February 9th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Running on nearly empty: fool's gamble with fuel reserves

EDITORIAL The challenges are really hitting home in 2019

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coalition's female deficit is more apparent than real

ENERGY 200,000 Victorians left powerless in heatwave

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Migration, instability and the erosion of conscience

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Still time to reach a deal on Brexit

LIFE ISSUES 'Viability' argument is wearing a bit thin

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The strategic silence of the secularists

THE RUDDOCK REVIEW The chimera of freedom of religion in Australia

LITERATURE Tolkien's lost epilogue: tying up loose ends

CULTURE AND POLITICS China exhibits its latest assault on human dignity

HUMOUR BMC-Bitzumishi to release musical wallpaper

MUSIC Cuba on the jazz map: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

CINEMA Glass: Gifts of brokenness

BOOK REVIEW Heroism from a crushed nation

BOOK REVIEW Comprehensively corrects the record

CHILDREN'S CLASSIC A breath of fresh air and innocence

POETRY

LETTERS

WATER POLICY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Coalition's female deficit is more apparent than real


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, February 9, 2019

If it weren’t enough that the Coalition is already facing a seemingly insurmountable battle to win the coming election, Labor is intent also on “weaponising” the Coalition’s lower proportion of women in the Parliament to convince the public that the Liberal and Nationals have a women problem.

From left: Dame Enid Lyons, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle
and Dame Annabelle Rankin

In this it is ignored that what actually matters is which policies are being implemented to help Australian women, especially but not exclusively mothers, not the careers of a few dozen people in the Federal Parliament.

But it is a conundrum for conservative parties, whose membership comprises people who are fundamentally rusted on to the idea of a merit-based system, and wary of quotas because quotas for women lead to quotas for other groups.

It is irrefutable that the conservatives’ merit-based pre-selection system has not delivered enough women into the Parliament in recent years. It is also worth recording that the conservatives in Australia have traditionally had a superior track record of promoting women in politics – and, for decades, far better than Labor.

Sir Robert Menzies knew women were the backbone of the party he founded and was conspicuous in supporting women through various policies and by encouraging them to play a role in politics.

Liberals had the first female member of the House of Representatives (Enid Lyons) and the first female minister with a portfolio in Dame Annabelle Rankin. They had the first woman Cabinet minister in Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, who was also Australia’s first female finance minister.

Dame Annabelle Rankin was the first whip in any Westminster Parliament.

After the ALP’s Dorothy Tangney was elected to the Senate in 1943, the next six female senators were Liberals until Labor’s Ruth Coleman in 1974.

Labor introduced quotas in 1994. Every female Labor member of the current Parliament was elected under the quota system.

On the other hand, during the last two terms of Coalition government, Australia has had its first female foreign minister in Julie Bishop, its first female defence minister in Marise Payne, and the first woman in Cabinet to hold a Treasury portfolio in Kelly O’Dwyer; while other women, such as Senator Michaelia Cash, have also held prominent roles.

Right now there are six women in Scott Morrison’s Cabinet – that is, two more women than were in Julia Gillard’s last Cabinet line-up (including herself).

On the Nationals side, despite the party having just two women in the Parliament, its MPs chose to elect first Fiona Nash and then Bridget McKenzie as their deputy leader.

Yet the issue of female representation (women make up less than 25 per cent of Liberal MPs) continues to hurt the Coalition’s prospects because Labor wants to contrast these numbers with its quota system, which has resulted in almost 50 per cent of its Caucus being female.

But even the ABC’s “Fact Check”, which loves to focus so much on picking over statements made by Coalition MPs while ignoring outrageous claims made by the Greens and other left-wing groups, conceded that the current numbers of Liberal women were on a par with the Howard era.

“There were, indeed, three more Liberal women in Parliament during 1996 compared to May 2018. But the party also held an extra 22 seats,” ABC’s fact-checking unit (led by a male resear­cher) concluded.

“That’s why, in determining whether ‘the level of women’ has declined, it is more meaningful to consider the numbers as a proportion of seats held.

“Viewed this way, female representation in the Liberal Party has actually increased over the 22 years – from 21 per cent of the Liberal parliamentarians to 24 per cent. But it still remains below the level for women in Parliament overall, and roughly half that of Labor Party members.

“Across Mr Howard’s four terms, female representation averaged 23 per cent of Liberal seats held, which is just below the party’s current level.”

So, there you have it. Thanks to the ABC’s taxpayer-funded fact-check unit, it is possible to affirm that female Liberal representation in the Morrison Government is better than it was in the Howard government.

Yet, it would be foolish to ignore the Liberal Party’s difficulties in enlisting and installing women into safe seats in Parliament. And after the coming election, the Liberals and Nationals will have to work out a way of making their parties more attractive to women.

Furthermore, the party’s pre-selection problems have been compounded by alle­gations of bullying during the last leadership battle. No individuals were named as culprits, just anonymous asser­tions were made, but expect further revelations to be made in the blizzard of books currently being prepared that are due to hit the shelves around the election.




























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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99


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