(The Prime Minister) told Channel Nine’s Lisa Wilkinson that when it comes to women, it’s very important his government does the right thing by families.
“Women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550 benefit for the average family,” he said.
Abbott also pushed the paid parental leave scheme he said he’s still committed to in 2015 – a policy that will now be managed by incoming Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison, along with childcare and our welfare system.
Women of Australia are overwhelmed with gratitude. They are singing and dancing in the streets. Tears of joy are shed amidst the laughter. A great clapping of hands, shouting of ‘bravo’, ‘jolly good show’ and other expressions of joyous approbation sweep the nation in a spontaneous, tumultuous outpouring of thanks for the achievements of Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his repeal of the carbon tax. The repeal of the carbon tax, was his main achievement, as he put it, modestly, on breakfast television last week, in his role as Minister for Women.
Women embrace ecstatically. Gone forever are the dark clouds of doubt and despair over inequality, injustice and oppression. Glass ceilings lie in shards all over boardroom tables throughout the land. Employers, unchained from carbon taxing, rush to pay women equally. Banished is the dreadful spectre of the throwbacks back in charge; the re-emergence of the arrogant, indifferent and cruel boys’ club of the patriarchy that ruled Australia in the 1950s. There is hope in every woman’s heart. All this and a PPL, too! For there is no carbon tax to pay.
And the PPL, of course, the PM repeated, stalling, hearing no prompt on his ear-piece to Peta. He stared down the camera, looking vainly for an auto-cue, insulting and overlooking every woman who was not, nor was ever to become a mother. Of, course, naturally, there is our Paid Parental Leave; even if it doesn’t quite exist as yet; even if it is unlikely to ever be enacted. Even if the experts say it won’t work. That hasn’t prevented us from counting it in. Just the opposite. He grinned.
Just look at MYEFO. Just look at how we rigged the bottom line by including the GP co-payment and other payments we had yet to get through the Senate. But it wasn’t easy! The so-called experts were against me again, of course.
Here the Prime Minister laughed as if ‘expert’ were a dirty word along with ‘scientist’ and ‘feminist’ in his government and he were naturally averse to any advice save his own and the sound of others agreeing with it. It didn’t pay to dwell on issues. In a post-modern world everyone was his own expert. Truth, in the end, always boiled down to a simple, black and white formulation you could fit on a bumper sticker.
Take the Productivity Commission 2009 Report on Paid Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave. What would they know? Pack of experts! Pack of eggheads, couldn’t even park a bicycle straight. They argued for flat rate payments, rather than the income replacement we are offering. They claimed ”the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower-income, less-skilled women, those most responsive to wage subsidies and least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave”. He shuddered.
But, you know, these theorists. He winked. Hippy-trippy, tree-hugging, beardy-weirdy, love-everyone do-gooders. ABC listening lefties the lot of them. What would they know with their fair-trade, gluten-free café frappuccinos, their vegan free range risottos and their mung-bean sandals? Fixated on their social engineering and economic vandalism! Redressing disadvantage? For goodness sake. Next thing it will all be about counteracting hegemonic masculinity.
No. We need to help the right women first. Help the right class of woman to have babies. Look how they did it in Singapore. You know I have always been a big fan of old Lee Kuan Yew. He was in power for thirty years. Knew a thing or two, too, the old Lee.
Open a nation for business and the benefits will trickle down. You bet you are, I am, you bet it will. That’s why we’ve had Eric Abetz slaving away to cut red tape; red tape like keeping tabs on women’s participation in the workforce. We have a mandate to cut this ‘red tape’ by relaxing the gender reporting requirements of big bosses that have only just come into force and which were intended to track women’s workforce participation and remuneration. Frees up employers to create jobs. We are the party of little government, freedom and opportunity.
Experts even said my PPL wouldn’t boost the workforce. Said highly educated, well-paid women already are highly attached to the labour force; already enjoy a high level of private provision. Said that, because of this full income replacement ”would have few incremental labour supply benefits”. They banged on about its expense and how other countries have social insurance to pay for it. But that’s not what my staff tell me. I listen to them. And some of them are women. He winked again.
Minister for Women is a vital job, of course it is, a huge responsibility. Huge. One I take very seriously, he said. Very seriously. I am a feminist. At home they call me Mr Betty Friedman. I have three daughters and a wife who is a woman. My own mother was a woman. And we have two women in cabinet! But my daughters made me a feminist. In fact if you got them the wool, they could make you a feminist, too.
And here’s a fact for you. Since the carbon tax was abolished, the number of women in cabinet has doubled. And that’s not all. Nearly twenty per cent of my entire ministry is female, he boasted. I stand on my record. Of course, we want to include all women but, let’s be perfectly clear, that doesn’t mean men and women are equal. As I said a few years back:
“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”
But we’ve come a long way. As I said at IWD in March. Today you can be female and a high flyer. Look at a hundred years ago. ”It wasn’t so long ago as a Sydney-sider that there was a female lord mayor, a female premier, a female prime minister, a female head of state in our governor general, a female monarch, obviously, and indeed the richest person in our country was female.” And now, of course, we have a feminist male as a PM and Minister for Women.
Of course, I copped a bit of stick about it. Eyebrows went up everywhere when I put up my hand for this vital role. We need Tony like a fish needs a bicycle was the consensus. That’s what they said. And worse.
Was it not a calculated snub? Was my abrogation of the role of Minister for Women yet another gesture of contempt towards progressives in general and women in particular? And what of the implications? Some said it was a calculated insult to all women.
Well I knew it was going to be hard. But we are prepared to do the hard yards. Take the tough measures to get Australia back on its feet again. But it’s not like an Iron Man event or anything.
But there were a few hurdles, his staffers conceded privately; a few tricky patches he needed help with; needed to be eased through. First there was his almost total ignorance. Did he know who women were or what they did? On this and many similar fundamentals, but most especially his prejudices, his misinformation, his instinctive mystification his staff found it simpler, more expedient to adjust their own expectations than to expect to change his.
Julie Bishop rushed in to iron out the wrinkles and added a few more of her own. What the PM means is that benefits to women help everybody, she said.
“Women’s policy is everyone’s policy”. Did she mean Minister for Women was, therefore, a redundant anomaly?
“There are numerous issues that could be mentioned in the context of what we do for women,” she said. Yet she was not able to articulate a single one.
“I think the Prime Minister was focusing on the policy change that will have the largest impact on families and households and getting rid of the carbon tax is certainly that.” Yet out of Canberra’s spin cycle, the nation’s riddance of the carbon tax has been almost impossible to spot in the real world, in real things like power bills. Despite all of the coalition’s propaganda, very few of us are any better off and all of us face bigger utility bills in the near future.
In the end, of course, the PM was damned with faint praise. Bishop merely opened the door for Abbott to announce his decision to get out of the job to make way for someone who has the necessary qualifications and the experience. A woman would be a good idea. And as the PM has assured us, there are countless numbers knocking on the cabinet door.