Gender policy: 12 things Malcolm Turnbull could do for Australian women

By Harley Dennett

September 18, 2015

The PTP Gender symposium on Thursday heard lamentations of the decline of expertise in the federal Office for Women starting in the Howard government era.

Despite the best of intentions, gender policy at the Commonwealth level is going nowhere fast, with very little appreciation for evidence or changing reality. But a political shift, could also mean a fresh start for gender policy under Malcolm Turnbull.

Professor Marian Baird (pictured) from the Women and Work Research Group at University of Sydney said we need to get comfortable with the fact that women now have much longer working lives and our policies should reflect this significant shift in our society.

Baird offered her suggestion for 12 things Turnbull could do for Australian women.

  1. He could apologise to Australian women for calling them rorters and double dippers.
  2. He could publically acknowledge and thank Australian women for the work they do, both paid and unpaid.
  3. He could scrap the changes to the paid parental leave scheme that are currently before parliament.
  4. He could do something positive and add superannuation to the current scheme, which is seriously lacking.
  5. He shouldn’t pitch childcare policies against the paid parental leave policy — those two policies should work together.
  6. He could make paid parental leave an employment standard by putting it in the Fair Work Act so that it’s more protected.
  7. He could value women appropriately and act to end the gender pay gap and consequent earnings and poverty gaps over the lifecycle — he can do this by supporting the child care equal pay case that’s underway now.
  8. He could install a separate ministry for women. Having the Office for Women in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has not been a terribly productive place for decent policy.
  9. He could integrate the policy areas that affect women and their families with a holistic approach to women, work and family.
  10. He could institute a process of being gender aware in all policy proposals and policy outcomes, and have gender audits on all policy recommendations.
  11. He could recognise enterprise bargaining agreements and awards are the basis for terms and conditions of work for all women in Australia. Cuts to them will have flow on cuts elsewhere, so we should stop any of those cuts.
  12. He could begin a proper conversation about what is decent work for men and women in Australia, and how that work can frame a better community for all of us. If we do that I think we would see that women, work and care would be a much better lens to look at all policy development in Australia.
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