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On that parliamentary smackdown

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of Prime Minister Julia Gillard spending the better part of 15 minutes calling the Leader of the Opposition a misogynist in parliament yesterday. But as satisfying as it was to see Tony Abbott get the verbal smackdown long due him (and I don’t deny there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had) it should be put in context.

Abbott’s ‘problem with women’ has been in the headlines for a while now, and it’s hardly out of character for him to attempt to turn a personal attack onto the PM herself. His fall guy was Peter Slipper, whose vile sexist text messages have been put on the public record, and whose career as Speaker was quite obviously on a time limit. Gillard’s speech was a response to that challenge. It is in no way irrelevant that despite it being a smart – and unprecedented – move to speak to the currently running narrative about sexism so bluntly, and to attack Abbott so openly on his quite obvious misogyny, she was doing so in defence of Slipper.

If winning or losing in politics was merely a matter of who had the best one-liners to throw along with their stones, then Gillard won yesterday hands down. But politics is not simply about whip-smart wisecracks and cutting speeches. It’s about policies and practices, legislation and social organisation.

Yesterday, the Gillard government also passed welfare reforms through the Senate that will cut single parent payments between $56 and $140 a week. This is a measure that will disproportionately affect women, and particularly those in the sectors of society that the Labor Party is traditionally supposed to represent. And yet, when the heavily debated reforms finally came to a vote in the Senate, only the Greens and Independents Madigan and Xenophon voted against it.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating: standing up for women’s rights is not just about calling sexism for what it is. It’s about agitating for specific change. It’s about making concrete demands of society and of the government. So if this is feminism that Gillard is representing in parliament, then I want to know, whose feminism is it? I don’t care how many sharp speeches she makes: her government is making life for some of the most vulnerable women in Australia even harder than it already is, and I want no part in it.

So here’s a call to arms. If we want to stand up for women, let’s start by standing up for these women. Let’s stand in the street and tell the federal government that this is not okay. That we want them to reverse the welfare cuts. That we want them to raise single parent pensions by $140 a week. That single parents undertaking study should be given more support, not less. Because this would make a qualitative difference to the lives of many women in Australia. This would be a win.

Stephanie Convery is a writer and arts worker in Melbourne. She writes fiction, non-fiction, criticism, commentary and review. She is a regular contributor to Overland online and keeps her own blog at http://gingerandhoney.com. On Twitter, she is @gingerandhoney.

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  1. I agree Stephanie, much satisfaction to be had! And as a friend said, while many will be aware of the double standard of the cuts to the parenting payments on the same day let us hope young men and women are emboldened to fight oppression and take up sexism where they see it.

    It also struck me that part of the reason Gillard’s words rang so true is that she (for once) seemed to believe what she was saying. As opposed to putting whatever position the ALP feel will play best, based on public and internal polling.

    Not to say that yesterday’s speech was not just as poll driven as all her others, it is just that she was saying something many progressive people agree with. It seemed to me she was attempting on the one hand to harden up and grow the preference for her as PM over Abbott amongst women (and convert that into a preference for the ALP over the Liberals). On the other hand I thought she used some carefully chosen quotes from Abbott to speak directly to men about the question of Abbott’s sexist attitudes – the sections discussing what people (and in particular fathers) hoped for daughters.

    • But as you point out, this was poll-driven strategy (not just because of the announcement of the welfare changes yesterday, but also the resurfacing of the Wilson union scandal), and an opportunity to exploit Abbott’s oft-commented upon weakness as Labor’s strength (particularly given how many women they have in ministerial positions).

      Yet, it frustrates me that we seem to be looking for some kind of truth or authenticity in Gillard’s speech and her personal beliefs or politics (seemingly based on our own experiences of sexism).

      Yesterday’s performance rang kinda hollow for me, given Gillard’s liberal feminism doesn’t extend beyond ministerial positions to issues of class, citizenship, or how women can afford to survive day-to-day.

      (She may, for example, have withdrawn from this one instance of speaking to the ACL because of homophobic comments – though she’s spoken for them before – yet one of their main purposes as a lobby group is to ban abortion and herd women back into The Family and all that entails, such as biblical submission.)

      When watching that smackdown yesterday, I was a bit impressed, because it’s about time that sexism was uncloaked in mainstream debate, but mostly what I thought of was the Gillard and Abbott camaraderie over the years, as illustrated on the Today show, etc. Have Abbott’s politics or language changed over the past ten years? I can’t see any evidence of it (and not at all, according to Marr’s QE).

      • Agree with all you say Jack.

        Though I don’t know I’m personally searching for authenticity. I just thought she was not speaking in circles as she usually does (ie full of phrases that have no meaning). Equally, that could be because she got a new and better speech writer.

  2. Contradiction is always the interesting aspect of politics, whatever its form: between a cut to the single parenting allowance and raising the baby bonus; between the attacking Gillard and attentive Macklin and a seemingly despairing Swann in the still image accompanying this post.

  3. I don’t know that she was actually defending Peter Slipper. She was refusing to sack him for vile things he said in private. Um, I’m betting that if everyone in parliament got sacked for saying vile things in private about [insert oppressed group here] the benches would be a lot less crowded.

  4. I would have to disagree with your comments on wanting to increase the single parent’s pension by $140 a week. This would only encourage single parents to continue this status. Why should a single parent receive anything more than a parent in a couple relationship? Surely parents in a similar situation should receive an equal amount, regardless of their relationship status. Why should someone who chooses to be in a relationship be penalised for making a decision that research suggests is beneficial to their children?
    Furthermore, I see no reason why a single parent should be unable to return to work when their youngest child is 8, given that a parent in a relationship is expected to do the same. Personally I believe these changes will benefit and empower single parents to take control and responsibility for their own lives, rather than maintaining a dependence on welfare and will also demonstarte to their children the value of earning your own money rather than being handed it. If you want to stand up for women, then you should empower them, not maintain their dependence on handouts.

    • I assume you’ve never been a single parent then. Partnered parents actually do receive less than single parents. Single parents who earn money have their benefits reduced, as do partnered parents, and newstart recipients. Single parents who are raising young children are reliant upon ex partners doing the right thing and helping support their children and also the government. Many single parents were either stay at home parents before becoming single, or the lower income earner. They have less employment prospects because of their time out of the workforce, childcare is not something everyone wants to inflict on their pre-school aged children (especially babies) and finding good childcare that fits with work hours can be difficult. The parenting payment (single) and FTB is barely enough to cover rent, bills and food. Child support is supposed to help but a lot of single parents have ex-partners who pay little to nothing. In partnered families one person is free to work while the other stays with the children, or both may work and negotiate shared caring arrangements. This eases the financial pressure considerably. It *IS* hard if neither partner is adequately employed though, and yes it is hard to be financially penalised for starting a new relationship with someone who is not related to your children and therefore the govt makes you reliant upon this new person. The answer is not to reduce the single parents pension though; those who can work, do work. This penalises children of single parents and does nothing to break the cycle of poverty.

      • This comment comes across as a massive whinge.
        “childcare is not something everyone wants to inflict on their pre-school aged children (especially babies) and finding good childcare that fits with work hours can be difficult. ”

        So instead of subsidising childcare, the rest of australia should subsidise parents hanging out with their kids?

        The changes I saw was that you can now get assistance when you have $10,000 in assets, you can now earn $400 more per week without losing benefits.

        $hit happens. Luckily in Australia we have enough support for each other that you get a chance to pick up the pieces. Luckily their are jobs available, luckily education is free.

    • All single parent with kids over 8 already have to work 15 hours a week to get any welfare support and are paid a payment which goes down as their income goes up. But as single parents know sick days, school holidays and after school care is stressful and difficult as a sole carer and it’s less stress to work part time with a bit of government support on the side whilst we raise little people who will one day be adults in the world. And of course if a sole parent gets sick, or has an injury and can’t work there is no partner to step up for a few months and take some extra caring role or maybe work a bit extra. Our kids look after us when we are sick and the who earns the money then? Many women don’t receive maintenance and some of us are widows.

    • UM,some single parents don’t have a choice, eg, not when their spouse dies. Ta, have a great day.I have to do EVERYTHING that two people do. Today a mum said to me, oh yeah, I get tired driving the kids around, so hubbie picks them up. She was oblivious that I don’t have a hubbie to give me a break. I don’t actually wish for more benefits personally, but I think cutting them sucks. On the other hand I think what Gillard did is one of the biggest moments in feminism history. It will be what she is remembered for and there was nothing hollow about her speech. I think she is sick to death of it all, just as most women are. She doesn’t make all the policies for the party she heads, she is the representative for the whole. She probably does not agree with everything that passes through.

    • While you do make some good points in regards to setting children a good example by going out to work, please be mindful that closed minded “I’m alright Jack comments” as posted by yourself can be quite upsetting to lone parents. There are lost of reasons as to why people are lone could find themselves as a lone parent for example
      A parent could have been widowed
      Heaven forbid a women could have been raped
      There could have been abusive in the relationship
      Their partner could have walked away from their responsibilities. (Yet I see no
      criticism for the absent parent in your post)
      Or a women could have got broody and got fed up waiting for Mr Right. Well we don’t all fall on our feet.
      Also as for saying lone parents with a child over 8 should go to work, you’ll be overjoyed to hear that the government are in fact excelling themselves now as lone parents with a 5 year old have to go out to work now, yet I personally know plenty of married/partnered mums who stay at home and lone parents who do work. Well in my view all parents work as parenthood is the hardest job in the world, because if I don’t wake up tommorow morning the government would have to pay someone a lot of money to care for my child. x

  5. Suspect major poll pull is on soft Green voters (cohort that would have voted for Dems in past), this is a group Labor post Brown seems to making some progress with (education rhetoric helping here also) & state govt cuts that hit female admin workers. Gillard represents a feminist labourism: appealing to an imagined working class socially conservative (no marriage equality) & working (hence ‘welfare dependence’ preoccupation)but not male, white etc as in old labourism.

  6. good one, am making the same points in various media comments. ACOSS and others have lodged a complain with the UN poverty lot, am suggesting we should undermine the Australian bid for security council seat by lobbying UN assembly members pointing out our human rights breaches. F collective is doing it!
    eva cox

  7. Yep, seen the video. I’m also aware of the changes to welfare for single parents that were passed yesterday and I do not support those and am 100% in agreement that they will make life much more difficult for many of the least well-off women in this country.

    But – I disagree that one of these issues must automatically detract from the value of the other.
    Politics is, unfortunately, a constant battle of compromises. Personally, I do not understand how anyone could ever want to take part in it as a primary player it seems so much about ‘attempting to maintain appearance’ for appearances sake while needing to bow and give in to pressures from the far, far too many groups on all sides that keep on exerting pressure.

    For me, the fact that parliament passed legislation that does not help a large group of largely women in society still does not actually detract from the relevance of what our prime minister said in that speech yesterday. At least she most certainly seemed to believe what she was saying, and I feel that finally a woman with a forum to say it has spoken what I would like the opportunity to voice also.

    Please point me in the direction of a Prime Minister whose government has not passed any legislation that may be to some degree in conflict with some of their personal beliefs.

    The value of what was said overall and especially that it was said in that forum is not changed by the unfortunate realities of party politics which must have pressure exerted on them by other forums, such as Eva Cox is suggesting.

  8. Fantastic piece, Stephanie.

    I find it frustrating that a number of high profile feminists are busy applauding the PM’s attack on Abbott’s misogyny while her attack on women through cuts to single parent payments attract much less of their attention.

    • This mysoginy attack on Abbott is very well orchestrated many of may know that last year Gillard retained the services of Tony Blairs former muck raker Mc Ternan. Mc Ternan launched the same Mysoginist campaign against Gordon Brown. The truth is the way i see it is Julia is using sexism to countyer legitimate criticism not only of her but her government. there is alot more to this than meets the eye. Personally, while the international media who quite fairly are not up to date with all of labors policies and failures in Australia have jumped all over this as a win for feminism many in Australia see it as a liberal move to remove the sexism from politics. While Gillard ranted and raved about supposed insults to her I cannot help but think of the blatant character assination that has been waged against Tony Abbott. Even his wife was accused of using a miscarriage to garner political points. it later came out that that discussion came about in an interview after being asked direct questions, an not of her own volition. Yet still there was no apology from the media who attacked her nor any public outcry. The double standards here rest with labor not with the opposition. if having a female PM means no one can criticise her decisions for fear of being branded a mysoginist. Then julia Gillard is putting Womens rights back not forward

    • I absolutely agree with your sentiment.
      I just can’t understand why single mums are being ignored by vocal feminists who have been swept away with Julia’s rant.
      I’m a feminist but I find feminist cliques can be particular with what they run with and who they endorse (like any group really).
      Unfortunately it seems disadvantaged single mums aren’t “edgy” enough, jeez, I don’t know?

      I actually feel her rant was in some way to detract attention from her pushing this blatantly poverty inducing policy through.
      It’s very divisive amongst women. Single mothers have always seemed to be irrelevant to her. Maybe that’s it, we’re irrelevant!

    • Absolutely! Thank you Stephanie.I am fascinated by the lack of empathy towards single parents and their children.Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but it would be nice to see debate driven by benevolence rather than judgement.Sometimes being a single parent is not a lifestyle choice. I guess people who have no choice and no voice make for an easy target.

  9. at least the anti-misogyny message has gone viral world-wide for a nanosecond thanks to social streaming

  10. While I agree with most of the sentiments you expressed .. lets not forget that single parents are not just women .. They are guys too … It is relevant to both mothers, fathers and guardians. That said, I acknowledge most are women but its an important point to remember.

    • Whereas condemning them to even worse poverty will empower them no end. They’ll all be forced to do “something useful to society”like becoming, I don’t know, merchant bankers or PR consultants.
      In the darkest days of my working life I was briefly a case manager in the Job Network in Sunshine. I remember one woman who was referred to me. She had married at 17 and had four children then become single and was on the pension till her youngest turned 16.
      I had to make a resume for her which was a challenge as she’d had no paid employment, left school in Year 10 and was in her 50s.
      I remember how, when we came to the “demonstrated skills and abilities” section, she smiled with evident and justifiable pride and said: “I raised four sons. They all have degrees and are in paid employment.”
      No doubt, to the likes of you, she is a poster woman for “welfare addiction”. Would she have been able to achieve what she did if she’d been forced to look for a job when her youngest turned 8 – and take a massive cut in her income as an “incentive” to do so? In your neo-liberal fantasy-land she would have taken the bit by the teeth and been empowered to become a kitchenhand or whatever. And if she failed to respond, she would have been breached and she and her kids would have suffered. But that’s ok because, you know, omelettes, broken eggs and all that.
      Back in the day, working for the old CES in the 1990s, we had programs to encourage sole parents to access the workforce. They were all carrot and very little stick. There was money for training and so on.
      There were problems with the schemes, but at least they were based on some genuine notion of “empowerment”. Nothing in these changes is.

  11. Slipper was forced to resign because he was exposed for having used, in a generalised manner, in a private conversation, explicit slang and molluscan metaphors for female genitalia. Regardless of other qualities of Slipper’s character or behaviour, should this use of language, in itself, disqualify him as a “fit and proper person” to hold the office of Speaker? I think not. If I am missing something here please let me know. Are there other text messages on the public record that are worse than this example in their use of “sexist/mysoginist” language? If so, please refer me to them because this example seems rather minor to me. I would have thought the language of genitalia of both genders had exhibited/enjoyed a long and at times poetic and comedic history, refined and crass. It’s a matter of voice and context.

    Is Slipper’s use of language in this instance comparable in equal measure to the explicit and implied denigration of women so clearly evident in Abbott’s history in public office, not to mention many of his policy positions? Is it remotely reasonable to compare Jones’s threatening invective and abuse aimed at specific women in public office (Gillard, Moore et al) with the ALP’s vote to retain Slipper as Speaker? Clearly, the outing of Slipper’s exchange with Ashby exposes him as tawdry and juvenile but this has been conflated with a broader perception of his character for political ends. Claims that Gillard has made a tactical blunder and is being hypocritical lack substance. It is very clear that strident voices of intelligent and capable women strike fear in the hearts of some. It seems to me that Slipper resigned because he was pressured to do so by the independents but also because the court cases, financial and emotional pressures seem to have broken his resolve. Expect to see a rebound now that he is back on the cross benches.

    One-liners and nasty quips are a low order form of communication and I think Julia Gillard’s speech yesterday was anything but. It was passionate, direct and focused on its targets. She said what had to be said and she chose the right place and time to say it. This was an historically significant speech. Regardless of her other failings over time – and there have been quite a few – I thought this speech showed strength and assertiveness in leadership. Abbott’s smirk spoke volumes of the depth of his “sensitivity” and (forgive me) “feminism”, FFS.

    That said, I agree completely with Stephanie’s point about the need to challenge cuts to single parent payments. My grandmother was a single mother during the Depression and for years my mother raised her children without the benefit of social welfare so I have indirect experience of how tough it is for women in that situation. If politics changes the world then it should start with the least advantaged and, on that score, the Gillard government appears to be scoring a fail.

  12. Cuts to the single parenting allowance means more single mothers opting for more children to collect the baby bonus; enslaving single mothers further, and furthering the entrenchment of generational poverty and its attendant social issues and problems.

  13. lets also remember tony Abbot is not the only person julia Gillard has Branded a Mysoginist there are also half a dozen members of the media that share that diustinction. Funnily enough they are all people that have criticised her policies and pointed out when she has been caught, red handed mind you lying through her teeth.

  14. Over half of the targeted 100,000 sole parents are already in paid employment or studying. Many others have disabilities or health issues but don’t qualify for the pension making barriers into flexible employment challenging if not seemingly impossible.
    Most mothers eventually do enter paid employment but caring for children on your own with no social support is not only tough but effects your health.
    Studying full time caring for my child, my body broke down eventually. I also got pneumonia but instead of resting I had to care for my child who was also unwell.

    Many employers won’t hire single mums. Ideally single mums want flexible work during school hours so they can get out of poverty but still have the time to “parent” (remember “parenting”, children can’t do it on their own).

    My greatest issue is the overall conservative view that “paid” work is the only type of contribution you can make in society. Many single mums are volunteers, carers.

    The real misogyny is to undermine motherhood, it’s what women have done throughout history but never has it become so undervalued (just look at the low pay of child care workers).
    How is working some shit job more important than being available for your child.
    See it’s become a case where only wealthy children will have the privilege of their mothers’ time.

    BTW, I’ve met many, many single mums. Not one had a baby for the baby bonus. Many single mums are that way because they have either fled domestic violence, have been deserted or are divorced.
    Many, especially the poorest don’t get much child support (some as low as $1 a day.)

  15. Interesting speech. Very disappointed in the primitive nature of the “misogyny” referred to though, as it doesn’t really lend the phenomenon the attention it deserves. The more dangerous form of misogyny is that which is disguised (like cultural or class tensions which manifest in violence or oppression before people question the validity of the ideologies which support them- the holocaust). Felt like I had stepped back into time (suppose it’s Canberra), though. You know you’re behind the times when even sexism hasn’t caught up. And that part about speaking for fifteen minutes as a “woman”? Wince. Overt sexism isn’t as dangerous as curbing access to resources, quality of life and ultimately power- to an entire group which largely consists of women- as you suggest. I want to find some merit in that speech. I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I am? I do like the way she used “I” a lot, though- reinforcing the importance of the individual experience of victims of sexism. However, you would think that it wouldn’t NEED to be reflected on at a personal level in that sort of context…anyway. Makes me think of those “Violence Against Women” campaigns- don’t use money to dispel myths about violence or MAKE resources or networks available to people who are suffering. Just pat yourself on the back for being a nation that doesn’t tolerate http://youtu.be/iCCt-Bo07oc typical violence— beating up women. Perhaps they can put all that extra revenue taken from single parents into building a museum of sexual equality (right next to the Immigration Museum).

  16. The other thing that the journalists are all missing about the Gillard speech is that it is magnificent political rhetoric. The old ponderous tones are gone, sure, but it is more than what the journalists are calling “passion”. Consider the two tropes that quickly diminish Abbott to mere self-reference: writing his resignation and looking in the mirror. She doesn’t just label him with nouns. These verbs give him witheringly real things to do.

    The commentators try to be clever by saying it is really all about something else (because all political speech is twisted, it must be hiding something) and they are here to tell us straight, what that is. But they all tell us the same thing in the end: politics 1) is a hypocritical game in which the masks of deceit are constantly changing; and 2) it is also about a real world that even the major players can’t see, they are so deluded!

    Please let’s consider the possibility that the PM knew what she was doing with the political weaponry she uses day in, day out: forms of speech. How real is that? And how difficult to land one effectively on Abbott whose supporters have a greater range of rhetorical defenses than she has offensive moves. Let’s have a bit more confidence in these political offices in doing what they do. They have to use words to diminish the size of the enemy camp by peeling off allies in the form of ideas and stories as well as voting members.

  17. All sole parents should qualify for a “sole parents payment” ,not just those with children under 8. This means that they would qualify for higher rate of payment. However the big difference between Newstart & PPS is the ‘withdrawal rate’ ie the rate at which payments cease. A PPS recipient with 3 children can earn TWICE what a Newstart recipient can earn before PPS is not payable. Whilst the government has some groups of sole parents who will be paid Newstart at the PPS rate, once the changes come in , most will have PPS cease & have to switch to Newstart at the Newstart rate. Most sole parents on income support payments are female (90%) & they are still required to comply with an ‘activity test ‘ once their youngest is 6 (work for 15 hours a week, look for Part time work, or study ) . Once of the issues about sole parents forget that they often parent without ANY support/help from the children’s father,so working /looking after a couple of children is a lot harder in so many ways on your own. I have recently after 30 years retired from Centrelink,, so this information should be reasonably accurate. BUT I’d still suggest contacting them for info from the horses mouth, once the legislation has received ” royal assent ” !

  18. Boris, i agree with everything you have said, and i am glad that i have finally found someone who has questioned the inane repetition of the criticism of Slipper’s text message as “vile and misogynist”. The text may yet come to be judged by the court as construing sexual harraaament of Ashby, but having trawled through the entire 200 messages, i can only say i am glad that it’s not my job to be involved with this nebulous, politically tainted case in any way.
    I was interested to follow the link in Dunlop’s Drum article to this one because i had emailed the PM after seeing ‘the speech’ to congratulate her on it (and a couple of other things) but then described my own past experience of single motherhood and why i felt that the government support i had received had proved to be an extremely wise and mutually beneficial investment on the government’s behalf.
    I note that people invariably seem to talk about the parenting payment as a parent issue.
    It is a children’s issue. It is an issue of those growing into adults and, most of them, parents themselves.

  19. “Yesterday, the Gillard government also passed welfare reforms ….This is a measure that will disproportionately affect women”

    Great timing on her part, i’ll give her that.

  20. As much as I would like to support the argument JG has made against TA, and would support the Labor party over the Liberals any day of the week (although will probably vote Greens), I am no longer capable of taking her for her word. A professional politician every waking hour of the day, JG’s approach is strategic, and well has she played that card.
    Yet everybody knows that there are far more important injustices beyond her personal offense which are not being addressed, DV and institutionalised sexism included. As well as violence against women, lets focus this ‘passion’ on corporate-state corruption, Australia’s criminal violence abroad, Australia’s refusal of human rights to human beings seeking asylum because of their projected economic deficiencies, Australia’s sale of uranium policies, the NT intervention, Australia’s despoliation of the natural environment within its borders…
    Lets have serious passionate engagement from politicians on these matters and I know I won’t be the only one to engage and participate in the issues of this nation with renewed care and rigour.

  21. lively posts! what a thread!

    so this event that is going to be held, ‘call to arms’ forum, might you question the inequlaity of unskilled labor? A bloke can go and earn $800 bucks easily laboring, let’s say he becomes unemployed or something. And unskilled labor for women is child-minding, let’s say they become unemployed or soemthing. Which is $15 an hour = which, if lucky enough to find a full-time job, is about $600 a week. Some blokes, with a couple of driving certificates can earn easly over $1000 a week wherever and nearly whenever they want.

    Ok. How many women do we know who do laboring for a job? Like railway or mining?

    So what this says to me is that anyone can look after a child, and if you’re a man you can earn the big bucks more easily. This is a bit unfair.

    The inequality of unskilled labor is an issue, and what are the consequences of it?

  22. Gillard’s smackdown was a wonderful moment for anyone fed up with hypocrisy and stupid games. It transcended mere Aussie politics and will remain inspirational long after everyone’s forgotten the context.

    So it’s such a shame to see it linked to misrepresented party politics in this way.

    For the record, Gillard is NOT cutting single parent pensions. Howard did that in the Welfare To Work reforms in 2006.
    The welfare “cut” you’re citing now has been in operation for the past 6 years.
    In that time the only people who haven’t lost their pension when their youngest child turned 8 were the ones who were already on the payment when Howard’s reforms were enacted.
    These people, and these people alone, are the ones affected by the Gillard government’s amendment.

    By all means debate the merits or otherwise of the single parent rules.
    Just don’t ruin Gillard’s wonderful smackdown of LNP misogyny by holding her accountable for LNP policy.

  23. I think to be having this discussion in our nation, with a female pm, is a step we do not need to take.

    we have all been blind to this issue when the reality is in front of us. the reality that a boy or girl is an individual and capable of anything they can dream to achieve regardless of gender, race, intellect or even height and weight.

    to even be having this discussion is a step back to me, as i feel australia is very “post-feminist” whether or not the statistics of business or finance reflect this properly today. in day to day life and in our society sexism is all but gone. statistics will balance in time.

  24. Great article Stephanie and it’s really exciting to see the discussion it generates. However, I must agree with Kallena in that it is a shame that two issues have been shaped up to detract from each other. It feels a little too much like the angry old men at the Weekend Australian, who all said, “Yes, but …”.

    Gillard’s speech was magnificent in its disciplined, articulate fury. No Slipper, sole parent income cuts or political manipulations can detract from what she achieved in fifteen minutes. She has been steadfastly ignoring her revolting treatment for quite a while now, under extremely wearing circumstances. The other day, she finally called it for what it was.

    When it comes to Slipper, she simply argued to wait for a court ruling, rather than populist ‘sexism’ charges, to kick him out.

    As a long term sole parent who has had to take in boarders/kitchen hand/mow lawns/bring up happy kids/study, I think the cuts are damaging to the whole community, not just sole parents. We should all have the right to walk our kids to school in the mornings, do the home reading with them and volunteer in the school canteen. Unfortunately, the Howard Government had squeezed us into the work force, when most of us were already running about like blue-arsed flies. Further cuts will just make our kids poorer, as we work longer, for less money.

    F Aston, read Anne Summers’ article on the Prime Minister’s rights at work for a special insight on our so called ‘post feminist’ world.

  25. Amazing to see our parliamentarians fall over themselves to show themselves to be feminists. Appalling to hear it in the context. We old-time feminists back in the 70s were never prepared to overlook the operation of class in women’s oppression. To see it operate so blatantly now is frankly surreal. Not to mention abhorrent.

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