional women’s jobs; whilst not impacting adversely on these industries. However, this will be a challenge with a Federal Liberal Government at the helm and the length of time that these wages and industries have been seen as lesser value. This will require not only an Industrial relations change, but a cultural/societal change. This will not be an easy fix nor a quick fix.

I look forward to suggestions from readers on how we can address this issue in a positive and progressive manner.

******

For those who doubt that women experience discrimination within the workplace a pay; please view the information below:

 

Discrimination against women arising from casualisation in the workforce and high numbers working in insecure employment and
Discrimination against women through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’, and the general availability of fewer opportunities of penalties and overtime. Please note that in 2011, the gender pay gap was 17.2% for full-time workers and
Discrimination against women in the workforce, or who are job seeking who either cannot access or cannot afford childcare
    • More women than men in Australia continue to work in jobs that provide less security and stability
    • Some of the lowest paid industries in Australia such as Accommodation and Food Services, Arts and Recreation Services and Retail trade tend to employ the highest proportion of female employees without paid leave entitlements (61 per cent, 48 per cent and 34 per cent respectively
    • 30 per cent of female employees who are lone parents with dependent children, are casual employees without paid leave entitlements
    • In 2012, the total cash weekly earnings by gender were $1189.00 (Men) $852.00 (Women) (Source Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Discrimination against women in achieving leadership and management roles and
Discrimination by default, due to under-representation in management and board positions in Australia
    • In virtually all sectors of the paid workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership roles.
    • Women account for over half of academic staff, however only 27% of women are Senior Lecturer or above.
    • 64% of law graduates are women, however only 22% of women hold senior positions in law firms. Only 16% of women are on the bench in the Federal Court of Australia.
    • Women chair only two per cent of ASX200 companies (four boards), hold only 8.3% of Board Directorships, hold only four CEO positions and make up only 10.7% of executive management positions
    • In 2008, women held 5.9% of line executive management positions in ASX 200 companies; a decrease from 7.5% in 2006. Line executive management experience is considered essential for progressing to top corporate positions.
    • Women make up a third of members on Australian Government Boards and Committees.
    • Despite comprising more than half of all Commonwealth public servants, women make up only 37% of the Senior Executive Service. (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
Discrimination by default suffered by women who, as primary parental care givers, end up with reduced superannuation earnings in retirement and
Discrimination by default suffered by women, will receive less superannuation over time, through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’
    • Only 60% of Indigenous women have superannuation coverage compared to 80% of women in the general population.
    • Many women work more than one casual job across different employers and do not receive super from any individual employer, due to earning less than $450 per month.
    • The mean super balance of men earning under $5400 per year is just almost double the amount for women in the same group. (Source ASFA)
    • Women have significantly less money saved for their retirement – half of all women aged 45 to 59 have $8,000 or less in their superannuation funds, compared to $31,000 for men.
    • Currently, the average superannuation payout for women is a third of the payout for men – $37,000 compared with $110, 000.
    • In Australia, women working full-time today earn 16 per cent less than men.
    • Women also receive less super across the board, due to the gender pay gap of 17.2% (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
The under-representation of women in parliament, amounting, in the absence of any system to redress the imbalance, to discrimination

It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 43/142 countries for women in national parliaments.

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 would like to end this post to give thanks to the Queensland Labor Party for making history for succeeding in appointing more female Ministers than men in a Queensland Government and the first female, indigenous woman MP and Minister in a QLD Government.

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Tony Abbott’s first significant act as Minister for Women

Tony Abbott’s first significant act as Minister for Women – let’s make everyone aware that we’re doing something about domestic violence!

“Federal and state governments will spend $30 million on a national awareness campaign to stop domestic violence as Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament he will meet with Labor to discuss a bipartisan approach to the issue.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, March 5th

 

“Violence is violence. It’s a crime. Full stop.”

Michaela Cash. Minister Assisting the Minister For Women, While Assisting The Minister For Women Announce That He’s Spending $30 million on an awareness campaign.

 

“What are these blinkin’ bleeding heart Labor lawyers from hereonin, screaming bloody hypocrites they are… they ought to out there kicking her (Julie Gillard) to death.”

Graham Morris, Liberal Party Strategist, suggesting strategy for the Labor Party.

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

Yep, everyone. Even Gillian Triggs with her partisan report. Though we may not agree with we still think she has the right to resign on her own terms. In fact, we’re sure of it, because we had a good hard look at the ways in which her resignation could be forced.

But for those of you who thought that Abbott was being sexist in his attacks on Professor Triggs, I think that it’s only fair to point out that he attacks anyone who fails to acknowledge the god-given mandate that his government has been given.

Let’s not be distracted by a silly report, written by a silly person, who didn’t have the sense to take on a new job when it would have been offered, but certainly wasn’t offered because that could be considered breaking the law, so let’s be clear that there was no inducement, just the possibility of a job, had the person in question decided that she’d rather resign before her partisan report led to the entire country losing all confidence in her. Let’s move on to something more positive and exciting on IWD (that’s International Women’s Day, and not to be confused with IMDs which we all agree were very confusing in the days leading up to our invasion of Iraq.)

It’s really exciting that the Abbott Government is spending $30 million on making women – and, of course, one or two men – aware of domestic violence. Because, after all, a woman who’s being attacked by her partner may not have been aware that she was a victim of domestic violence unless there was a government advertising campaign. She can remember the ad she saw on TV and think that she seek help, if only most of the help hadn’t been closed down in the 2014 Budget.

Now, I notice a lot of bleeding hearts – it’s just an expression, people, I mean if Graham Morris can use it, so can I – are complaining about this very thing. I read a piece where a person argued that it was ridiculous that the government is spending money creating awareness of the problem, when they’ve also saved money by closing down many of the places where a victim of domestic violence could go to seek help.

This, of course, overlooks the excellent approach to economic management that the government has. I mean, the money for the campaign had to come from somewhere, didn’t it? And while a place in a refuge would only help one person, an awareness campaign helps everyone… from advertising executives to media companies to Prime Ministers wishing to show how much they care about women.

And, of course, it also helps the women. The trickle down effect of this spending means that everyone should eventually have more money, which means that the women can afford to build and pay for their own refuges without relying on men’s taxes to pay for them. Let’s not forget that men earn more than women, so they’re paying more income tax, so why should their taxes be spent on something that they’re never going to use?

It’s part of the whole user pays system that the current government has a mandate for. Sorry, should that be a persondate; I have no wish to use politically incorrect language on IWD. It’s just like Medicare and the whole refuguee problem. And let’s be clear people, a refuge is only an “e” away from being a refugee.

But perhaps, I’m misunderstanding the government’s approach. Perhaps, the domestic violence campaign won’t be about making victims aware. Perhaps it’ll be directed at the cost of domestic violence, and try to convince the perpetrators to stop because like intergenerational debt, it’s something we just can’t afford. An ad campaign that says that like Medicare and Old People, it’s something that we just can’t afford any longer, maybe that’s what they have in mind.

Whatever, I’m sure it’ll be much better spent than if Labor had wasted it on services and that the campaign will be thoroughly worth the money, because, well, Tony’s back on top of his game, when just a week ago, we all thought that he’d hit the wall. Metaphorically, I’m not refering to any incident from his uni days.

 

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Women go back to the future

In 1975 I was asked to take part in the Lions Club Youth of the Year Quest. The competition was in two parts. Firstly we were asked for our views on current affairs. I remember East Timor was a hot topic at the time. Secondly, we had to give a speech on a subject of our own choosing.

The Lions Club had an interesting rule stating that, even though girls could compete, they could not go on to represent their district at the next level. This had to be done by a boy, so if I won, the boy who came second would go to the state finals rather than me. As it was International Women’s Year, I chose to make this the topic of my speech, pointing out that the word “youth” was defined as “the time of life between childhood and maturity” regardless of gender.

I’m not sure if they were shamed into it, or if I was a token, but I won the public speaking section and the headlines in the local paper the next day said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias” – something I copped quite a razzing for from my friends.

So why am I sharing this self-indulgent piece of personal history with you? Because almost 40 years later I am still having the same arguments.

Politicians like Cory Bernardi and Fred Nile still accuse women of using abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and label those who advocate pro-choice as “pro-death”.

We have a Prime Minister who thinks that men and women have different abilities – and he considers that position to be evidence-based.

Mr Abbott said in the 1970s: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

In 2004, he said: ‘‘Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.’’ If the rumours I have heard are true, it is a “convenient exit” that Mr Abbott took advantage of as a young man, well before the much publicised time that he left his girlfriend just after she had given birth.

In 2006 we were greeted with this headline.

“IT took 15 years for Gardasil to make a national hero of its creator, Ian Frazer. But it took just three days for the world’s first cancer-preventing vaccine to make a national dill of federal Health Minister Tony Abbott.”

The gatekeeper of the federal drugs budget rejected Gardasil for PBS subsidy and the application by the drug’s promoter, CSL, for a three-stage national immunisation program. While justifying his concerns about the price on radio, Abbott floated the bizarre idea that a misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine might actually result in “an increase in cancer rates”.

It took just another 24 hours for the Prime Minister to put an end to the nonsense. John Howard, alert as ever to the public mood, delivered sparkling prime ministerial endorsement to Gardasil along with a clear direction to Minister Abbott that the immunisation program should proceed. And pronto.

“There is no lack of desire to get this wonderful drug available and the mass immunisation campaign to start as soon as possible,” Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Despite the fact that, in Australia, cases of human papilloma virus infection have dropped nearly 60 per cent since the immunisation program against the virus which causes cervical cancer began, Mr Abbott, whose views on virginity as a gift are well known, said no. ‘‘I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.’’ Maybe it’s because he has the ridiculous notion that it will encourage his daughters to be promiscuous without taking precautions?

He has led the Liberal Party at the same time as the Party has experienced a decline in women’s participation at top levels. Senior Liberal women have publicly protested over the systemic sexism in the party. Good people like Judi Moylan, who had the courage to cross the floor on the asylum seeker issue, are ignored in the Liberal Party, with preference shown for fawning sycophancy and dramatic histrionics.

When Tony Abbott announced his Cabinet with only one woman there was justifiable outrage. We are back to girls not being able to represent at the next level, back to the old Lions Club rules. If there are no “women of merit” in the Liberal Party, they should be asking themselves why that is. If this caused outrage, Tony’s self-appointment as the Minister responsible for women’s policies and programs was the ultimate insult.

To be represented by the man who says he “gets” us, like we are some homogeneous group with clearly defined views and aspirations, the man who, when asked about the merits of the candidate he was campaigning with, could only come up with “She’s got sex appeal”, the man who uses “ironing” to explain carbon pricing to “the housewives of Australia”, is really just too much.

Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about that. The middle-aged white males have it all under control. “Women of calibre”, go forth and multiply. Single mothers, get off your butts and get a job you bludgers, and why haven’t you got a husband anyway? And all you fakers on the Disability Pension can do likewise – we know you are spending all that money on golf lessons and martinis. We will no longer be contributing to superannuation for those of you who fail to earn a large amount of money as you have obviously not taken advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities on offer. And don’t think you will be getting an old age pension either. Why should those of us who earn a lot subsidise the workers who make us our money and the carers who are too lazy to get a job and provide for their own retirement.

Time to go find my apron and polish up on my darning.

 

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