The encouragement of women into the political sphere and the development of current women MP’s should be a genuine intrinsic motivator for all politicians, across the political spectrum. However the Queensland State Liberal National Party Opposition have chosen to participate in political games, rather than engage in political progress for women.
The QLD LNP State Opposition have denied a pair for attendance at the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians’ (CWP) Annual Planning Meeting. Queensland Representative, Brittany Lauga, MP (ALP) is now unable to attend and Queensland will have no representative. A pair is required as QLD has a hung parliament. Ms. Lauga said that, “Pairs are granted all the time for Ministers and Members to attend different meetings.”
This is an indictment on the leadership and values of the LNP. It clearly shows that the LNP view women’s representation in politics as something frivolous to be scoffed at and something to play games with.
Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians
The CWP plays a vital role in the devolopment of women to enter into politics and also for the women who are currently in Office. The statement from the CWP website, describes their purpose as:
The CWP Steering Committee believes Australian political and party behaviours and cultures need to improve if we are to achieve equitable outcomes for women in Parliament. Moreover, women who are elected to Parliament deserve to be heard on policy and governance issues, especially gendered issues such as domestic violence where our laws and programs have tragically failed too many women.
It is essential that women politicians are given every opportunity to participate in any forum, conference or committee, which will enhance the role of women in public life.
Women’s representation in the State and Territory Parliaments is low and needs vast improvement. The LNP have only eight women MPs out of a total of 42 MP’s in the QLD State Parliament (19%).
A Show of Good Bipartisanship
Ms. Verity Barton, MP (LNP), was the CWP QLD representative from 2012 – 2015. Ms. Lauga wrote to the former CWP representative in the spirit of bipartisanship on the 25 October, 2016.
Dear Verity and the Broadwater EO,
On Thursday 3 and Friday 4 November 2016 the CWP is holding a face-to-face meeting in Hobart. I have negotiated with the CWP to allow an observer from the Queensland Opposition to attend and I wondered if Verity would like to be that representative? The Clerk of the Parliament and the Speaker have both approved this. Travel would have to be arranged using the Member’s GTA through Travel Services. Would you be interested in coming along?
Ms. Barton advised she was unable to attend.
Ms. Lauga then wrote to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Deb Frecklington MP, on the 27th October, 2016, to extend the offer to any other woman in the LNP Opposition. However, to date, Ms. Lauga has not received a reply from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Ms. Barton was afforded every opportunity to attend CWP events as the Queensland representative from 2012 to 2015. This includes attending the Pan-Commonwealth Conference for Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, Houses of Parliament, UK, in June 2014 and the 3rd Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum in Fiji, in May, 2015.
An ALP Junket and Upgrades to Business Class for LNP
In a statement to The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin on Wednesday 2nd November, 2016, an LNP spokesman advised that:
“Ms Lauga does not require leave from the Opposition to attend a parliamentary junket at taxpayers’ expense”
To describe a conference, which underpins the vital and crucial development of women representing women, in a country where Domestic Violence is an epidemic; as “A Junket” is beyond offensive to ALL women.
The statement from the LNP spokesperson is not only offensive, but the LNP may need to look in their own backyard before casting aspersions on others.
All MPs who undertake international travel are required to submit a report. I have been able to source Ms. Barton’s report for her international travel to Fiji, but there appears to be an absence of a report for Ms. Barton’s international travel to London for the CWP Conference UK, 2014.
In addition, Ms. Barton’s Fiji report lists upgrades to business class equating to $1300. This exceeds the cost required for Ms. Lauga to attend the CWP Annual Planning meeting in Hobart.
If Ms. Barton has not submitted a report for her international travel to London, this may be a matter for the ethics committee.
Encouragement from the Speaker
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Peter Wellington, MP (IND) (and also chair of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of which CWP is a sub-branch) raised the matter today in the spririt of encouragement and fairness at a meeting between the LNP and Labor. However, the LNP still refused to grant a pair.
Ms. Lauga wrote to the Speaker on Tuesday to express her disappointment.
Dear Mr Speaker,
As discussed today, a meeting of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians is planned for Thursday 3 November (dinner) and all day Friday 4 November.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, I sought approval from the CWP for an observer to attend so a woman from the Opposition can also partake in the meeting.
Once approval was granted by the Chair of the CWP Michelle O’Byrne, I wrote to the former CWP Queensland Representative, the Member for Broadwater Verity Barton MP to invite her to take up the observer position (see attached email).
Further, I also provided the Member for Broadwater with a copy of my itinerary in case she wished to take the same flights and stay at the same hotel as I had planned. The Member for Broadwater refused the invitation (see attached email).
I subsequently wrote to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Deb Frecklington MP and extended the offer for her, or another female member of the LNP Opposition to attend the CWP meeting as an observer (see attached email). To date I have not received a response to this offer.
My understanding is that it is unlikely the LNP will agree to a pair for me to attend the CWP meeting in Hobart, despite the offer for the LNP to send an observer to the meeting. It would be an embarrassment for Queensland not to be represented at the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians meeting considering all other States, Territories and the Commonwealth will all be represented.
It would be particularly disappointing given that the Member for Broadwater was offered every opportunity to partake in CWP meetings and activities as the former CWP Queensland representative. Queensland, and indeed all of the women members of the Queensland Parliament, deserve to have active representation at the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians.
The LNP’s refusal to allow a pair to the meeting would be a State shame, but it does highlight the LNP’s failure to acknowledge the importance of women being represented in our Queensland Parliament.
A National Statement of Disappointment
Any woman reading this, will have their own personal story about their lived experience of denial of opportunity due to sexism or gender discrimination. The level of disparity is further ingrained for women of colour, women with a disability, women in regional an rural communities, women in poverty and the LGBTIQ community and other minority groups.
It is not only important for all Queensland women to be represented, by their state MPs at these important events, but more so for women in these groups. As inequality is a serious issue throughout Australia as a whole.
The Australian Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, Michelle O’Byrne MP who is also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, made this statement on behalf of all women.
‘It is extremely disappointing to see political game playing interfere with this important role that supports women in parliament and works to increase the participation of women in political life.
Unfortunately I note that this view is not held by the LNP for male attendance at national committees and events not was it their view when the Queensland role was held by a LNP member. It is disappointing that Queensland will not be represented at this national meeting’.
Men in Blue Ties
The LNP appear more interested in playing political games to harm the progress of women, instead of supporting and encouraging participation of women from both sides of the house.
An interesting question to raise is; have the ‘Men in Blue Ties’ also denied the participation of women in their own party, so they could play games with the hung parliament?
What would Malcom Turnbull Say?
The Federal Leader of the Liberal and National Coalition and Prime Minister famously said:
“You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating. Not all disrespecting women ends up in violence against women. But that is where all violence against women begins,”
I ask in all seriousness, would the Prime Minister approve of his State counterpart purposely playing political antics with the opportunities of women MP’s to participate in a forum who have one of their key purposes as:
“Women who are elected to Parliament deserve to be heard on policy and governance issues, especially gendered issues such as domestic violence where our laws and programs have tragically failed too many women.”
The State QLD LNP are disrespecting women at the highest level. That is, preventing women parliamentarians to attend an event that is integral in working towards a progressive future where women’s experiences of legal discrimination and discrimination by default are rederessed.
I encourage everyone to urgently place pressure on the Prime Minister to stand up to his State counterpart, the Leader of the QLD LNP, Tim Nicholls, to ensure that a pair is granted in the QLD State Parliament, to enable participation in CWP and similar events from LNP and Labor women MPs, at all times.
If the Prime Minister implies that “This is up to the QLD LNP” or places blame on the QLD ALP, then his attendance at the CWP Conference in 2015, was nothing, but for show.