Flat White

Labor doesn't ‘walk the talk’ on women

21 March 2022

4:00 AM

21 March 2022

4:00 AM

Despite what the Labor Party – and the wacky Woke may think – Conservative and Liberal women have always been leaders in politics, the original breakers of the glass ceiling.

However, International Women’s Day last week brought on the usual bout of self-glorification by the Australian Labor Party about its female activism. Fanciful stuff, even on a good day.

When quotas provide the co-ordinates to the Cabinet room, it’s a telling tale about the truth.

Yet on that day to celebrate women, Federal Member for Lilley, Labor’s Anika Wells, was on radio waxing lyrical about former Labor MP, Ros Kelly. Ms Wells said Ms Kelly was Australia’s first female Minister.

She wasn’t.

That was Dame Enid Lyons in the Menzies Government – well before Ms Kelly, and before quotas, and certainly before International Women’s Day.

Ms Kelly was indeed Labor’s first female minister. And to be fair – such significant use of a whiteboard was probably a Labor first – so credit where it’s due.

The Labor Party continually stratifies the superlatives on Whitlam: the progressive, the Goliath of the mighty left. But for all the eternal worshipping, there was not one woman in Whitlam’s Cabinet. Zip all. I’d say that’s more boo-hoo than woo-hoo.

It’s Time the Labor Party delivered accuracy and honesty in reporting the true history of women in politics in Australia.

It’s also time they stopped pointing fingers, especially those complete with painted nails.

These are not glory days for Labor.

Just 24 hours after their International Women’s Day histrionics, Labor’s former Victorian Legislative Council MP, Kaushaliya Vaghela, was raising serious complaints in the Parliament about bullying of her by men and women from within the Labor Party. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, is on her list that has now gone to WorkSafe for investigation.

Bullying by the ‘Mean Girls’ and others within Labor has also been discussed in the death of Victorian Labor Senator, Kimberley Kitching. Those involved continue to deny the allegations.

In her passing, close friends and colleagues have further exposed Labor’s seeping factional sores – those who – when tested – cared little for a female MP who didn’t kowtow to lesser ideals. Aren’t these the women that Labor claims to champion? The strong? The fearless? The intelligent?

Kitching deserved better than political bastardry dressed up in heels. Our nation deserves better too. It is already the poorer for her absence.

So, while Labor talks about celebrating women, the Liberal Party walks it.

As the Member for Lilley sang Labor’s female song last week, I reached for my list on non-Labor firsts. It includes:

  • First female federal Cabinet Minister (without portfolio) – Hon Dame Enid Lyons in 1951 – Liberal
  • First female federal Minister with portfolio – Hon Dame Annabelle Rankin between 1966-68 – Liberal
  • First female in any Parliament – Edith Cowan OBE (WA State) 1921-24 – National
  • First female in Qld Parliament – Irene Longman 1929 – Country Party
  • First female in Vic Parliament – Lady (Millicent) Peacock 1933-35 – UAP
  • First female federal MP – Hon Dame Enid Lyons AD, 1943-51 – UAP/Liberal
  • First female Senator from Queensland – Hon Dame Annabelle Rankin 1947-71 – Liberal
  • First female Cabinet Minister in Australia (WA State) – Hon Dame Florence Cardell-Oliver 1949-53 – Liberal
  • First female Mayor in Qld – Nell Robinson OBE, Mayor of Toowoomba 1967-81 – Country/National
  • First federal female Cabinet Minister with portfolio – Hon Dame Margaret Guilfoyle AC, DBE 1975-82 – Liberal
  • First female Lord Mayor of Brisbane – Sallyanne Atkinson AO 1985-92 – Liberal
  • First female Lord Mayor of Sydney – Lucy Turnbull AO 2003-2004 – Liberal
  • First female party leader in SA – Isobel Redmond 2009-2012 – Liberal
  • First female Speaker of Tasmanian House of Assembly – Hon Elise Archer MLA 2014-17 – Liberal
  • First popularly elected female Premier of NSW – Hon Gladys Berejiklian (Liberal) 2019-2021 – Liberal

Labor doesn’t own women’s successes, it just peacocks the politics of it.

Others treat women as equals and celebrate merit-based appointments.

The women I know neither need, nor want, a social or workplace artifice. False applause is not their thing.

When conservative women such as Dame Enid Lyons broke through that glass ceiling, they did so without much noise, but shouted their success through their outstanding work standards and quiet resolve.

If we are truly to be equals – assuming it is equality and not supremacy the mob are after – one wonders when International Men’s Day will land on the calendar?

Even then, it is more likely to be about quiet, smoky barbeques than cute juice breakfasts in fancy suits.

Bev McArthur is Liberal Member for Western Victoria and Shadow Assistant Minister for Scrutiny of Government.

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