Tuesday 4 December 2018

I am all for more women in parliament

indeed I would say we desperately need more women in parliament. It would be a very good thing indeed.
But...they have to be the right women. There have been some women elected to parliament who have not been right for the job. You need to be tough in politics. Some of the women have not been tough enough. 

I know two former female Senators very well. Both are former Ministers - on opposite sides of the political fence. I know my local and federal MPs -  both women. I have worked with other female MPs as well as male MPs. 
Women bring something different to the job. I went to law school with one of the Senators.  I don't think anyone will forget the occasion on which the lecturer was discussing a case and saying "The Minister made the decision on..." He went on to try and explain the law behind the decision. 
I was sitting next to the Minister. She grew restive and finally said,
    "The Minister is present and the Minister made the decision on her experience as a wife and a mother. The law just happened to fit the decision."
Perhaps it wasn't quite as simple as she made it sound but she left politics with a reputation for being caring and compassionate as well as practical. Would that have been possible if she had not had the experience of bringing up a family? She wasn't trying to undermine the lecturer, be funny or smart.  She simply wanted people to know that there was much more to the decision than simply following the law of the day.
Yes, you also need to bring maturity to politics. While it might seem good to have young, new blood come in there needs to be an understanding of what can be done. I often wonder how many people have entered politics with genuine good intentions - only to discover that you can't do what you have said you will do. All sorts of things get in the way. The law may not allow something. The money won't be there. A committee blocks it. The party you are with decides to change the policy or drop the idea.  The public servants subtly refuse to cooperate so no progress is made. The legislation proposed gets knocked down.
You need experience to handle all of that - experience many people simply don't have. It doesn't need to be in politics itself but it does need to be in areas where policy or the law or both is being made if you want to reach the top. You also need time...and time is also in short supply in parliament so it is best to arm yourself with experience first.
I am aware of moves to give young people of sixteen the right to vote. I am opposed to that. Too many don't have the experience or maturity necessary even if they seem to be well informed. I think eighteen is too young to be compelled to attend the ballot box.  It also means we could potentially end up with someone not much older than that in parliament. I think they would struggle - and that we would struggle with them. 
Being in parliament is also a full-time job. It isn't a 9-5 job or even a 9-5 job plus some night work. It can, if done properly, be twelve hour days and 70 hour weeks.  It's stressful. It doesn't leave much time for the proper parenting of small children. Perhaps that is why some of the more successful female politicians have been older women?
Perhaps it is older women we need in parliament, women with experience and maturity. It really would be good to find some. Parliament might be a very different place.


Jodiebodie said...

We are obviously meeting different 16-18 year olds. I know 18 year olds who were very excited to vote for the first time after frustration at not being able to participate and have a say before reaching 18. The student protests this week show that young people want to have a say and are very engaged when it comes to issues important to their future.

I have trouble reconciling parliamentary attitudes which accept (and expect) extremely long days and staying up until the wee hours to make important decisions that affect us all
This is not healthy. How can anyone reason clearly when overworked and overtired? Politicians make laws about workplace safety and yet fail to see how their own work practices contradict health and safety guidelines.

I am so pleased to hear women's voices in parliament raising women's issues such as changing abortion laws. Abortion is totally a women's issue. Men have no place in criminalising an issue that is essentially a women's health issue. It is thanks to the women having voices in parliament and women in editorial positions in the media that we can remove the taboos around women's health issues and have productive public discussion.

Now if we could clean up the workplace discrimination by employers against mothers of young children, pregnant women and women in general (because they might get pregnant) then maybe women wouldn't feel so negatively about pregnancy or so unsupported that they feel the need or pressure to seek an abortion in the first place.

Jodiebodie said...

I know people in their 40s who don't have the maturity to vote - I met someone this week who didn't even know the name of the current Prime Minister (but then who can blame them in the current climate of 'revolving door' leaders); another last election who couldn't be bothered voting and didn't care where their vote went making statements like "I couldn't care less - politics doesn't affect me"! These were people who are of 'mature age' who have had life experiences but were their lives so insular and privileged for these people to be so naïve? There are younger people 20 years their junior who have better understanding of the world because they make it their business to be engaged, think and learn.
People's capacities for critical thinking and political engagement cannot be judged purely on age.

Jodiebodie said...

Not allowing young people to vote just gives older politicians an excuse to ignore their points of view; why listen to them if they don't have a vote that counts. Our parliament should reflect the broader society and a range of perspectives - there should be a place for young voices in our parliament.

Jodiebodie said...

The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to be finding success at the top as a woman with a young family. What is New Zealand doing that Australia isn't?

Anonymous said...

Jodie, whoever you are, you have a lot to say here, Perhaps you do know a small number of young people who have the intellectual capacity to vote. However the reality is that the vast majority of young people, while they may have opinions, do not have understanding of how those opinions could translate into policy and what the consequences would be. Parliament does not ignore the opinions of young people. It actually listens very closely to them. They know these are the voters of the future. They also know that the views of young people will often change as they gain experience and an understanding of what is possible. Young people are as free as anyone else to approach their local politicians but the majority never do. If every young person who had gone out and "protested" recently had sat down and written a letter to their local MP their concerns would have made far more impact. As it is they have harmed rather than helped their cause.
And by the way Ms Ardern copes because her partner is doing most of the work of parenting. C (A-G's Dept)

Judy B said...

We need people candidates who have a lot of common sense, good general knowledge, particularly of how government works ... and if we get the right people, I don't care what sex they are.

Jodiebodie said...

When Cat broaches lots of issues in one post there are going to be lots of responses!