‘Tony Abbott does not speak for me and should not be our Minister for Women.’

Clare O’Neil MP gives her own take on who should be our Minister for Women. Basically, a woman.

In politics, we deal with genuinely serious matters every day.

But there are also times where – even as a Member of Parliament – politics seems completely ridiculous. Moments that spring to mind are Tony Abbott bringing back Knights and Dames. Or the time he ate a raw onion. Certainly, I had a chuckle (OK, a huge guffaw) when the Prime Minister appointed himself Minister for Women.

Surely, this was satire?

But the joke was on me – and you. This is a man who stood in front of signs calling our first female Prime Minister a bitch and a witch, who suggested women are not equally represented in national leadership roles because men are more suited to exercising power, who called abortion “the easy way out”. Now, he is our voice in Federal Cabinet.

tony abbott continue as prime minister
Tony frequently called out Julia – politically and through her gender.

Read more: “I gave Tony Abbott the benefit of the doubt on women. I was wrong.”

In truth, any man appointing himself Minister for Women is absurd regardless of their track record on women’s issues. Men have been speaking for women for thousands of years – that’s part of the problem. To make the situation even worse, when Tony Abbott named himself Minister for Woman, he determined that just one woman would sit in his 19-person Cabinet. Presumably, we were meant to pop the champagne corks a year later when the number of women was doubled to two.

Advertisement

So what has the government done for Australian women under Tony Abbott’s watch? They have cut parental leave for half of all new mums, then called them ‘double dippers’ for using the paid parental leave scheme exactly as intended. Funding has been slashed to women’s legal centres and shelters. The government has tried to introduce massive fees for higher education, cut pensions, and ditched the low-income super contribution. All disproportionately affect women.

christine forster tony abbott feature thumb
Tony hasn’t been open to change – not even when it benefits women like his sister, Christine Forster.

When asked to identify his key achievement as Minister for Women, Tony Abbott’s answer was getting rid of the carbon tax because women are particularly focused on the household budget. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Read more: The moment that should have killed Tony Abbott’s career.

All the while, women in Australia face fundamental issues that require national leadership. More than one Australian woman a week is killed by her partner. One in two women in this country experience sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. More than half of the biggest companies in Australia have no female directors. The gender pay gap is stuck at 17%. Women are more likely to live in poverty. We are barraged, every single day, by sexualised and unattainable images of beauty, and eating disorders affect one million Australians, ninety percent of them women.

tony abbott
It’s time appoint a Minister for Women who understands women.

These are the kinds of issues we rightly expect that as our representative, the Minister for Women will elevate to the top of the national conversation. But out of Tony Abbott, we don’t get a peep.

We need better representation. The best way for Tony Abbott to show he is serious about tackling these problems is by resigning as Minister for Women, and getting one of the many talented women in his party to be our voice in Cabinet. As Minister for Women, he doesn’t speak for me.

Not now, not ever.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Women?

Want to read more about the Minister for Women? Right here:

Lisa Wilkinson: Tony Abbott should not be Minister for Women.

Tony Abbott as Minister for Women: A report card.

JAM: The Minister for Women refuses to say she is a feminist.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

More articles