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Hey! Fat White Women! Ya Clowns! Stop Marching!

womens-march-sydney

Source: Andrew Murray/AFP

Overtly racist, Anti-Muslim, Right Wing Nationalist-Populist Pauline Hanson yesterday announced in a coded message that she has redressed all the issues for women which underpin feminism. We no longer need feminism! Cancel the next Women’s March!

Five Million Women

The Women’s March on Washington  was held on 21st January, 2017. This was an international event with over five million women and men marching world wide.  The Unity Principle of the movement is defined as:

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

Women, men and children marched to raise awareness to end violence against women. They marched for reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, workers rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice.

Australian women, men and children also marched in solidarity. This is what they marched in solidarity for:

womens-mission

I Stand for all Aussies – Except Fat White Clown Chicks

Pauline Hanson expressed outright anger yesterday at Australian women marching in solidarity with another five million women worldwide.

Now we all know Hanson insists she is not racist. Despite still saying racist things about them, she now loves Indigenous people, Asians and Muslims. She stands for all Australians.

That is, except fat, white women who chose to march in the biggest women’s march in our history, because human rights are women’s rights.

Hanson described these women as clowns, who needed some sun and exercise.  I know many will think that this is just an unplanned rant by Hanson, because she is just an ignorant and angry woman. No, not at all. This is very planned and strategic.

This is simply a strategic tactic to appeal to her main demographic voter base – white men over 40 and to plant herself firmly into the spotlight by saying something divisive about feminism. Being a woman herself, this just legitimises her as a ‘strong woman’ in the eyes of her voter base – white men over 40. A woman standing up to fight against the ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ women who are attempting to share equal space with ‘good’ or ‘strong’ men and have men relinquish some of that power they hold dear, is most certainly a beauty to behold and to vote for.

hanson-women

You Can Tell a Dumb Clown by Its Frown

Dumb clowns are confused. These dumb clowns are stupid. Silly dumb clowns always frown. The saying that we say back to bullies, “it takes one to know one” is quite apt here. Hanson is openly stating that she thinks women are marching against democracy. She thinks they are marching against a process to elect a Government democratically.

Think before you speak might be another one that fits here.

Because dumb clowns are stupid, another one that does fit very well is “educate yourself”.

This is normally used towards people who make claims about feminism. However, they are super dumb, just shaking and crying all over their keyboards angrily hammering out myths and propaganda, rather than actual facts.

Hanson in this rant is the epitome of the clown, she accuses other women to be. A dumb clown at that.

These women were not marching to protest against democracy. Women were marching for an entire gamut of human rights and women’s rights. They were not marching to over-turn a democratic process of electing leaders. Or insisting on authoritarian rule. They were however, sending a message that women’s rights are human rights.

Bumping Up and Down in My Little Red Bandwagon

Bandwagon jumping is when someone pops into an online cause or trend for personal ego trips. Normally, reserved for social justice, these bandwagon jumpers are often louder and drown out the voices of the legitimate minority group that need to be heard. They do it for personal gain, for followers, for ego pumping.

Regardless, they see a trend and they jump right on that bandwagon. Just like Pauline did.

Trending online opposing the women’s march were two groups – Trump supporters and men who oppose the rights of women. Often referred to as MRA’s.

One of the main arguments used against the women’s march was the use of the “Divide and Conquer” strategy.  In all fairness, this is Hanson’s primary tactic in obtaining voters for her own personal gain in her pursuit of power.  This may explain why this bandwagon was so appealing.

This particular bandwagon had so many jumping on it to pit Muslim women against white women.  They did it by trying to delegitimise the many struggles women face. This is done by championing the fact that Muslim women in Muslim Majority countries have it far worse.

That is, pitting the oppressed against the oppressed. Veterans and homeless before refugees! Sound familiar?

Having women question their compassion for all women, to incite them to turn on one another in competition between race, gender status, geography, is a tried and true tactic of those who seek to destroy the feminist movement.

Those in power or who seek to be in power, like Pauline Hanson, do this because facing the enormity of not only the legal discrimination women face, but discrimination by default and the ingrained sexism and misogyny women face daily, is simply too difficult.

For leaders to be sincere about women’s rights issues, would mean that they would need to invest or actually think about solutions. That is far too hard.

Instead, they do things like this to divide and conquer:

Muslims, Muslims everywhere!

Sorry, didn’t mean to scare the Hanson voters reading this with that headline. My point of that headline is that there are two takes on this:  Hanson either purposely did this as a tactic, or she is purposely ignorant, which is not a fitting quality for any leader.

The leader and organiser of the Women’s March is a very famous Muslim-Palestinian – Linda Sarsour. Sarsour is a strong advocate that women of colour should lead the women’s movement.

The other fact that Hanson seems to apply her ignorance to, is that the March was an inter-sectional march. That means that women were marching for all women, regardless of where they come from or if they do or do not fit into a minority sub-group of women. They were marching for Human Rights for all. As women’s rights are human rights.

The HUGE fact that Hanson ignored was that thousands of Muslim Women marched. Yes, even in Saudi Arabia.

womens-march-saudi

No Need to March – I’ve Got This!

Perhaps I am being far too pessimistic. Maybe Hanson thinks that women do not need to march because she has all the answers. Has she redressed all the issues women face? In all fairness, she does claim to have the answers to everything.

The problem is, Pauline Hanson never tells us what those answers are. She just mirrors a problem and agrees with it. She says she will do something about it. That she is standing up for it.

This is the era of ‘Fake News’. We are also asking ‘should the media hold politicians to account or should the politicians hold the media to account’? Therefore, it is the responsibility of the media to put some decency back into their profession and ask Hanson the tough questions.

Ask her questions about her reasons why a women’s march in Australia is a waste of time.

The media can start with similar to these:

Does she think it is appropriate for her followers to burn mosques, interrupt sermons and scare women?

How much does she think her rhetoric impacts on white-on-Muslim women violence in the streets?

If she can tell us her solution for violence against women, longer questioning and scrutiny of sexual assault victims in court and wage inequality, that may be an interesting start.

The media questioned Gladys Berejiklian yesterday about why she was childless. This infers she is not a ‘whole woman’ and is an attack on all women.

They might want to question Hanson if her hyper-masculine, anti-women attitude is a front to protect herself from this type of attack the media inflict on women in politics.

Or is Hanson actually just an anti-woman woman, who gets her jollies from fat shaming other women?

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Women are just a Political Game for the QLD LNP.

cwp-brittany

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. 

brittany-2The 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.
(pictured below).

 

verity-barton

Verity Barton at the CWP Conference UK,2014

verity-barton2-fiji

Verity Barton at the 3rd Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum, Fiji 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.

Kind regards

Brittany

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.

cwp-2015

Power Rules, Men, Sex and Politics

sex harassJamie Briggs, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment in the Abbott/Turnbull Liberal National Coalition Government resigned from the Ministry on the 29th December, 2015, citing his behaviour was an error of professional judgement. A female public servant has submitted a formal complaint, complaining of Briggs’ sexual behaviour. No one knows the exact nature of the complaint made, as we are not privy to any specific details at this time. Newspaper reports indicate that this complaint relates to unwanted sexual advances and/or sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment by men is the “Unsolicited, non-reciprocal male behaviour, that asserts a woman’s sex role, over her function as a worker (Benokraitis & Feagin, 1995).

Seeking “The Wife’s Opinion”

A number of articles written in various newspapers seek the opinion of Jamie Briggs’ wife. I will not link these articles, as I will not reinforce this distraction from Briggs’ behaviour. In fact, Jamie Briggs’ wife should be left out of this altogether.

When I read the various articles in newspapers focusing on his wife’s opinion and acceptance or condemnation of Briggs’ behaviour, I cringed. My mind went back to late 90’s and Hilary Clinton immediately. Hilary Clinton is still harassed about her husband’s behaviour today. Hilary Clinton is still expected to take responsibility for her husband’s behaviour and men in politics try their hardest to use this as a source of shame for Hilary Clinton.

No sooner had the ink dried on Briggs’ resignation, the media immediately turned their attention to his wife.

In doing so, this takes the focus off the man’s behaviour. It gives us something else to talk about other than the man who used his power on a woman who did not consent, nor did she welcome such behaviour of a sexual nature. Briggs abused his position of power. His ethical behaviour is also questioned.

Public Hat or Private Hat

Many argue that Bill Clinton had his ‘private ethics’ hat on, in his interactions with Lewinsky. Many argue there is a fine ethical line between a private ethics hat and a public one for politicians. However, in the case of Briggs, his ethics hat at that time was a public hat, as he was representing Australia in all his actions at that time. His reflection that this behaviour was not up to the standard of a Minister is accurate. He has made the correct decision to step down from his position in the Ministry.

Power Rules

In all organisations, including politics, there is a system of power rules in play. These power rules, like most other rules in society, have been developed through the powerful positioning of white men over a long period of time. (Please note, this article is about the sexual harassment of a woman. The Author recognises such power rules can impact on men, women of colour, men of colour, LGBTI people and people with a disability and other marginalised and disadvantaged groups).

Some of the “Power Rules” in play for the case of Briggs are “Legitimate Power” (power given to a person due to their position) and possibly “Coercive Power” (this is power where the holder of this power may have an influence on career choices etc., Coercive power is often used in a negative way, such as threats of demotion or non-recommendations etc.,). This is a little more complex, as it has many dynamics. Even if coercive power is not direct; a woman needs to face the decision if her complaint will be detrimental to her work-life due to the coercive power of those associated with the aggressor. This is intensified when the aggressor displays the perception that they have such power, (perception of power) even if it is not legitimate.

Unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment of women, intimidates and creates fear at a personal level and has implications at the work level. In cases where unwanted sexual behaviour and the workplace collide, intimidation and fear may also impact the victim’s work-life.  Often, this is a source of non-complaint, where women feel reporting an incident of sexual behaviour is not worth the risk.  The use of power rules, particularly coercive power in workplaces can have a dramatic impact on a woman’s self efficacy to report unwanted behaviour in the workplace.  This should not be delegitimised by shifting the focus of attention to the opinion of the Briggs’ wife.

How women can be used to deligimitise other women’s experiences

Turning the focus to Briggs’ wife takes our attention off the victim. It takes the focus off the victim’s discomfort, powerlessness and distress. The victim should remain the most important person in relation to Briggs’ behaviour, not his wife, mother, aunt or any other women who may be used take the attention off Briggs’ own behaviour.

Also, bringing a third party (wife) into the scenario, this act of abuse of power resulting in humiliation, discomfort and distress, for the victim, diminishes Briggs’ behaviour to the opinion of the third party (wife) and not the opinion of the victim.

Turning the focus to the opinion of the wife, also diminishes the behaviour of the aggressor, when we ask, “What does his wife think about this?”

If Briggs’ was a single man would the media or other male politicians diminish his behaviour by using excuses such as, ‘he was only looking for a soul mate’ ‘She (the victim) must have read him wrong’ etc., etc.,  as we have seen many times before.

If the behaviour of sexual advance/harassment by men in power cannot be diminished or excused due to ‘bachelorhood’, the next step is normally, to seek to diminish the behaviour through the support of other women in their lives; usually starting with the wife.

As with Bill Clinton, question’s raised in people’s mind’s about Hilary Clinton, “Is it her fault?” “Is she not being ‘good wife'”, “Is the wife ‘not meeting his needs'” etc., etc.,  All these questions raised in various people’s minds puts the onus on a third party (wife) and lets the male aggressor off the hook.  

Referent Power

All politicians and the people who market them desire for them to have ‘Referent Power.’ In a nutshell, referent power is about charisma and using that charisma to influence others and build loyalty (voters). When men are in public life, it is very important for others to try to re-establish referent power  for the (fallen) individual male in question as soon as possible.  The culture of sexual harassment is still dominated by the needs of the male (ie how complaints about their behaviour will affect their career. What will happen to the man now?). Seeking the opinion of supportive wives, other supportive women and supportive prominent men who may reinforce the ‘goodness and wholesomeness’ of the aggressor, reinforces this culture.

Focusing on male behaviour paves the way for a cultural shift

As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men, where the men have a question of sexual behaviour or any other indiscretion associated with their power above them.

As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men who are in positions of significant power.  “Power Rules” exist in the wife’s external environment (political face and an extension of the husband’s work-life) and internal environment (power and control within a relationship). The layers of ‘power rules’ women, as wives of men in power must negotiate, is complex.

For people judging Briggs’ wife’s support for her husband, the illusion of how high her own moral bar is held, simply cannot and should not be judged. She could very well be subject to power rules and her ‘morals or ethics’ could be set at a very different level in private. (In saying, that her moral bar is completely irrelevant). In making any judgements about the wife’s opinion and her morals, we are simply condemning another woman caught in the same power rules as the victim. Power rules created by powerful men. We also remove support from the victim, by shifting our focus away from the unwanted, unsolicited sexual behaviour perpetrated by a man in power.

The only woman I have concern for, and the only woman who should be in our focus is the victim.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women feel uncomfortable in their own spaces, fearful, frightened, powerless and even ashamed.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women fearful, intimidated and distressed about how these unwanted behaviours will impact on their own career progression and work.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and the men who display the same behaviours view women, not as workers, but as sexual objects.  This diminishes a woman’s entire gamut of knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes a woman possesses in her workplace. This in turn, diminishes the value of a woman’s labour at work. These men should not be part of public life, particularly where they influence legislation pertaining to women and work, such as Briggs was in the Howard era. (Chief advisor in the Prime Minister’s office on Industrial Relations / Work Choices).

(On an aside note, It brings to question, if Briggs’ Work Choices work, is the motivation for Turnbull promoting an Abbott supporting right wing man.)

Briggs, a man, so hell bent on the idea of Merit as opposed to Quotas, in particular really needs this reinforced over and over and over again, until he ‘gets it.’   Ironically, Jamie Briggs’ own behaviour makes him a shining example of why we do indeed need quotas for women in politics.

The focus in the case of Briggs’ resignation should always be about condemning Briggs’ behaviour and concern and empathy for the victim. Sexual Harassment by men, particularly by men in positions of power needs a cultural shift and that shift should start now.

Listening to voices of domestic violence and other talking points

domestic violenceJohn Paul Langbroek brought me to boiling point the other week with his comments about domestic violence.  This shows how out of touch and neanderthal the QLD LNP’s thinking is on this issue. Langbroek blamed the QLD economy for Domestic Violence.  He had the audacity to use the serious crime of domestic violence to take a political stab.  If any issue needs to be bipartisan, it is this one. Mr. Langbroek, domestic violence can happen to anyone. It is caused by controlling and violent behaviour by the individual perpetrator. Nothing else. There are no excuses.

For Langbroek to say this sickens me, as it gives the perpetrator an excuse for their violence. To use the recent tragedies as political point scoring deeply disturbs me and his own party should question his leadership and personal character.

I think it is important that many people speak up about how we as citizens see what important changes are necessary to develop an effective system to eradicate domestic violence.  Many victims, survivors and their family and friends need a safe space to share stories and provide recommendations.  I have outlined some of the changes I feel that need to occur to protect victims, below. These are simply talking points and do need further debate:

 

National Domestic Violence Portal – Listening to voices
Although domestic violence is receiving a lot of attention and progression and enhancement of services is now in the spotlight, I believe we need to hear more. I have discussed this issue with many women and some men and everyone’s story is different.  We need to gather data about the stories and concerns of victims who have suffered and are suffering and listen – really listen to their recommendations.  I say this because our country is a diverse country.  Something that may work for people in the inner city in Melbourne, may not work or be enough in my town of Rockhampton in Central Queensland  or further out west in rural communities.

There are so many antecedents of domestic violence, so many antecedents of victims not receiving the support they need and so many factors which prevent victims from remaining safe from harm. There are many victims who do not want to speak up about their own ordeal in public or online and that should be completely respected.  The fear of domestic violence for some never goes away. For some people in small towns or close knit suburbs, there are family and friends to deal with, as well as the ex-partner forever more.  If a victim is suffering from domestic violence in their current relationship, it is highly unlikely these victims will speak up.  Sometimes for child custody reasons, or caring for aged parents, both people from the relationship need to remain in the same town.

I believe a National Domestic Violence online portal will also capture the men who do not want to publicly speak up.  The issue of men as victims of violence is relatively silent. We need to understand the underlying constructs of domestic violence for both genders in heterosexual relationships and also same-sex relationships, as well as many men and women from different ethnicities.  These people should have a confidential voice, which is linked to a Government Department with professionals working in this area to receive their stories and recommendations. Alternatively, Universities could be paid to collect this data and analyse findings for recommendations.

Violence is violence
Domestic Violence perpetrators need to be viewed the same as a stranger. Government, agencies, law enforcement and our justice system need to stop looking at domestic violence through a lens of ‘a personal situation.’ If it was a stranger who committed these violent acts, then they would be arrested and charged and the victim could probably even sue them as a victim of crime. Police and the legal system need to treat this as individual violent behaviour on another. Justifying the violence within the relationship as not as important as if committed by a stranger, gives the perpetrators even more power and it says that violence within a relationship is acceptable in our society.

The line of questioning
I hope this doesn’t happen now; but if the police still ask questions about what the victim did to provoke the violence (do you make his meals on time for him etc.,), that needs to cease immediately (this example is from a story from a victim of domestic violence more than 20 years ago). A review of the line of questioning needs to be undertaken so that victims are understood and supported.  A victim should never feel that the violence is their fault, or the violence is acceptable due to the line of questioning developed through a gender-role lens, a religious lens, a disability lens or a culture lens.

Rape is Rape
Rape and excessive violent rape within a relationship have been crimes for a long time. It needs to be treated that way in all cases and the perpetrator arrested and charged and complaints taken seriously. Domestic violence agencies, need to promote advice about the safest procedure to victims. The authorities need to treat this as serious violence inflicted onto an individual. Victims of rape need to be supported. Legislation needs to be scrutinised and court processes need to be scrutinised. For example, if a woman was raped and remained in the relationship out of fear, would the police drop the case or pursue it? This is a question I do not know the answer to, but I fear at times victims of rape are not supported due to current procedures in our police work and legal systems.  However, considering the current climate, a review in my opinion would assist as well as collating and analysing the data from stories from victims, who have gone to police or the court process with rape as a factor and improvements could be recommended from there.

Media portrayal of domestic violence
The portrayal in the media of domestic violence using pictures of women with black eyes etc., does disturb me. There are many techniques a perpetrator can use which show no marks.  For example, being dragged around the house by the hair and given Chinese burns, placing a plastic bag over a person’s head, being locked in cupboard and covered with vile filth etc., does not give a woman a black eye. Making a woman beg does not give a black eye. Controlling every move a woman makes and not allowing her to have any of her own thoughts or decisions or autonomy does not give a woman a black eye. My main fear with this is some women will think they need to be battered, bruised and bleeding before they are in a domestic violent situation. My other fear is that there is such a gender focus on women, that this will make men even more reluctant to speak up if they are victims.

The way societies belief system is shaped so quickly through intense media, I fear, will have some victims not be believed by people they reach out to if they ‘don’t look like a victim.’ I am concerned this will reduce the self-efficacy of victims to use the complaints system. The Government through the media needs to be more three-dimensional and tell people what exactly constitutes violence and the many different forms of violence and use strong words to explain the actions.  “This behaviour is a crime and we will take you seriously.”  The Government through the media also needs to discuss all relationships including male victims and LGBTI victims in same sex or various gender-spectrum relationships.

Dedicated response units
The Government needs to have special dedicated response units for immediate response in every single town. This should be their only job. There are so many anecdotal stories by victims who say that the police did not show up, or there wasn’t an officer available. My concern is for regional and rural communities where they often have skeleton police staff. I understand some people think a surplus is the most important thing for our country; but I would be happy to excuse the debt or pay extra into a levy to fund a dedicated domestic violence response unit in all towns. It should not be something that ‘we desire when we get the money.’ It is an absolute necessity right now.

There are also many victims who flee to another town and live in constant fear they will be found. If we established dedicated response units, we have the technology to enable victims to register with these response units to be on high alert.  A victim is not always safe just because they have left the immediate area where the perpetrator lives.

Safety is paramount
Many times victims are embarrassed to go to the police and they just think everything will be OK – they can deal with it, there are children and extended family to worry about too and the judgements passed by family and friends.  It is a complicated situation and everyone’s situation is different.  Police need to put in place a process where a victim is immediately counselled by a professional (not a police officer) about their safety needs. It should not just be a statement to the police and you go home.  The threat of violence and the violence towards men by other men or women also needs to be treated seriously.

A network needs to be set up so victims are removed from their town immediately if they are in immediate threat of their life. Being in the same town is unsafe. The Government needs to pay for flights and immediate accommodation in another town. Victims should not have to save on no income until they can have enough to get out. I knew a woman once who told me that she had an allowance from her husband of $10 per week and she saved out of that for six years to get out.  This is not acceptable.

Safety rights versus custodial and access rights
There are victims forced to remain in towns due to custody arrangements.  If violence has been a factor in the relationship breakdown, this in no way should apply.  The safety of the victim and children must be the only concern. The custodial and access rights of the perpetrator should not ever be given a higher priority than the safety of the victim.  I understand this is a complicated issue and I do have a concern that some will use this as a tool to prevent access from the non-custodial parent in a non-genuine case. However, it is a point worth debating and solutions provided by those within the family courts and domestic violence systems.

Relationship Awareness
Relationship awareness needs to start in Primary School. I think if girls and boys are educated about how we should treat each other in relationships all through primary and highschool, warning signs will be evident and it will strengthen people.  Relationship awareness must include the cycle of domestic violence. Victims must be made aware that some perpetrators will continually be violent, plateau, adorn the victim with gifts and love and then back to violence and how to recognise these signs and how to respond.

Often, domestic violence is a slow progression in a relationship, from manipulation and control, complete erosion of self-esteem, to financial dependence to physical violence, some victims do not understand that what is happening is not normal, as it is gradual.  They do not understand the violence they experience is a crime. What goes on within a couple’s walls sometimes, some women and men think is normal and they are reluctant to go to the police when the violence starts to occur. If relationship education was put into place early in life and continued throughout, warning bells would occur and hopefully many will end the relationship before physical violence occurs.

Disclosure to religious organisations and other organisations or professionals
Victims disclosing to professionals such as doctors and counsellors must have an obligation to act. Domestic Violence agencies also need to work with churches and other organisations and professionals to educate them on the advice that should be given to victims of violence. It is not helpful to a victim if a religious organisation, doctor or counsellor encourages a victim to stay and ‘work it out.’ It is my concern that there are some organisations or professionals who victims feel comfortable to disclose to, but the response is ill advised and harmful. I do not know the answer to convincing a religious priest or pastor or a deeply religious doctor etc., that the sanctity of marriage is more important than the safety of the victim, but the conversation does need to be started and solutions need to be recommended from the hierarchies within these establishments in conjunction with the Government and penalties should be applied where appropriate.

Parents
It is our duty as parents to speak to our children about what a respectful relationship means.  I am not going to say how this should be done as each family is different and each family has different dynamics; but it should be as essential as driver safety, drugs and alcohol and stranger danger. It is a continuous conversation we must have.

Be a real friend
Speak Up.  There is no point being sympathetic after the victim has left the relationship.  There is no point recounting the number of times you thought about how wrong it was the way the perpetrator treated your friend after the victim has left the relationship and is probably in more danger now than if they got out earlier.  Tell your friends that what is happening is wrong at the time and support them to speak to someone who can help them leave the relationship and stay safe. Don’t just sit back and think you are interfering.

Mental Health funding
Some survivors of domestic violence can spend the rest of their lives suffering from PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and other illnesses.  Mental Health funding needs to increase so victims can access services that can assist them to heal.  This is critical for victims and perpetrators for not only self-healing but also for future healthy relationships.  Once again, this is not something we ‘should do when we have the money’ it is a necessity now.

Perpetrators
There are undoubtedly going to be some perpetrators who are violent and will have an intent to cause harm regardless and our legal system does not keep offenders jailed indefinitely. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are many antecedents which do enable controlling and violent behaviour in people and that there are some perpetrators who can be rehabilitated and never offend again and go on into healthy respectful relationships. Sometimes this could repair a family and sometimes they may move onto another relationship.  If we want a collegial and civil society, we must invest in community education and programs to assist perpetrators in changing their behaviour and thought patterns forever and provide any other treatments they need. This must be treated in the same way as other offenders for other crimes. Like other offenders rehabilitation must be a consideration and a commitment from Government and funding to community organisations provided. As with other suggestions, this is not a ‘we will do when we have the money, we need a serious investment in this now.’

Conclusion
These are my suggestions, built from my own awareness of domestic violence and discussions with many people over many years. I welcome any further suggestions or continuation of a discussion on any of the points I have raised.  I have purposely kept this post gender neutral, as I do not want to discount any individual who may be a victim of domestic violence or discount their lived experience or what they may recommend.

The Challenge for the New Minister for Women

we can do it turnbull

 

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 to 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.

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

abbott-on-womenThis week we have witnessed white people instructing Aboriginal people about what is or is not racism. We have witnessed the Speaker of the House who has been exposed to be a serial breaker of rules, receive backing from the Prime Minister to remain in the job which will decide who else breaks the rules. Now we have Jamie Briggs, Member for Mayo, a former PM staffer elevated into a blue ribbon seat by The Boys Club, giving his opinion on ‘quotas and the quality of women in parliament.’  Has the world gone mad?

Just like Ron Boswell on Q & A last week; Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development – is the perfect example of an ignorant, shouty, self-important, narcissistic male politician who thinks they can either talk over the top of women, or view what women have to say as irrelevant. Politicians such as Briggs think that the only opinion that matters is the opinion of conservative men. Politicians like Briggs believe that politics is the rightful place of men. Such audacity coming from a man who was projected into a safe Liberal seat by the Liberal Party Boys Club. You can read the expose of Briggs’ trashy comments by Max Chalmers here in The New Matilda.  

Politicians such as Briggs take a dig at a Quota system, but he doesn’t stop for a minute to acknowledge ‘jobs for the boys’ as quota based at all.  He must have a short memory or must be extremely ignorant if he believes that Springborg was appointed Leader of Queensland LNP over Fiona Simpson, based on merit. He must amnesia if he can’t remember The Liberal Party Boys Club – the prominent and powerful men who backed his own candidate bid for the seat of Mayo.

Let’s have a quick look at the members of the Boys Club who helped out their mate Briggs:

Downer stepped down from the front bench after the election and announced his resignation from parliament on July 14, 2008, initiating a by-election on September 6. The Liberal preselection was won by Jamie Briggs, whose work in the Prime Minister’s Office as chief adviser on industrial relations linked him closely and perhaps dangerously with the development of WorkChoices. Backed by John Howard, Alexander Downer and state party operative Chris Kenny, Briggs won the pre-selection vote in the seventh round by 157 to 111 over Iain Evans, former state Opposition Leader and member for Davenport. The Australian reported Briggs was pushed over the line by the preferences of third-placed Matt Doman, a former staffer to Right faction warlord Senator Nick Minchin. (Exerpt Courtesy of Crikey)

So there we go, a PM staffer winning a candidate bid over a former experienced State Opposition Leader. I’m sure it is all merit based.  Let’s weigh the candidate bid up: Giving advice to the PM on the worst Industrial Relations Policy Australia has ever had (Briggs) versus experience as a former State Opposition Leader and experience as the Minister for Environment & Heritage, Industry & Trade and Recreation, Sport and Racing (Evans). Yep, checks out as merit based. Nothing Boys-Club-Smelly about that at all.

I often think of ‘jobs for the boys’ like this:

Hubby and his mates are sitting on the couch watching the television. His wife has just cooked a delicious meal which hubby and the boys have just finished. His wife has just baked a chocolate cake for desert and places it on the coffee table in front of them.  His wife goes off to clean up all the dirty plates, wash up, sweep and mop the floor.  When his wife finishes all the work, she goes into the lounge-room for her piece of cake.  There is one piece just sitting there. She steps towards it. Hubby puts his hand over the top of the cake. “Hang on love.” He says.  “Any of you boys want another?” The boys all nod in agreement. Hubby then has a joke and a tussle around with the boys and they all decide which one of boys gets the last piece. It was Dave.

The moral of the story is: No matter how great a woman’s work is, or how much hard work women do, often, when men are in power to decide what women get for their efforts; they will have a woman’s cake and eat it too.

At the ALP National Conference last weekend, the ALP decided to raise the bar and achieve 50% of women in parliament by 2025.  In light of this, some Liberal Party women are also pushing for an increase. This is not a new push for Liberal Party women. Liberal Party women have raised this issue many times before. In light of this fact, I question why this is not a prominent topic for discussion, considering the Liberal Party are in Government and the leader of their party is indeed the Minister for Women.  It could possibly be that the boys are too busy eating cake.

I have outlined some of the reasons why we need to redress the imbalance of women in politics and I have outlined some of the challenges faced by women in the Liberal party.  I have also briefly outlined my personal view, that we need to ensure that we use quotas in a fair and just way.

It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 44/142 countries for women in national parliaments.  According to UNWomen in Politics 2015; Australia only has 26.7% of women in Parliament.

The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women.

However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.

I have outlined the reasons below:

    • If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
    • The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
    • A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
    • Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.

In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government.  Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation.  The main reasons are:

    • No persistent pressure to pre-select women
    • Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.

Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of  female MPs.” 

I believe a holistic approach is required.  To achieve equality, it is essential to determine the issues for women electorate by electorate, branch by branch.  Not just review the policies and procedures and place a blanket decision of quotas on all.   What may occur in an inner-Melbourne seat, may not occur in a far north QLD seat for example.  The reasons women may or may not put their hand up for selection, may also differ from seat to seat. To achieve a redress of the imbalance, this issue cannot be looked at in isolation, nor can it be looked at from a top down approach.

To redress this imbalance, all parties need to have an in-depth look at the culture within each branch and determine branches where this is an issue.  Although there will be branches where women simply will not feel empowered; there will be some branches or electorates for all parties where there may not be a problem for women to feel encouraged to nominate, or be selected.  There is no point going in blind and hitting electorates willy-nilly with quotas.  I’m all for quotas, but quotas need to be used as a respectful tool, to redress the imbalance.  All parties need to understand the underlying constructs of the problem by fixing the imbalance from ground level as well.

We also need to use quotas in a fair and just way so talented men do not get shut out either, or it defeats the purpose. If a tool such as quotas was used as a power-play to politicise the selection of a seat, that is not fair, nor just, nor used for its rightful purpose.  For example, if the tool of quotas was used to keep an Indigenous male out of the race, or a homosexual man out of the race or a male candidate who may champion green energy, where many branch members supported coal based energy; I would feel very strongly that this makes a mockery of all the women who have fought for equality. This is why it is very important to understand this issue from ground level as well.

Prominent leaders and executives cannot lead this change with a laizze-faire leadership style.  They need to roll their sleeves up and meet with women in branches to understand the culture at ground level, as well as revise policy.  A risk management system, along with a system of appeal needs to be put into place.

A review of the 2013 federal election, indicates that The Green’s party ran slightly more women candidates, but no party had more than 50% of women candidates.  The number of candidates run also needs to be contextualised into ‘seats that can be won’ against ‘seats that never will be’  There would be no point increasing the number of women candidates in a left party and allocating them to blue ribbon seats and vice versa.  A holistic approach is required.

Some positive steps are occurring, but I wait in angst in the hope that a fair, well informed and inclusive system is achieved to redress this imbalance.

Jamie Briggs also needs to go check himself if he thinks for one second that women find his opinion on quotas valid or important.

Work Life Balance – Economic Crisis

Persistent work strain Australian mothers

Flexibility and work life interference

The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and well in Budget 2015

Those who have followed my blog (thank you) will know that a main theme I have addressed in the 2014 Budget is the “Agenda of Stigmatization” by the Liberal National Coalition Government.  The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and kicking in Budget 2015.  The targets? Women, single parents and working mothers.  

The stigmatization narrative of the Liberal National Government’s Budget 2015 is like a passive aggressive snarl, rather than the brazen punch to the face we received in 2014.

Rorters and Double Dippers

On The Insiders, ABC  (17/05/2015) Barry Cassidy interviewed Joe Hockey on a variety of budget related matters.   The first area that piqued my interest was the matter of Paid Parental Leave.  This policy assists parents, predominantly young women to care for their new born babies for a period prior to returning to work. This was hailed as a major initiative of the Coalition Government.  One where they built on Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Policy and had ‘achieved better and greater than Labor ever could, where it comes to women.’  In fact the coalition stated that:

The Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme will result in a woman earning the average full-time salary of around $65,000 receiving $32,500 – and they will be around $21,300 better off under the Coalition’s scheme relative to Labor’s scheme.

Tony Abbott also famously stated on 3AW in September, 2013, that

“I don’t think women suffer legal discrimination and I don’t think anyone these days sets out to do the wrong thing but it is very difficult for women to combine work and family if they don’t have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme and that’s going to change very soon under the Coalition.”

So now they don’t have a “fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme” – what has the Coalition got to offer women?

Now the Coalition has back-flipped on this policy; stating the reason for the back-flip was that they have listened to the community.  Yes, the community needs reliable, affordable childcare, but not at the detriment of already hard fought for entitlements at work.

The negative narrative of parents, primarily women, being ‘rorters and double dippers’ is meant to stigmatise this group so the public believe that working mothers are getting more than their fair share. The Coalition would like the voting taxpayer to believe that mothers are essentially stealing the nation’s taxes.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they reduce or abolish Labor’s Paid Parental Scheme altogether.

Single Parents

Single parents, particularly single mothers are another favourite target group for the Liberal National Government’s agenda of stigmatisation.  We have already had in Budget 2014 attacks on FTB reducing family income for up to $6,000 per year and a the abolishment of FTB once a child has turned six.  In addition, return to work and education supplements, which have been vital in the past to transition single parents into work will also cease. These changes still need to be passed in the Senate and are now linked as savings, which will fund Childcare, in addition to savings found from those on Newstart under 25 having no income for one month.

When the Prime Minister and Minister for Women was challenged in Question Time about these cuts by Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, the Prime Minister accused Labor of supporting welfare as “pseudo-generosity. This is a prime example of the Coalition’s narrative that they see welfare as a ‘generosity’ to be given or taken away rather than an essential need.

Now we have the “Have A Go” Budget of 2015, where the Coalition ‘Has a Go’ at Single Parents by comparing apples and oranges to convince the public that Single Parents are not only having their cake and eating it too, but eating hard-working people’s cakes as well.  The message here is that single parents are greedy bludgers, who get more in hand-outs than a hard working voting taxpayer.

The following table was discussed on The Insiders, ABC Sunday 17 May, 2015.  Barry Cassidy queried Joe Hockey as to why it was necessary to compare the two.  Hockey’s response was that he thinks it is important to advise tax payers where their money is going.  (It is also interesting that the pictures on this graph pegs a single mother with two children against a hard-working single man.)

As you can see the “Age of Entitlement’ Graph demonstrates that a hard-working person working five days per week, is actually worse off than a sole parent with two kids.  This is a dynamic display of the ‘Lifters and Leaners” narrative we were accustomed to in 2014 although the actual words are not used in Budget 2015. The subliminal messaging is what is used to be effective here.

However, the graph does not take into account the cost of raising children, which I have added below:

joe single parents 3

As this table now shows, regardless of what the Coalition want you to believe, when you take into account the cost of raising children; a sole parent working part-time is not better off than a hard-working individual working five days per week on $80,000 per year.

As Barry Cassidy put to Joe Hockey “But you may be creating resentment though for no purpose” Of course, Joe Hockey disagreed and responded with “Why anyone would resent helping a single parent?”

After the last 18 months of stigmatizing those on welfare, including single parents; along with the Kevin Andrews’ mantra that married couples are more valued in society; this really speaks volumes of how out of touch Joe Hockey and the Coalition are.  Maybe the Treasurer should follow commentary on social media and main stream media to understand what many people think of those on welfare.

Joe Hockey knows and the coalition knows that their negative narrative about those on welfare for the past 18 months has already increased resentment.  Taking an under-handed swipe at single parents, whilst butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, is beyond reproach.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they make more harsh cuts to welfare and single parents in conjunction with a more Liberal friendly Senate.

The 2015 Budget has given little to no hope for those already doing it tough on welfare.  The Budget failed to deliver a vision for our future and has painted an even bleaker future for women.  It is essential that the vision we have for the future is to say “NO” to a Coalition Government at the next election and always, always, put Liberal & National last.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

Some thoughts on the gender pay gap

wagegap2edited-1351089682Shannon 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. 

Let’s talk about privilege and single parents

singleThe Social Discourse and Welfare

Whilst doing my research for my most recent blog post,  I analysed a range of opinions throughout social media on the topic of contraception and welfare. Naturally, these threads across various pages gathered the opinions of those not on welfare and those who are. Comments on social media give one an insight into the thoughts of a wide and varied demographic.  Often thoughts on social media are contained to a particular thread on a particular topic; so it is always interesting to view the differences of opinion from many on that particular subject.  This is particularly evident when it is a newspaper forum, or another general page which attracts a diverse range of people.  People will group together on opinion and often there are long debates from those for or against a particular opinion. I love reading the opinions of people on social media, as narrative or discourse, gives us a glimpse of the social psyche. 

Social discourse is a key element to social change.  Many of the comments from people, as per my last blog post, painted those on welfare in a very negative light.  In fact, the ones highlighted were of the very strong view that those on welfare ‘should not breed.” The Liberal National Coalition (LNP) Government has a very strong discourse on punitive measures aimed to punish people on welfare and sets this standard, through their unfair cuts to welfare and treatment of jobseekers.

Newspapers and media also seem to slant their stories to the negative. There were many comments highlighting that Sunrise had posted the ‘welfare and contraception’ story three different times on their Facebook page. In my local regional newspaper today, there is an prominent article with the headline “Hard-working Australian culture fading away” which has a 20 year old mechanic front and centre telling people to ‘not cry poor and go out a get a job” and “I don’t believe for a second there’s no work out there”. 

This is in spite of the unemployment rate being 6.3% nationally, youth unemployment sitting nationally at 14% nationally and being as high as 29.3% in outback South Australia, 26.7% in south east Tasmania and 21.3% in Cairns.   This is also in spite of skills shortages in 2014 identified in specialized and professional fields as external auditor, surveyor, sonographer, phsysiotherapist, midwife, software engineer and construction estimator.  The jobs listed as skills shortages are not jobs that would be likely to match young people seeking employment, or unskilled jobseekers. This means that contrary to the social discourse occurring at present, job search is a highly competitive environment and those with little to no skills or experience, or who face any barriers to employment (including sole parenting), will find securing employment very difficult.

This does not even take into account age discrimination or Indigenous unemployment, which sits at 17.2% nationally and the Government’s changes to programs that will greatly affect this group. These changes show blatant changes which target people through race, which are discriminatory as compared to other parts of Australia. 

What about Sole Parents?

The blog post I researched most recently discussed the argument that ‘People on welfare should be forced to take contraception.’  Single mothers were certainly a group raised for discussion. In particular, young mothers featured prominently, as did women from certain suburbs in Australia and another prominent single mother group attacked negatively were those ‘assumed to be refugees’ or from an ethnic minority background or non-white people.

Single Parents have only had to seek employment as part of Mutual Obligation since the 2005 – 2006 Howard Budget. This has continued to be evolved by successive ALP Governments since 2007 and remains as a focus for the Abbott Government.   There have been calls from ACOSS that the inclusion of single parents in mutual obligation contravenes Human Rights Obligations.  I strongly agree with ACOSS, not only for the economic affects outlines, but especially for point 2, which discusses discrimination against women:

The Bill violates the rights of single parents to non-discrimination under Art 2, paragraph 2
of the ICESCR and Art 11(1)(e) of the International Covenant on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Since the majority of recipients are
women, they will suffer indirect gender discrimination should the Bill become law. In
addition, sole parent families, identified for special measures due to their greater
vulnerability, will suffer discrimination through the loss of these measures.

As I delved into people’s conversations on social media whilst researching my last blog post, I noticed something quite prominent and thematic with  young mothers and their arguments.  I was becoming increasingly aware of the amount of young women (single mothers) who felt the need to defend their space in society. These young women felt the need to list every single effort they make to work in paid work, volunteering, job search or furthering their education through study or training.  Often, they would write a long list of work and study they were doing at the same time, as well as caring for their child or children.

What this is saying to me, is that young mothers and single others feel the need to ‘reaffirm’ or establish themselves in the eyes of the privileged (those not a single parent) to be deemed worthy or accepted in society.  My position is difficult here as I can only view the conversation and not seek clarity or construct any dialogue with these young mothers to further develop understanding; but I feel that these young mothers feel that there are societal pressures that say that being a mother 100% of of the time is not enough as set by the standards of society and in the eyes of those who view them as ‘sole parents.’

One theme that was quite prominent was when young mothers did list the whole range work or study activities they were undertaking as well as motherhood, people congratulated them on their efforts and ‘becoming a productive citizen.’  The comments resonated that being a mother was not being a productive citizen. Raising other little good citizens is being a productive citizen in itself.

I for one second do not take away any single parent’s choice to undertake any activities to better their future for employment etc., The key word there being choice. However, I question the need that there may be mothers who feel they cannot be a mother only, due to the strong social narrative that drives this pressure, which is enabled by the Government view of single parents. Something afforded by privilege to those who have this choice in a partnered relationship. I know many may argue that even women in partnered relationships need to go to work; but if a woman strongly wanted to be at home, they have the choice, through that partnership to adapt their lifestyle, so this can be supported on one wage in many cases.  The fact of the matter is single parents do not have this choice even to contemplate, as that second wage is simply not there.

Some of the privileges afforded by those in partnered relationships or single people with no children, who set to condemn single parents are thus:

  • Single parents do not have the option to share the workload.
  • Single parents often have to do more than partnered parents, as all work, child raising and decision making are their sole responsibility
  • Single parents bear the brunt of sole financial responsibility.  If they get sick, there is no second wage to fall back on.
  • There are forced expectations by the Government of mutual obligation on single mothers or fathers that is not enforced onto partnered mothers or fathers.
  • There is a great social stigma still towards, particularly single mothers being a purposeful burden on the system
  • Economic burdens, not affording take away, making all food, not affording childcare, or adequate medical care, including dental as compared to middle to upper classes
  • There is a great social stigma about child spacing for single parents “they just pop another one out when the youngest turns six” Child spacing is a privilege afforded to partnered parents.
  • Single parents have more likely high instances of low self-efficacy and low self-esteem than partnered parents
  • Illness is a privilege afforded to those in partnered relationships. A single parent who falls ill still has to maintain all responsibilities
  • There are many labor market constraints for single parents, including transport, available education, flexible work hours. In some cases partnered parents may face these barriers, but they have another partner to work with to reduce these barriers.
  • Often stigma is also with the ex-wife/ex-partner that if the father is raising them, there is something wrong with the mother, but that is rarely questioned about the father
  • Fathers are often perceived as heroes and pitied for abandonment, women are scorned, slut shamed etc.,
  • In most cases the onus of blame is placed on the woman in a relationship breakdown.
  • Single mothers experience stigma with employment, housing, applying for benefits, and community assistance afforded to most partnered couples (racial and disability discrimination acknowledged)
  • Balancing custody and career.  Often promotion means more work and more time away from family sole parents, both male and female risk custody if they are not seen to provide enough care an attention to the child/ren through absence to the home.  This is intensified if the other parent has another new partner who can does paid work. There is little research if this is more particularly burdensome for single mothers or single fathers. Career and progression is something afforded to parents in a partnered relationship, without the risk of losing custody of their child/ren.

I will break out of the bullet points to direct attention to one that I am most passionate about.  I will speak to this for mothers only.  I would value input from how single fathers see this in the comments below.

Forced removal of the right to care for children.

Due to the mutual obligations forced upon single mothers by the Government, single parents have no choice but to have another person spend critical and valuable time with their child.  They do not have the option that this may be the person they are in an intimate relationship with as a privilege afforded to partnered mothers who desire to return to work and have a stay at home father. Single Mothers are forced to pay strangers to spend critical and valuable time and input in the rearing of their child.  Not only does this take away from critical and valuable parenting time, but places an extra financial burden on women as it cuts into money earned from employment. 

This also places an additional burden on women fleeing domestic violence relationships and fleeing violent partners. It forces a woman to be engaged in employment (sometimes with no phone contact as enforced by the employer’s rules) and it creates more worry, stress and strain on a woman already experienced heightened anxiety and concern for the safety of herself and her children.

I find this absolutely abhorrent that this choice is taken away from single parents by force, rather than by choice.  It takes away one of the most important and most treasured days of a woman’s life by force.

Single Fathers

Although the majority of single parents are mothers, single fathers make up 12% of single parents in Australia.   Single fathers also face particular burdens based on how society positions gender and parenting, based on the notion that only women are the natural nurturers and men are the breadwinners.

  • Single fathers are the loneliest and socially isolated of all types of household situation.
  • Single fathers are deemed incompetent by others, due to the ingrained belief that women are the natural caregivers and nurturers.
  • As per listed above, it is also unfairly assumed that the father is not the best option for care of the child, but must be by default. Society seeks to lay blame on either the mother primarily, and pities the father, but does not ever assume that this may be an amicable solution or what has been decided as a matter of choice between the former partnered parents.
  • Single fathers have generally lower self esteem and depression issues than men in other households
  • Affect on single fathers with balancing work choice, decision making, key provisions for the family, restrictions in childcare availability and shift work for many labouring / trades jobs

Gay and Lesbian single parents – there is more of a story to be told.

There is also appears to be an absence of research on single parents from a breakdown of a same sex relationship.  Statistics included for single parents are inclusive of gay and lesbian parents as statistics do not specifically also target sexual preference.

There appears to be an abundance of literature on same sex parenting as a dual couple. However, the absence of literature on gay and lesbian single parents, makes for a gap in understanding the full picture of single parents and their lived experiences.

Government Responses

The Howard Government in 2005-2006 budget papers set forth the foundation for including single parents in mutual obligation.   Successive ALP Governments since, have not sought to enable single parents by repealing this legislation, but have sought to tighten this legislation and provide even more restrictions and obstacles for single parents.

The Abbott Government’s response is hinged on ‘family values’ but defines this family as the predominantly white, dual parent family, with more than likely Christian values.   Often classified as “The traditional family.”  This is not representative of all families in Australia.

The Abbott Government has injected 20 million to “strengthen relationships and help improve personal and family well-being—it makes social and economic sense.” Because, you know single parents are a burden on society and a factor for social decline.

The Abbott Government has chosen to fund only Christian Chaplains in schools as a pastoral mechanism. Christian Chaplains would only advocate for traditional heterosexual relationships and traditional forms of family through marriage.

There is a lack of investment from the Abbott Government on Domestic Violence and funding for shelters and other programs for both women and men and an absence of understanding of the need for shelters for men who have experienced domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

There is an agenda of stigmatisation from the Abbott Government for those on welfare, adding to the layers of stigmatisation experienced by single parents, indigenous, the disabled, immigrants, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and people in other minority groups.

Where to from here

If this blog post has resonated with others, I would encourage everyone to write to the Government and to both the ALP and the Greens to advocate to have mutual obligation as a forced measure removed from single parents and be implemented as a voluntary measure only, with no penalties.

One of the reasons behind me writing this blog post, was that I get so disheartened from reading harsh and judgemental comments from those in a position of privilege.   The other reason was that I really want people to start assessing their own narrative when it comes to passing judgement of others on welfare.

The Abbott Government through their agenda of stigmatisation has really created a strong narrative to enable and encourage others to stigmatise those on welfare.  If you oppose the Abbott Government, but contribute to this stigma by adding your voice, you are really supporting the Abbott Government by becoming a part of their agenda.  Their agenda for stigma is strong as it paves the way for even more harsh cuts and unfair treatment of the disadvantage as the discourse becomes more widely sociably acceptable.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

Let’s stop those welfare bludgers from breeding or Eugenics 101!

no pregnancyThe topic of conversation across many pages on Facebook, across newspaper forums and even current affairs shows has been a statement from ex-ALP Minister Gary Johns

Former Labor Minister Gary Johns suggests linking the dole to contraception.”

The comments from a wide and diverse range of people regarding this topic has certainly been an eye opener.

Firstly, I need to get something off my chest….. I find it absolutely remarkable, that an overtly sexist comment from an “Ex-ALP Minister” hits the headlines three days after the polls screamed loudly that Tony Abbott is falling out of favour with women.  Now call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but I do find that linking an extremely sexist and controversial statement to the ALP three days after polling highlighted that women would rather #putyourironout rather than vote for Abbott again, an attempt at political strategy by the right. #diversion.

John’s originally wrote his article as opinion for The Australian and they labelled John’s as an ‘ex-ALP’ Minister whereas the Australian Newspaper could have labelled him either senior fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  (Abbott linked right-wing think tank) or the Associate Commissioner of the Commonwealth Productivity Commission from 2002 – 2004 under the Howard Government.   I find it interesting that the Murdoch press chose to link John’s to the ALP instead, although he hasn’t been a Minister of the ALP and has been critical of the ALP since at least 1996.  The Australian may as well have gone onto social media and asked some random their sexist opinions on welfare and contraception.

Which takes me to my next point. I have taken a selection of comments via Facebook, across various pages and groups.  This is just a small sample and if you could quantify the negative comments supporting this argument, I would estimate it was approximately 70% (in favour) 30% (not in favour) across the board.   The narrative in this country is something that we need to look at a lot more closely.

Some of the themes from those on social media go something like this (hit it)

Only the rich should breed (or why I shouldn’t exist)

Facebook Comment: “Still my point is valid…. There are other ways to prevent people from having children! Sterilisation is a good one! Some people have children completely dependant (sic) on the government… Those people need to be told NO!”

According to this Facebook User (and many like this person) I should not exist.  You see, my father was an invalid pensioner (completely dependent on the Government) and my mother on the wife’s (carer’s) pension.  So going by what this person is saying, because my father had a disability and mum looked after him, she should have been sterilized.  This is the type of person who would vote for a Government to forcibly sterilize a woman because that woman is not ‘their ideal woman who should be breeding.’   But give her a job and she will be Mother of the freaking year!

In fact, with this line of thinking, I should not exist and neither should my two sisters or three brothers.  Why? Because we are not the product of a ‘born to rule’ ideology that salivates at the thought of social cleansing, where only those ‘not in need’ have a space in society? This person and many commenting like this person, obviously dream of a society, where the ‘undesirables’ (aka those on welfare) are left to rot or be eliminated altogether.

What these sort of people don’t understand is when you have kids and you are on welfare, it is usually the mother who goes without to accommodate the needs of the children.  People just make do with what they have. They don’t scream and ask for more to live a wealthy lifestyle.

Bludgers and deadshits (Or how those with privilege seek to label the disadvantaged)

Facebook Comment:  How anyone can disagree with this is beyond me. Bums breeding more bums! And so the cycle will continue.

and this gem

Facebook comment: What about the rights of children not to be born to deadshit parents?

According to this Facebook user all children of welfare recipients should be cast aside as ‘Bums’ before they are even given a chance in society.   In my own lived experience as a child of welfare, every single one of us has gone on to achieve a full and productive life.   I have worked in Management across private, public, community, vocational and higher education sectors. I have gone on to postgraduate education and also have a partially completed PhD which may or may not ever get finished.  My brothers and sisters have all worked in either a professional capacity or in management.   We all have families and children.   My family is not a unique example. Many great leaders have also come from very poor backgrounds.   To deny a child a life, because others seek to cleanse society of children not born to “Women of Calibre” is beyond the sickest ways of thinking.

What people like this do not understand, is that there is more to life than money.  Sure, we lived in commission, didn’t eat fancy meals, but the values that our parents instilled in us, cannot be bought with money.  How one parents is not governed by how much money someone has. In fact, there was more love in my home growing up, than what I had witnessed in some of my much better off friends homes growing up.   Turn to any Youth Agency and you will also see that young people who need assistance come from a wide and diverse background. Not just welfare.

This type of person believes that people born into welfare are Bums or their parents are ‘deadshits’ and have nothing to contribute. Please tell that to Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling, just two successful women with links to welfare.

Culling of Humans (or Eugenics and the sick mind in favour of it)

Facebook Comment: Besides there needs to be a cull of the human race anyway. Weeding out bottom feeders bogans just plain right pieces of crap from society.   This is why we have such a f u ked (sic) up society because of all the bottom feeders who have kids that dont (sic) bring them up with morals and values respect this is why there is alot  (sic) of kids on the dole its (sic) all they know (Just imagine the punctuation is there. You can do it!).

and this gem

Facebook Comment: Agreed. The rats have a screw and produce a rat might be different size whatever u still breed a rat a bottom feeder (Once again, use your magical powers so this makes freaking sense!)

Once again, we have the mentality that thinks Eugenics are a fine thing to implement in society.  Do these people really believe that only a certain ‘type’ of person should be allowed to have children?  Do they really believe that the Government should have the right to stop the bloodline of those that are in need of social supports?

The rat comment is also even more chilling, as the Jews were referred to as rats during the Holocaust, a time where there were those that thought a blond haired blue eyed race was the only race that should exist.

What these people do not realise is, if Eugenics, Social cleansing or the likes were adopted, there will always be someone ‘at the bottom of society’ and that person could very well be you.

Then we move on to the ‘related topics’ that show how people’s mind link other negative societal behaviors to those on welfare.

Those drug-addled welfare recipients (or how to stigmatised those already stigmatised through negative association)

Facebook Comment: Totally agree and don’t forget to drug test as well

This comment is actually from a person who is well known in a certain town and aspires to be a Lord Mayor. You know – making decisions about people and their lives in an entire region/community.  As Keating said, “God help us….God help us.”

This type of (let’s face it) brainless idiot, touts this sort of rubbish, because it gives them a sense of self-importance. The problem is it only feeds the ego and not the brain, as statistics on drug use are completely contrary to what this person is implying.  This type of person seeks to further stigmatise the already stigmatised in society, as it makes them feel so much above everyone else when in reality, they are the lowest of the low.

I won’t go any further into this one, as I have already published two articles on this topic of welfare and drug testing.

Drug Testing and the LNP’s Ongoing Stigmatization of the Poor  and The LNP’s agenda for welfare. A clarification of what drug testing really means

Those heathen young girls who have babies (or how to slut-shame women because you are a judgemental moron)

Facebook comment: Dude it’s what is happening. It’s not only adults popping kids out now a days it’s teenagers. You walk in to centrelink and there’s 16 year olds sitting every where with kids on there hip

It always fascinates me how people specifically target young women who are mothers as the primary burden, almost a parasitic burden on society. It also fascinates me that although we now have Google and no longer need to trawl through the Funk and Wagnells, people just can’t be bothered checking facts before they open their bigoted mouths.

Only 10% of lone mothers are aged 15 – 24 and the peak group for lone mothers is age 35-44 years of age and the major contributor to sole parenting is the break down of marriage. 12% of sole parents are men, and are usually over 35. Doesn’t this indicate to people that if a relationship breaks down for a younger woman, that it is the younger woman who is most likely left to care for the baby? Let’s not target and label bright, young enthusiastic women, because they have the extra responsibility of sole motherhood. They have much to contribute to society.

Having a child out of wedlock is not a crime and the only people who are bastards are the people who think this way.

After reading comments across so many different forums yesterday; it is quite evident that the Australian narrative needs to be scrutinised further and Australians themselves need to be openly challenged in their thinking.  If we did not have the safety net of unemployment benefit, what impact would this have on the economy? It could be assumed that most people would keep spending to a minimum so they could support themselves in the event of job loss.   So many people are so judgemental, yet, never question the tax payer funded benefits of big business, but feel it is just and moral to kick the boot in to the already disadvantaged. The derogatory vilification of people in dire circumstances, simply needs to stop. To quote my most favourite politician Anthony Albenese:

It’s time for a more serious debate on welfare – one that goes beyond dog whistling and demonisation of the poor

One theme very evident through all the comments, is that taxpayers feel they have some type of ‘ownership’ over the lives of those on welfare. Kind of like the Master / Slave mentality. It is quite appalling really, that these people think they can dictate to others how they can live their lives.  Most people who are on welfare at one point in their lives, have contributed to a tax system, which is used to pay for welfare.  For those that never have and never will pay, it is the duty of the Government of this country to ensure that these people are supported and they simply do not deserve the disrespect dished out to them.

(taken from a Facebook user on the Sunrise thread) I will end with this post with his comment:

Facebook Comment: Some of you seem to think that unemployment benefit isn’t a right… well, you are not correct. It’s right there in Hansard.

menzies welfare

(He sounds NOTHING like the Liberals of today – who are these people?)

Julie Bishop and the privilege of not self-identifying as a feminist

feminism_is_evilIs standing up and proclaiming to be a non-feminist a sign of personal success, or is it an insular subconscious privileged rejection or blindness to the existing failures in our system that still affect women in Australia today? How does the absence of self-identifying as a feminist affect policy issues at Government level?

Julie Bishop, MP & Foreign Minister, only woman on the front bench in the Australian Liberal (conservative, neo-liberal, right-wing) Government stood in front of the National Press Club on Wednesday and declared that she was not a feminist. She doesn’t reject the term, but she feels no need to self-describe herself that way.  Her main argument was that she doesn’t define her success or failures through a prism of gender. Bishop also does not acknowledge the glass ceiling and says for her, she ‘will work hard and set her mind to it and if it comes off that is great.‘ If it doesn’t, she will try to understand if she was ‘competent enough or whether she worked hard enough or if the breaks went her way.’ She doesn’t look at this as gender specific.

Julie Bishop also spoke of feminism in the past tense, the role that it (feminist movement) has played,’the barriers they faced and the challenges they had to overcome. This further re-enforces her position that feminism is no longer a necessity in today’s society. That we somehow have all ‘made it’

If we contextualize Julie Bishop’s stance of non-identification as a feminist, we need to understand her position in society.  Julie Bishop is a white woman, raised in South Australia, went on to study law, practiced law, became a partner in a law firm at 26, married a property developer and has had relationships with a senator and former Lord Mayor (source: JulieBishop.com.au).

Is it justified to say that she holds this view, because she is a woman submersed in an environment of privilege? 

Julie Bishop doesn’t believe it is a big deal. However, as a woman in Australia, I feel it is a big deal for any politician not to identify as feminist.  They are the policy makers. It is their ideas, beliefs and experiences that lead them to policy decisions.  Even people who are from positions of privilege attempt to engage with women from all walks of life, so they develop an understanding of barriers, discrimination, injustice and inequities women face and take a feminist position and advocate for equality for women. If someone doesn’t truly value equality for all women and identify as a feminist – someone who advocates for equality for women, then where does this leave us in terms of policy development, towards a more equitable future?

One of the main themes I heard in Julie Bishop’s narrative that I found concerning, was that feminism is irrelevant as because it is ‘all about her’  She never spoke of other women, only her own personal situation.  Feminism is about inclusivity of all women.

 If Julie Bishop could de-contextualize herself from her personal situation, upbringing, background and privilege; I wonder if she was another women in another situation, would she self-identify as a feminist?

Would Julie Bishop as an Indigenous woman, when faced with cuts to Indigenous Legal Aid Services, contemplate a future of staying in a violent situation, because maybe she didn’t work hard enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a teenager, faced with pregnancy discrimination and terminated from her traineeship, self attribute blame that maybe she wasn’t competent enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a  woman returning from maternity leave, and missing out on training and development opportunities still not acknowledge the glass ceiling?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman and a victim of rape in our justice system, experiencing accusatory questioning and double the length of questioning than for other assaults, or as an Indigenous woman experience significantly worse questioning, with racist imputations being made in court – would she still not look at this through the ‘prism of gender?’

Would Julie Bishop as a woman working in two casual jobs, in a lower paid traditional woman’s field of work and experiencing non-secure work and a gender pay gap of 17% still truly believe that the feminist movement should still be spoken of in the past tense?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman seeking Asylum and fleeing from sex slavery, rape, sexual abuse and attack, fear of honour killings, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, one-child policies, discrimination due to sexual orientation or feminist political activism, children being under threat, general religious restrictions on women, sexual harassment, denial of education, forced marriages, slavery, trafficking, and imprisonment – and then sent back to that situation, due to poor policy on the processing of women and the legitimate attempts to understand their history and claim for asylum, still shrug and reflect on “if the breaks went her way?”

Would Julie Bishop as a retired woman discovering that she has substantially less superannuation than her male counterparts due to breaks in work, lower paid work and casualisation of work; or as an indigenous woman realise that as one of 40% of Indigenous women, who actually has no superannuation at all – still not feel the need to self-identify as a feminist and advocate to right this wrong?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop reflect that 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.  Does she truly believe that all of these women simply just did not work hard enough?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop try to understand if there are inequities within the Australian Liberal Party for pre-selection of candidates, such as questions about parental and marital status? Or does she truly believe that she is the only woman of calibre and of suitable merit in the Liberal Party, capable of a position on the front bench?

Does Julie Bishop also stand with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, hand on her heart and truly believe that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia?”

I see Julie Bishop’s announcement that she does not self-identify as a feminist a huge gap in policy decision making in Australia. Increasing the representation of women in Parliament should  lead 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. However, if one is not in touch with the inequities present in contemporary society for all Australian women, policy development towards equity will be very slow and still permeated with male voices and perspective.

Many people have touted Labor of late as ‘Liberal-Lite’ however, this is an example of a very stark contrast between the Liberal National Party and the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party has a policy platform on equality for women in Australia. They understand that equality for women is not only good for the economy, but essential for the progress of our country.  Recently in my hometown, Bill Shorten gave a very powerful speech on the necessity of equality for women. Tim Watts, Member for Gellibrand as a male politician, advocates very strongly on domestic violence issues, as does Claire Moore. These are only two notable MP’s amongst many.  Similarly, the Greens also have a strong platform for women, with Senator Waters a very proactive advocate for women.

What we hear on the Liberal’s side of the fence in terms of equality for women is silence and symbolic gestures from the only woman on the front bench, that ‘feminism is in the past’ and “is not a useful term today.’

As former Prime Minister Mr. Keating famously said about  Tony Abbott (and I’ll extend to the team he leads) – “God Help Us, God Help Us!”

Note:  

A) The sources for the claims for legal discrimination and discrimination by default in this post, can be found here

B) This post is not intended to take away from or de-legitimize any of Julie Bishop’s personal achievements or successes,
but to decontextualise her position, as a women in a position of privilege, to attempt to challenge her position on feminism and what it means for our country.

A Reading List for the “Ban the Burqa Bigots.”

I was in the audience at ABC’s Q & A (Monday 06/10/2014) and I listened to the question from Ms. Stevens to Bob Katter about denying /homosexuality and the links to stigma and mental illness.  Everyone cheered. The feeling of everyone’s passion to overcome injustice and to recognise individual rights in that one space was emotionally overwhelming.

Dr. Louise Byrne’s response about overcoming stigma and explaining to others what her job was, which exposes her illness, speaks to the face of real action on reducing stigma.

Every time I see anti-burqa posts on my newsfeed, in letters to the editor, on forum posts, my heart sinks. I believe that narrative shapes society. What we choose to express, publish and share and how we position ourselves in conversation, shapes society.

I find that all such anti-burqa posts and comments advocate stigma.

Ms. Stevens put to Katter, “that your reluctance to address homosexuals as well as their civil rights is quite detrimental to their mental health”.  This question can be used again and again, replacing homosexuals with other marginalized groups and the answer should be that it is unequivocally unacceptable.

Hundreds of women are being vilified, ostracized and attacked violently in Australia, simply for wearing religious/cultural coverings.  Women in particular are being targeted for attacks; women who deserve a space in our society, the same as everyone else. Why are sections of our community intent on condemning, vilifying and advocating violence against such a small minority of women; when there is no evidence that the wearing of any cultural/religious covering has threatened our security or way of life?

Growing up in the very racist 70’s and 80’s and working in community mental health in the 90s, has shown me that stigma has the negative consequences of denial of freedom of expression, mobility, achievement, integration and community contribution.

I have followed the burqa debate for a number of years and the same arguments pop up. On the issue of security, the same concern is not expressed about men in full faced beards and hats or men in suits, beards and sunglasses; but only of women expressing their individual freedom to pay respect to their religion or culture.

Then there are those who post snippets from the Koran as ‘evidence’ and boast ‘they have read the Koran.’

I think people who have a misplaced fear of women who wear any cultural religious covering, should refrain from expressing their bigotry and hatred and step away from studying parts of the Koran and go to the library and read the following books:

The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

Stigma; notes on the management of spoiled identity – Erving Goffman

Witch Hunts: A graphic history of the Burning Times. Rocky Wood, Lisa Morton and Greg Chapman

Maybe these bigots and advocates of hatred and violence may want to publish their thoughts and interpretation of each book below and if it has affected their thinking on civil rights and freedom in our society.

image sourced from: http://annamariacom.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/ban-burqa-mural-in-newtown.html

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women

I am concerned that as the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women, your narrative suggests a very poor understanding of women’s issues in Australia……..This is a letter I have sent to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women today.  I have published this as an open letter as I would appreciate feedback and discussion on these points. Many things have occurred in Government since this statement was made, but I haven’t forgotten the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women’s comments on 3AW in September and I am posting this to bring this back into the minds of people who care for and fight for equality for women. I will update you with a response, if I receive one.

Update: International Women’s Day 8th March 2014.  I sent this via land mail to PM & Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, cc copies to Senator Moore and Senator Cash on 12 December 2013.  I received an in-depth response from Senator Moore within two weeks. To date as of 08/03/2014 almost three months later, I still have not received a response from the Tony Abbott, Minister for Women or Senator Cash, Minister assisting the Minister for Women.  

4th June, 2014: After assistance from Senator Larissa Waters of the Greens, I have now received a letter from Mikaela Cash on behalf of the Prime Minister for Women. My question of would he publicly apologise for stating on 3AW that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia” was not addressed.

Dear Prime Minister

I am concerned that as the Prime Minister and the Minister for Women, your narrative suggests a very poor understanding of women’s issues in Australia.

On Friday, 27 September, 2013 Neil Mitchell (Radio 3AW) asked you, “Do you believe women do suffer discrimination in Australia?” 

Your response as Prime Minister of Australia and the Minister for Women was

“I don’t think women suffer legal discrimination and I don’t think anyone these days sets out to do the wrong thing but it is very difficult for women to combine work and family if they don’t have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme and that’s going to change very soon under the Coalition.”

Yet women in Australia do experience both legal discrimination and discrimination by default.  Your comment above appears to be very short-sighted in terms that you view discrimination against women as ‘accidental’. Comments such as above will continue to enable our society to view discrimination against women as non-harmful and ‘nothing to really worry about’ and not as an ingrained, enabled and supported societal construct that urgently needs to be addressed.

It is also my concern that you appear to take the view, from your comments above, that a paid parental leave scheme is a panacea to eradicating existing discrimination against women. Many areas of discrimination will not be addressed by a paid parental leave scheme, regardless of the avenue of funding. In fact, some of the personal concerns from women detailed across various social media forums indicate otherwise. These women have expressed that they may be further discriminated against if an employer paid parental leave scheme was introduced.  I have taken the time to list many of my areas of key concern; however, this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Discrimination against Pregnant Women in the Workplace

    • The increasing casualisation of women in the workforce excludes many women from rights surrounding pregnancy in the workplace.
    • Dismissals of casual women workers upon revealing they are pregnant
    • There are significant issues for Indigenous women and pregnancy in the workplace. These include, requirement of additional time off for cultural reasons to travel home to give birth; higher rate of diabetes requiring more time off. This can be increasingly difficult for women in remote or isolated locations.
    • Some women in rural and remote areas have no choice but to stop work, due to the inability to travel.
    • Teenage pregnant women who experience discrimination do not have the self efficacy to use the complaints process.
    • Some teenage pregnant women are not kept on after their traineeship, due to pregnancy.
    • Women from non-traditional families and same-sex families experience pregnancy discrimination due to social attitudes in the workplace.
    • Women with disabilities experience pregnancy discrimination as employers do not accommodate their changing needs
    • Women experience pregnancy discrimination during the selection process for employment. Many women are asked at interview their plans for intending to have a family or increasing their family. (Source: Australian Human Rights Commission)

The Sex Discrimination Act (Cth) (SDA) makes it unlawful to treat a person unfairly because they are pregnant, potentially pregnant, breastfeeding or have family responsibilities. It includes both direct and indirect discrimination.

  • Discrimination against Women and Parents returning from parental leave

    • In 2011 to 2012, 21% of complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act received by the Commission related to pregnancy discrimination and family responsibilities. The Commission received 160 complaints related to pregnancy discrimination, 63 complaints related to family responsibilities discrimination and two complaints related to breastfeeding discrimination. The overwhelming majority of these complaints were submitted by women.
    • Similarly, 21% of the complaints investigated by the Fair Work Commission in 2011-2012 related to an allegation of pregnancy discrimination.
    • The ABS ‘Pregnancy and employment transitions 2012’ data reveals that approximately 67,300 women employees (19%) perceived experiencing some level of discrimination in the workplace while pregnant. The most common kinds of treatment women reported in the survey included: ‘Missed out on opportunity for promotion’ (34%); ‘Missed out on training or development opportunities’ (32%); and ‘Received inappropriate or negative comments from their manager/supervisor’ (28%) (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)

The Sex Discrimination Act (Cth) (SDA) makes it unlawful to treat a person unfairly because they are pregnant, potentially pregnant, breastfeeding or have family responsibilities. It includes both direct and indirect discrimination.

  • 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)

It is reported that women are more likely to have postgraduate degrees than men and score higher academically. The statistics indicate that women are discriminated against in terms of accessing the appropriate training for progression or are discriminated against covertly during the recruitment and selection phases of appointments for leadership roles.

It is unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee because of the attributes of the person.

  • Discrimination against Breastfeeding Mothers

    • Breastfeeding mothers have experienced being denied goods and services
    • Breastfeeding mothers refused lactating breaks to feed their baby in the workplace.
    • Breastfeeding mothers are harassed, verbally abused and targeted to be subjects of humiliation in public, due to a lack of public understanding surrounding this issue.
    • Breastfeeding mothers experience discrimination due to some service providers and employers not providing sufficient accommodations for breastfeeding mothers. (Source ADCQ; Australian Breast Feeding Association).

Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding

  • Discrimination in the justice system against rape victims through under-reporting, lack of convictions and poor sentencing outcomes and

  • Discrimination through the virtual denial of the right to safety.

    • It is a fact that one in five women will experience sexual violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women and Women with a Disability are more likely to experience sexual and physical assault
    • It is estimated that less than 30% of sexual assaults are reported. The perception that the victim will be blamed instead of the perpetrator and the high rates of acquittals in the justice system are two a main reasons for non-reporting of sexual assault.
    • Sexual violence is less likely to be reported by Indigenous women.
    • Younger women and teenagers are more likely to be sexually assaulted than older women and young women and teenagers are more likely not to report the sexual assault to the police.
    • Where a matter does proceed to trial, evaluations of trial transcripts consistently show that many complainants are:
    • Accused of lying or making false reports.
    • Asked questions about behaving in a sexually provocative way.
    • Asked about alcohol intake on the day of the offence.
    • Asked about the way they were dressed at the time of the offence.
    • Similar questions are asked of children alleging inter familial sexual abuse.
    • A Victorian study that asked barristers, judges and magistrates for their opinions found that almost all of them believed that “rape complainants have a significantly different experience as witnesses than victims of other forms of personal violence”.
    • The average length of questioning endured by victim complainants in sexual offence trials is double that for victim complainants in trials involving other assaults.
    • The situation facing Indigenous victim complainants is significantly worse, with more questions, longer periods of cross-examination, and racist imputations being made in court. (Source South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault)

 “Rape laws which do not specifically exclude the application of sexist, discriminatory, and Ill-informed attitudes and beliefs in determining outcomes of sexual assault cases tacitly condone rape, condemn women to suffer in silence, and perpetuate and compound this harm consequent on a sexual assault. Law and education play a fundamental role in challenging assumptions and stereotypes surrounding sexual assault” (Source – The Australian Institute of Criminology) 

  • 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)
  • Ingrained discrimination and ignorance against the stolen generation, mothers and children alike.

Although an apology has been given to the Stolen Generation by the previous Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd; there are a myriad of serious effects on those who were stolen and on birth mothers and fathers, and so much more work needs to be done. The extent of the abhorrent discrimination towards this group, by our Governments and services requires urgent attention.

As the Prime Minister of this country, your speech suggesting that there was too much reference to ‘Indigenous heritage’ in the History curriculum (Tony Abbott, National Press Club, September 2013); only serves to permeate in our society, a narrative that continues to discriminate against the Stolen Generation and their future generations. This narrative also seeks to exclude all people of Australia from the truth.

My other concern is if changes to our history curriculum are approved, future leaders will make policy and decisions based on truth built from ignorance; and the mothers, the women, men, girls and boys of the stolen generation, will never see an end to discrimination and disrespect on our Government’s behalf.  Adequate compensation in dollar terms and the continual development of support services for this group will be an issue that will forever remain silent. 

  • 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)
  • Discrimination against women in current abortion laws

    • Within Australia, women’s rights in terms of reproductive choice are not viewed as a humanitarian right. There is no federal approach to abortion as a basic humanitarian right and various states have different levels of access and legality.
    • In some states, women have no reproductive rights, except on the grounds of serious risk to life or health of the mother. In some states abortion is criminalised.
    • The limited access in place is inequitable for women based on their geographic location.  The entire systems of laws for abortion are discriminatory towards all women, as these laws do not allow a woman to be in control of her own individual reproductive rights.
  • 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.” 

  • Discrimination against women, through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality.

Although both men and women are discriminated against through lack of legislation supporting marriage equality; my focus for the purpose of this letter is to discuss points of discrimination, particular to women.  I will address two areas, discrimination through legislation and discrimination by default through exclusion in society.The Subsection 5(1) of the Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘…the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’   The definition of the marriage act, merely states that this is a union voluntarily entered into for life.  There are no specific parameters which specify what a union means.  This is defined in Mary Case’s journal article, “What feminists have to lose in same-sex marriage litigation’  

A marriage certificate now allows heterosexual couples to have an open marriage, to live in different cities or in different apartments in the same city, to structure their finances as they please, without having their commitment or the legal benefits that follow from it challenged (p. 1203). 

As there are very little restrictions relating to the private behaviours of the marital union, this act is discriminatory purely on the grounds of sex. This is only for persons who identify with having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are distinctly characterised as male or distinctly characterised as female.  Therefore, Marriage as defined as a union between a man and a woman, itself is discriminatory based on sex alone.

Women are discriminated within this act as it focuses on ‘sex’ and not ‘gender.  This act excludes all persons who identify with a gender, that isn’t normative to their physically or biologically recognised ‘sex’. This act discriminates against all persons who identify as inter-sex. This Act excludes all persons on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

Women are also discriminated against, through legislation informing a society, which excludes understanding and valuing the experiences of unions that are not specifically between a heterosexual man and woman.

Various academic journals discuss that marriage is ingrained in the patriarchal notion that women are subordinate in society. Although this notion is not as entrenched within our whole society today; a quick search of Google for ‘subordinate wife’ will return over six million hits, with a high volume supporting the subordination of women/wives, particularly in a religious context.  Through legislating marriage as it currently exists, many women are discriminated against and are exempt from marriage, simply because they choose not to have a union with a man and some because they view marriage as placing women in a subordinate role to men.

Mary Case also highlights in her article, that before becoming pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger advocated for a normative view on gender in relation to subordination of women.  This is an excerpt of his 2004 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World.

“This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality……… While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.”

My concern is, if we do not allow same-sex couples to just ‘be’ as others are allowed to just ‘be’, our social fabric will always be woven by those in a superior position and superior privilege.  Unless our social fabric allows for equal contributions from all, how will we ever have a full understanding of each other? How can our social fabric ever be complete, when we are unconscious to a discourse that is currently silent about family, love, understanding and togetherness as experienced by all? 

  • Discrimination against Women seeking asylum

In a journal article published in the journal of Refugee studies, “Marginal Women, Marginal Rights: Impediments to Gender-Based Persecution Claims by Asylum-seeking Women in Australia”, McPherson et. al (2011) have  identified two barriers to women’s claims of Gender Based Persecution: Emergence Barriers, and Assessment Barriers. Emergence Barriers speak to the factors impeding articulation of a claim.  Although the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship has responded to the authors of this journal article, the following were not addressed:

    • Women applicants should systematically be interviewed separately from their spouse and should be allocated a female case officer, interviewer and interpreter.
    • Case officers should receive training and advice, from appropriately qualified staff working in the women’s violence services or refugee trauma support services, to help them understand the psychological effects of trauma, and its links to non-disclosure.
    • Every negative decision should be independently reviewed by a second officer or panel.
    • Applicants should be systematically informed, from the outset, that asylum requests may be based on claims of GBP.

This article also highlights that

“The bases upon which clients of our interviewees made asylum claims included sex slavery, rape, sexual abuse and attack, fear of honour killings, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, one-child policies, discrimination due to sexual orientation or feminist political activism, children being under threat, general religious restrictions on women, sexual harassment, denial of education, forced marriages, slavery, trafficking, and imprisonment” (p. 331)

It is my concern that your hard-line stance on Asylum Seekers and ‘turning back the boats’ has become instrumental in ensuring that the reasons women seek asylum remain silent, through the absence of leadership highlighting the atrocities asylum seekers are fleeing from, particularly women.  It is also my concern that your hardline stance and popularity on the issue, has become instrumental to the increase in expressions of hatred and vilification of asylum seekers, particularly noticeable across social media forums. Once again, your leadership highlighting reasons women flee asylum is absent and you make no move to challenge this growing discourse. This only serves to further oppress and harm women, fleeing abhorrent levels of violence which ordinary citizens in Australia could never imagine.  It can be summed up by this quote:

“Before atrocities are recognized as such, they are authoritatively regarded as either too extraordinary to be believable or too ordinary to be atrocious. If the events are socially considered unusual, the fact that they happened is denied in specific instances; if they are regarded as usual, the fact that they are violating is denied: if it’s happening, it’s not so bad, and if it’s really bad, it isn’t happening (MacKinnon 2006: 3, cited in McPherson, et. al, 2011).

The Hon Judi Moylan MP states in her article “Desperation, Displacement and Detention: Australia’s Treatment of Asylum Seekers Past and Present” Prison Service Journal (2013) that:

It is axiomatic that tough deterrent policies have not stopped boat arrivals and it is unlikely that any civilised jurisdiction can invoke penalties so harsh, that they stop people escaping unimaginable brutalities. Managing the human dimensions of refugees fleeing war and civil unrest will require a return to regional processing, including ‘effective protections’ and a commitment to resettlement by participating host countries as indicated by UNHCR”

It is my concern that there is a plethora of research which highlights that this Government and the former Government’s stance on off shore processing, only seeks to place those seeking asylum, particularly women seeking asylum under more hardship and harm and as the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, your policies encourage this.

Thank you for reading my letter and taking the time to view my concerns. Would you now consider publicly retracting your original response to Radio 3AW and would you publicly advise the citizens and particularly women of Australia, how your office will address the above areas of discrimination outlined?  It would be appreciated if each point could be addressed individually.  I ask this, as each point affects women differently and each point deserves individual attention and not an ambiguous collective response, nor a response that disparages any former Governments. My interest is what are your commitments on these issues for the women of Australia?

Yours faithfully

Patricia Corry

Trish Corry

trishcorry

trishcorry

I love to discuss Australian Politics. My key areas of interest are Welfare, Disadvantage, emotions in the workplace, organisational behaviour, stigma, leadership, women, unionism. I am pro-worker and anti-conservativism/Liberalism. You will find my blog posts written from a Laborist / Progressive Slant.

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