The Unspoken Threat Facing Thousands of Australian WomenLeadership, Gender diversity
Our federal politicians returned to Canberra this week for the final parliamentary sitting period before saying farewell to 2018. For many of them it will be less of a goodbye and more of a good riddance; likely accompanied by a middle finger. This year equalled the politically perilous dramas of 2009, 2013 and 2015, with the departure of yet another popularly elected Prime Minister at the hands of their party rather than the people.
But for a game still dominated by decisions of straight white men in suits, the past few days have been all about women. Three major moments have caught our attention, with women across the political spectrum making their voices heard – and supportive blokes backing them in. For those who’ve been distracted by Christmas shopping and the end of year paperwork scramble, here is what you might have missed:
Julia Banks resigned her membership of the Liberal Party and while continuing to guarantee supply for the government, she will now sit on the crossbench as an independent. Following the messy week of leadership challenges back in August, Banks had accused politicians from both major parties of bullying, intimidation and sexist tactics. She holds the marginal seat of Chisolm in Melbourne’s west and would be a strong contender if she chose to put her hand up to run again; posing a threat to both major parties’ efforts.
Banks’ speech in parliament yesterday was eloquent and damning. It’s definitely worth reading in full if you’re interested in gender representation in politics. Here’s a taste of what she had to say: “To those who say politics is not for the faint-hearted and that women have to ‘toughen up’ – I say this: the hallmark characteristics of the Australian woman (and I’ve met thousands of them) be they in my local community, in politics, business, the media and sport – are resilience and a strong authentic independent spirit”.
Image credit: Getty Images
Kerryn Phelps, was sworn in to parliament, officially replacing Malcolm Turnbull as the Member for Wentworth. She’s unlikely to serve for long before having to face the ballot box again (an election is likely to happen in May) but is determined to make an impact in whatever time she has. The Prime Minister and other senior Ministers were notably absent from the chamber while Doctor Phelps took her oath of office, drawing considerable criticism in the media.
During her maiden speech, Phelps called for immediate change in Australia’s offshore detention arrangements saying the parliament needed to find a “compassionate compromise”. She said: “No longer can we tolerate our government holding the lives of these children and their families to ransom to make a point about maritime arrivals. Yes, we need strong border protection. But it is not — and must not be — a choice between deaths at sea and indefinite offshore confinement.”
Image credit: Getty Images
Sarah Hanson-Young, Senator for South Australia, continues to be the target of horribly sexist abuse from fellow parliamentarians. On Tuesday she was accused of having had “a bit of Nick Xenophon in her” by Queensland LNP Senator, Barry O’Sullivan. The deplorable remarks were made under parliamentary privilege, closing legal recourse options that might otherwise have been open to Hanson-Young. She has hit back hard though, using parliamentary privilege to name fellow Senators who’ve attacked her inappropriately (for the record those she accused are, Senator O’Sullivan, Senator Anning, Senator Bernardi and Senator Leyonhjelm).
Greens Leader, Senator Richard Di Natale defended his party colleague, labelling Senator O’Sullivan a “pig” who was peddling “sexist filth” and thrown out of the chamber for his efforts. (Watch the chilling video below.) The incident follows slut-shaming comments made by Senator David Leyonhjlem earlier this year when he told Hanson-Young to “stop shagging men” after a particularly heated parliamentary debate. Hanson-Young is pursuing a defamation claim against Leyonhjelm and has also written a short essay-style book for Melbourne University Press called En Garde, about her experiences with sexism in politics.
Image credit: Getty Image
Main image credit: Getty Images
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