The headline dubbed the key strategists behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten as the ‘Sultans of Spin’. The picture of the nine advisers, compiled by The Australian, leapt from my iPhone’s screen.
Eight men. One woman. I was surprised for one-tenth of a second until I was struck by the utter predictability of it.
Of course a woman constitutes one-ninth of this influential group. Sure, they constitute half the population – half of all voters – but an equal number of seats at a decision making table? Perish the thought!
In different times this might matter less. In times when our politicians were collectively and categorically rising to the challenges of the day. Where our politicians represented the population and were capable of delivering leadership, reform and progress. In times when the word diversity was applicable, rather than aspirational, in regard to our leaders and representatives.
Those times aren’t now.
We are in the sixth year of an unprecedented period of dysfunction in Australian politics. For a while it was possible to believe this dysfunction was the sole domain of the Labor party. Tony Abbott’s stint as Prime Minister shattered that illusion: the Liberal party was similarly afflicted.
Malcolm Turnbull’s ascent to PM last September delivered with it an overwhelming sense of relief and hope that finally, finally, the troubles of the past were behind us. That the government could get on governing.
Nine months on, sadly, that seems absurdly unlikely.
Watch Tanya Plibersek echo those same sentiments below. Post continues after video…
Rather than facing anything as constructive as reform, we are faced with a treasurer and a PM entangled in a visibly fractious relationship singing from quite different song-sheets.
We are facing internal disunity to the extent that the “laughable” proposition of minister-turned-backbencher Kevin Andrews publicly admitting he’s willing to challenge the still-hugely popular PM gains traction.
We are faced with a disaffected former PM-turned backbencher giving Kevin Rudd a decent run for his money as the most internally disruptive MP in Parliament’s history.
We are getting half-baked ideas sold as policy, dumped faster than they were even floated.
We are being short-changed everywhere we look. Which is – undoubtedly – why the latest Newspoll which puts Labor in front of the Liberal Party in the two-party preferred poll, makes sense.
It’s impossible to look at the current government’s state without being dismayed. The dreaded political soap opera we’ve been willing away is back.
Writer, Georgie Dent. (Image supplied)
And, it’s against that backdrop that the image of eight men and a single woman advising two of our most senior politicians made my heart sink and my head spin.
The flipside to the saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is this: when something is categorically broken, IT NEEDS FIXING.
Our political parties, our politicians and our political system are failing us. Badly.
THEY NEED FIXING.
And I have an idea of where to start: bring more women to the table.
To the advisers table. To the cabinet table. To the pre-selection table. To the focus group tables. To every table in politics.
Politics in Australia remains overwhelmingly white and male.
Yesterday’s picture of the advisers confirms it. A quick glance at last week’s COAG dinner confirms it. Annastacia Palaczuk was the only woman among eight leaders.
And let’s be honest the results of the status quo speak for themselves.
Women don’t represent some far-flung minority: they are half our population. One woman out of eight leaders in the year 2016 in a country like Australia is as ludicrous as it was to have a single female in a cabinet of 18 for eighteen months.
Individual woman aren’t inherently more talented or capable than men. But diverse groups of people are far more successful at decision making than groups made up of like-minded individuals. This has been proven time and time again.
Without a diverse mix of people – from different backgrounds, of different genders, with different ideas – at the table in politics we are selling ourselves short before we even begin.
Elle's #MoreWomen campaign is the perfect example of how few women hold decision-making positions globally.
From the looks of yesterday’s Newspoll the Federal election could be a lot closer than many thought. My hot tip to Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull is this – for your best shot at victory surround yourself with as many women as men.
If you don’t, I fear recent political history will only repeat itself and that’s a fate no Australian deserves.
Do you agree that we need more women in decision-making positions?