opinion

Just where is our new Sex Discrimination Commissioner?

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has been travelling the country, talking about what she’s been doing for the last eight years in her job as an advocate and agent of change for Australian women. In one of her favourite stories, she’s at a pub in the Northern Territory and is sent a bottle of bubbly with a hopeful wave by some blokes at a neighbouring table.

“We didn’t want to disappoint them, but we were hardly the easiest of targets: two lesbians, a woman recently engaged and the federal Discrimination Commissioner. That’s a tall order for any bloke.”

She’s had a tall order in her job – ending sex discrimination in this country. But she’s tackled it rigorously, from tackling domestic violence and sexual harassment, to converting powerful men to her cause with the ‘Male Champions of Change’ strategy, which persuades bosses to promote more women at senior levels.

Elizabeth finishes her term on September 4. We’ll will talk to her tomorrow about the highs and lows of her job.  But right now we have a more pressing issue at hand:

Who will take over her job at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission?

Elizabeth Broderick

No one knows.

The government is staying mum about the issue.

The Attorney General appoints the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. It’s not a job you see in the paper and apply for. Debrief Daily spoke to the office of Attorney General George Brandis and was told told the appointment was “under consideration and there is no announcement at this point”.

Will there be an announcement before Elizabeth Broderick finishes? “Close to” was the curt reply.

Does the appointment need to go to Cabinet and before the Prime Minister?

"I'll get back to you."

Now we don’t like being cynical. Really we don’t. But when our Minister for Woman is a bloke (PM Tony Abbott holds the post) and there's only one woman in our Federal Cabinet. we are feeling a tad concerned about the Government's commitment to replacing a woman we admire.

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Perhaps we should have asked "will the Sex Discrimination Commissioner be a woman?”

Now of course it can take a while to fill a job. But when the person in a job has been extended for a few years already, you could be excused for thinking our fearless leaders had a plan.

While it's not unusual for a place on the Commission to be vacant for a while, one Commissioner has never been replaced: the Disability Commissioner Graeme Innis finished last year and his considerable work was added to another Commissioner's diary while a new specialist 'Freedom Commissioner' was appointed. Tim Wilson, from the conservative free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, got that job despite not having legal nor legislative experience.

So who is up for the job as Sex Discrimination Commissioner? We'd love to know. Under the act "A person is not qualified to be appointed as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner unless the Minister is satisfied that the person has appropriate qualifications, knowledge or experience."

So, George Brandis, while you are having a think about what that means, we have some suggestions about who should probably not be considered:

- Mark Latham

- Angry Anderson

- Eddie McGuire

- Shane Warne, and

- Kyle Sandilands.

Anyway. At ease, ladies.

We should probably relax our cynicism. It'll probably be Bronwyn Bishop. She's looking for a new job. She doesn't really believe in sexism but she could catch up.

Alas, this gig does not come with a helicopter.

We'll let you know if we hear anything.

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

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