The challenge of the novel (& a comment from a hardened novelist)
Two new & enjoyable collections of poetry from PNG

Gender equality – you could end up with Peta O’Neill


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.


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Jordan Dean

Debating against the idea of 'reserved seats for women in parliament' doesn't make one a misogynst. So no name calling.

And there is always opposition in every aspect of life, whether in the family, organisation or parliament. Don't expect one's perspective or idea to be accepted by all without weighing out the pros and cons.

Lindsay F Bond

Glancing Jordan's words "hold parliament at a sense of entitlement", brings to mind that many commentators cite evidently "M's of P" are already accomplished at holding so, and are thus putting peril to the construct titled 'democracy'.

Consider this: Quite different from a change of image attempted by a previous Speaker causing the removal of 'masks' (was that decoration or dedication?), can it be that of the 'grand olde Haus' **, the very ethos of the building shape as outward appearance, ought be put to review and eventual relegation because of, among other reasons, lifespan of structure and technology and comprise of "M's of P".

What welcome awaits tourists at the entrance gate to that Haus, too often muggings and robbery?

What welcome awaits those who en-trance the Haus, having wisdom, wit, wiles and womanhood?

Phil, perhaps men "roughly 50%", while women more likely exceed and texturally?

** four decades is too soon to say 'olde', but many buildings are out-moded in such time frame. Chiefly, is it not that the building shape 'holds' to governance quite at odds with PNG's fledgling democracy?

`Daniel Kumbon

Elvina, I am from the highlands where polygamy is practiced. I know it, feel it and practice it. No culture is the right one.

But I admit in my book that the practise is no longer suited to the modern economic conditions.

But I can't blame another man for having multiple wives.

The 'side chicks' is another issue. Even powerful world evangelists have been caught with prostitutes.

The affair of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky a 22 year old White House intern was another famous sex scandal.

Even Adolf Hitler had a mistress. I wish I could ask her now why she loved such a hated dictator.

Let’s not go off track but stick with the issue of equality and the 22 reserved seats for our women in parliament.

Robert Wilson

Enjoyed reading the above posts, however, I choked on my coffee when I read Elvina's glowing praise of the worst ever Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.

Please Elvina, you are entitled to your opinion, however, for those of us who lived through that woman's mismanagement, I am unable to hold back my response.

The government that Gillard led certainly did pass a lot of legislation. However, much of that legislation was not good. It was hasty (live cattle ban, pink batts) to mention a couple that cost lives and livelihoods.

That prime minister was also responsible for committing Australia to programs that were never able to be funded but made sure was put into policy so that following governments would be saddled with rising debt, increasing welfare and a declining manufacturing industry plus much more.

So no Elvina, Julia Gillard was a total disaster and not because she is a woman, but that she was totally inept and tried to hide that behind her increasingly exaggerated claims that everyone opposing her is a misogynist which she of course then played to the social media to escape criticism about her failure in government.

The live cattle ban and the pink batts initiative were decisions of the Rudd not the Gillard government - KJ

Elvina Ogil

Daniel - Actually most of your male MPs have multiple wives and innumerable side chicks to go home to so that blows your theory (such as it was) out of the water.

Daniel Kumbon

I liked Jordan Dean's poem 'The Girl with the Bagi' published in PNG Attitude yesterday. I guess the language of ‘love’ is in every man.

I wish to share just three lines from a love letter mentioned somewhere in my latest book 'Survivor: Alive in Mum's Loving Arms'. It reads-

Wanaku Mono o le… My girl, my heart,
Have you ever stood still to watch a spring sprout out from the ground on the misty trails of the Koe Koname tapu or Bini Apini tapu mountain ranges just before the Ipasakale birds begin to sing in their sweet little voices as dawn begins to break and when mists still cover the valleys?
My love for you is like that – fresh and pure ready to cascade down the mountain slopes mixed with yours to form a river down in the valley. Can you see, as I do, our budding love growing to fullness?
You and I are young and our future is stretched right before us as one sees the Markham Valley from the top of Kassam Pass. I will take your hand and lead you there, but I am in doubt because you might have other plans – secret plans……
What will I do if you are taken away from me?
On the empty space at the far bottom right hand corner of the page was a small note of approval neatly written in his wife, Rosemary’s own handwriting.
It read: ‘Wane Mono o le, - My man, my heart,
Do not be troubled for I will come with you on the trip. You will take my hand and lead me to the place you have in your mind.’ dated June 12th, 1976.
The Old Man cried himself to sleep and his sobs were heard as whispers in the bedroom of his empty mansion on the hill...

Love, trust, respect, honesty, hardwork, patriotism etc those binding human qualities that hold together - relationships, families, clans, tribes and country must play central roles if gender equality is to be achieved one day.

This current debate must continue, it’s part of the fight.

And remember Margaret Thatcher - that fiery Iron Lady - after a hard day’s work went home to the loving embrace of a husband.

And I guess all our 111 male members of parliament have a loving wife at home and so does every other male in PNG.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I appreciate your point of view Jordan and I agree that ideally women should compete with men on a common ground.

Unfortunately there is still a very strong misogynist streak in PNG society. This skews the playing field, advantaging men and disadvantaging women.

When gender equality exists in PNG women will be able to compete equally with men.

In the meantime women need a leg up.

They are on the way to that equality, it's a hard and bloody fight but one day they will get there.

When that happens and there is a level playing field reserved seats can be abolished.

Elvina Ogil

I had felt that my contribution to this discussion ended with my last comment, however Jordan Dean’s absolute drivel warrants a response.

Jordan, you are correct (just barely) in your assessment that many capable women contested the recent elections, however I cannot ignore the absolutely abhorrent rabid sexism in your comments around the last three female members of parliament.

Delilah Gore continues to be subjected to the most facile commentary due to an alleged incident involving her apparent lack of decorum. In the greater scheme of MP misdemeanors, I do not think this was a mortal sin.

I can guarantee you if a male MP had behaved in such a manner, no one would bat an eyelid. I’ve seen male MPs get on planes absolutely rip roaring drunk and the most you idiotic Papua New Guineans do is giggle sheepishly into your tea.

Here are some facts. The governor of Eastern Highlands Province was charged with sexual assault. He was elected to public office. How is it acceptable on any terms that a man who was charged with sexually assaulting someone can hold public office?

If I listed all the male MPs who have a history of domestic violence, I’d be here for the better part of the day and I can assure you, a good chunk of the men in parliament have one or two beaten partners in their closets.

How is Loujaya Kouza’s divorce an issue of national importance? Or one that concerns you? Your comments on her hairstyle do nothing except cement your misogyny and your basic pettiness.

All three female former members of parliament were among the few MPs to fully acquit their finances at the end of their terms. Clearly male MPs struggle with a basic spreadsheet.

Interesting that you raised Julia Gillard and attempted an analysis of her time in parliament. Julia Gillard achieved more than merely “lashing out at the Opposition leader”.

In her time in parliament, her government passed hundreds of pieces of legislation, most of them of immense consequence to everyday Australians (including legislation to enact the National Disability Scheme, legislation to increase retirement incomes for ordinary Australians and education reform etc) - and in a minority government.

To steer parliament to pass legislation in a minority government speaks to considerable skill as a politician and a negotiator. Don’t reduce her achievements through your narrow prism of misogyny.

What you fail to grasp is that reserved seats are not the panacea. The introduction of proposed seats is but one suggested tool in an entire set of tools to enhance gender equality.

In your entire drivel of a post, you are correct (and it pains me to concede this) in your assessment that misogyny exists today amongst the educated and seemingly progressive. You are living proof.

If your contribution to this discussion is from a place of misogyny, as you have admitted, your puerile contributions are about as useful as a hole in the head. Please take them somewhere else.

Michael Dom

I believe that gender creates an entitlement in representative politics where one is found to be absent, misrepresented and underrepresented.

That is if we do aspire to the general principles of equality.

That would also be my belief in a female dominated world.

Jordan Dean

The paradox of voting and reserved seats for women

Again, we are a nation facing the prospects of a parliament on a knife’s edge, a euphemism for uncertainty and difficult times. It’s not like we haven’t experienced this before. We know enough to realize tumultuous times lay ahead.

I am no political commentator, not even an expert. This isn’t yet another commentary pretending to make sense of prevailing political winds. Instead, I wanted to zoom in on something more paradoxical that even our continued, albeit weary, belief in the fairness of our democratic system – voting.

After all, it’s one’s civic duty.

In this year’s election, no woman was elected into parliament although so many capable women contested. The three women in the last parliament were voted out.

Perhaps, because one joined the Taliban and almost hijacked a plane and the other one with the graceful kumul voice, divorced her husband after been elected and changed hairstyle every week. The people have spoken, I guess.

If Dame Josephine Abaijah, Dame Carol Kidu and other women can contest against men in an election and win, why are we crying foul over an all-male parliament and pushing for reserved seats?

Instead of crying over spilt milk, losing candidates (including women who contested) should analyse their campaign strategies, do a little research on how other candidates’ ousted People’s National Congress (PNC) giants.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog game in Papua New Guinea. If you can’t measure up, don’t waste everyone’s precious time.

A lot of the candidates that contested, work in the air-conditioned offices in Port Moresby and only visit home for Christmas. They are not popular in their respective electorates because they haven’t contributed anything of benefit to the people who will be voting them.

Just saying you will introduce or implement this and that means nothing to the people in the rural areas. Getting a hundred likes and comments on your article or post won’t win you an election.

Our people in the rural areas are ‘self-interested’ voters. They don’t vote for a party or a policy or how many degrees a candidate has. They vote for material benefits. Suffice to say, our rural people vote for a candidate who gives them money. Like ‘Thomas’, seeing is believing for them.

It took a few hundred years in the West before women were allowed to do men’s work, vote in an election or stand for elections.

But in less than forty years, PNG has given everything to our women. We have women who are pilots, doctors, engineers, teachers, politicians, departmental heads, pastors, etc. We don’t live in the 80’s or 90’s anymore. Our democracy is indeed unique.

Creating reserved seats in parliament will only take us back to the beginning of the twentieth century when North American and Western European women were treated second class citizens with very limited rights and privileges.
Gender equality must be respected and positions must be earned by every citizen. Creating ‘reserved seats’ is not gender equality.

I am also questioning who the twenty two women will represent since every electorate, which includes women, are already represented by their member of parliament.

I hope this is not a self-interest driven agenda for women to enjoy the perks and privileges of been in parliament with more-or-less nothing to do.

In fact, misogyny is not confined to Papua New Guinea alone. We’ve seen the first female Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard lashing out at Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott for being a misogynist. She lasted three years and was replaced by Kevin Rudd. It’s unavoidable everywhere.

That justifies my misogynist, nonetheless, rational view that “we don’t need ‘women’ in parliament. We need leaders. Women need to stop trying to hold parliament at ransom on account of their gender as a sense of entitlement”.

I don’t see why PNG women seek special considerations. Let’s compete on a level playing field and may the best person win by merit or strategy. Leaders inspire and motivate people. Show me leadership and vision, and you have my vote. Period!

I believe leadership is to be earned, not served freely on a silver platter!

PS: write to submit to the Crocodile Prize 2017 Essay category.

Michael Dom

The emergence of a new brand of politician like Kerenga Kua, Gary Juffa, Sam Basil and Bryan Kramer restores some faith in the ability of PNGians to choose good leaders.

It remains for us to allow women to be similarly empowered or at the very least enable their pathway to participating in the governing of this nation.

We could possibly have women rise in the footsteps of Dame Kidu or with intelligence and abilities like Dame Meg Taylor, Drs Orovu Sepoe and Betty Lovai. Or even be like those many uncle rated women who are at the heart of organisations and keep them beating.

Husait isave?

Peter Kranz

Phil - don't we already have quotas, decided on a geographical basis?

Who decided that there would be such-and-such a number of representatives for each province (PNG) or state (Australia)?

And how come Tasmania (population 515,000) gets the same number of senators as NSW (population 7.5 million)?

Seat boundaries are determined on a population basis and they are regularly reviewed. State representation in the Senate dates back to Federation and the need then to strike equality in the representation in the upper house of each of the then colonies - KJ

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