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Forget political parity, put women in charge

PNG Parliament House
The PNG parliament - 111 seats and exactly zero women


TUMBY BAY - Those men in Australia’s ruling Liberal-National coalition are currently recoiling at the idea of introducing quotas that would equalise the number of elected women with elected men.

It is reminiscent of the reaction of male politicians in the Papua New Guinea parliament to the same idea a couple of times in the past: full of warm words and frozen action.

In PNG, there were phony arguments that special seats for women would be unfair or crass symbolism or something.

In Australia we’re hearing the same dishonest talk that a belief in ‘merit-based opportunity’ is always better than enforced quotas as if the current men who occupy the government benches have in some way got there by merit.

One has to wonder whether the men’s opposition to quotas has more to do with them not wanting to have more women in parliament because that will mean fewer men, which could be them.

It’s interesting to contrast the differences between what is happening in the conservative coalition Canberra with what has already happened in the federal opposition and in many of the state parties.

Queensland’s Labor Party government, for instance, not only has a woman as premier but half the cabinet positions are held by women as are half the party’s seats in parliament.

Perhaps simply achieving parity between men and women is not the whole answer.

Maybe the big breakthrough is when women take over leadership roles. Once that happens acceptance of equality seems to rapidly follow.

There has already been a female Labor prime minister in Australia. Federal Labor – at 46% women - also has near gender parity.

How much this is due to its quota system and how much it is due to the example set by Julia Gillard is unknown but it is likely to be a combination of both factors.

Given the number of senior women in the federal Labor opposition, it would not be surprising to see one take over the leadership at some stage and go on to become prime minister.

The Liberal-National Party, on the other hand, is still struggling with parity. Recent modelling suggests that if it proceeds at its present rate it will be several decades before it reaches gender equivalence.

A party of government cannot claim to represent women’s interests with any credibility when it’s moving at such a glacial pace toward equal representation.

Its only senior female cabinet minister, Julie Bishop, gave up in disgust in 2019. The coalition has a long way to go to catch up with Labor.

Papua New Guinea hasn’t even one female member in its national parliament out of 111 seats and at the last election in 2017 went backwards.

In 1977, immediately after Independence, there were three women elected to parliament. Only the parliament elected in 2012 has ever elected as many women again. The current parliament elected in 2017 has no women MPs at all.

The same can be said for its provincial governments. In 2012 there were two female governors, now there are none.

Minority and non-binary group’s aside the number of men and women in both Australia and Papua New Guinea is roughly equal. Both groups have particular interests. You would think that behoves equal representation in their respective parliaments.

The current federal government in Australia severely underrepresents the interests of women and seems uninterested in fixing the problem. The possibility of there ever being a female Liberal prime minister in Australia is extremely remote.

The Papua New Guinea parliament wholly represents the interests of men and effectively ignores women’s interests. The possibility of there ever being a female prime minister in Papua New Guinea is so remote as to be laughable.


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Philip Kai Morre

Women are gaining an increasing awareness of who they are and they are advancing in business, education and other sectors. Leave politics for the time being and let's concentrate on other avenues.

Failing to have women of talent and honour in the PNG parliament is not helping PNG progress. It also shames PNG before the world to have a parliament of 111 members and not one woman - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Aw, c'mon Bernard, she did save all the tradies' utes. And she does have that delightful Aussie twang.

I wonder whether Scomo will invest in empathy training for all his female MPs too. I'd assume that for someone like Lamming it will require emasculation and large doses of estrogen.

Bernard Corden

I would also add that the incumbent Attorney-General of Australia is a female and First Law Officer of the Crown of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Hearing protection will become a mandatory requirement in the lower house to attenuate the screeching cacophony and supplement face masks, which are a blessing in disguise although finding one that fits will be a significant challenge.

The Subiaco besom and former squeeze of Ross Lightfoot is the same harridan cabinet minister who introduced the controversial Work for the Dole Scheme under the federal government JobActive Program, which is merely lawless slavery and incongruous with Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The program involved the death of a young teenager at the Toowoomba showgrounds back in 2016 and over five years later the federal government has still not produced a report into the tragedy.

It is the same government and minister involved in the exploitation of vulnerable migrants via the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently confirmed there had been over 80 fatalities throughout the agricultural and horticultural sectors in the decade leading up to 2016, which included numerous quad bike incidents on rural properties.

Other victims suffered appalling injuries following the operation of dilapidated farming equipment or machinery and the horrific events often involved tractors with power take off shafts that frequently left vulnerable migrants disabled and permanently disfigured.

This is aggravated by rampant intimidation with frequent accounts of sexual harassment and relentless abuse, which is underpinned by an autocratic and militaristic culture of fear.

The Seasonal Worker Program and its supplementary Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme are demand driven structures, which are fraught with significant risk and merely boiler plate replicas of the cataclysmic home insulation program.

The arrangements are underpinned by free market fundamentalism and have been usurped by corporate power with superficial protocols covering employer accreditation, supplier registration and frivolous supply chain audits.

Much like Work for the Dole under the JobActive program it may also circumvent statutory requirements covering workers compensation insurance.

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's an extremely good point Bernard.

There are plenty of women in government, business and elsewhere supporting and perpetuating patriarchy.

I've worked for a few of them,including departmental bosses and government ministers and some of them were worse than men.

That makes sense in a way because it is the only way they can survive in a patriarchy.

Bernard Corden

Patriarchy is far more profound than just men exercising power. It is about the organisation of power according to masculinist discourse, which determines how it is embedded in language and its trajectory.

Patriarchy and matriarchy are not about being male or female. Females can be patriarchal and males can be matriarchal regardless of branding or spin.

Gender can be used as a source of power to manipulate and dominate others of any sex. The issue of power is how it is enacted and what its abuse does to others, especially when it objectifies and dehumanises people.

The late Tony Benn succinctly summarised the problem at many of his town hall meetings, which often displayed his infamous five questions written on Butchers' Paper or in chalk on blackboard:

1) What power have you got?
2) Where did you get it from?
3) In whose interests do you exercise it?
4) To whom are you accountable?
5) How do we get rid of you?


Philip Fitzpatrick

Patriarchy and corruption are the biggest obstructions preventing women succeeding in politics in PNG.


To a certain extent the same can be said of the Liberal/National Party in Australia.

Watching the new women's committee in Canberra one thing immediately becomes obvious. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is running the agenda.

Patriarchy is deeply embedded in PNG society and unlikely to change soon. So too is corruption. While patriarchy rules corruption rules.

The only solution? Quotas.

Unfortunately it is the men in the PNG parliament who will decide if quotas for women come into force.

Bernard Corden

"Feminism involves so much more than gender equality. And it involves so much more than gender. Feminism must involve a consciousness of capitalism (I mean, the feminism that I relate to. And there are multiple Feminisms, right).

"It has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post colonialities and ability and more genders than we can even imagine, and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name."

- Angela Davies


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