Today the wife of Australia’s alternative Prime Minister, Margie Abbott gave her first political speech at a business function in Penrith. Her speech came after a full day of media appearances, where she defended her husband as a feminist and supporter of women.
By MARGIE ABBOTT
If I appear somewhat nervous it is because I am. I am very at home addressing an unruly bunch of under 5s – so perhaps I will see you all as just that – an unruly bunch of under 5s.
I don’t pretend to be a public speaker, or indeed a public policy expert. There are no formal letters after my name and I have never been elected to public office. So I can only speak to you today about my experiences – as a mother, a small business operator, a child care worker, a volunteer and as Tony’s wife and life partner. Like so many women, I’ve had to juggle the joys and struggles of raising children, managing a career, lending a hand to causes I believe in and giving back to others.
I like to think that I keep getting better at it – and that we all make the choices that are best for our own lives – at times for me, it has been to go out to work, and other times it was to be at home for the girls.
There have been times in my family life, where I’ve worked to supplement the household incomes, and there have been other times, particularly when the girls were younger when I chose to say at home. I recall when Tony first entered politics he was painted as a ‘traditionalist’ – white picket fence; long suffering wife at home raising the kids. I recall laughing to myself as I read this particular article having just brushed the remains of Bridget’s weetbix off my shirt; dropped the girls off to school and daycare before I raced off to work!
It was also during this time that Tony and I would do the sums at the end of the week – where we took out the child care fees, took out the tax, took out the petrol and transport costs and realised I’d netted the princely sum of $20 a day. For all the effort and stress, it wasn’t worth it.
I know that parents are still doing those sums and still working out the same equations for their own families. Unfortunately for many families, even if a parent wants to stay at home, they don’t have that choice, because that $20 a day, or maybe more in today’s money, is the difference between treading water and going seriously backwards.
I don’t pretend that the Abbotts are doing it tough, especially now. But when Tony was the only breadwinner and we were paying school fees and health insurance premiums, I often had to put off paying some bills till the following month especially when they just seemed to be going up and up and up. That experience has helped to keep Tony grounded when it’s so easy, mixing with people who have succeeded, to imagine that new taxes and charges don’t really hurt.