International Women's Day - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Speaking to an International Women's Day motion, I called on the government to reform cross-examination

This week I spoke in the Parliament about International Women's Day. I called on the government to join with Labor in committing to reforming cross-examination in the family law courts, among other issues.

I followed on from a Liberal MP, who used her IWD speech to cast aspersions on Islam. Read my speech below.

That was the most bizarre International Women's Day speech I have ever heard in my entire life. Somehow we started with International Women's Day and then we ended up in burqas. I wonder how the whole idea of cuddling up to One Nation went for the Liberal Party in Western Australia. I think it is pretty clear it did not work out particularly well, so I am a bit surprised and a bit bemused, really, that the Liberal Party are coming in here and using an International Women's Day motion to bash up Sally McManus and to have a go at women who wear burqas. It is utterly ridiculous and bizarre. I have never heard anything quite like it.

But I suppose it is pretty obvious why the Liberal Party cannot come in here and talk about their own achievements when it comes to women, because there are virtually no women in parliament in the Liberal Party. If you have a look at the Labor Party caucus, we have a good healthy 45 per cent representation of women. The poor old Libs are languishing around the 20 per cent mark, just like they have been for the past 20 years. They have had no movement.

Mr Conroy: They are going backwards.

Ms BUTLER: They are going backwards, as the member for Shortland quite rightly says. They have had no progress in 20 years. And do you know what their answer to that is? Keep doing the same thing and see if it gets better. Just cross your fingers and see if that helps you get more women into parliament! Is that the idea that the Liberal Party has? They just say: 'No, it's all right—it's merit. There's a pipeline. Eventually some women of merit will come through. Why are there no women of merit? Where are the women of merit?' It is as though they have no idea of how to improve representation of women within the Liberal Party. I hope they sort that out pretty soon. This is not to mention the poor old Nats, where women are down at under 15 per cent in parliamentary representation. So the Libs have 20 per cent and the Nats 15 per cent.

On the other hand, look at what we in Labor have done over the past 20 years to improve female representation in our own caucus. And we are still going, because Bill Shorten is committed to 50 per cent female representation. I am very proud to be in a party that do not just care about this issue but take real action to deliver on it. We are not just crossing our fingers and hoping. We are actually setting in place rules and a culture that delivers women into parliament.

Look at all the amazing women we have in the chamber with us. We have the member for Lindsay, the member for Herbert and the member for Newcastle—and, I might say, our very pro-feminist friend the member for Shortland, who is enjoying that description very much. There is also your good self, of course, Deputy Speaker Bird. But I reckon there are probably more women in here than you would ever see getting together in the Liberal Party. There just are not enough of them to really have a critical mass. So I really encourage the Liberal Party to get its act together and to get more women into parliament.

An International Women's Day motion is a really good opportunity to talk about female representation in parliament. In fact this is a really good use of an International Women's Day motion compared to, say, having a go at Sally McManus and complaining about the burqa, which is a very odd use of an International Women's Day motion.

I might say that it is lovely to be up here speaking about a motion that really is about a day that is derived from international socialism and a garment workers' strike in the early 1900s. Those are the roots of International Woman's Day, and International Women's Day is deliberately internationalist in its focus. It is not just what is happening for women here at home but for women around the world because the whole purpose of International Women's Day is to recognise that, when women anywhere are oppressed, women everywhere are oppressed. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our own progress in relation to some very, very acute issues facing women in Australia, and the motion that the member for Newcastle has moved deals with a number of those issues, including violence against women, including cuts to paid parental leave, including cuts to services like women's refuges and community legal centres.

I want to touch on family violence of course, because it is such an important and pressing issue for our community. It is really regrettable that this government, this Liberal government, cut $88 million capital expenditure component from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, because the leading driver of homelessness in this country is family and domestic violence. It is also greatly unfortunate that they are cutting funding for community legal centres by 30 per cent because, again, the major driver of business for community legal centres is family and domestic violence.

I am also greatly concerned that this government has so far failed to commit to reforming cross-examination in family law. In 2014, the Productivity Commission recommended a change to the rules so that judges could prevent perpetrators of family violence from personally cross-examining victims in family law proceedings. It is something that Labor has committed to both at the 2016 federal election and since the federal election. Bill Shorten has been very strong on this, but yet the Attorney-General has failed to agree to this crucial reform. This is of grave concern as is what is happening with the funding and the support for 1800RESPECT, the national trauma counselling hotline, and we are all very concerned about that. There are a range of other issues: workplace issues; and penalty rate cuts, which disproportionately affect women. This government needs to take a good hard look at itself when it comes to what it is doing for women in this country.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Volunteer Get updates Donate


get updates