Speech in Parliament on the appointment of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner

2.10pm | February 29, 2016

I rise to take note of the document entitled ‘Minister for Women (Senator Cash) to a resolution of the Senate of 3 February 2016 concerning the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’. It is a relief to see that the government has finally filled the vacancy of Sex Discrimination Commissioner. It is a shame that it has taken 5 months and 7 days.

Through its actions, the government has shown disrespect to the role of the Commissioner, and disrespect to the women of Australia. After two and a half years of this government, it is an attitude women are starting to expect.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Women earn on average $284.20 less than men every week. This means they must work an extra 65 days a week to catch up.
  • Single women over 65 are the largest social group living in poverty.
  • 1 in 5 workers were sexually harassed in the last 5 years

Despite this, the government thought it was ok not to have an official advocate for women for almost half a year.

It pays to compare the government’s attitude to women to the government’s attitude to something it actually cares about – unscientific complaints about windfarms.

Windfarms are an issue dear to the government – the former Treasurer is on the record as saying “I can’t stand those things.” It took almost 6 months to appoint a Sex Discrimination Commissioner. It took only 67 days from the date of the Senate’s report into windfarm complaints for the Government to appoint a wind farm commissioner (who, by the way, earns only slightly less than does the commissioner supporting the rights of more than half of all Australians).

Safe School’s program, gay marriage, wind farms - it is increasingly clear that this is a government captured by the preoccupations of a narrow, unrepresentative minority. And unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, women don’t make the list.