Today it is reported that Campell Newman has announced that he will be abolishing the dedicated role of the Minister for the Status of Women. Next it will be the federal Office for Women being dismantled, if the Opposition comes to power. The Liberal Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, made a speech (on International Women’s Day, no less), stating that empowerment of women should not be “relegated to a single Government Department to deal with” suggesting that they too will subsume women’s policy within other issues if they come to power.
Senator Cash also told the audience that she is “pleased to say” that her life and career has not been hindered by her gender, and that she is “proud to be a member of a political party that believes in the promotion of women based on merit not quotas”. I wonder how she feels now after seeing the number of women in QLD government fall drastically since Newman took over. As Meghan B. Hopper wrote this week, it is hard to accept that the QLD LNP could only find 12 women of merit to represent the state, while “a 23-year-old male who lives with his parents and whose former employer was Woolies makes the cut”.
Senator Cash appears to believe that we have already achieved gender equality in Australia, and that she herself is a woman who has “achieved economic empowerment”. To other women, she says, “If you want to achieve more, work harder”. How nice of Senator Cash to share these views with us. I’m sure women everywhere are kicking themselves thinking, “Oh, so that’s all there is to it! I just need to work harder! Why didn’t I think of that!”
I’m sure my clients experiencing domestic violence (to which Senator Cash makes a tokenistic reference, very unlike the LNP!?) will be all the better off for this advice. Never mind that they are being terrorised by their partner or ex-partner, are traumatised, are poor and homeless and jobless, and Centrelink and DoCs are on their back, and sometimes the police and courts listen to them and sometimes they don’t, and the Family Court orders their kids to see the perpetrator, and “why don’t they just leave?” Never mind all that, they just need to work harder.
Senator Cash suggests that unlike women in developing nations, who “still need freedom from… poverty and other limiting factors”, women in Australia already have that freedom.
I felt sorry for Senator Cash as I watched her give this speech on IWD. I felt sorry for her that she had stood up in front of the likes of Julie McKay from UN Women, to deliver such an obviously unresearched and uninformed pile of sexist drivel in the name of gender equality. I felt sorry for her that she gave the speech so proudly and with such conviction, without even realising that she herself is oppressed and is oppressing other women. I felt sorry for her that despite not being hindered by her gender, she is oblivious that she too is a victim of the discrimination that women face. Does she realise that if a Liberal government shuts the federal Office for Women she will be out of a job?
But I shouldn’t feel sorry for her. With all her privilege and power she has a responsibility to be properly informed about the issues that are involved in the portfolio that she holds. After the NPC IWD speeches I tweeted Senator Cash to say I hoped she would be open to learning about how misinformed her views are. I never got a reply. During one of Tony Abbott’s #asktony sessions on Twitter (during which he never seems to reply to anyone), I asked him if he intended to dismantle the federal Office for Women. I needn’t have bothered. The writing’s on the wall.