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The Prime Minister’s International Women’s Day speech left a bad taste in my mouth

Media Release
Larissa Waters 8 Mar 2014

You know how sometimes parents tell their children to eat something they don’t like because kids in Africa are starving?

I tried this on my 4-year-old once and she asked me how we could get her dinner to those children, and whether we could make some more.

I was reminded of this when Tony Abbott spoke at an event in Parliament House this week marking International Women’s Day.

Tony Abbott told the leading feminists in that room that women had it made in the country he runs.

“If you look at our country and the deal that it gives to women; it is obviously pretty good,” Mr Abbott said.

The week before, Michaelia Cash, who is Mr Abbott’s Assistant Minister for Women, spoke at an executive women’s event and said that women in Australia had it better than those in Sierra Leone.

This language really worries me. 

We all know that women in many countries are forced to live in appalling conditions and we want to do something about it.

Why then, is our Prime Minister cutting $600 million from our international aid budget?

Why is he diverting much of the remaining aid money to lock up refugees, including families and children, in harsh Australian detention centers?

And why has our humanitarian intake been cut so we can’t help as many people fleeing horrific situations?

Tony Abbott’s actions speak louder than his words on the plight of women internationally.

So why say anything at all?

Sadly, I think Tony Abbott thinks he can tell us how lucky we have it to distract from the backward steps he is taking for women here in Australia.

It’s just ridiculous that there’s still a 17 per cent gender pay gap nationally.

Yes, that’s right, in the 21st century a man and a woman can do exactly the same job and still not be paid the same. Likewise, women dominate the social and community services professions which pay less on average that other professions dominated by men – another expression of the gender pay gap.

Today’s income inequity gap remains within a couple of per cent of what it’s been for the past two decades.  

There is work being done to tackle this.

Employers with more than 100 employees are required to report annually on the gender balance and pay equity of their workforce.

But Tony Abbott’s government is currently considering weakening these requirements so that they only apply to companies with more than 1000 employees.

This would mean massive gaps in basic data used to assess how women are tracking in pay and positions.

Without comprehensive, up-to-date information on the gender pay gap, we won’t be able to celebrate moves forward or arrest further steps backward.

Business representatives say the requirements mean too much paperwork for them to deal with.

But this is basic human resources data that companies should already have and it’s only required once a year.

We need to get our priorities right. Is avoiding some paperwork really more important than progressing equal pay?

Unfortunately, we only have only one woman in our federal Cabinet now so it’s really not surprising that the Abbott Government is set on putting businesses’ every demand before representing women.

Australia should be a leader on achieving gender equality.

We should be leading not only by providing a good example but also by helping other countries.

Prime Minister, we know there are women everywhere suffering, thanks for stating the obvious.

What you’ve left out is that your government is making things worse by cutting aid and treating refugees with absolute brutality.

So don’t you dare try and insinuate that because other women are in great need, we should accept whatever you give us.

Like my young daughter, we want to share with those struggling overseas.

And we’re not going to sit by while you take away what little assistance we already provide internationally and then try and dish up to us whatever you think is best for your business buddies.

We’ll have whatever the hell we want for dinner thank you very much.

And we want the same for sisters worldwide.

Senator Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens spokesperson for Women.


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