The Federal Election and a new Federal agenda for women

WEL welcomes the election of the Federal Labor Government which has committed itself to an extensive agenda for women. WEL’s Federal Election 2022 Scorecard showed that Labor and the Greens performed better than the Coalition in their policies when assessed against WEL’s top priorities.

We particularly welcome the new ‘Teal’ independents and the increased representation of progressive independents and Greens in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The new make-up of the Senate in particular will provide opportunities for broadening legislation.

As a non- party advocacy organisation, WEL will continue to welcome the opportunity to work with Liberal and National Party feminists to achieve positive outcomes for women.

Representation of women in Parliament

When the recently elected Parliament meets on 26 July, women will comprise 38% of the House of Representatives – the largest proportion on record, with 58 women elected to the lower house, including 19 first time MPs. In another record, over 57% of the new Senate are women. We are very concerned but not surprised that the LNP representation of women has actually diminished in the new Parliament, with only 9 Liberal women holding House of Representative seats – a key reason for the continuing lack of parity in gender representation.

New Federal Labor Cabinet

We are excited by the new Labor Government front bench, with a record 10 women in Cabinet, 13 as Ministers and 19 frontbenchers. This includes women in traditionally male dominated roles like Finance, Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.

WEL is looking forward to working with all new Ministers, especially in those portfolios which are most critical for achieving social and economic equality for women. We have contacted the new Ministers to congratulate them.

WEL has written to Tanya Plibersek to thank her for her extraordinary commitment to Australian women – both as Minister for Women in the Rudd and Gillard Governments and as Shadow Minister for Women over the period of the Coalition government and to wish her well in her new portfolio. We anticipate that she will make a powerful feminist contribution in her new Environmental Portfolio, an area which determined many women’s votes in the 21 May election.

Early Federal Government initiatives for women

As unfinished business the new Government must complete the National Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Women. This includes setting meaningful and measurable targets in the National Plan’s Action Plans as a priority.

The Government has also indicated its commitment to creating a Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Commissioner to track progress against the Plan’s targets, review them in consultation with the sector and provide regular reports to the Parliament.

You can read about Labor commitments here

We are anticipating a raft of changes to be announced over the next few months. We expect one top priority to be amendments to the Fair Work Act to make gender pay equity an objective of the Act and a statutory Equal Remuneration Principle. New Expert Panels in the Fair Work Commission – one for Pay Equity and one for the Care and Community Sector – will enable the Commission to better assess pay and conditions for care and community sector workers and other women workers.

Your feedback on WEL’s 2022 Federal Election Campaign

In every election since 1972, WEL has lobbied key politicians to adopt policies aimed at achieving fair and equal outcomes for all women. For this year’s Federal election, WEL launched a campaign which included: developing a comprehensive policy platform setting out a program for achieving social justice for women; lobbying political parties to adopt these policies, and developing a Scorecard to assist voters in deciding which party has the best policies for women.

Post-election, we’re interested in getting your feedback on our campaign and what we could do to increase the effectiveness of our lobbying. We’d appreciate your response to our short survey which you can find here

Roe vs Wade and the situation in Australia

WEL participated in the thousands strong solidarity rallies sparked by the US Supreme Court reversal of the Roe vs Wade decision which highlights the fragility of hard won abortion rights everywhere. In fact while the rallies were proceeding some members of the former Liberal government in South Australia- including the new Liberal leader (and one Labor minister) were mentoring ‘pro-life’ activists to rally against the new South Australian legislation which decriminalises abortion in that State.

Read the searing, dissenting judgement of US Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organisation here.

‘Today, the Court...says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs.’ (our emphasis)

WEL urges the new Federal Government to maintain commitment to the National Women’s Health Strategy 2018-2030. A major role of the promised National Women’s Health Council must be to oversight funding for robust implementation of the Strategy including equitable access to pregnancy termination services, with a vision for universal access to abortion in Australia by 2030.

Despite decriminalisation of abortion in every Australian state except Western Australia – where it remains partially in the Crimes Act - access is still constrained by cost (no jurisdiction fully funds abortion access), distance (a post code lottery), varying regulations across states and territories, limited training of GPs. All are exacerbated by still limited contraceptive options and very poor sex and sexuality education both at the school and general community level.

Poor, young and marginalised women are the main victims of these continuing barriers.

The new Health Minister should be guided by the excellent Reproductive Health Policy that Labor took to the 2019 Federal election. We agree with Tanya Plibersek’s comments made last week in Perth on ABC local radio that ‘all levels of government should work together to provide a full suite of reproductive health for women, and Australia should take a holistic approach to women's reproductive health’.

Better still see WEL’s Women’s Health Policy here

WEL analysis of the NSW 2022-3 Budget ‘Women’s Opportunity Statement’.

Following the Morrison Government’s defeat, the NSW Government has performed an ‘about turn’ in relation to dealing with issues impacting negatively on women, with significant social policy commitments in their 21 June 2022-2023 Budget.

The centerpiece of the ‘Women’s Opportunity Statement’, issued as part of the NSW Budget, is a $15.9 billion investment in early childhood education and pre-school reform to be implemented over 10 years.

WEL is delighted to see the NSW Coalition Government undertake a major women and children centered social policy initiative, following a decade of ‘bloke focused’ employment creating infrastructure projects.

WEL’s 21 June Budget press release expressed our disappointment with the Budget’s failure to allocate urgently needed additional funding to domestic violence and sexual assault services. The allocations to increase personal safety in public places and for support for court appointed cross-examiners for DV complainants were welcome. These investments are however marginal.

NSW frontline social and care services are overwhelmed by demand for safe refuge from violence and the desperate need for support and advice following sexual assault. The budget made no provision for increases in the cost of running and staffing services in the health care and housing services sector.

Typically these services employ women on low wages and often on funding dependent contracts. Women’s Health Centres and housing support services are facing funding shortfall as the Budget does not cover the increase in the minimum wage and in superannuation for these services.

The NSW Government yet again ignored any substantial additional investment in social housing, with waiting lists of 50,000 people, including many single parent families headed by women and older women suffering a rent and cost of living crisis.

Read our full analysis of the Budget’s Women’s Opportunity Statement

Click for the NSW Government’s Budget Statement

NSW Women’s Strategy

WEL made a submission on the Discussion Paper for the new NSW Women’s Strategy. Unfortunately the consultation period extended for little over 3 weeks. See WEL’s response here.

Overall we welcome the Discussion Paper’s emphasis on an intersectional approach. We see limited value however in undertaking government initiatives and projects without independent evaluation. Our submission calls for independent monitoring, feedback and evaluation in relation to the Strategy’s implementation.

WEL will seek a meeting with the NSW Minister for Women to discuss the Strategy.

WEL 50TH Anniversary

2022 represents 50 years since the beginning of WEL in Australia. We want to mark this occasion in two very important ways. Firstly by celebrating the amazing achievements of this organisation in campaigning for and protecting the rights of women.

We are also dedicated to our ‘March into the Future’ and will be exploring WEL’s future work at a seminar and celebration to be held at the NSW Parliament House Theatrette on 5 October 2022 (3-6pm). A panel of prominent feminists including Wendy McCarthy, Professor Larissa Behrendt and Kittu Randhawa will explore where next for WEL and take questions from the audience. The panel will be followed by a short reception in the foyer of the Parliamentary Theatrette.

Tickets will be on sale soon and we hope that as many people as possible will be able to share in this momentous occasion.

‘Don’t Be Too Polite Girls’

We encourage WEL supporters and followers to beg, borrow or steal Wendy McCarthy’s new book which includes accounts of WEL’s early years, as well as her lifelong feminist journey - sometimes hilarious and other times troubling and touching - through many of Australia’s public and business institutions.

Listen to Wendy talk about her book with Philip Adams on Late Night Live earlier this year.

Edna Ryan Awards

WEL thanks our sister organisation the Older Women’s Network (OWN) for hosting the Annual Edna Ryan Awards in honour of one of WEL’s great founding members Edna Ryan.

Edna’s intervention on WEL's behalf in the national Minimum Wage case at the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in Melbourne in 1974 supplied data on the number of solo female breadwinners in Australia.

This information had never before presented to an industrial tribunal and was instrumental in the decision by Judge Terry Winter to equalise the female Minimum Wage with the male award, another essential step in establishing the principal of 'equal pay for work of equal value' in the Australian wage system.

She was also instrumental in WEL's subsequent submission on Maternity Leave and continued supporting WEL in industrial and wages cases up until the early nineties when she briefed WEL Barrister Sylvia Winters to make representations on the implications of Enterprise Agreements in the 1993-4 National Wage case.

Nominations for the Edna Ryan Awards are now open in the following categories for women across NSW and the ACT:

  • leadership
  • mentoring
  • workplace
  • community activism
  • arts and culture, and
  • media and communication

There’s also the Grand Stirrer award for ‘inciting others to challenge the status quo’. Last year it went to Brittany Higgins who shared her struggles and her hopes on the night. We also heard from past award recipients Sally McManus, Mehreen Faruqi and Jenna Price about the importance of the awards and their experiences and thoughts.

Go to the Edna Ryan website for further information and where you can check if the woman you want to nominate has already received an award. If not, nominate her!

Nominations close on 31 July 2022

You can contact the Edna Ryan Awards team at: [email protected] or in the OWN office on 9519 8044.

Women decide Elections & we NEED your support! Donate Today

WEL depends more than ever on the support of our members and followers, to continue our essential work of lobbying and campaigning to protect the rights of Australian women. Armed with policies setting out our demands, we run campaigns and lobby politicians and governments to make women’s equality central to policy making and implementation.

We need your ongoing support!

Consider becoming a member and be kept WEL-Informed with our regular newsletter or become a monthly supporter– all proceeds go towards WEL’s work gathering research, meeting with industry leaders, lobbying politicians, collaborating with other women’s organisations, holding policy roundtables and conducting political education programs for women in the community.

Thanks for your support. Please get in touch if you have any ideas or feedback for our next edition.

Contact WEL NSW [email protected]

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