Friday 16th of April 2021

a fish without a bicycle...

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. Did the slogan that adorned many of the doors and walls of women's liberationists in the 1970s imply anything about women and politics? Women in Parliament are not women without men, they are women surrounded by them. But in making their way through the congestion of legislation, policy, scrutiny, representation, electioneering and leadership, are women as unnatural and unlikely as fishes on bicycles? Do a few fishes on bicycles change our perception of fish?

According to which social commentator you favour, social change is either excruciatingly slow or frighteningly rapid. It depends on your viewpoint and the issues. In the history of the human race, or even the history of the Australian Parliament, seventeen years is not a long time. It will be seventeen years this December since I was elected to the Senate. The changes to the parliamentary program, to policies and legislation, to the media's expectation of what happens in Parliament and to the community's expectations about who their political leaders will be and what they should look like, have changed in that time.

When I went into Parliament women parliamentarians were not quite as rare a sight as a fish on a bicycle : they actually did exist.

After being elected in 1975, I joined four women who had already been in the Senate for a short period, Liberal Senators Guilfoyle and Martin, and Labor Senators Coleman and Melzer. Senator Walters from Tasmania was also elected in 1975. So there were six: a small but noticeable number. Across Kings Hall in the House of Representatives there were no women. Four women had been elected to sit in the House of Representatives since Enid Lyons broke that barrier in 1943, but in 1975 there was none. There was no woman leader or minister in any state parliament. The memory of Enid Lyons had faded. Margaret Guilfoyle became the first, and sole, female cabinet minister in the Fraser Government.



Read more:

vale susan...

Susan Ryan, a trailblazing figure for women in politics who later served as Australia's first age discrimination commissioner, has died aged 77.

Ms Ryan served as a minister in Bob Hawke's Labor government, holding titles including special minister of state, minister for education and minister assisting the prime minister for the status women.

She was the first woman to hold the portfolio relating to women's affairs, and the first female minister from the Labor Party.

Key laws enshrining opportunity and rights for women were legislated on her watch, including the Sex Discrimination Act.

She would later be quoted as calling the Sex Discrimination Act "probably the most useful thing I've done in my life".



Read more:

of misogyny on scomo's watch...


by Father Michael Kelly


For thirty years I have believed that, when it wants to, Australian public culture defaults to its misogynistic normal in justifying a woman be disciplined or punished for an event or outcome with which they may have absolutely nothing to do at all.


I saw it at its boldest in the mistreatment afforded to the recently deceased (last October) Susan Ryan. It is a measure of just how restrained the former Senator and first female Labor Cabinet Minister was that she didn’t bark and bite the head off of Bob Hawke for the way he treated her. Her mistreatment was despite all the good she did to get Labor elected in 1983 and to make Australian education a fair and well-resourced enterprise.

She negotiated to secure Catholic support for the Hawke electoral program and then the delivery of massive resources for the development of the education sector along with other parts of the educational landscape.

But Ms Ryan wouldn’t support Hawke’s plan to roll back free access to universities introduced by Whitlam. So, the former Prime Minister sent her packing, and installed a wrecker in “Joey” Dawkins whose achievements as education Minister were well summarized by E.G. Whitlam as “turning CAEs into universities and universities into CAEs”.

A more recent example of such mistreatment is Christine Holgate, who inherited a quasi-autonomous government-owned service delivery company – Australia Post. It was going backwards commercially and swamped by what digitizing communications were doing to its long-standing core business – letter delivery.

Australia Post had done much to stay afloat but now faced another series of hurdles in the digital era. Holgate knew a thing or two about the future of AusPost: parcel carriage and delivery would be core aspects of its service delivery; AusPost had the best infrastructure for the delivery of digital service in Australia through its network of now mostly privatized post offices; but most importantly, AusPost had kept this asset where banks and other financial services had abandoned service delivery, especially in the bush.

AusPost was doing this work but not being financially supported for its provision. To redress this gap in revenue, Holgate set about negotiating with the banks and other mostly financial services to see AusPost properly paid for the work it was doing. And she succeeded with a team of dedicated professionals whose achievements she thought should be recognized and rewarded.

That’s when she got into trouble.

Enter Scotty from Marketing who had no idea about the business, what was needed to save it from peril, who was there to do it and what was a fair go.

What also is still not clear – to informed commentators or the casual observer – is what was in it for Scotty to do what he did, or even the political point he was making? Holgate has many friends and admirers on both sides of the isle in Parliament who seem just as puzzled.

And the rest is history: the fake high dudgeon over what amounts to being an underwhelming $20,000 reward (split four ways) for delivering an outcome that added $70M to the AusPost bottom line.

It will cost AusPost a lot more to get out of the mess which an incompetent Chair and hopeless Board have created for the company. The big-ticket items will revolve around what will be seen to be illegal activities by the AusPost Board in making Holgate’s tenure unsustainable.

This is all actually irrational and crazy. It wouldn’t be allowed to happen to a bloke. But in Australia, women are seemingly expendable.

And that takes us back to my opening remarks about how Susan Ryan was treated. When it comes to disagreeing with and disciplining women in public life in Australia, different rules apply than those applied to the blokes, even if the women in question haven’t actually done anything wrong or illegal.



Father Michael Kelly is an Australian Jesuit who directed the Catholic Church's news feature and commentary service, UCA News, 2008-2018. He is the publisher of the English editions of La Croix International and La Civilta Cattolica, the 170 year old Jesuit publication of the Italian Jesuits.


DISCLOSURE: I (Father Michael Kelly) have known and dealt with Christine Holgate at a commercial and personal level for over 20 years.



Read from top. 



See also: