Liberal women get there on merit, not quotas

Senator Michaelia Cash, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women, writes: Re.”Where are the Women in the Liberal Party” (October 23). In writing a response to the recent article by Stephen Luntz, the glaring hypocrisy of the Labor Party in dumping Senator Penny Wong, a member of the Gillard cabinet, to the number two position on the South Australian Senate ticket behind factional boss Senator Don Farrell, did not escape me.

Luntz in his article fails to recognise that the Liberal Party chooses its candidates based on merit rather than pre-determined quotas, as did Tanja Kovac in her piece “Women in the bear pit: state-by-state analysis of female MPs” on Monday.

As a Senator who was selected on merit, I am proud to represent a political party that believes that the selection of women for parliament should recognise merit and excellence rather than a unilateral quota. I also fail to draw the logic — as Kovac seems to — that women will vote for a party with more female candidates alone, regardless of their performance.

In researching his article, Luntz also fails to recognise the Liberal Party’s very proud history of “firsts” when it comes to women in federal parliament.

For example, Enid Lyons was the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives. In 1949 prime minister Robert Menzies appointed her vice-president of the executive council. Senator Margaret Guilfoyle was the first woman appointed as a member of cabinet with a specific portfolio and was the first woman to hold an economic portfolio.  The Liberal Party’s Senator Margaret Reid is the first and only woman to have served as president of the Senate. Senator Annabelle Rankin was the first female whip in any Westminster parliament. Senator Helen Coonan was appointed minister for revenue and assistant treasurer making her the first woman to hold an Australian treasury portfolio since federation.

Eight of the 10 longest serving women in the Commonwealth parliament since 1901 are Liberal women.

Luntz in his article also says that “it would appear that any problem with women belongs at least as much to the entire Coalition machine as it does to Abbott”. It is disappointing, but hardly surprising, that in making this statement Luntz failed to make any mention of the positive achievements of Tony Abbott and the former Howard government when it comes to delivering real policy outcomes for women.

Let’s look at the facts in relation to the Liberal Party’s record on delivering real policy outcomes for women.

As minister for employment and workplace relations minister, Tony Abbott amended the S-x Discrimination Act to explicitly recognise breastfeeding as a potential ground of unlawful dismissal in the workplace. He was also responsible for the passage of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act in 2000.

As health minister, Tony was responsible for increased funding for successful screening programs for cervical cancer. He also listed Anastrozole and Herceptin on the PBS for treatment of early stage breast cancer.

The Coalition offered assistance to women facing the difficulties of infertility by subsidising treatment, including Assisted Reproductive Technology services through Medicare and the PBS. (And let’s not forget that Labor tried to overturn this policy in 2009 when they faced a budget squeeze).

As Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott has committed to introduce a comprehensive Paid Parental Leave scheme should we gain government at the next election. Unlike Labor’s scheme, the Coalition’s PPL scheme includes superannuation which is an important step in addressing the chronic disparity between male and female retirement incomes.

Luntz fails to mention that until this current government’s term, it was the Liberal Party that had made seven out of the 10 appointments of women to cabinet since federation — and the majority were made under former prime minister Howard.

The achievements of the former Howard government and the policies of a future Abbott government are testament to the commitment of the Liberal Party to recognising, protecting and enhancing the position of and opportunities for Australian women.

News Ltd journos not being ranked

Stephen Browning, head of corporate affairs at News Limited, writes: Re: “And the scoreboard says … News journos face editor ranking” (yesterday). Andrew Crook has put two and two together and got a banana. He has somehow conflated a light-hearted local league table in Adelaide into a chilling damaging Moneyball-style internal assessment ranking system that we’re going to roll out across the country to track individual success. It’s absolutely untrue and complete nonsense.

Ken Boyne writes: As a teacher I would say that ranking journos in the way outlined in Andrew Crook’s article is about as valid a way of judging these people as MySchool is at ranking schools.

Radio National revamp

Michael Tull, national president of the Community and Public Sector Union, writes: Re. “A memo to my RN colleagues: welcome to the 21st century“. There is a real debate underway at Radio National as ABC grapples with some genuine problems: how to keep an existing audience and attract a new one, keep producing great programs in trusted and tested formats while investigating new creative formats, and all the while responding to the challenges of the digital age, and doing all of that with an inadequate budget. It’s a serious discussion. Jobs are at stake and some much loved and important programs face the axe. Serious contributions to the debate are welcome.

And that why it’s so disappointing that your anonymous correspondent has sold you a pup — twice!

Monday’s version of the story lambasted the CPSU for apparently asking management “clueless” questions about job cuts and production plans. By Tuesday the story had changed — and now it was a “staff committee” that was tagged as being “out of touch” for asking the same apparently dumb questions. Neither version is right.

The questions that so offended your correspondent (and apparently revealed just why cultural change is needed) didn’t come from union nor staff. They were from ABC management.

The questions your correspondent quotes (and rails against) are actually ones management had posed to themselves in a question & answer document. The Q&A is a staple of the change management tool kit — employers argue their case through posing themselves some simplified questions and then answering them.

Your anonymous correspondent incorrectly attributes those questions to the union and staff, thereby creating a straw man which your correspondent duly knocks down. In doing so your correspondent misrepresents the genuine concerns of CPSU members. But more importantly your correspondent gives your readers the false impression that the issues at RN can be solved by axing a few old and selfish folk and flicking the switch to a new and exciting future. The reality is of course much more complex.

Rather than throwing rocks, we are committed to representing our members’ views and making sure people’s rights are respected. We actively debate the issues of the day, protect jobs (including a growing number of cases where we are winning permanent jobs for long serving casual staff), and yes we ask lots of questions of management and expect detailed responses. Your anonymous correspondent might think that’s a bit old fashioned, but that’s what unions do.

Peter Fray

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