New Ministry (New Labor Cabinet)

23 Feb 2011 archivespeech

This speech is in regards to disappointing treatment of this Rann Labor government in its new cabinet.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:27): I rise to speak on the disappointing treatment of this Rann Labor government in its new cabinet, which The Advertiser chose to label on its front page as, 'Equal opportunity—not in Labor's new cabinet.' In fact, under Mike Rann, this government has gone backwards in its representation of women.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins): I remind members to refer to the Premier as the Premier or the Hon. Mike Rann.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you, Mr Acting President. Women have been bypassed in favour of a narrow faction. They have been kept in junior positions, and no new women have been brought into the fold in what has been labelled by SA Unions secretary Janet Giles as 'boofhead politics'. This government chooses to talk about boards, but we all know that the real power in government resides with the pecking order of the leadership ranks.

There are a number of Liberal women firsts in our history that we can refer to very proudly. Obviously, we have the first elected leader of a major political party in our leader, Isobel Redmond; Amanda Vanstone was Australia's longest serving female cabinet minister at federal level; we had our first female agriculture minister in Australia in the Hon. Caroline Schaefer; we had the first cabinet minister in 1968; the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1966; the first woman opposition whip; the first woman elected to the South Australian parliament; and the first woman to be endorsed by a political party in 1924.

Letters to the editor have reflected this disgraceful decision by this government. A regular contributor to The Advertiser, a Mr Robert McCormick, wrote in response to minister Gago's characterisation that the Liberals have an appalling record in promoting women, stating that equal opportunity is a bipartisan concept, although one could be forgiven for thinking that the Premier had abandoned this. He states:

That women in the Liberal Party decide not to stand is their decision. Many would rather work in the background than the cesspit parliament has become.

I think it certainly has become that under this government, and that has been my experience when approaching women to stand for office. Mr McCormick continues:

The ALP does not allow such freedom. ALP policy is that it must have a certain number of female MPs.

He then goes on to say that the party deliberately preselects women with little or no ability in politics, which might be a bit unkind, but he posits:

This is quite deliberate for the almost entirely male party hierarchy and their mates in parliament are, with good reason, scared stiff they might select a woman who is better than any of them.

Further, in Indaily Susan Mitchell has written a very powerful piece entitled 'Disgrace: Where are the women?' She says:

And all members of SA Labor Party should hang their heads in shame. How, in 2011, can Premier Mike Rann, have the gall to announce a so-called 'renewal', a 'regeneration' even, in his Ministry and not promote any of the three women who currently hold Ministries? Moreover, how can he have the hypocrisy not to promote any new women into the 'new' line-up. Rann is forever claiming former Premier Don Dunstan as his hero and mentor…a Premier who huffs and puffs, and still we only have three female ministers out of 15, and no new women elevated to the ministry.

She criticises the newly elected Deputy Premier for saying that it is unfortunate that three women lost their seats in the state election. She says:

Unfortunate? How pathetic. How lame an excuse for not elevating three new women into the ministry or at least promoting the ones they had. Men also lost their seats but it didn't stop the Premier from elevating two new men…Is there perhaps another Don who is now the real mentor of Premier Rann?

I think she is referring to Senator Farrell, the head of the so-called Christian Taliban. She says that this collection of people believe in things such as no sex before marriage, no oral contraception, no use of condoms, no right to legal abortion, no use of the morning-after pill, no divorce and no same-sex relationships. She says:

Which Don should the Premier be following? Why should a woman give them her vote?—

that is the ALP—

Why should a man who believes in equality give them his vote?