TUMBY BAY – Here is something to consider in the current debate about gender equality and reserved seats for women in the Papua New Guinean parliament.
Having women in parliament, whether in reserved seats or on merit, will not necessarily provide a panacea for the way it operates.
They will not necessarily be Papua New Guinea’s political saviours.
Women are just as prone as men to the evils that make governments dysfunctional, including corruption, mismanagement, stupidity and the promotion of bizarre ideas.
I think a perusal of the activities of the few women who have broken through the barrier in Papua New Guinea speaks for itself. Not to put too fine a point on it, most of them were disappointing.
You might protest and say they only failed because they were outnumbered and bullied by the men around them. But I’m not sure this would be entirely true.
In my illustrious career in the South Australian public service I had a couple of female bosses.
One of them was just one notch above me and the others even further up the line, including at ministerial level.
Our work was contentious but these women, rather that acting as innovators and advocates for their clientele, invariably toed the government line.
Their enthusiasm for maintaining the status quo was a sight to behold, they were far worse than many of the male managers.
They were ambitious and the way upwards was paved with the corpses of abandoned principles.
On a wider scale we also have some fine examples of savage women in charge. The nasty Maggie Thatcher in Britain springs to mind. She is still a political icon for right wing politicians the world over, including in Australia.
What I’m saying, I think, is that promoting the cause of gender equality in Papua New Guinea, especially in its parliament, has its dangers.
The idea that women will introduce a gentler, more consultative and community orientated element may not necessarily be the case.
A she-devil backed by a horde of plundering Amazons has to be a possibility. You could end up with a parliament dominated by Pauline Hanson clones or a Peta O’Neill in the chair.
But that is not really the point.
If you end up with a bunch of rabid women running the show, so be it.
What is really at stake is the principle of gender equality, not the quality of that balance.
Women make up roughly 50% of the population and this demands that they should have equal representation.
In an ideal 111 member Papua New Guinean parliament there should be 55½ women, gay and straight.
How they express their politics is irrelevant.