Quotas are not pretty but they work – Liberal women should insist on them


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Liberal women such as those in the Morrison ministry, pictured here, should organise to achieve structural change – the only kind that ever sticks.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Chris Wallace, Australian National University

It is an historic moment for Liberal Party women. Individual complaints of sexist bullying invariably end with the lone complainant being isolated and getting crunched.

But since the Liberal leadership spill, several women have spoken out and two MPs, Julia Banks and Ann Sudmalis, have foreshadowed their exit from parliamentary politics over it. This post-#LibSpill moment holds immense promise – but only if the collective momentum is seized and built upon.

From Prime Minister Scott Morrison down, Liberal Party men are pushing back against women pressing for cultural change within the party. They don’t want to share power for ideological reasons: conservative men like women to know their place, and that place is not in the House of Representatives or the Senate. This ethos is intensifying as fringe and evangelical Christians make ever deeper inroads into Liberal Party branches and preselection processes.

Respected Liberal women like former Liberal Party vice-president Tricia Worth and former Liberal senator Sue Boyce have poured scorn on the internal party mechanisms proposed so far to deal with the problem. They point out the implausibility, for example, of making a bullying complaint to Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger who denies such bullying exists.




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Liberal Party women face an immediate choice. They can be cowed by the “quota girl” sledge of hostile male colleagues, and other unsupportive comments by these men’s female enablers such as NSW Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

Alternatively, Liberal women can organise to achieve structural change – the only kind that ever sticks – arguing that if it’s good enough for “quota boys” like Senator Abetz and Michael McCormack, quotas are all right by them too.

Practical politics runs on quotas. They are the tool of last resort when dominant powers refuse to share power fairly or could refuse to in the future. They work.

The most striking example of a quota in Australian politics is that underpinning Federation. The Australian colonies would not agree to federate without agreement to an upper house in which each state, even the smallest, was represented by the same number of senators as the biggest.

That’s why NSW, with a population of 7.9 million, and Tasmania, with a population of 524,000, both send 12 senators to Canberra every election. This makes the ranking Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz arguably the biggest beneficiary of quotas currently in the federal parliament.

There are 76 senators. Would anyone seriously suggest that on merit Eric Abetz would make the list of the top 76 Australians elected as senators in Australia’s upper house if they were elected in a single nationwide ballot? The state-based quota system established at Federation ensures he gets there.

The next most striking example is the quota agreement that enables Australia’s two main conservative parties to form government in coalition, since each usually returns too few MPs at federal elections to govern in its own right.

The National Party’s price for supporting the Liberals in forming government is a quota of ministerial positions reserved for National Party MPs, along with the deputy prime ministership. This quota arrangement today underpins the cabinet position and deputy prime ministership of National Party leader Michael McCormack. Does anyone really believe that without this quota McCormack would have naturally risen to become Australia’s second most senior politician? Of course not.

The third most striking example of quotas in Australian politics is their use by the Australian Labor Party to normalise the presence of women in progressive parliamentary politics. Attempts to establish quotas in the early 1980s, backed by then Labor opposition leader Bill Hayden, foundered when ALP conference delegates, including many women, voted them down on factional lines. It was not until 1994 that an enforceable formula guaranteeing women preselection in one-third of winnable seats was established.


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In her memoir Catching the Waves, Hawke Government cabinet minister Susan Ryan wrote:

These rules are bitterly resented by many men in the Party, and when they favour a woman from the wrong faction they upset some women as well.

Quotas are “a blunt tool”, Ryan readily conceded, but she supported them after experience showed nothing else could “change the gender balance among Labor members of parliament”. It worked. Labor now has a critical mass of women in caucus making a big contribution, their presence normalised and unremarked on except by misogynistic conservatives across the aisle.

People don’t have to like quotas. But no reasonable person can fail to accept that they are a regular part of political life, not the intrusive tool of progressive pinot noir drinkers pushing their own political barrows. Hundreds of examples beyond Australia’s shores could be cited, but here are just a few.

The United States has a quota of two senators from every state in its upper house, the inspiration for Australia’s state senate quotas. Conservative German chancellor Angela Merkel legislated board quotas for women when German business proved intractable in voluntarily improving board diversity. Singapore set racial quotas in public housing, reflecting the ethnic makeup of the country’s population, in the interests of racial harmony.


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Quotas, in short, are management tools to ensure power-sharing where it would not otherwise occur in the interests of a greater good – and they’re used by progressives and conservatives alike. No-one could accuse Angela Merkel or the Singaporean government of being subversive left-wing entities. It has been estimated that half the countries in the world use some kind of gender quota in their electoral system and there is extensive evidence that they work.




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There is high level support from Labor for Liberal women to tackle the problem and succeed in the interests of improving Australia’s political culture overall. Labor Senate leader, Penny Wong, told parliament this week that the under-representation of women in the Liberal party room is “not only bad for women, and bad for the Liberal Party, it is bad for democracy”. She urged Liberals to walk the same difficult road to establishing quotas that so successfully fixed what had also been a chronic problem for Labor.

Failure to push on to embrace and establish quotas will see the current burst of bravery by Liberal women dissipate, and the male oligopoly in the Coalition party room become even more entrenched.

Advocates could impress on internal opponents that the only winner from the current extreme and worsening masculinist culture in the Liberal Party will be Labor, whose caucus since quotas for women in winnable seats were adopted has increasingly reflected the communities it represents – something voters very much like and ultimately reward.The Conversation

Chris Wallace, ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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View from The Hill: Morrison’s challenge with women goes beyond simple numbers


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Mutual interest is a great bonding agent, so the bromance between 2GB shock jock Ray Hadley and Scott Morrison is on again.

Morrison will once more make regular appearances with Hadley, who dumped him unceremoniously last year, with a spurious excuse, because he considered him too boring.

As treasurer Morrison was “captive to cabinet solidarity”, Hadley said on Tuesday, explaining their “parting of the ways”. But as prime minister, he was the boss and “unharnessed”.

“Unharnessed” is also one way to describe the state of the government, as MPs kick over the traces, and the still-new prime minister struggles to get a hold on the reins.

The Senate on Monday and Tuesday (and last Thursday) found itself with little to do; Morrison cancelled an October meeting with the states because more work was needed on the matters to be discussed.

In the spooked team, you’d be hard pressed to find many who think the Coalition can turn things around in time for next year’s election.

The row over bullying and the separate but now intertwined question of the under-representation of women among Liberal MPs is continuing to rip through the Liberal party, unable to be contained.

Morrison is conflicted. It’s risky for him to play down the allegations of standover tactics, let alone fail to take seriously enough the party’s need for more female MPs.

But he is attempting to sideline the bullying issue by saying the problem isn’t with the parliamentarians – rather, it lies in the party organisation.

This week he ordered that organisation to set up a complaints mechanism.




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Morrison tells Liberal organisation to act on bullying after second woman flags she’ll quit


On female representation, Morrison has no answers. Yes, he says, he would like more Liberal women in parliament. But how to get them? Certainly not with quotas. And he just wants the best candidates.

Post election, Liberal women in the House of Representatives are likely to be an endangered species – perhaps around half a dozen. Currently there are 12 Liberal women in the House, and one National.

Two of the present women MPs, Ann Sudmalis, from NSW, and Julia Banks, from Victoria, have announced they’re quitting at the election, calling out bad behaviour (with Sudmalis naming a NSW state Liberal MP as her bete noire). Queensland’s Jane Prentice has lost preselection. Julie Bishop is unlikely to stand. Several women are on tight margins.

After Sudmalis’ lashing out on Monday, comments from Liberals on Tuesday sent unhelpful messages.

Minister Steve Ciobo tried to claim the Liberals really had done quite well on the women front; Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells invoked Harry S. Truman’s line about departing hot kitchens. Morrison said skirmishes “can happen in the local branches of a P&C”, adding “though I don’t think it probably gets as willing as what we see in politics”.

The government’s “women problem” goes beyond lack of women MPs and candidates.

In presenting its face to voters, especially female voters, Labor has two formidable female performers at the top of its team – deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and its Senate leader Penny Wong.

With Bishop’s departure from the deputyship, the Liberals have no female face in their leadership positions. Bridget McKenzie is the Nationals deputy leader, but obviously regionally focussed.

Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations and Minister for Women, doesn’t do a great deal of the government’s broad heavy lifting. New Foreign Minister Marise Payne does virtually none of it (although in this portfolio she’ll have to step up from her near invisibility while in defence). Michaelia Cash has a heap of her own political problems.

There is also the question of how Morrison will appeal to female voters.

So far, the public are still getting their heads around the fact of unexpectedly finding themselves with a new prime minister, about whom they knew little. Voters seem open-minded about Morrison: they have already put him ahead of Bill Shorten as preferred PM – probably as much a comment on their low opinion of Shorten as a definite statement about Morrison.

Women’s judgment of Morrison will take a while to shake out. He’s started by looking very blokey, with his frequent invoking of the term “mate”, his preoccupation with rugby league, and his penchant for getting around in a Cronulla Sharks cap.

But Morrison’s chameleon quality means that he may be able to modify the blokey approach if the focus groups suggest that’s required.

The Morrison persona will be tested in the Wentworth byelection. (One Labor-aligned voter from that wealthy electorate says cruelly, “The average Wentworthian would see Morrison as a bit of a hick from The Shire”.)




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As is well known, Morrison wanted a woman candidate for the seat, an effort that failed. Now he is faced with the political nightmare of fighting a high profile independent female in Kerryn Phelps.

Phelps is well placed to exploit the Liberals’ women problem. One would expect many of the women of Wentworth will be interested in whether Morrison during the coming weeks can produce any plans to improve the gender balance among Liberal MPs.

As the campaign progresses, the Liberal party’s focus groups will be carefully watched for whether there is a gender difference in how voters perceive the Prime Minister. Those results would help shape campaigning later.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison tells Liberal organisation to act on bullying after second woman flags she’ll quit


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In another blow for Scott Morrison, a second Liberal woman in a marginal seat has declared she will not run at the next election. Ann Sudmalis, who holds the NSW regional seat of Gilmore on a margin of 0.7%, cited stacking, bullying and leaking against her, and denounced the state Liberal organisation.

In a damaging statement for a party in desperate search of unity and fending off allegations of female MPs being bullied, Sudmalis said: “My decision has been made after six and a half years of holding my pledge to be a team player in the face of NSW Liberal party bullying, intimidation, leaking and undermining at a local level.”

Her stinging attack on the NSW Liberal division has prompted action from the prime minister to have the party’s organisational wing investigate the allegations.




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Morrison – who met with Sudmalis on Monday – said she had “raised a number of genuine concerns with me” about her treatment in her local Federal Electoral Conference within the NSW division of the Liberal Party.

“This is in addition to complaints I have received from other colleagues about processes in the party’s organisational wing,” he said. He emphasised the complaints did not relate to the parliamentary wing, but to the party’s organisational wing.

Morrison said he had on Monday, through the party’s federal director Andrew Hirst, requested the Liberals’ federal executive “to consider how they will take steps to ensure there is a rigorous and confidential process to deal with concerns and complaints from party members, including members of parliament.

“Nola Marino, the chief whip, has managed this process for parliamentarians. This new arrangement will ensure that the organisational wing of the party has the same processes and upholds the same values.”

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer said earlier this month that such a process was needed, in the wake of the recent allegations of bullying.




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Sudmalis’ announcement follows Victorian backbencher Julia Banks’ decision also to quit at the election, citing bullying. Her Victorian seat of Chisholm is on about 3% margin after the redistribution.

Without the well-known incumbents, both seats will be harder for the Liberals to hold.




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Liberal MP Julia Banks to quit at election, calling out bullying


Sudmalis stressed her decision “has nothing to do with the leadership of Scott Morrison nor my federal colleagues”. She described Morrison as a friend and a man of integrity who was “absolutely passionate about the long-term progress and vision for Australia.”

“I am concerned that the media will interpret my decision as a reflection on the leadership of Scott Morrison. If they do, they will be lying. Scott Morrison truly is a good man,” she said in a statement.

She said that she had endeavoured to keep her decision private until after the Wentworth byelection but this wasn’t possible.

“I have asked the prime minister to acknowledge that I am withdrawing my nomination”, she said.

Sudmalis said she had “never before said how I voted in the party room for the position of prime minister, but as this has been some of the undermining process by those who actually don’t know, let me confirm that I have never voted against a sitting prime minister.”

“I did not support the spill motion. I supported Malcolm Turnbull through the entire process. The position of prime minister should not be a dispensable position.”

She said her decision “has everything to do with the NSW [Liberal] State Division and the actions of one of my state Liberal colleagues.

“Since the day of winning pre-selection in 2012, the local self-determined senior Liberal has been leaking damaging material to media, holding publicity stunts that are completely against federal policy initiatives, and has overall been unfair and unethical.

“The final straw came when my supportive FEC [Federal Electoral Conference] committee at the AGM was completely rolled, installing people of inexperience and hostility.

“It is at the NSW State Division level that I have had little or no
support during the past six months while waiting for the pre-selection process, which should have been determined well before now.”

When her preselection was obviously coming under pressure earlier this year, Turnbull and Morrison strongly backed her. It was reported at that time that party powerbroker and NSW Liberal MP Gareth Ward was behind the campaign against Sudmalis.

Sudmalis, 63, entered parliament in 2013. She had a 3% swing against her in 2016.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne was cavalier in his comment: “It’s not compulsory when you get elected to remain in parliament for the rest of your life. It’s not a life sentence. If they get to choose how to retire it’s a nice way to go out.”

The Labor candidate for the seat, Fiona Phillips, issued a statement thanking Sudmalis for her service to the region.

“Whilst Ann Sudmalis and I have fundamental disagreements on what is best for our region, I do not doubt her dedication and sincerity to serve.

“I would like to work closely with Mrs Sudmalis for the remainder of her term to achieve real and significant improvements for our local dairy farmers who face an existential crisis during this drought,” Phillips said.

Meanwhile, Fairfax Media reported that the NSW Liberal Party had said Tony Abbott secured 68% support in the vote last Friday to re-endorse him.

There had been different reports of the numbers and earlier they had been kept secret. The substantial minority vote against Abbott has been interpreted as a warning that locals want the next term to be his final one.

Abbott was not in parliament on Monday; his office said he was on “emergency services” leave. He was paired, so his absence did not affect the numbers in votes.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A ‘woman problem’? No, the Liberals have a ‘man problem’, and they need to fix it


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The Liberal Party room is dominated – and increasingly so over the past generation – by male MPs who anoint leaders in their own image.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Chris Wallace, Australian National University

Politics isn’t rational. Prejudice trumps performance. Politics is run by thugs. These are three reasonable conclusions from the snubbing of electorally popular Julie Bishop in last week’s Liberal leadership ballot, and Bishop-ally Julia Banks’ decision not to stand at the next election to protest bullying during the leadership campaign.

Why did it happen? Does politics have to work this way?

There are four facets to why Bishop, far away the most likely to maximise the Liberal vote at the next federal election, is not now prime minister.




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Firstly, there is not so much a “woman problem” as a “man problem” on the conservative side of politics in Australia. The Liberal Party room is dominated – and increasingly so over the past generation – by male MPs who anoint leaders in their own image.

Last week they looked at Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Bishop and chose the one who is, if you average out the demographics of current Liberal MPs, their identikit picture. This reinforces the collective power of men in the Liberal party room, maximises their comfort level and is, until exposed to political reality in the form of a general election, an approach easily sold on the inside as “common sense”.

Secondly, the reluctance of Liberal women to name and organise around the liberal feminism they actually practice, psychologically undercuts their power and keeps them in a prone position.

They need to name and unashamedly organise around the set of ideas that can end the present male Liberal monoculture in a way consistent with their political philosophy: that is, liberal feminism. Every time Bishop and those like her shy from declaring themselves liberal feminists, they pull the rug from under not only
their own feet, but also from under the feet of every other Liberal woman around them. It’s time they staked out their philosophical ground.

Thirdly, Liberal women have to stake out their organisational ground too. They have yet to apply obvious lessons from overseas examples of how to organise and achieve change. As a British Conservative Party opposition frontbencher in 2005, the now British prime minister Theresa May established “Women2Win” to get more Tory women into parliament: the number of female Conservative Party MPs in Britain has since nearly quadrupled. Where is the Australian equivalent? Only Liberal women can make it happen.

And fourthly, in Australia, because of its particularly brutal gender politics, quotas have to be part of the answer. The long-held, empirically unarguable view of experts like ANU political scientist Marian Sawer is that the Liberals’ refusal to adopt Labor-style minimum quotas for women’s pre-selection in winnable seats is dragging women’s parliamentary representation here backwards.

Australia has moved from 15th place in the world in terms of women’s overall parliamentary representation in 1999 to 50th place in 2018 – an astonishing regression entirely down to the fall in female conservative MPs. Liberal women should accept the findings of sustained research in this area and make quotas central to their bargaining agenda.

Globally, the most successful conservative politician of the 21st century, by a very long margin, is a woman: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. If you want to see someone dispatch a thug, watch Merkel deal with US President Donald Trump. The British Conservative Party has already had two women prime ministers: Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. There won’t be a female Liberal prime minister here until Liberal women themselves organise with moderate allies to boost their numbers and normalise their presence in the party room.

Nor is this just an internal Liberal Party problem. It’s in the interests of all Australian voters for the Liberals’ “man problem” to be fixed since the consequences of being hostage to it, as we are now seeing, are so bad.

Like a river dying from lack of water, increased party political involvement overall has to underpin change like this. More “occasional politicians”, as Max Weber described them, are needed and fewer political apparatchiks. More doing your civic duty by joining a political party and voting in preselections rather than leaving these crucial choices to the sad, mad and self-seeking. It means reasonable people not folding and leaving in the face of pressure from the thugs, but rather binding together and seeing the thugs off.

Politics can, and has been, more rational. Prejudice doesn’t have to, and hasn’t always, trumped performance. Politics doesn’t have to be run by thugs.




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When the histories are written, the Liberal “moderates” appeasement of the party’s thuggish right-wing, both in policy and personnel, will be revealed as central to former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s downfall and the party room’s failure to elect Bishop his successor.

Early this year, the numbers were there for moderate NSW Liberals to defeat the preselections of key right-wingers Tony Abbott in Warringah, Craig Kelly in Hughes and Angus Taylor in Hume. Internal discussions occurred over whether to do so. Turnbull and every key moderate squibbed the chance.

You can’t beat thugs through appeasement. You’ve got to get rid of them. Cleaning up the Liberals right-wing is the challenge for a future leader – a real leader.The Conversation

Chris Wallace, ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

UN delivers strong rebuke to Australian government on women’s rights



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The UN committee issued over 90 recommendations for improvement, demonstrating that negative aspects far outweigh progress on women’s rights.
Shutterstock

Maria Nawaz, UNSW and Tess Deegan, UNSW

This week, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women handed down its recommendations from its review of Australia’s compliance with the women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The UN delivered a scathing critique of Australia’s failures to protect and promote the rights of women and girls.




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The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is a UN treaty body, made up of 23 independent experts from around the world, and its key functions include:

  • examining state parties’ implementation of rights under the convention

  • making recommendations detailing how state parties can improve compliance with the convention

  • accepting individual complaints about violations of rights under the convention

What did the committee say about Australia’s record on women’s rights?

The committee noted areas of improvement, including marriage equality, the introduction of the paid parental leave scheme and the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status and family responsibilities.

However, it also issued over 90 recommendations for improvement, demonstrating that negative aspects far outweigh progress on women’s rights.

Human rights framework

The committee reiterated its 2010 recommendations that Australia should introduce a charter of rights. The Committee also recommended that Australia harmonise state, federal and territory discrimination laws to enhance their effectiveness in prohibiting discrimination against women.

The committee denounced funding cuts to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and emphasised the importance of the government respecting the independence of the commission.

Violence against women and sexual harassment

The committee noted the endemic nature of violence against women, with one in three women experiencing physical violence, and almost one in five women experiencing sexual violence. The committee recommended that the government reinforce efforts to change behaviours that lead to violence against women. This includes encouraging reporting violence, and adequately funding services under the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children.

The committee raised the prevalence of sexual harassment, and recommended that the government take into account the outcomes of the national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment, encourage reporting and impose appropriate sanctions on perpetrators.

Women’s economic disadvantage

The committee condemned the government’s lack of gender budget analysis. It said:

The Committee considers that some of the State party’s recent cuts to social, health, education and justice budgets, reduction of taxes for high income groups and increase of the defence budget represent a setback…

It recommended the government take immediate measures to mitigate the effect of recent budget cuts on women, implement gender-responsive budgeting in the allocation of public resources, and reinstate the funding of services catering to women’s rights.

Access to justice

The committee criticised funding cuts to legal assistance services, and urged the government to implement the recommendations of the 2014 Productivity Commission Inquiry into Access to Justice. This includes ensuring adequate funding for community legal centres and legal aid.

The committee raised concern at provisions in funding agreements that restrict the ability of community legal centres and civil society organisations to advocate for women’s rights, and recommended the government remove provisions from funding agreements that restrict freedom of expression.

Treatment of diverse groups of women

The committee recognised that diverse groups of women, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, LGBTI women, women with disability, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, refugee women and older women experience greater barriers to accessing and enforcing their rights.

These include discrimination, lack of access to appropriate services, higher risk of violence, higher unemployment and homelessness rates, and lower representation in public life. The committee recommended numerous measures to improve gender equality for diverse groups of women.

Where to from here?

The release of these recommendations comes at a time of great uncertainty in international human rights. We’re seeing a disturbing retreat from fundamental human rights principles and institutions across the world.

While Australia has been using its seat on the Human Rights Council to advocate at the international level for the rights of women and girls, the gap between our global leadership on gender equality and the reality faced by women and girls in the Australian community is stark.




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Australia has an extremely poor record of implementing treaty body recommendations. During the committee’s review of Australia last month, the Australian government, while stating that it takes its international obligations “incredibly seriously”, admitted that on most fronts it had no plans to amend laws or policies to improve protection of the rights of women and girls in the Australian community.

As part of the committee’s follow-up procedure, Australia must explain to the committee what steps it has taken to implement priority recommendations within two years.

The committee’s four priority recommendations focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, funding for women’s services, reproductive rights, and ending offshore processing of refugees.

The ConversationThe challenge for Australia is to engage positively with the committee’s recommendations and implement changes to improve human rights for women and girls at home

Maria Nawaz, Law Reform Solicitor/Clinical Legal Supervisor, Kingsford Legal Centre UNSW; Lecturer, UNSW Human Rights Clinic, UNSW and Tess Deegan, Law Reform Solicitor/Clinical Legal Supervisor at Kingsford Legal Centre, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sexist abuse has a long history in Australian politics – and takes us all to a dark place



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With some foul-mouthed words to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator David Leyonhjelm has turned a debate about the safety of women into a sleazy political sideshow.
AAP/Mick Tsikas/Sam Mooy

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

In one foul-mouthed phrase, Senator David Leyonhjelm has turned a debate about the safety of women into a sleazy political sideshow.

Claiming – without a shred of factual support – that he had interpreted Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as having said words to the effect of “all men are rapists”, Leyonhjelm called across the chamber that she should “stop shagging men”. Confronted by her afterwards, he told her to “fuck off”.

It is one more example of the debasement of political debate in Australia, aided and abetted by elements of the media, in this case Sky News. Its Outsiders panel of Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron gave Leyonhjelm a platform on which he repeated his offensive remarks, and sat back obligingly while he did so.

Only when the network was deluged with complaints did Cameron apologise for the pair of them, and the network took its own action – suspending not Dean and Cameron but the nameless and faceless young female producer who put up a caption at the foot of the screen bearing Leyonhjelm’s words.




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Sexism and sexual innuendo are nothing new in politics. Cheryl Kernot, one-time leader of the Australian Democrats who had an affair with Labor’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans and defected to Labor in the late 1990s, was the butt of some crude slanging on the floor of the parliament.

But since June 24, 2010, when Julia Gillard deposed Kevin Rudd as Labor Prime Minister, these phenomena seem to have got palpably worse.

The reasons are necessarily speculative, but over the intervening eight years there have been a series of developments that might help to explain it.

One has been the explosive arrival of social media and its adoption as a tool of propaganda by all who want to make themselves heard, regardless of taste, harm or substance. Facebook, launched in 2004, went global in 2006, the same year that Twitter was launched. YouTube appeared in 2005, Instagram in 2010 (acquired by Facebook in 2012) and Snapchat in 2011.

Whatever benefits they have brought – and there are many – they have also brought trolling.

During the prime ministership of Julia Gillard, a vast amount of trolling was directed at her. It was gross in its extremism and vulgarity. Much of it was crude pornography. There was incitement to violence and unbridled misogyny. Research by Anne Summers for her 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture at the University of Newcastle, revealed just how vile this online assault became.

The poison seeped out into the wider public discourse, where inevitably elements of the mainstream media magnified it.

Notable contributors to this were commercial radio talkback shock jocks Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Chris Smith. Their depictions of, and remarks about, Gillard were disgustingly offensive. Not only were they sexist, extremist and malicious, but in Jones’s case involved encouragement of the idea that the prime minister should be dumped at sea.

And then, of course, there was the infamous question about the sexual orientation of the prime minister’s partner.

Portrayals of Gillard by other elements of the mainstream media, especially the newspapers, were generally less grotesque, but raised important ethical issues just the same.

The most common, and in some ways the most difficult to pin down, concerned the passively neutral way in which they covered the grossly disrespectful public attacks on her, just as Dean and Cameron did on Sunday.

An egregious example was the coverage of the rally outside Parliament House in 2011 when the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, gave legitimacy to sentiments such as “ditch the witch” and “bitch” by allowing himself to be photographed in front of placards bearing those words.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott addresses a crowd in front of crude signs referring to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in March, 2011.
AAP/Alan Porritt

A more recent development, also made possible by the internet, has been the rise of the #metoo movement, in which women who previously felt powerless to speak out about sexual harassment are now doing so, bringing down some powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein in the process.

This has produced a backlash consisting of a complicated mix of male dubiety about the exact nature of sexual harassment and irritation by some feminists at what they see as an apparent weakening of women’s agency.

The fact there is a backlash at all doubtless encourages those who wish to say that attention to sexual harassment is overdone, and we should get back to a bit of good old-fashioned slagging of the kind epitomised by Leyonhjelm’s remarks.

A further factor might be that the boundaries of privacy have shifted, so sexual references that would have been deemed off-limits a decade ago are now shared on social media. Perhaps this is having a desensitising effect on standards of public taste.

Trends in public standards influence editorial decision-making. Stories are published that previously might not have been, or might have been toned down.




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View from The Hill: Parliament should care about its reputation even if Leyonhjelm doesn’t value his


As professional mass media try to keep pace with developments in social media, editors may feel they will be left behind if they don’t swiftly adapt to these changing mores and become more libertarian in their decision-making.

In these ways, boundaries in public taste and decency shift over time. However, Leyonhjelm has clearly put himself beyond the pale. Sky News obviously recognised this and felt an apology was necessary, even if Leyonhjelm himself does not.

Meanwhile, it is sobering to reflect on the worst consequences of disrespectful attitudes to women. The shocking rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne last month – which gave rise to the debate in which Leyonhjelm made his disgraceful interjection – has rightly led to an outpouring of community outrage and grief.

The 2018 report of the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network, which draws on data from all the coroners’ courts in Australia, stated that between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2014 there were 152 intimate partner homicides across Australia that followed an identifiable history of domestic violence.

The ConversationOf these, 121, or 79.6%, were women killed by men.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Madonna or whore; frigid or a slut: why women are still bearing the brunt of sexual slurs



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Sarah Hanson-Young on David Leyonhjelm: “He is — for lack of a better word … slut-shaming me”.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Eva Cox, University of Technology Sydney

Senator David Leyonhjelm’s sexist slur on Senator Sarah Hanson-Young during parliamentary debate raises many issues about how women’s credibility can be undermined by implications that they are sexually more active than is deemed “acceptable”.

This is a long-standing tactic, based on sexist assumptions that women can be classified as either Madonna or whore, frigid or slut: something Australian feminist Anne Summers wrote about so powerfully in her book Damned Whores and God’s Police. In it, Summers quoted Caroline Chisholm’s belief that the colony needed “good and virtuous women”. The misuse of female sexuality has more recently been rebadged as “slut shaming”, which in turn created its own feminist protests by women engaging in “slut walks” as a means of reclaiming the term as a positive.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Parliament should care about its reputation even if Leyonhjelm doesn’t value his


As academic and author Jessalynn Keller has written:

The phrase [slut-shaming] became popularized alongside the SlutWalk marches and functions similarly to the “War on Women,” producing affective connections while additionally working to reclaim the word “slut” as a source of power and agency for girls and women.

In this spirit, Hanson-Young has hit back. Leyonhjelm has refused to apologise for his comments, and Hanson-Young is now seeking further action. “I have a responsibility now, I have a responsibility to call this for what it is,” she told ABC radio. She said Leyonhjelm had suggested she was “sexually promiscuous”. She continued:

He is — for lack of a better word, and I really apologise for this, I’m thankful that my daughter is home in bed still and not up for school — he’s slut-shaming me.

This conflict arose from one of the many debates raised by the astounding successes of the #metoo movement, which has exposed women’s widespread experiences of sexual harassment and bullying.

The wider debate records what are obviously very long-standing differences of criteria applied to women’s behaviour as opposed to men’s. Despite it being nearly 70 years since publication of another classic feminist tome, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, women are still seen as Other, and defined by powerful male criteria.

Whereas men’s virtues are often seen as multiple and universal, those seen as relating to women are still tied to outdated moral codes that assume our sexual behaviour is the primary indicator of who we are.

While sexual prowess and multiple “conquests” may be indicators of men’s approved masculinity, women may lose legitimacy if they are deemed promiscuous by having multiple partners.

There is no doubt men’s active sexuality is deemed acceptable and often excused as driven by physical needs, but women are still criticised for leading men on or astray. In other words, not only can’t women win in terms of their own sexuality and how it is somehow tied to their moral character, they are often asked, implicitly or explicitly, to take responsibility for men’s sexual behaviour too.

The so-called sexual revolution, catalysed by the availability of reliable female contraception in the 1960s, does not seem to have freed women in the same way it freed men. Interestingly, there is still no male pill that would reduce the risks for women, so we still carry that responsibility far too often.

All of this raises questions of how far real equality for women has come. I often quote a 1970s badge that read “women who want equality with men lack ambition”. We wanted to change what was valued and by whom, to balance the emphasis on macho material goals, tastes, attitudes and ambitions.

Current evidence suggests that, despite having more women in the senior ranks of most institutions, these are still there as parvenus, subjected to male criteria of what they think matters.

So women who do not fit the designated behaviour of Madonnas or whores are likely to be targeted for sledging. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard copped it and there is no evidence the culture has improved.

For his part, Leyonhjelm is unrepentant. When asked whether his reaction was too personal, regardless of what he thought Hanson-Young, he said:

I think you’re being way too precious. If you’re a woman of 36, unless you’re celibate, it might be a reasonable assumption that you’re shagging men occasionally. It’s a legitimate assumption and I simply made that assumption.

This just reinforces the idea that she is promiscuous, which he must know will reduce her wider credibility. It is an oddly puritanical comment, given he claims to be libertarian.

The ConversationMany politicians have taken issue with Leyonhjelm’s comments, though it is perhaps in part a result of the general debasing of parliamentary debate in recent years. Let’s hope the public outrage over this particular incident will create some push-back against vocal sexist slurs against women, in parliament and in broader society.

Eva Cox, Professorial Fellow, Jumbunna IHL, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Parliament should care about its reputation even if Leyonhjelm doesn’t value his


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If David Leyonhjelm hasn’t apologised to Sarah Hanson-Young by the time parliament resumes next month, the Senate should tell him to do so.

The recalcitrant Liberal Democrat senator might tell his upper house colleagues to go jump, but the Senate needs to take a stand for the sake of its own reputation.

The outraged Greens have already flagged they’ll move a censure over Leyonhjelm’s smearing of their senator.

This matter goes beyond the actual stoush between the two. It raises the issue of when parliament should call out unacceptable behaviour by its members. It has also triggered questions about the media’s role.

Let’s go back to the start. Last Thursday Hanson-Young told the Senate that during a motion relating to violence against women, “senator Leyonhjelm yelled an offensive and sexist slur at me from across the chamber.

“After the vote on the motion was complete, I walked over to the senator and confronted him directly. I asked whether I had heard him correctly. He confirmed that he had yelled, ‘You should stop shagging men, Sarah.’

“Shocked, I told him that he was a creep. His reply was to tell me to ‘f… off’,” she said.

Earlier, Greens leader Richard Di Natale had approached Senate president Scott Ryan about the incident. Ryan spoke to Leyonhjelm. Leyonhjelm wouldn’t apologise.

Subsequently, Leyonhjelm gave his version in a media statement, saying during the debate Hanson-Young had interjected “something along the lines of all men being rapists. [She says her interjection was ‘putting more tasers on the streets would not make women more safe from men’].

“I responded by suggesting that if this were the case she should stop shagging men.”

Adding more provocation, Leyonhjelm said in his statement that while not prepared to apologise “I am prepared to rephrase my comments. I strongly urge senator Hanson-Young to continue shagging men as she pleases.”

The incident has blown up especially because of what followed at the weekend. Leyonhjelm was interviewed on Sky and on 3AW on Sunday morning. On each program he cast a particular slur on Hanson-Young’s reputation.

On 3AW he was challenged by the presenters. On Sky’s Outsiders it was a different story. He fitted the vibe of a program, that stretches to breaking point the limits of the permissible. A strap line was put up of his words, “SARAH HANSON-YOUNG IS KNOWN FOR LIKING MEN THE RUMOURS ABOUT HER IN PARLIAMENT ARE WELL KNOWN”.

Then, all hell broke loose.

Within hours Sky apologised to Hanson-Young for “broadcasting appalling comments … and for highlighting them in an on-screen strap”. It said a producer had been suspended, ahead of an internal investigation.

Multiple Sky presenters distanced themselves in tweets. Hanson-Young announced on Monday that she was seeking legal advice. Letters have been sent to Sky, 3AW and Leyonhjelm. She could only sue in relation to what happened outside parliament.

Ryan – who did his best on the day – has explained that he doesn’t have power to force an apology.

He said on twitter on Friday: “As the comments were not part of the formal proceedings of the Senate, they are not recorded in Hansard and therefore I have no authority to require a withdrawal, nor do I have the power to demand an apology from any senator or apply a sanction such as suspension.”

Leyonhjelm, who is railing against misandry (hatred of men) told Fairfax Media it would be easier to apologise but that would be “insincere… because I don’t think I have anything to apologise for”.

If Leyonhjelm really believes that, he is totally out of touch with reasonable standards of behaviour, let alone how ordinary people think their representatives should conduct themselves, whatever their disagreements.

His conduct is at the extreme end of the discourteous, sometimes boorish, discourse that too often is characterising political exchanges. And politicians then wonder why so many people are angry at them.

As for Sky, its response has been less than convincing – some might say it is hiding behind a petticoat.

Di Natale opined that Sky’s “apology rings hollow when the man who made the offensive comments goes unpunished, the male producers who booked him go unpunished, the male executives who set the tone and pay their salaries go unpunished and the only one held accountable is a junior producer who also happens to be a female member of staff.”

Suspending a producer, over the strap line, is tokenism. The fact the strap line “highlighted” what was said is hardly the point. Leyonhjelm himself said on Monday “the producer was not responsible for my comments” and pointed to Sky fears about losing sponsorship.

Forget the producer – wasn’t it for the the hosts, Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron, to challenge, or stop, Leyonhjelm? Yet Cameron wound up the segment with the words, “senator David Leyonhjelm, we appreciate your advocacy of the individual to be defended against the sludge of the collective”. (Later in the program – presumably after someone twigged – Dean started the damage control, saying Leyonhjelm’s views “are not the views of Sky News”.)

There was not a word about the presenters in the Sky apology – which was not issued in anyone’s name.

As for an internal investigation, is that needed? Aren’t things pretty obvious? Leyonhjelm was invited on to be controversial. He did exactly what was wanted but when it didn’t work out too well, Sky failed to confront the real issue for the network – a low rent program.

The ConversationCameron and Dean on Monday night admitted that a line had been crossed and they disassociated “ourselves from the use of unverified rumour and innuendo”. Pity they didn’t see the line when Leyonhjelm crossed it in their plain sight.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Women have been neglected by the Anzac tradition, and it’s time that changed



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Australian nurses and patients at the Auxiliary Hospital Unit in Antwerp during the first world war.
Australian War Memorial

Robyn Mayes, Queensland University of Technology

The Anzac legend remains firmly centred on the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of 1915, and the sacrifice of “sons and fathers” in frontline combat. The place of women in this foundational story is also made clear – that of onlookers and supporters.

In concluding her 2017 dawn service address at Gallipoli, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told a story about Len Hall, one of the original “diggers” who fought at Gallipoli. He is said to have noticed a girl in the crowd who had gathered to farewell departing soldiers, and given her an emu feather that he plucked from his slouch hat. When he returned to Australia at the close of the war, this girl — who later became his wife — was waiting in the crowd to return the feather.

This is a story of hope, and of an ongoing fascination with and idealisation of the “digger”. It is also a story about the passive role of women as waiting mothers, wives and sisters. But women’s contributions are more complicated, varied and controversial than these stories allow.




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Undervalued women’s work

Women were entirely absent from the Gallipoli landings; the only women in the vicinity were nurses serving on hospital ships and in the field hospital in Lemnos. These crucial and dangerous roles as nurses and ambulance drivers were publicly acknowledged in the early Anzac commemorations.

However, as Anzac Day rituals evolved into the current dawn service, veterans’ march, and afternoon celebrations and sporting events, public recognition of this service declined.

Ex-service women are often involved in the Anzac Day March.
Shutterstock

For many years, ex-service women attended Anzac Day marches as spectators or walked in marches without service identification and without mention in the official program. While some were satisfied with this, others were not.

In a 1963 newspaper article the President of the Australian Women’s Army Service shared the group’s experience of “being ignored”. She pointed out they had until then received “less recognition than the boy scouts” (who were officially included in the march).

The Australian Women’s Army Service was actually formed in 1941 to free up men for combat roles. Women performed a wide range of (largely uncelebrated) work, ranging from intelligence analysis to operating fixed gun emplacements in Australia, to working as canteen staff.

In 2002, Annie Leach headed the Perth Anzac Day march on the 100th anniversary of the army’s nursing corps, noting that WA nurses returning from the second world war were largely “a forgotten race”.




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Mary Beard and the long tradition of women being told to shut up


Challenging core Anzac beliefs

Women have not only had to fight to be recognised for their noncombatant war service, but are also credited with presenting the most serious of all challenges to Anzac core beliefs and rituals. This took the form of non-violent Anzac Day protests seeking to draw public attention to the issue of rape in war, and to oppose the system supporting wars and rape.

In the 1970s and 80s, groups such as the Women Against Rape in War collective bravely staged several such protests around Australia. These protests included the attempted laying of “rape wreaths” during dawn services as a way to mourn women raped in war. This stands in stark contrast to the comforting notion of wartime women waiting safely at home.

Such activity was vilified and indeed punished. In Sydney, 160 women protesters were charged with participating in the Anzac Day march without permission, which they had sought and been refused. As sociologist Catriona Elder has documented in her 2007 book Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity three women were jailed for one month for failing to keep a minimum distance of 400 metres from the end of the Anzac Day parade.

Keepers of the tradition

ABC coverage of the 2017 Gallipoli dawn service reported many people were moved to tears, as evidenced by inclusion of a photograph of a young woman wearing an “Anzac Day” beanie wiping her tears away. Other coverage of Anzac Day 2017 features an image of a woman “watching as people sleep overnight”.

An examination of media coverage of Anzac Day in Perth since the 1980s shows a growing expectation around women’s emotional engagement with, and support for, Anzac Day rituals. It also shows the emergence of an explicit contemporary role for women as guardians of the ongoing relevance and importance of the Day. This includes making sure that the family attends Anzac Day marches.




Read more:
Flies, filth and bully beef: life at Gallipoli in 1915


The ‘modern’ digger

In a contentious move, since the first of January 2013 women currently serving in the ADF have been entitled to take up front line and combat roles while direct entry to these roles has been permitted from January 2016. In 2015, women constituted close to 15% of the deployed force. In 2017 the official definition of “veteran” was revised so that many older service-women will for the first time be officially recognised on Anzac Day 2018 as veterans.

Word is that in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne this year the march will be led by service women.

Even though it is mooted as a “one-off” occurrence, is this a turning point after which women will be more equally recognised for their military service to the nation? Will women veterans be accorded the revered title of “digger”?

The ConversationThe role of women in the Anzac tradition is not just about the “one day” and fair recognition of women’s sacrifice and service; it’s also about how we understand quintessential “Australian” characteristics and the formation of the nation as the preserve of not just men but also women, and not just those who support but also those who challenge.

Robyn Mayes, Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull’s ‘sex ban’ speech reveals that politics is still not an equal place for women – but it is changing


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Malcolm Turnbull announces changes to the Ministerial Code of Conduct in the wake of the Barnaby Joyce affair.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Carol Johnson, University of Adelaide

The appropriateness of Malcolm Turnbull’s trenchant criticisms of Barnaby Joyce’s “shocking error of judgement” and his announcement of a ban on ministers having sex with staffers has already been widely debated.

However, when he made those statements, Turnbull also raised much broader issues about the position of women in parliament that are worth discussing in more depth.

Turnbull acknowledged that there were “some very serious issues about the culture of this place, of this parliament” that involved gender.

He stated: “Many women … who work in this building understand very powerfully what I am saying”. Consequently, the old Ministerial Code of Conduct needed to be revised because it didn’t adequately reflect the values “of workplaces where women are respected”.

Turnbull went on to say:

I recognise that respect in workplaces is not entirely a gender issue, of course. But the truth is, as we know, most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building if you like, are men and there is a gender, a real gender perspective here.

Turnbull is crafting an image of “protective masculinity”, of a fatherly protectiveness toward potentially vulnerable women, which he hopes will appeal both to social conservatives and feminists.

Leading Liberal Party social conservatives such as Scott Morrison have supported his ban. As has been pointed out, Turnbull’s position also references the challenging of conventional gender power relations in the workplace by movements such as #MeToo. (Though it should be noted that both some social conservatives and feminists may have reservations about the specific measures Turnbull advocates.)




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It was an acknowledgement of gendered power relations in parliament that more socially conservative predecessors such as John Howard or Tony Abbott would have been unlikely to make. Indeed, Turnbull’s broader statements also raise feminist issues that may cause some tensions with social conservatives in the longer term.

For example, why, as Turnbull acknowledges, are most of the ministers in parliament male?

Turnbull was pulled up when he mistakenly claimed to have the most female cabinet ministers of any Australian government so far. It was pointed out that, at best, his record equalled Kevin Rudd’s, and that number has actually dropped since the resignation of Sussan Ley.

Indeed, Rudd had a higher percentage of female cabinet members – 30% compared with Turnbull’s initial 27% that dropped to 24% after Ley’s resignation, and to 22% when Turnbull expanded his cabinet from 21 to 23. Furthermore, there is only one female minister out of the seven in the Turnbull government’s outer ministry.

Malcolm Turnbull poses with female ministers in December 2017.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Turnbull should be praised for having both a female foreign minister and defence minister, since these are senior portfolios not traditionally held by women.
Nonetheless, Peter Van Onselen has written tellingly regarding the apparent gender bias in Liberal cabinet selections, and the serious female talent that has been overlooked as a result, in both the Abbott and Turnbull cabinets.

Despite this, the situation has obviously improved markedly under Turnbull.

Julie Bishop has talked about her experience of being the only woman in Abbott’s first cabinet, and of how she’d put forward excellent ideas that were ignored, only to have a male colleague repeat the same idea and be lauded for it.

It was, she said, a form of unconscious bias that resulted in “almost a deafness”. Clearly cultural change and more respect for women in the workplace were needed there.

Furthermore, it isn’t just a case of the majority of ministers being male – so are the majority of politicians.

Women are seriously underrepresented among Liberal MPs. As of November 2017, only 22% of Liberal politicians were women (with Labor’s proportion then being 45%).

Consequently, it isn’t just the culture in ministers’ offices that needs changing. Some female Liberal politicians, such as senator Linda Reynolds, have drawn attention to the need for broader cultural change in the Liberal Party to ensure more female politicians are recruited and women’s abilities are recognised.

Some have even suggested that, given merit is clearly not being recognised in candidate pre-selection, the Liberal Party should consider introducing quotas like Labor has done.




Read more:
How the Liberals can fix their gender problem


Parliamentary culture in general remains highly gendered, with women often bearing the brunt of sexist attitudes. The culture is also one that has often rewarded particularly macho conceptions of masculinity that can disadvantage some men as well as women.

No wonder women can become the target or collateral damage, often aided and abetted by highly gendered media coverage. The problems are not just confined to the Coalition, pervading most if not all parties, although some are doing better than others.

Indeed, while it has substantially increased its number of female politicians, Labor sometimes falls back on some of its old habits in regard to gender. These include appointing exceptionally capable female candidates to try to improve Labor’s image after male politicians have made a mess of things — a scenario that former premiers Carmen Lawrence and Joan Kirner knew well.

Think of Kristina Keneally replacing Sam Dastyari in the Senate – although at least she is guaranteed her spot, unlike Ged Kearney, who is faced with the difficult task of trying to retain Batman for Labor against the Greens following David Feeney’s departure.

However, clearly things are changing, and the gendered nature of parliamentary politics is under challenge. Turnbull’s acknowledgement of gendered power imbalances in parliament reveals that, even if he avoided discussing his own party’s contribution to them.

The ConversationAll states in Australia, other than South Australia, have now had a female premier, with some having had more than one. While Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, regularly had her gender used against her, Australians will be watching the progress of New Zealand’s third female prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, with great interest. Perhaps, one day, we will even stop discussing her baby and her shoes.

Carol Johnson, Professor of Politics, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.