It is not my ambition to be the pooper at a national feminist party. Like so many others, I took enormous pleasure in watching a misogynist squirm as the Prime Minister called him on his misogyny in the national parliament yesterday.

It’s just a pity that this was not the most important event on women’s issues to occur in parliament yesterday.

The passage of the legislation to move 100 000 single parents  (the overwhelming majority of them women although an increasing proportion are men) onto Newstart is a far more fundamental event than the display of Prime Ministerial eloquence. This measure is not about encouraging women to build a better future for themselves and their offspring. It’s about further entrenching the Howard-era marginalisation of single mothers.

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Single mothers are generally tired of living in poverty by the time their youngest child turns eight, but they must negotiate a more complex range of issues than other job-seekers before they can take up full-time employment. With a consensus emerging within the ALP that welfare payments do not meet basic living requirements, what is the point of cutting the incomes of 100 000 families prior to the pending review?

Julia Gillard may be able to make Tony Abbott squirm in parliament, but women still seem to be regarded as easier to discipline than men. Politicians are far more willing to tell single mothers that they have to get into the workforce, pronto, than to tell the fathers of their children that they have to step up to the mark on child support. Gendered politics yesterday was not just about Tony Abbott’s record.

I did not entirely boycott the party yesterday. Abbott got the serve he has so richly deserved for so long, and I was riveted to every second.

But at the end of the day, I will not be lectured on sexism or misogyny by Julia Gillard on the very day that she has driven so many women deeper into poverty.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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