The hypocrisy of the Labor sisterhood
The antics of the Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek, this week are the latest in a long line of Labor tactics that continue to diminish and devalue the vital parliamentary arena of question time.
The point she made so loudly and proudly about the Opposition not allocating many questions to Coalition women is hollow and disingenuous.
Governments use Question Time to crow about themselves, using backbenchers, often in marginal seats, to ask pre-arranged questions. Political reality necessitates that the leadership team in Opposition use question time to hold the government to account.
In the less politically-charged arena of the Senate, the Coalition’s number one questioner is a woman - Senator Helen Coonan – and the proportion of questions asked by women mirrors our proportion of women Senators.
But the feigned indignation of the Labor sisterhood has little regard for reality or the facts. It’s all about the spin.
Never mind that Liberal women have achieved many “firsts” in politics. Never mind the fact that a record number of women were elected to Parliament in the first Howard Government, never mind the fact that the percentage of working women grew markedly under the steady economic management of the Coalition, never mind the fact that the Coalition more than doubled the number of childcare places and introduced the Childcare Tax Rebate to help parents with out of pocket costs.
Never mind the fact that the Coalition strengthened the Sex Discrimination Act to enshrine the rights of pregnant and breast-feeding women.
Labor’s sisterhood will always loudly decry the Howard years as some sort of dark age – no doubt following their leader in a crude attempt to re-write history.
What has always struck me is how the “sisterhood” is remarkably silent on certain issues. Where was the outcry from Labor women when Mark Latham called a female journalist a skanky ho? Not a peep. In fact, Latham went on to become Labor leader, largely helped by his chief numbers wrangler, Julia Gillard.
Where were the choruses of indignant Labor women when Muslim leader Sheik al-Hilaly basically said that women who dressed in a certain way were to blame if they were raped? For fear of offending religious sensitivities, Labor women were effectively “gagged” – whether self-imposed or not.
On a personal note, last year when Labor MP Belinda Neal made her bizarre comment to me that my baby would be born a demon, not one Labor woman came to my defence. Can you imagine the hue and cry if it had been a Liberal MP saying the same thing to a heavily-pregnant Labor woman? They would have been frog-marched out of Parliament.
Instead, Labor trawled the press gallery in a desperate attempt to confect some moral equivalence, arguing that my ridicule of Labor using taxpayer dollars to fund domestic help was really an attack on the family status of Julia Gillard.
Talk about spin.I remember well Labor’s candidate in Indi in 2004 who said that I couldn’t possibly represent the people of Indi because I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids (at that time). Not only did he keep his endorsement (again, not a peep from the Labor sisterhood), but Julia Gillard travelled all the way the north-east Victoria to campaign for him and proudly pose for newspaper happy snaps.
But why should I, or any other Liberal woman, expect the sisterhood to come to our defence when we are slighted?
Look at the treatment that Labor doled out to their own former federal MP Kelly Hoare in the grubby preselection that ensured high-flyer Greg Combet his seat in Parliament. Her treatment demonstrated that even quotas can’t protect a Labor woman when they find themselves in the firing line of the blokey Labor Inc machine.
The beat-up by Tanya Plibersek in Federal Parliament this week is a convenient smokescreen to boost Labor’s women “cred” while their policies are actively working against the interests of Australian women.
One fact the sisterhood always ignores is that a worsening Australian economy will always have a bigger impact on women. A recent report by the Australia Institute underscored the effects of the recession on women.
Labor’s high-spending approach to economic management is the major way they continue to fail Australian women – add to that rising childcare costs, rising health costs, failure to deliver extra funding to address violence against women, cuts to family payments and pushing paid parental leave out until after the next election…and you start to get a real picture of the priority Labor places on advancing the cause of Australian women.
If it’s not symbolic, it doesn’t rate with the sisterhood.
It would almost be funny if it weren’t so terribly hypocritical and shallow.
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