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Farrago Policy Comparisons #5: Gender Equality

How are each of the parties doing on gender representation? And what are their records and key policies on gender equality and women's safety?

Content warning: sexim, misogyny, bullying, harassment, sexual abuse in no explicit detail.

 

There are big concerns about the culture and treatment of women in Australian politics. In terms of female representation, the Australian Parliament has 38% female representation overall, with 31% (46/150) in the House of Representatives and a more positive 53% (40/76) in the Senate.

How are each of the parties doing on gender representation? And what are their records and key policies on gender equality and women's safety?

 

Liberal/National Coalition
Female representation:

  • Liberals: 21% (House), 37% (Senate)
  • Nationals: 13% (House), 75% (Senate)

Key people: Senator Marise Payne (Minister for Women), Senator Anne Ruston (Minister for Women's Safety), Senator Jane Hume (Minister for Women's Economic Security).

Free childcare was introduced during the pandemic (albeit temporarily). Liberal policies include continuing the Child Care Subsidy (meeting some 50-85% of costs) and the Government Paid Parental Leave scheme (which can be accessed by either parent).

The Government has been criticised for being too slow or tone-deaf on dealing with the concerns of women, including the alleged sexual assault of Brittany Higgins in Parliament or the subsequent Jenkins Review on workplace standards. Comments from Scott Morrison that the March4Justice rally was a triumph for “not being met with bullets” did not help their image either.

In the 2022 budget, the Government provided an additional $1.3 billion towards women’s safety and the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children.

More Liberal policies include:

  • Expanding the role of the e-Safety Commissioner to address technology-related abuse against women.
  • Adopting 43/55 of the Respect@Work report recommendations on workplace harassment.
  • $53 million of funding for IVF open to people with cancer or genetic diseases, along with more funding for perinatal mental health clinics.

 

Labor

Female representation: 43% (House), 64% (Senate)

Key people: Tanya Plibersek MP (Shadow Minister for Women), Senator Jenny McAllister (Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence).

Labor has a big emphasis on cheaper childcare to ease the cost of living and to support women’s workforce participation. The policy raises the maximum subsidy 90% of costs for the first child.

Their domestic violence policy covers a new Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Commissioner, 10 days of domestic violence leave, more social and crisis housing for women and children fleeing violence.

More Labor policies include:

  • Adopting all recommendations from the Respect@Work report.
  • Delivering a comprehensive Early Years Strategy for childcare and early education.
  • Harmonising sexual assault and consent laws across the states, along with more consent and respectful relationships schools programs.

 

Greens

Female representation: 66%

Key people: Senator Larissa Waters (Spokesperson for Women).

The Greens have a platform to “End Sexism” which features more equitable paid parental leave, free childcare and closing the gender pay gap.

Respect and consent programs (such as Respectful Relationships) and full funding for the National Plan against Domestic Violence are also supported to eliminate gendered violence.

More Greens policies include:

  • Also adopting all recommendations from the Respect@Work report.
  • Having a Women’s Budget Impact Statement so the impact on women is considered across all budget policies.
  • Independent process for bullying and harassment complaints in Parliament, along with anti-bullying training for MPs.
  • Free pads and tampons provided for high school students.

 

Independents

Gender equity and improving the culture of Parliament (especially towards women) has been one of their key common pillars of many of the “Teal Independents” or “Voices of” candidates.

Independent candidates such as Monique Ryan (Kooyong), Zoe Daniels (Goldstein), Claire Ferres Miles (Casey), Deb Leonard (Monash) and Sarah Russell (Flinders) are all running in electorates that have never been held by a female MP before (for the sake of brevity focused on Victoria). 

 

Minor Parties

Australian Democrats have a unique emphasis on a “feminist foreign policy”, with more female diplomats and foreign aid to support women’s empowerment. 

The Animal Justice Party has a unique attention to the impact on animals from domestic violence, including encouraging refuge shelters to allow for pets.

Australian Progressives have called for more female representation in business and politics and addressing the gender pay gap. They believe the domestic violence crisis demands an “emergency response,” including domestic violence leave. 

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party (DHJP) supports tougher sentencing for domestic violence and more support for women’s refuges and legal services.

The Reason Party advocates for free childcare, gender pay equity and prevention of family, domestic and sexual violence.

 

 

Sources

Antoun Issa. March 2021. “Gender breakdown in parliament: Australia beats UK, US, Canada in female representation.” The Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-datablog/2021/mar/31/drilling-down-into-the-gender-balance-in-australias-parliament

 

“Jenkins Review”
Australian Human Rights Commission. November 2021. Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces
https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-11/ahrc_set_the_standard_report_executive_summary_2021.pdf

 

Liberal
https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan/women

 

Labor
https://www.alp.org.au/policies/womens-safety
https://www.alp.org.au/policies/cheaper-child-care

 

Greens
https://greens.org.au/platform/end-sexism

 

Australian Democrats
https://www.democrats.org.au/a-feminist-foreign-affairs/

 

Animal Justice Party
https://www.animaljusticeparty.org/family_or_domestic_violence

 

Australian Progressives
https://www.progressives.org.au/equality

 

DHJP
https://www.justiceparty.com.au/our-policies/domestic-viloence-law-reform/

 

Reason
https://www.reason.org.au/policy_suite

 
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