Where is the Minister for Women?

When Tony Abbott, as Prime Minister, declared himself the Minister for Women there was a collective and despairing sigh from women around Australia.

Today we have the Hon. Marise Payne, Australia’s Foreign Minister, as the latest representative of women in Cabinet, as Minister for Women.

The Hon. Marise Payne has her hands full at present in her high profile very demanding role as Foreign Minister, particularly in present times when tensions are rising between China and Western nations. She has only recently spent time in Washington meeting various U.S. officials.

COVID-19 is having a disproportionate social and economic impact on women in Australia. It is critical that the voices of our leaders are heard speaking up for women during this pandemic.

Kristine Ziwica of the newsletter Women’s Agenda has written an analysis of Payne’s efforts on behalf of women and has found there is little evidence of her representing women and the impact of COVID-19 on women.

Between early March and up to 21 July Payne tweeted 254 times. 42 tweets had the merest connection related to women and the pandemic, and of those 42 tweets only 12 were specifically related to COVID-19.  Ziwica found that only two of the tweets offered concrete and specific solutions or funding to address women’s issues related to COVID-19.

During this pandemic women face losing jobs, particularly in hospitality, nursing and childcare, all predominantly female occupations, and increasing domestic violence.

The first tweet announced an ‘extra’ $150 million towards violence against women, to help ensure women’s safety through the pandemic, which was described as ‘woefully inadequate’ by front line women’s safety organisations.

A further tweet mentioned a $1.8 million investment under the Office of Women’s Leaders Development Program for four grants to develop specific policies directed towards women.

Both these grants together in no way make up for the hundreds of million dollars expected to be spent on jobs and shovels for the boys.

Ziwica found that 14 May was the only time Payne has spoken in Parliament addressing the problems and impact COVID-19 was having on women, naming increasing domestic violence, demands on women to fulfill the demand for unpaid care work and childcare arrangements. This appears to be the one time that Payne has addressed these issues through the wider platform of Parliament, a discussion which is constantly and regularly presented by a diverse collection of journalists and speakers for women’s organisations and groups.

Payne needs to put more energy into speaking up for the women she has been given the responsibility of representing or give the task to another Parliamentarian who has more time to devote to this critical situation.

Finally, Payne has said ‘As a Government we are very aware that women will be vital to the economy recovery’.

It is time the position of Minister for Women is promoted to a full-time position in Cabinet, not as a side project of minor importance. In that way we will see that women will indeed become part of that recovery.

This article has been prepared by WR Law for information purposes only and is not legal advice. Please contact WR Law directly for legal advice regarding your specific circumstances.

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Ref: Kristine Ziwica of Women’s Agenda