An open letter to Malcolm Turnbull about our new Minister for Women.

Dear Prime Minister Turnbull,

As you know, on Monday night the people of Australia lost another Prime Minister. It’s okay, we’re used to it by now – we’ll adjust.

The thing is though, the women of Australia also lost their minister, the self-appointed Minister for Women.

Recently we published a list of everything that Tony Abbott had achieved in two years in the role. It was a very short list.

Malcolm Turnbull Minister for Women 720x546
Well played, The Age.

Last year, when asked by Lisa Wilkinson what he thought his greatest accomplishment for women was he said abolishing the carbon tax because “as many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget”. Really, that’s what he said.

Mr Prime Minister, sir, you have been praised as having more socially progressive views than your predecessor (which, let’s face it, isn’t hard). You’re a feminist too, I believe. This is good news indeed.

It must concern you that women in this country continue to face systematic disadvantage at almost every level – including within Parliament.

It must concern you that at least one women is murdered by a man known to her each week in Australia, that one in five women have experienced sexual assault, that one is hospitalised every three hours as a result of intimate partner violence.

It must concern you that your party is responsible for cutting millions of dollars in funding from essential services desperately needed to help women escape the threat of family violence.

There are many things that should concern you. Certainly, there are many things that concern us.

So, we have a few requests. A list of issues we’d like to see our new Minister for Women tackle. And a couple of qualities we think they ought to possess.

1. They’ll need to be a woman.


It should go without saying that the job must be done by a woman. This time around we’re not taking any chances though. Let us spell it out: THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN MUST BE A WOMAN.

Tony Abbott wink

2. You’ll need to promote some more women to cabinet.

Obviously, having just two women out of 19 in the top echelon of government — as we saw in Abbott’s cabinet — is nowhere near enough. Women are not a minority group. They comprise 51% of the population and that ought to be reflected in Cabinet.

In July, you put your hand up to be a Male Champion of Change to encourage more women into politics.

You wrote, “If men control the levers of power, as they currently do in most parts of Australia’s political infrastructure, then men have to take responsibility to help change things.

Just one of these things is not like the others. At the swearing in of Tony Abbott’s ministry.

“Increasing the number of women in politics is not solely a ‘women’s issue’ – it is in the national interest for Australia to have access to 100 per cent of the nation’s talent pool, regardless of gender.

“If we have a workplace that discriminates against a part of the population – in this case, half of the population – shouldn’t we be asking ourselves, what are those aspects of that workplace that are able to be changed?”

We couldn’t agree more and hope you keep this in mind when you announce your cabinet reshuffle on Monday.

3. Fix the gender pay gap, please.

While we’re on the topic of gender discrimination in the workplace, we’d love to see something done about the gender pay gap.

The gap is at its highest level since records began. On average, Australian women currently earn $298.10 less a week than their male counterparts for full-time work.

Please add this to the new minister’s To Do list.

And while the two of you are at it, there are only 12 women who chair companies in the ASX200 (a meagre 3%). Let’s see if we can do something about that too.

We know your wife Lucy is an impressive businesswoman. Please, help us out.

4. We want real action on violence against women.

Last week, three women were killed as the result of domestic violence within two days — that’s 62 women this year.

In its latest budget, the Coalition promised a measly $16.7 million to partially fund a $30 million awareness campaign to tackle the issue. And that’s it.

Meanwhile, we’ve watched crucial services such as the 1800-RESPECT hotline, community legal services and homeless shelters stripped of funding.

On The Project in May, Waleed Aly asked you if you believed your government was doing enough and you insisted that this was “not the whole picture”.


Watch the segment here:

Malcolm we urge you, as Prime Minister, don’t let it be.

5. The minister must be concerned with ALL women.

Tony Abbott didn’t just appoint himself the Minister for Women, he also called himself the ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs’ and spectacularly failed Aboriginal women in both capacities.

The life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women is still a decade less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

They are also 23 times more likely to be imprisoned — and are the fastest growing prison population. They are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than non-Indigenous women.

The new minister must be truly representative and address the concerns of all Australian women, not just some. This means getting real about treating women equally, regardless of their sexuality.

In this regard we’d love for you to take ​*actual*​ action on same-sex marriage and engage with the LGBTQI community to remove barriers for women (and, actually everyone) in the community.

6. Something must be done to assist elderly women living below the poverty line.

One third of Australians over 60 are living below the poverty line – and elderly women are disproportionately represented among them.

The Federal Government needs to drastically change its social welfare policies on this front.

A good start would be restoring the part-pensions of thousands of Australians which were withdrawn or slashed by the Abbott government. Housing needs to be addressed to.

7.  Please improve access to abortion services.

There are still jurisdictions in this country where women cannot access safe, legal, affordable abortion options.

While abortion laws are determined by each state or territory, having described yourself as “pro-choice” you must make strategic decisions so that we can enshrine reproductive rights for all Australian women.


8.  Support working mums.

Not only did Tony Abbott back flip on his signature “paid parental leave scheme”, he then proposed a significant cut to the existing entitlements. He also delivered a new child care package in the May budget which actually made it more difficult for Australian women to access childcare.

On ABC’s The Drum on Tuesday night, our publisher Mia Freedman said that she believed you were popular with women, comfortable around women and your credentials in terms of supporting gender equality were “spot on”.

Watch the video here:

Please, prove her right.

9. Address women on government boards.

Under Tony Abbott’s tenure as PM the representation of women on government boards went backwards. According to a Fairfax report today, you appear to have contributed to this. (Did you really only appoint one woman out of 16 to a board in your portfolio???)

The best thing here is that Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has done the hard yards for you. He has created and introduced a bill designed to ensure the 40% target is achieved. All you — and your Minister for Women — need to do is ensure it passes.

How is that for an easy win? Double points considering as you said yesterday, no one is so concerned with the appointment of women as you are.

10. Finally, we’d love for you to talk to us.

On Tuesday, I contacted your office to set up an appointment so that you can discuss the concerns outlined above with one of our senior editors.

While Tony Abbott was in the top job we lodged numerous requests for interview with him — by phone, email, haiku — and we heard nothing back. Not a peep, for two whole years. From our minister.

Please consider this an invitation, to you and the new Minister For Women (whoever it turns out to be), to engage with us here at the Mamamia Women’s Network — we engage with more than four million Australian women each month.

Honestly, we’d love to speak to you. Don’t make us write another haiku.

Yours with optimism,

Joanna Robin.

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