Monday, 14 October 2019
Matters of Public Importance
Girls Takeover Parliament
I've always thought that you can do great things as a supporter of other people, and certainly, as a supporter of women, I think men have a very important role. As a straight person, I ran a marriage campaign in 2017, and it was from that experience that I learnt how indirectly-affected people could be very effective advocates—and how, as the father of Sophia, could I not be a supporter of women? It was a great pleasure to have Cherish, who's here in the gallery, in my office today as we did the Girls Takeover Parliament initiative.
I want to focus my remarks briefly on some practical things. I'm a practical person—although perhaps the people closest to me would argue against that—so, in terms of representation in this place, I think it is a good thing that the Senate was able to achieve gender parity in recent weeks. I'm very pleased to see that that was achieved, but there is more work to be done in the House of Representatives.
In keeping with the practical focus, I've always thought that embedding people within an organisation that has an insiders culture, so to speak, is a very important thing to do. It's very important that branches of political parties have members of all shapes and sizes, not just young men. Certainly my experience has been that where women have been members of branches and conferences within the Liberal Party for a long period of time it has meant that it has been easier for them to get preselection, and preselection in safe seats is, of course, very important, in terms of achieving a better balance in the House of Representatives.
I also want to talk briefly about some of the things that the Liberal Party has done in the past that I think we should be proud of, given that yesterday we marked 75 years as a very successful political movement. Not only was the first woman parliamentarian a Liberal; the first cabinet minister was also a woman. I'm talking here about Dame Enid Lyons and Dame Margaret Guilfoyle. Menzies himself was a great believer in supporting women. He established the women's council and, at the Albury conference in 1944, which we're commemorating this week, he said:
Women are unquestionably destined to exercise more and more influence upon practical politics in Australia … In the educating of the electorate in liberal ideas they have for many years been an effective force. Now we have an organisation in which all distinctions have gone, and with men and women working equally for the one body …
Again, in terms of practical issues, we can talk about representation in parliament—and that is very important—but in a day-to-day sense I think there are more bread-and-butter issues facing women in Australia. Things like the gender pay gap have become very prominent, and rightly so, in recent years. It is a good thing that over the last five years the gender pay gap has been reduced from 18.5 per cent to 14 per cent, as at May 2019. We're heading in the right direction, but there's a lot more work to do.