Ruth Webber
has been a Labor Senator for Western Australia since 2001, not that
you’ve probably ever heard of her. And the following email might
explain why. The AMWU-backed Senator doesn’t appear to be that bright –
you don’t put details of internal faction fights in writing and send
them around. Maybe she was preoccupied by Party matters.

And her
staff mightn’t have been able to help her much. They, curiously, seem
to have been doing Labor Party work on the taxpayer’s tab. Read on…

Dear Emily’s Members

Not long after I was
preselected for the Senate I had one of those candidate interviews with
people from National Emily’s List. It was a very relaxed and informal
affair (over a bottle of red wine at Sharryn Jackson’s house) where the
National Office got to learn a little about my passion for public
education (amongst other things).

At that interview Cheryl
Davenport and I discussed my taking on a more active role in Emily’s
and dedicating some of my staff resources to assisting the WA ELAG. At
the time I agreed to become WA Co-convenor and to allocate one position
two days a week to Emily’s. Initially that position was filled by Amy
Bachrach and for the last couple of years Amanda Rainey has taken on
the challenge. Apart from all of the usual reasons for being happy to
dedicate some staff resources to the cause I was also mindful of the
fact that I would be away a lot so it made sense to have someone from
the office also heavily involved if we were to offer the support the
organisation deserved.

When Cheryl decided to step down from
all of her formal roles with the organisation she suggested that we
approach Shelley Archer to become the new Co-convenor with me. I
readily agreed having known Shelley for an extended period and worked
with her in the past. After Shelley’s appointment we had a number of
successful functions and things seemed to be progressing reasonably
smoothly.

Once Shelley was preselected for a safe position on
the Mining and Pastoral ticket I again turned my mind to the future of
the ELAG in Western Australia.

It has long been my view that
for organisations like Emily’s to survive their decision making
structures should not be too “top heavy” – in other words they need to
involve rank and file members in key positions not just us
parliamentarians!

So, once Shelley was elected, she and I had
lunch and I raised my thoughts with her – suggesting that it would not
be appropriate for both Co-convenors to be MPs and that therefore I was
prepared to step down. I told her that despite this I was prepared to
maintain the staffing commitment from the office, and that I would
discuss my decision with Amanda and (if she was prepared to continue)
get her to draw up an outline of work she does for Emily’s so that we
all knew where we stood.

At the lunch Shelley raised with me
that some women were reluctant to be involved with Emily’s in WA as
they did not feel comfortable working with me. I felt at the time that
my decision to step down as Co-convenor should help ease that concern –
and was, I must admit, a little disappointed. Shelley and I discussed
approaching Carolyn Jacobsen to become my replacement Co-convenor.

Amanda
and I met last weekend to finalise her “job description” for Emily’s. I
was away again for the first two days this week and Amanda had a
meeting arranged with Shelley and Carolyn to discuss it yesterday.
Unfortunately Carolyn couldn’t make it.

I spoke to Amanda late
yesterday and she informed me that Shelley also raised with her that a
number of women didn’t feel comfortable being involved in Emily’s while
she took on the key role that she does, as she works for me.

So,
the long and the short of it is, rather than have Emily’s torn apart by
grubby factional and sub-factional ALP politics Amanda and I have
decided that it would probably be best that she discontinue her
involvement as well. I am sorry it has come to this.

I want to
take this opportunity to thank all of you for maintaining your
commitment to Emily’s and all that is stands for – goodness knows
Australian women and the ALP are going to need you now more than ever.

I
intend to maintain my membership and commitment to the organisation –
and look forward to seeing you all at the dinner Shelley has organised
for tomorrow night.

Regards

Ruth

Ruth Webber
Labor Senator for Western Australia
Phone: (08) 9409 9599
Fax : (08) 9409 9388
E-mail: [email protected]

Peter Fray

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