International Women’s Day – some things to celebrate but more work to do

It is International Women’s Day again and surveying the scene here in Australia for women I find much to celebrate. Yet there remains much work to do for the women of Australia.

Here we see, for the first time, a crop of women in senior political leadership positions.

GOVERNOR GENERAL & STATE GOVERNORS
Quentin Bryce – Governor General
Marie Bashir – Governor of NSW
Penelope Wensley – Governor of QLD

POLITICIANS – FEDERAL
Julia Gillard – Prime Minister
Nicola Roxon – Federal Minister for Health and Ageing
Jenny Macklin – Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Penny Wong – Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Julie Bishop – Deputy Leader Federal Opposition
Christine Milne – Deputy Leader Federal Greens
UPDATE: Kate Ellis, Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women (thanks to Tom Voirol)

STATE PREMIERS
Anna Bligh – Premier of Queensland
Kristina Kenneally – Premier of New South Wales
Lara Giddings – Premier of Tasmania

I’m sure I’ve missed some of the women in politics – do please let me know of any additions  to the lists.

It was interesting to note that all states except South Australia have had a female Premier and that these female Premiers were all from the Australian Labor Party:

  • Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia (12 February 1990 – 16 February 1993)
  • Joan Kirner, Premier of Victoria (10 August 1990 – 6 October 1992)
  • Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland since 13 September 2007
  • Kristina Keneally, Premier of New South Wales since 4 December 2009
  • Lara Giddings, Premier of Tasmania since 24 January 2011.

But when we turn our attention to the corporate world in Australia there is a real dearth of women at the helm. Of course, there’s Gail Kelly at Westpac – but which other women are running large public companies in Australia? As the Business Council of Australia noted recently:

“Currently only 10.7 per cent of senior executive positions are held by women and just 2 per cent of CEO roles. Women chair 2 per cent of ASX 200 companies and hold just 8.3 per cent of board directorships.”

It makes me think it might be time for board quotas for women. We’ve been asking nicely for a long time, and if women were going to get board appointments on merit it would be more prevalent by now.

Then there is the sad state of affairs with women’s financial independence. This coupled with continuing pay inequity that is experienced by many women means that women are entering retirement with substantially less savings than their male peers.

The paid maternity leave scheme that was introduced by the current government is a huge step forward for women and equitable financial treatment.

Also it remains a matter of grave concern that the level of domestic violence against women remains stubbornly high. As noted in a Crikey article in 2010:

“It’s simple; domestic abuse and sexual assault against women are community issues impacting our wives and partners, mothers, daughters, friends – everyone.

One in three women over their life times will be physically assaulted. One in five will be sexually assaulted. The cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy was $13.6 billion in 2009.”

The report card for women in Australia is along the lines of:

A good effort so far; but more hard work is needed.

It’s time for women to reclaim the word feminist and continue the good fight. There remains much work to do.

Freedom – the price and the value #Libya #auspol

What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Oscar Wilde, in Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892)

It has been fascinating to watch the progress of the various revolutions in north Africa and the middle east, in particular the travails of the Libyan people trying to oust the long-standing dictator Gaddafi.

Unlike the other countries in the region, the Libyan dictator has a strong army and he is not afraid to use the full might of his arms against his own people.

In Libya we are seeing people rise up against a tyrant and face arms to achieve their freedom. They are weighing up the price and the value of their freedom in important ways.

It has got me thinking about how one might value freedom and what price one might be willing to pay to achieve it.

In Australia we are divorced from harsh realities like this. We live in a wealthy nation with high levels of education, low levels of unemployment and a working democracy. For many of us our main problem is what kind of plasma television to get next time. These are first world problems.

Our politicians argue about relative trivialities. And now we have both sides of politics in Australia polarising and calling for so-called Peoples’ Revolution.

I think that this kind of polarisation is one of stupidest ways to attempt to create a positive future for Australia. We need to create shared values and agreed common ground in the middle. We need to build consensus and have our politicians work together on that common ground in a bi-partisan way.

This current political climate of negativity, anger, personal attacks, slurs and invective does help us to create a positive future for Australia. Nor does it model good behaviour for our young people.

It’s time for the moderates to stand up and be counted.