Government Integrity – It’s Not Just About Money

This is the first Australian election in which the integrity of government featured as a key election issue and played a part in the change of government. 

So how should we measure the integrity of the LNP Government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison?

One measure is Australia’s ranking on the international index of corruption. The latest Corruption Perceptions Index  gave Australia its worst ever score and lowest ranking.

An ICAC at the federal level would have scrutinised the misuse of public funds, rorts, slush funds, pork barrelling and lack of transparency. But Scott Morrison successfully avoided honouring his 2019 election promise to establish one. We await the announcement of an ICAC from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

However, the integrity of a government is not only measured by its handling of public funds. The integrity of a government must also be measured by the way it governs, and whether it governs in the public interest and serves the common good.

By this measure, the LNP Government under Scott Morrison corrupted its mandate to govern in the national interest.

It did so in two basic ways.

First, it governed by dividing the Australian population into adversarial camps and favouring one camp over the other.

Secondly, it divested itself of some of the fundamental roles and Constitutional responsibilities of government. It shrank the mandate of government.

Dividing the nation

In effect, the Morrison Government divided the nation into those who were worthy of receiving government support and public funding, and those deemed unworthy. This was determined by a deeply ingrained ideological mix of neoliberal conservatism, religion and toxic masculinity. It gave preference to personal, party and and sectarian interests that furthered the Government’s primary purpose of retaining power.

This attitude was clearly demonstrated in the way public funding for the vulnerable was labelled ‘welfare’. The Government constantly sought to curb what it considered to be a drain on the budget by ‘non-productive’, ‘leaners’ in society. Relentless, illegal measures such as Robodebt were used to claw back any suspicion of overpayment of ‘welfare’. The scheme drove many people to suicide and actually ended up costing taxpayers $2 billion.

Even when the Morrison Government was headed out the door days just before the elections, it carried out one last act of cruelty toward welfare recipients. As of July this year, all those on Jobseeker will have to fulfil a draconian  “points-based activation system (PBAS)” for mutual obligations. It is impossible to do this without access to the internet. Women aged 50+ constitute the majority of those on Jobseeker. On $46 p.d. they cannot even afford housing or adequate food let alone the internet. This points system will strip them, and chronically ill and disabled people who are on Jobseeker, of even this below subsistence level income.

By comparison, the use of taxpayers funds for wealthy, corporate and allied interests was abundant and characterised as productive, irrespective of any evidence to the contrary.

The Government consistently brushed aside suggestions that it recoup $40 billion of taxpayer funds lavished without scrutiny via Jobkeeper on profitable businesses.

Taxes were skewed so that proportionally a nurse pays more tax than the giant gas corporations. New analysis of data published by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) shows that five of the gas industry’s most prominent companies have paid no income tax for at least the past seven years, despite a combined income from their Australian operations of $138 billion.

This is not about ‘small government’. It is about a government that favoured the few.

The previous Government’s failure to develop and implement a comprehensive climate change policy is a glaring demonstration of this same preference to serve fossil fuel, political and vested interests over the national good. Hard to forget the payoff in public funds that Barnaby Joyce received for giving the Prime Minister permission to attend the G20 on climate change. Nor the seemingly unlimited public funds allocated to subsidise fossil fuels.  Meanwhile those who were deemed to be not so worthy, were left with burnt or flooded homes, bereft of government support and funding.

The Morrison Government also managed to cleave the country in two along gender lines.

PM Morrison’s ‘women’s problem’ was a direct consequence of the ideological bias of his Government. That is why his Government would not support gender pay equality or fully funded childcare.

The Government’s priority was to protect its ministers against historic and recent allegations of rape, sexual abuse and violence. This was also why the Government ensured Parliament would not adopt all the recommendations of the Respect at Work report. And when women protesters converged on Parliament House from around the country, the Prime Minister refused to even step outside to listen to them. So they delivered their rage through the ballot box.

Shrinking the mandate

The second way in which the Morrison Government corrupted its mandate to govern in the national interest was by increasingly divesting itself of the fundamental roles and responsibilities of government. Health, housing, aged care, employment and education, were neglected, drastically underfunded, outsourced or privatised under the LNP. 

“It’s not my job” became the common refrain from Prime Minister Morrison.

The Constitution mandates that the Federal Government is responsible for aged care. But the Morrison government chose to offload this responsibility onto private operators. These operators were generously compensated with public funds without proper government oversight. And as the Royal Commission found, led in consequence to an appalling state of overall  “neglect” in aged care. 

Despite all this, one of the last announcements of the Morrison Government was that aged care operators would receive an extra $3 billion in government funding to improve food. But they were assured that they do not need to provide “spreadsheets or evidence”, even though a third are still spending less than $10 a day per person on food.

Another Government responsibility that was stealthily outsourced is pensions. The Government was bent on handing control of pensions over to private operators and severely restricting the use of these cards by pensioners. Over $170 million of public funds were funnelled into the pockets of the private operators of the Indue card. One of the first acts of Labour’s Minister Amanda Rishworth has been to quickly abolish this card.

On health

The LNP Government actively undermined universal healthcare by stripping 900 items from Medicare and left hospitals on the point of collapse.

On education

Universities and public schools were starved of funding while  $769 million in Jobkeeper was made available to private schools.

On housing

No funds were allocated to build social housing in recent government budgets. Nor were there any policies to address housing supply and affordability. The last-minute election eve announcement about allowing people to raid their super funds was another example of a government taking no responsibility to solve a crisis, but handing the task over to the individual.

A Government that was actively shrinking its constitutional responsibilities was never going to initiate a referendum to change the Constitution to enshrine a Voice for First Nations Peoples. 

Not only did the LNP Government narrow its responsibilities to further the nation’s welfare, it also hollowed out the institutions and instruments of government. The public service was denigrated, slashed and circumvented by a government that preferred to fund a costly stable of private, compliant consultants, devoid of scrutiny. Just days before the election, the Government announced it would cut a further 5,500 jobs from the public service.

Democracy in danger

After three years of the Morrison Government, Australia has been left with growing inequality and constricted national aspirations. It left a policy vacuum and a lack of ambition and direction at the national level. It saddled the country with extraordinary debt with little to show for it. It contributed to social fragmentation and levels of poverty and homelessness that Australia has not previously experienced. It increased the alienation of growing numbers of people because inequality seems insurmountable. It undermined trust in government and the belief in social justice.  

Democracy is eroded when governments subvert their mandate to govern in the interests of the whole population.

Government for the few is government without integrity.

 

 

Published in Independent Australia  

 

Election Issue Universally Ignored

There is one issue that has been universally ignored in this election campaign by the major parties and the independents. That is, the social crisis engulfing women aged 50+. These women make up 30% of the female population in Australia, but they constitute the majority on Jobseeker, the majority of those who are locked out of the workforce by ageism and the majority of the homeless. There were over 400,000 older women already homeless or at risk of homelessness. Now, with the CPI at 5.1%, tens of thousands more will become homeless as they give up trying to survive on the obscenely inadequate amount of Jobseeker at $46 p.d.

Then there are the tens of thousands of unemployed women aged 50 plus who do not even appear in the much lauded 4% unemployment figure. This is because they have given up applying for work. After an endless number of rejections, they know that most employers practice age discrimination and will not even consider hiring them.

And yet, it is not an election issue. The Government won’t raise the rate of Jobseeker or build social housing. The Opposition under Anthony Albanese refuses to commit to raising Jobkeeper, and its plans for social housing provide very little housing for older women. The newly announced home ownership scheme Help to Buy will only help those with the money to pay 2% deposit and it is limited to 10,000 people.

The silence of the teal independents on this issue is extremely disappointing. Particularly since most of them are 50-ish women. As candidates, they share common goals on climate change, ICAC and the safety and equality of women. But somehow, they totally overlook the welfare of older women. I have yet to hear any of them speak out on this issue.

Never before have so many Australian women over 50 been so destitute. It isn’t an oversight. It is a failure to see. These women are invisible to the rest of society. Their dire predicament barely registers on the national political consciousness.

 

 

 

Lollies Instead of A Living

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Budget 2022 is handing out lollies when millions of Australians, despite being employed, are losing their ability to feed, clothe, house and support their families and themselves. Trumpeting about unprecedented unemployment figures is meaningless when wages have gone backwards, work has been casualised and employment is defined as working just a few hours per week. Over 60% of those dependent for food on OzHarvest are actually employed.

And let’s not forget the unemployed on $46 per day Jobseeker. Most of them are women aged 50+, and there are almost half a million of them already homeless or at risk of homelessness. Social housing for them has been ignored in this budget, as it was in the last.

Since these women are either unemployed or on low incomes, the $420 tax offset will do nothing for them. And a one-time payment of $250 for people in desperate straits is an act of contempt. Particularly since inflation is expected to rise by 3% this year.

But there is $37.68 billion for fossil fuel subsidies in Budget 2022.

A Federal Government that rejects any obligation to govern as part of a social contract to improve the lives of its citizens is a government that has lost the moral justification for its existence.

It must be voted out.

 

 

 

Not True

Recently, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg claimed that women were “ better off under the Coalition”.
This is not true.
The LNP Government has presided over one of the worst social crises ever to unfold in Australia.

Since the Coalition first came to office 2013, women aged 50 and over have become impoverished on a mass scale. There are over 400,000 women aged 50+ who are already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For some time now, older women have constituted the majority of those on Newstart/Jobseeker and they are on it for the longest periods.

For those who cannot believe that the situation is so bad, I refer you to https://lnkd.in/gXqxDXak

In short:

1. The policies of the LNP Federal Government have contributed significantly to this downward spiral for older women, including keeping Newstart/Jobseeker at $44 per day.

2. The LNP Federal Government has refused to address or take action to alleviate this suffering. One obvious example is that it has rejected budgeting for social housing.

3. The final ignominy is that just as older women are invisible in society, so too are they invisible to the Federal Government of Australia. There is no acknowledgement that the economic insecurity and social exclusion of women aged 50+ is a rapidly escalating social crisis in Australia.

Unseen Power of Women 50+ in the Next Election

The good news is that both parties now recognise that winning the women’s vote will be the crucial factor in winning the upcoming federal elections. Describing it as “pink-vis” instead of “hi-vis”, David Speers host of ABC Insiders, makes a good case for this in a recent article.

But the bad news is that Speers speaks mainly about young mothers in the 20-45 age group in marginal seats. He says that the parties know that “young women are more willing to shift their vote than older women or men.”

And with that he dismisses further discussion of the votes of older women.
Not so fast, Mr Speers.
You are right in saying women’s votes will determine the elections, but you are wrong in dismissing the impact of women voters who are aged 50+.

If loss of work is a reason to vote against the Government, then women 50+ have the most compelling reasons. They lost employment and more hours of work in the greatest numbers since the beginning of the pandemic. Unlike younger women for whom, as Speers writes, “fortunately many of these jobs quickly returned”, this did not apply to older women. They now make up the largest group on Jobseeker and they will undoubtedly spend much longer on it than any other group. This is because ageism keeps almost half of businesses from employing older workers, according to AHRC. Age discrimination is something older women have to deal with on top of all the other inequalities and disadvantage that women face in the workforce.

But this did not come into Speers’ reckoning because we are told that older women are unlikely to shift their vote. Can we also assume that they are unlikely to shift their vote now that over 400,000 of them have become homeless and over a million have been plunged below the poverty line? Can we assume that they are uninterested in which of the parties is prepared to take action on a crisis that impacts them predominantly?

Speers quite correctly spoke about the ageing population and the failure of the Government to deal with the inadequate and underpaid workforce in aged care. But what about the sector of the female population that is over 45 and not resident in aged care? This sector of women aged 50+ constitutes 35% of the total Australian female population of 12.9 million. But they are both overlooked and dismissed.

Over the last decade, Australian older women have suffered the worst impoverishment and economic insecurity in the greatest numbers since WW2. There will be political consequences for this.

All the parties will learn that it is a mistake to dismiss the voting power of women aged 50+.

 

 

 

 

 

50-ish Women

It’s a fairly innocuous sentence, but it reveals a completely different perception of women.

“There is a tendency when you are a 50-year-old (ish) woman, when you are given a mess, to say ‘just give it to me, I’ll fix it up’, “ said Dr. Monique Ryan, Voices of Kooyong candidate. She was speaking about the growing number of 50-ish women becoming independent candidates for the upcoming federal election.

It is the first time we have seen women of this age, as a group, leading the charge to transform Australian politics. These women are putting themselves forward in order to exercise the levers of power. This is at odds with the usual perception of 50-ish women. 

50-ish women know they are fully competent to fix messes. But the dissonance between how they see themselves and how society views them is glaring.

Their self-perception is of competence, experience and strength. But they are generally perceived as beings of diminishing relevance, power and competency. That is, if they are perceived at all. Men of the same age accrue the power and competence they have built over their lives and 50-ish men are regarded as being near or at their peak. In short, for men their life experience is like a bank account that accrues value. For women, it’s an account that runs down into debit.

When ageism kicks in

Most women over 50 will tell you that the older they become the more invisible they become. They are assigned to the most disparaged and overlooked sector of our society, despite many of them having successful careers, and a lifetime of professional and personal accomplishments. 

50-ish is when ageism really kicks in for women. And I use the word ‘kicks’ advisedly. Because when it happens and keeps happening, it is like a kick in the gut.

Women find themselves subjected to ageism that is both rampant and socially acceptable in Australia. It was revealed that bias against old age is more deeply held than either sexism or racism, according to SBS’s What Does Australia Really Think About….

Nearly half of all Australians over 50 experienced ageism in the past year, but only one in five of them took any action in response, according to new research launched to mark the first Ageism Awareness Day on 1 October this year.

As with racism, ageist stereotypes corrode the self-esteem of the individual. Their impact on women is insidious.

As WomanGoingPlaces pointed out in an article, Google lists 999 words used to describe older women. Only a few are not derogatory.

Ageism has a direct impact on both the lives and livelihoods of older women. They lost the greatest number of jobs as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, and they have been forced to spend the longest period on Jobseeker. The poverty and homelessness they are now experiencing in ever greater numbers is the direct outcome of both the inequalities they have experienced as women throughout their lives and ageism once they hit their 50s. 

Ageism as a form of elder abuse

New research shows that ageism is essentially a form of elder abuse. This is the conclusion that arises from a recent study – National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study– conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). The findings are so disturbing that the Federal Government has concealed the study since April 2021 and only released it just days before Christmas. It found that 1 in 6 older Australians had experienced abuse. The most common form of elder abuse was psychological abuse, which covered being insulted, excluded, repeatedly ignored, undermined, and belittled.

All the above information about age discrimination, does not include the experiences of older Australians in aged care. That, as we know from the Royal Commission into Aged Care, is even worse.

As long as older women are viewed with prejudice, have limited public prominence and public consideration, the issues that affect them and their self-worth will continue to be diminished.

The expression – ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ applies not only to little girls needing role models. It is also necessary for women entering different stages of life and going through the process of ageing. The old stereotypes of ageing are crippling. Women need to see a range of female role models and possibilities.

So the growing presence of 50-ish women in the political arena is a significant and welcome change.

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s Greetings

 

Dear Supporters of WomanGoingPlaces

social enterprise

 

We would like to wish you a lovely Christmas and Season’s Greeting.

We hope that 2022 will be a year of good health and much joy for you.

Thank you for supporting WomanGoingPlaces to campaign for the economic security and social inclusion of women aged 50+.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Excluded from Work

Australia has a massive reservoir of skilled labour that is being increasingly excluded from work – Australian women aged 45 and over.

At the same time, we are being bombarded with increasingly desperate headlines about the unprecedented labour shortage facing Australia. The Morrison Government has rushed to announce that over 200,000 temporary visa holders would begin arriving as soon as December. Senior bureaucrats in NSW are reportedly pushing for an aggressive surge in immigration to bring in 2 million migrants over the next five years.

There are now 258,464 people on Jobseeker, up from 176,611 in February 2020. With the Covid19 Disaster Payments now ending, another 200,000 people will end up on Jobseeker. The majority of those presently on Jobseeker are women aged 45+, and they are the ones who remain on it the longest.

Why women excluded

Age discrimination is the reason that most employers will not even consider this labour force as an option. The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australia Institute in a recent report found that half of the employers they surveyed would not employ older workers.

It is important to note that the highest number of job vacancies for the August quarter 2021 (ABS) were in the following industries:

Health Care & Social Assistance – 51,200 jobs;  Administrative & Support Services – 36,800 jobs; Retail – 33,600 jobs;  Accomodation & Food – 27,600 jobs.

Most of these jobs are already considered ‘women’s jobs’, and almost by definition, the pay is lower and the work is casual and not secure. 

So the question that can be asked is if there are so many unemployed women aged 45+, why are they not filling these jobs?

The answer is twofold. First is the rampant age discrimination against older women that comes into play in selecting employees. Secondly, employers find it so much more lucrative to exploit visa holders, international students and others who often have no alternative but to work for sub-standard rates and conditions. In hospitality, for example, wages of $5 an hour are not uncommon. And we have become accustomed to reading about renown restauranteurs who have underpaid their workers to the tune of millions of dollars.

And that is why in Australia, profits have grown seven times faster than wages according to the Centre for Future Work. Meanwhile, wages have remained stagnant in real terms for over eight years, and now new ABS data confirms real wages have fallen 0.8% over the last year. 

Valuable workforce

This labour force of women aged 45+ is a highly valuable workforce. They have accumulated years of both hard and soft skills, professional expertise and experience. To mobilise them into well-paid, secure employment would not only alleviate any skills shortage facing Australia. It would also alleviate the greatest social crisis Australia has ever faced with regard to women over 45. We are rapidly escalating towards half a million impoverished and homeless older women. 

If women over 45 find it difficult if not impossible to find employment, it means they face up to 20 years on the unliveable Jobkeeper payment of $44 per day until they qualify for the pension. 

So when ageism excludes women from participation in the workforce it is effectively telling them “Once you hit 45, you are unlikely to find employment again and more than likely to go over the cliff financially.”

A frequent argument against employing older women is that they would need re-training or up-skilling. But most of the overseas students, tourists and labourers would require re-training or up-skilling. And it is demonstrably untrue that older workers cannot learn tech/IT skills. The expected work boom in renewables will also demand that most employees be re-trained in this new field of work. So why discriminate and provide such training only for the young or overseas workers?

You can tell things are really bad in the hospitality industry if some employers are now prepared to overlook their prejudice against older workers. This has prompted media reports of pubs and restaurants in regional areas turning to mature-age female workers.

Many women would want to work in hospitality, provided that pay and conditions are fair. They would be a valuable resource to any business. In listing the advantages of these workers, one business owner reported: “One is reliability …   if you put them on the roster, they turn up.”

Myth of labour shortage

One outcome of the pandemic in the U.S. is that workers, in what has been called the Great Resignation, are leaving their jobs in greater numbers than at any previous time. Significantly, a New York Times article insisted that  “the labor shortage is more myth than reality.” With wages in the U.S. being historically low, there is not a labour shortage, but a shortage of workers who remain willing to accept low wages and poor terms. The solution is to raise wages, it argued.

This is exactly what Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is arguing. She too says there is no labour shortage with 700,000 unemployed and 1.3 million underemployed Australians. “ When these employers say “we cannot find workers” what they mean is they are not prepared to change their business model and raise wages.”

More should be done by government  and employers to provide better pay and conditions, and to incentivise the employment of older workers.

The failure to do so presents a major threat to the welfare of women and a serious risk to Australia’s economy and social cohesion.

Iris Apfel Aged 100 on Harper’s Bazaar Cover

We women over 50 have to be like Iris Apfel.
Refuse to be invisible.
Refuse to accept the crippling stereotypes society imposes on us.
Affirm our value and proclaim our stories.
This is who we are.
This is what we have done and will continue to do.
Just watch!

WomanGoingPlaces interviews Professor Kim Rubenstein

Professor Kim Rubenstein has become a popular guest on programs such as Q&A because she clearly articulates how the Australian Constitution impacts on the most important issues we face as a nation and as individuals.

So when she announced in August the she had formed Kim For Canberra, her own independent political party, and would run for the Senate in the coming federal election, many welcomed her candidacy.

Professor Rubenstein currently holds the position of Co-Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra, having formerly been Director of the Centre for International and Public Law at the ANU from 2006-15. She is recognised as a constitutional and citizenship expert. Professor Rubenstein wrote the leading book on citizenship, Australian Citizenship Law in Context, and was involved in drafting the Australian Citizenship Act and reviewing the Citizenship Test. Her support for gender equality led to her becoming the Inaugural Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute.  

WomanGoingPlaces has a special interest in spotlighting the stories of Australian women aged 50+ and so we interviewed Professor Rubenstein recently on her candidacy, goals and vision.

 

THE CANDIDATE 

Q: Professor Rubenstein, why are you standing for Parliament?

I have spent the last 25 plus years teaching the next generation about law, citizenship, rights, gender equality and the Constitution. Throughout my professional life I have been keen to make sure that what I have been doing in academia reaches into the public policy field.

In the last 18 months with Covid-19, there has been an amplification of the issues central to what I do on citizenship and gender. But no matter how convincing and evidence-based your arguments, if the people in Parliament don’t want it or care, then it just doesn’t go anywhere.

So that made me think that if that is the case, let’s see if I can have a go doing this stuff inside Parliament rather than outside.

GOALS

Q: What is your purpose?

To use my skills set as part of the Senate’s role of reviewing legislation and contributing to public policy discussion. It’s rare for a Government to have a majority in the Senate, so I could have real influence over the areas that I’m really keen to progress. These fall into 3 categories:

1. Being a Senator for Canberra.

Canberra has always had a Labour and a Liberal representative and both are caught in the framework of their party’s policies in terms of progressing anything specific to Canberra. They have been deliberately stymied in some respects.

Unlike the rest of country, Canberra is a Territory. The Commonwealth has the capacity to override the legislation in Canberra and this has happened on a couple of occasions. That is not good for Canberrans in terms of their democratic rights being curtailed. So I would be a direct voice that is not bound or prevented from pushing as hard as it can and standing up for Canberra.

2. Making Parliament a more representative body.

There has been a politicisation of really important issues such as climate change, gender equality and refugee policy. The parties have come to the point where they are the blockages on these issues. There are groups within parties that are committed to good policies, but are being stymied by the party system which is so set on making sure they win rather than staying committed to the policies they represent. As an independent I could bring out the best in the parties, and not as we are seeing, the worst. I would contribute to improving the quality of policy discussion in Parliament.

We are waiting on Kate Jenkins’ Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces as safe and equal workplaces. I really want to push for those recommendations to be seriously engaged with. As an independent voice I want to ensure Parliament really scrutinises those recommendations and endorses where appropriate. Having an independent voice is crucial to making Parliament work for the people and not parties.

3. Changing the Constitution.

I have a life-long passion around Constitutional change and bringing Australia into the 21st Century. It’s about recognising that our Constitutional structure was written in the1890s, and realising that Australia of the 21st Century is a very different and much more mature entity.

Three things need changing in this order:

The first is regarding the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Australia becoming reconciled with its Indigenous people. The First Nations people went through a process of getting to the Uluru Statement by meeting with people around the whole country and inspiring active citizenship. This is what all Australians should be doing in engaging with their Constitution.

In Parliament I would really push for a referendum on a Voice to Parliament and I feel really positive that the work First Nations people have been doing as a community around this will lead to successful referendum change. Once that happens it will remind people that we can actually change the Constitution.  

The second change is regarding our multi-cultural society. Section 44 of the Constitution prevents dual citizens from being members of Parliament. This has been a real hurdle for our multicultural society being properly represented in Parliament because you presently have to renounce the other citizenship in order to nominate, whether you win or not. So it’s a real negative block on dual citizens from being MPs. If you think about it, if our Parliament had had more dual citizens, it would have been much more proactive about setting up quarantine stations to enable people who have family overseas to connect with family, without undermining our health security. The fact that they dragged their heels over it is because they weren’t responsive enough to this. Almost 49% of Australians have a parent born overseas or were born overseas, so changing that in our Constitution would lead to a more representative democracy.

The third change is regarding the move towards a republic. I have been involved since 1998, when the Constitutional Convention was held, in advising and supporting Constitutional change to reflect the reality of our 21st Century.  With an Australian as a Head of State, and secure in our own independence, we could still be part of the Commonwealth. But we don’t need to have the Queen of England acting as the Queen of Australia.   

Q: How do you think the sentiment is on that now?

If you have really positive leadership which shows the community what the vision is and the capacity we have of doing this to bolster our own identity, people will respond positively. People are looking for leadership. We haven’t had a vision for Australia. We’ve had marketing for Australia.  Which is not doing much for social cohesion or a sense of optimism for the future.

 

ROLE OF INDEPENDENTS

Q: Why stand as an independent? And if elected, how will you deal with what you described as a toxic boys’ club and party machines?

It was a very clear decision to run as an independent primarily because none of the parties fully reflect my views. I would prefer to do that directly in Parliament. I have been approached by parties before but I chose not to. 

I would be putting all my energies into changing the Party rather than the nation.

Secondly, parties are structures that are outdated and I would actually have more power from the outside rather than from within. Parties have good people in them, but they haven’t been able to shift those structures. Having independents in Parliament who reflect the will of the people, will help parties to change.

This is the contribution that the independents have been able to make outside the party system. Kerryn Phelps and her Medevac bill, Zali Steggall’s bill on climate change, and Helen Haine’s bill to establish the Australian Federal Integrity Commission.  All of these things are so fundamental to the health of our democracy but none of the parties have made moves on them. And yet each of these independent women is able to pull the parties along. Independents have a greater positive influence on our system and can improve the parties.

 

WOMEN AGED OVER 50

Q: Women aged over 50 find themselves becoming invisible or are encouraged to become invisible. And yet you are going in the other direction. Why?

My capacity has been enhanced rather than reduced by being a woman over 50.  

It is interesting to reflect on the capacity of women to enter political life.

All the public policy work that I did over the last 25 years I was able to do in a way to balance work and family. Academia and public commentary was consistent with an equal role with my husband in raising a family. It would have been a real strain on that capacity to have done it earlier. 

I’m now at an age when my kids are adults and are keen to be involved in my standing for Parliament so this will be a combined family and professional exercise. In my 50s I’m liberated to do it.

I want to change things in Parliament to enable younger people with younger children to be involved without being compromised. That includes thinking through opportunities that Covid19 has provided. With Zoom, parliamentarians are not necessarily having to come to Canberra for every sitting. Also, changes in parental leave so it is seen by more men as the norm for them to be involved with their partners. So the balance of work and family can be done in a way that enables both to contribute more in the political sphere if they want.

I would be advocating for policy transparency, so that there is gender responsive budgeting and broader policy frameworks that Governments can incorporate into their thinking.

Q: But actually for most women over 50 in Australia, opportunities are not enhanced. Older women have been forgotten by the Government. Ageism is more prevalent that racism or sexism in Australia. What do you plan on doing about women over 50 and what issues do you see as needing to be addressed? 

First of all, all strength to you in bringing attention to this issue. I think that it is really fundamental.

There is a range of issues about older people and the specific impact on older women compared to men that need to be looked at. If I am in Parliament I would be very attentive and responsive about policies that could be developed to focus on that.

It speaks to the lived experience that is needed in Parliament to better reflect the needs of the community. Parliament is not diverse enough.

So if I get into Parliament as a woman whose first entry into Parliament is as a women over 50, that will be a really positive role modelling for the nation. That we should not be ignored. 

Then there is the bias that people hold broadly that we need to make more transparent  and unpack. I think a lot of it is about calling out people’s often unconscious assumptions and then working with people against those assumptions. For example, job applications for women over 50.  Whether we can require private business sector and gender equality agencies to use gender blind and age blind CVs. I am certainly keen to support your work in this. These are things that I’m passionate about in terms of supporting equity in our society.

 

CONVICT PAST

Q: Your ancestor, a Jewish convict by the name of Henry Cohen, came to Australia in 1833. And now 6 generations later you are Australia’s  foremost expert on citizenship and a Constitutional law authority. History is having a bit of a giggle. But also what does it say about Australian citizenship? 

It does show the potential for Jewish Australians to feel confident about wanting to even run as Parliamentarians. We have several at the moment, and Kerryn Phelps was there briefly. I think it’s exciting for the community generally that a descendant of a convict who throughout the family history has maintained our Jewish identity. It is really a testament to Australia  multiculturalism and the experience of settlement.

I say that conscious of the Indigenous Australian experience. Even though I wasn’t personally touched by the Holocaust, I know of the power of the state to exercise its brute force over communities, as Nazi Germany did against the Jewish community. The desire to assist indigenous Australians in terms of the Uluru Statement is motivated both by my strong sense of citizenship in Australia as a legal concept, and by their always having been formally members of the community but constitutionally seen as the other.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Q: You were saying that we are not ready of the 21st century and one of the most outstanding examples of that is climate change.

Having an independent voice in Parliament will help with the deadlock that the big parties are in.

Part of the reason we are in this terrible scenario is because our political system is not really open to engaging with policy rather than with the politics. But secondly, I want to model a commitment to good climate change action. I’m going to be running a carbon neutral campaign and I have some experts helping me how to do that.

We all have a role to play and I want to model that we all should be thinking about this. And then it’s really about the science showing us what we need to do. We can be buoyed by renewable energies and investing in renewable energies, but ultimately the specifics will depend on the advice I get from experts. But I am totally committed to coming up with policies to ensure that as a country we are doing what we can to respond to the really urgent scenario that we are in and working towards a future where our children can survive and can develop in a healthy environment

 

VISION

Q: What’s your vision of where we should be and what we should be doing?

That vision links in that 21st Century vision of a nation reconciled with its Indigenous population, that affirms and enhances its multicultural identity, that is secure in its own independence as a republic, and that is an inclusive society that errs on the side of inclusion over exclusion, that is enabling of all its citizenry and all its residents, that they have a place and that they can all contribute as active citizens.