WEL congratulates the NSW Government on election win

The 25 March election added another chapter to the saga of the Coalition’s seeming inability to account for women voters and to select women as candidates. Forty six percent of ALP candidates were women and 48% of elected Labor MPs are women. Thirty three percent of the Coalition’s candidates were women, who comprised only 31% of elected Coalition MPs.

We are disappointed but not surprised that the new Opposition leader Mark Speakman has rejected quotas as a way of improving women’s representation in the Liberal Party.

We are excited that women comprise almost 50% of the new Labor Cabinet, including in such key Ministerial portfolios as Families and Communities and Disability Inclusion, Education, Industrial Relations, Transport, Police, Climate Change, Environment and Energy and Housing.

Before the election the WEL scorecard assessed Party election policies against our policy platform

We concluded that there were strengths and weaknesses in the policies of both major parties and that the two major parties fell short for women. Neither the Coalition nor the ALP spelt out a coherent set of women’s policies, let alone a vision for achieving women’s equality during this campaign.

We welcome Jodie Harrison as the new Minister for Women and Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

WEL Executive Members Tabitha P and Jozefa S with Jodie Harrison MP

We call on the Government to back her up with a strong Women’s Portfolio empowered to exercise oversight across all areas of government that affect women’s rights, health, safety, and to enable equal participation in economic and social life.

We will be seeking a meeting with Minister Harrison as soon as possible to advocate for our policies in domestic violence prevention, consent education, health, housing, early childhood education and care, political representation and environment and climate change.

Thank you to Bronnie Taylor

WEL acknowledges the hard work and commitment of Bronnie Taylor, Minister for Women under the Coalition Government. She was unwavering in her support for women, often in the face of a conservative political culture that was hostile to feminist policy. We thank her for demonstrating that commitment over the past four years.

National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality

In the 12 months since the May 2022 Election the Albanese Government has moved rapidly to implement Labor’s election commitments to women.

Consultations have just concluded on the National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality. The Office for Women issued a Discussion Paper to shape the consultation. WEL made a submission to the second phase of the consultation.

We called for the Strategy to include goals and targets on universal access to reproductive health, to include a rights-based approach and to help repair the fragmented and antiquated system of anti-discrimination legislation in Australia.

States and Territories need to be close partners in the Strategy if it is to have any hope of succeeding.

The Strategy needs to operate as a key instrument driving economic and social equality. We understand that the Government is considering the introduction of a ‘well-being’ framework to the Budget. A Gender Equality Strategy should include goals and objectives that encompass well-being as well as economic inclusion.

WEL is a member of the Equality Rights Alliance which participated in the first phase consultations.

The Government plans to deliver the Strategy in the second half of this year. We are concerned that most of the consultations around the Strategy have proceeded from a deficit model, exemplified by the confronting statistics on women’s inequality in the 2023 Status of Women Report Card.

The Strategy needs to start from there, but there also needs to be recognition that measures to reverse women’s disadvantage can’t be achieved by small step increments – it needs sustained commitment from governments and the community plus a long term vision and serious funding.

At this stage it is difficult to envisage the proposed Strategy’s framework and how it will encompass but not dilute the National Plan for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the National Women’s Health Strategy.

We are advocating that a draft of the Strategy serve as the basis for a wider round of consultations with the aim to achieve a greater ‘buy in’ from diverse communities.

2023 Budget and Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce letter to the Minister for Women

The Government’s Women’s Economic Equality Task force has written a powerful letter to Katie Gallagher, the Minister for Women, setting out urgent and targeted actions for the 9 May Budget to address women’s economic inequality. The Minister had requested the advice.

We urge every WEL supporter to read the full letter.

Sam Moyston, the Chair of the Taskforce sets out a practical and substantial program for women’s economic equality, including many measures WEL and other advocacy groups proposed in the lead up to the 2022 Federal election.

As well as a detailed list of long term measures the letter sets out six principles and priorities for the May 9 Budget:

  1. Reinstatement of the Parenting Payment (Single) for women with children over eight. This will more appropriately classify single mothers as doing parenting work, rather than as being unemployed.
  2. Abolition of the Parents Next program. This should be accompanied by a commitment to reinvest in a new evidence-based program co-designed with young parents, and based in principles of encouragement, support, flexibility and meeting their needs.
  3. Abolition of the Childcare Subsidy Activity Test.
  4. Payment of Superannuation for primary carers while they are on Paid Parental Leave.
  5. Increase the rate of Commonwealth Rental Assistance to improve women’s immediate housing security stemming from the lack of affordable, appropriate, and safe housing options.
  6. Invest in an interim pay-rise for all early childhood educators and aged care workers in recognition of the historical undervaluation of their work and the urgent need to retain and attract workers to the sector.

In addition to these measures, the Taskforce recommends the Government:

  • Centres Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the design, delivery and evaluation of existing and future policy and programs, and
  • Invests in existing strategies such as Closing the Gap, at levels commensurate with their aims and objectives.

Campaign to support restoration of the Parenting Payment for Children over 8

WEL has written to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Women, the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Services in support of the campaign by the Council for Single Mothers and their Children to restore to them the dignity and financial security they deserve through reinstating the Parenting Payment (Single) for women with children over eight.

WEL supports a YES vote in the referendum

“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

Uluru Statement from the Heart, May 2017

Passing the referendum is an important step in recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and supporting practical changes, including changes that will improve the lives of Indigenous women. WEL encourages members to become informed and involved.

Some ways members can do this include:

  • Look at the Uluru Statement website and read the Statement if you have not done so already. This website also has lots of other information and ways to become involved.
  • The Yes23 website includes information, campaign resources, links for volunteer campaigners, a digital donation portal and online shop to support the grassroots movement.
  • Together, Yes, a nation-wide movement to start conversations about the referendum, following a tried and tested Kitchen Table Conversations model, has launched and is now recruiting Conversation Hosts. Together Yes provides information and resources for hosts.

WEL will also provide more information to members as the campaign progresses.

Recommended reading

Women and Whitlam: Revisiting the Revolution

Professor Michelle Arrow has assembled an extraordinary range of accounts and analyses of the Whitlam Government’s achievements for Australian women. Many participants in those heady days have written for the collection, including Elizabeth Reid, Elizabeth Evatt, Sarah Dowse, Iola Mathews, Marian Sawyer, Margaret Reynolds, Biff Ward and Eva Cox. The collection includes an important account by Pat and Cathy Eatock of the relations between Canberra Women’s Liberation activists and women involved with the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which provokes thinking on the ways the women’s movement could advocate for the Voice over the next 5 months. Contemporary feminist activists such as Ranuka Tan Dan and Therese Edwards bring current struggles to the fore.

There are many potential political lessons to be drawn from the book. Not the least is the ongoing importance of critical feminist voices, ‘an autonomous women’s movement’ unconstrained by party or institutional interests. Many accounts in the book describe the central role WEL played in lobbying for feminist policies and in creating a transition between the ideals of Women’s Liberation and the still radical practicalities of viable carefully thought through policies. WEL created that political space for women in the Whitlam era and continues to do so without fear or favour.

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