Last week our government went through a massive change. Our then current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was ousted by our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in something as close to a coup d’etat as we get in Australia. We have now had four different Prime Ministers in five years. It’s rather ridiculous.
Yesterday Turnbull announced his new look cabinet and had all his new ministers sworn in today. After the huge mount of controversy surrounding Abbott’s cabinet and the lack of women appointed to the front bench, Turnbull’s new cabinet contains five female minsters.
While yes, it is fucking fantastic that there are now more women in key positions in our government, including our first female defence minister, but the fact that people are heaping so much praise on Turnbull for being such an amazing new leader is somewhat disheartening. Surely it is not to much to think that we should already have at least this number of women in senior roles. We now have a female minister for women, after two years of Abbott in the role, which is being seen as the most progressive act ever committed by a member of our government. Ignoring that we need to have a minister for women, the fact that the position was held by a man who didn’t think he had any female minsters capable of the job is just insulting.
It all reeks of cosmetic changes rather than actually changing the things that matter – not that gender equality isn’t something important that the government should be dealing with. Abbott copped a fairly large amount of scorn and derision for not including more women in the cabinet and for his choice of making himself minister for women and it seems like Turnbull is trying to prove how unlike Abbott he is in the most superficial way possible. I’m not calling the idea of putting more women in the cabinet superficial but it just appears as an easy way for Turnbull to come out and say how different and new and shiny the government will be under his leadership without having to make any substantial policy changes. I can just see him sitting somewhere in Parliament house, rubbing his schemey fingers together thinking ‘if I just add more women then maybe the voters won’t notice that I’m still selling the same shit they hated last week.’
I’m in no way trying to say that these appointments are not deserved or that it isn’t brilliant to have more women in charge. Marise Payne for example, the new minister for defence, has worked in that area for years and previously chaired the Senate Defence Committee. I guess I am just cynical of the motivations behind the appointments. Surely we have advanced enough that our government doesn’t need to prove how progressive and enlightened it is just by appointing more women.
Women are under-represented in parliament and executive government in Australia. Women only comprise one third of all parliamentarians. In a study released last year, it was found that the Australia’s parliament sits around the minimal amount necessary advised by the United Nations for women to actually influence decision making in government. Yes, Turnbull is to be commended for increasing the number of women in cabinet when there are so few (I think seven) female members in his party. Yes, having more women on the front bench will no doubt help stir greater interest amongst women in pursuing a career in politics and make it seem more attainable. I just wish it didn’t seem so trite and that real change was occurring with more effort was being put into actually getting more women into parliament.