As much as Tony Abbott might try to convince us that he is a
feminist, unlike his Foreign Minister or his Minister Assisting the
Prime Minister for Women, it’s an appellation that doesn’t quite measure
up. Women have been the victims of tokenism for too long to swallow
the lines and gestures.
Take his recent Cabinet reshuffle.
Ley was promoted to Health (and Sport) to immediately face a storm of
discontent from doctors, welfare groups, and the public. With no
experience at all with the health sector, she has to try to convince us
that we should give up universal healthcare, convince the doctors they
should take a significant pay cut, and make the economic case to fix a
problem that doesn’t exist with a solution that won’t work.
When the PM’s new cabinet were sworn in by Governor-General Sir Peter
Cosgrove at a ceremony at Government House in Canberra a couple of
weeks ago, Tony pulled aside his one new female cabinet member for a
special photo op (something, it should be noted, he didn’t do with any
of his male ministers). The body language says it all.
It was very reminiscent of when Tony was searching for his “ladies”
for the photo in Davos. These very powerful businesswomen apparently
had more important things to do than pose for awkward advertising shots
to be posted on facebook.
He also made a decision to relieve Julie Bishop’s Parliamentary
Secretary of his duties (I thought Foreign Affairs was supposed to be
doing well?) and appoint Steve “slit her throat” Ciobo to be Ms Bishop’s
assistant. And in, to my mind, the ultimate backhander, appointed the
same man to be Parliamentary Secretary to Julie’s minder, Andrew Robb.
Though she denies it, Julie was apparently furious when Tony made
Andrew chaperone her at recent climate change talks in Peru, so I wonder
how she feels about having a spy in her midst to monitor her.
The Coalition is currently focusing on their achievements in 2014
which have mainly been tearing down the achievements made by previous
governments and selling us out to global corporations.
We all know, and Tony freely admits, that ad libbing isn’t his best
thing, but one would hope that the Prime Minister for Women, when
lauding his achievements for the year, would have something prepared as
to what he had achieved in his self-appointed portfolio.
It appears he only has two answers nowadays – the disaster inherited from Labor and the carbon tax.
ladies should apparently be over the moon as we sweat over our
household budgets that the carbon tax has been removed. Righto, that
should fix up all our concerns. As Julie Bishop said, “stop whinging
and get on with it.”
I suppose it was expecting too much to get any sort of sensible
policy discussion when he explained the carbon pricing system, rather
than as a market mechanism, in terms of its effect on our ironing,
whilst of course being photographed ironing to show when he says
“housewives” he isn’t being sexist.
isn’t at all sexist. When he exhorted people to vote for him because
his daughters were good-looking he was just being a “daggy dad”. When
he described their virginity as a gift when arguing his opposition to
Gardisil, he was being a protective father though, by Tony’s own
admission about one of the reasons he left the seminary and his actions
whilst at university, virginity and celibacy for a man are more a burden
than a gift.
So what can we expect in the coming year after this ignominious apprenticeship as a feminist?
Morrison has come riding in, the knight in shining armour, with some
baubles and trinkets for the lovely ladies. He is a father after all so
he must be nice.
Scott is here to deliver Tony’s signature policy, Paid Parental
Leave. Please everyone ignore his previous strident opposition to it.
When he said “over this government’s dead body” he really meant we will
decide when there may be votes in it for us.
Tony announced this policy at a women’s lunch with no consultation
with colleagues, no costing, no modelling, ignoring the Productivity
Commission’s advice that there would be little benefit to workforce
participation. It smacks of Big Daddy handing a velvet lined box
containing a diamond bracelet across the table while winking. Why would
we worry our pretty little heads about how it is being paid for and
whether it is worthwhile?
When describing this as a “workplace entitlement” Tony seems to
forget that they are paid by employers. He often refers to the
maternity leave on full pay that is offered to public servants as unfair
whilst ignoring that this was an entitlement negotiated by unions for
their members from their employers. There were trade-offs to get this
entitlement. Many women choose a career in public service which might
mean less pay than they could have got in the private sector but better
entitlements and security. If companies value their female employees
they offer similar packages.
Scott is also bringing us some childcare changes but all we have
heard about so far is rebates for nannies. We are supposed to ignore
that they slashed before and after school care assistance by $450
million and axed a $300 million funding boost aimed at improving the
wages of 30000 childcare workers.
It has been argued that more and more families will be lured away
from mother-care in the home (tax contributing cohort) to the very
lavishly subsidised day-care facilities (thus becoming part of the tax
consuming cohort). Additionally, mothers will scramble for part-time
work in an attempt to meet the ‘paid work’ test in the hope of obtaining
a cool $11,500 to $50,000 cash when the next baby arrives.
This shift of lifestyle towards the subsidy pool will blowout the
budget year on year and will entrench the “age of entitlement” for a
certain class of families: those that do not care for their 0-5 year old
children between 9am and 5pm due to irresistible financial incentives.
What women want is choice, not to have decisions about their health
dictated to them, not to be given gifts, not to be talked down to with
simplistic housework analogies. They want to be respected, not only
that they can understand policy debate, but that they can make a
valuable contribution to it.
We’re not just here for the photos Tony.