The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘government’

A precedent set in Queensland abortion law, what next?

Posted by caitlinate on October 14, 2010

As many of you will be aware, earlier today Tegan Simone Leach and Sergie Brennan – charged with “procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion” – were acquitted at trial.

This is a fantastic result and one I’m sure the Cairns couple (as they seem to be universally known) were and are very relieved to hear. It’s also being hailed by feminists as a victory for reasons relating to the draconian laws currently in place in Queensland. Under the 110 year old law of that sunny state, abortion is illegal except to protect the mother’s life or her physical or mental wellbeing.

Which leads me to wonder if this is a victory not just because the couple have been acquitted but because of the legal precedent it sets. Apparently there is some feeling amongst those who have worked in women’s health in Queensland that an open challenge to the abortion laws currently in place would be a very precarious undertaking. That not only would any move to progressively alter the laws fail but that it might result in even more restrictive ones being put in place instead. There has been a lot of criticism heaped upon the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (a self proclaimed feminist) for her failure to express solidarity with the Cairns couple or to undertake any party lead reform (she even went so far as to put a dampener on a colleague’s attempt to legislatively push for reform). I’m not necessarily adverse to criticisms of Bligh and I certainly don’t have much faith in politicians to actually follow through on their professed ideologies (though conservative politicians are generally more reliable on this account). What I wonder is if having this case go to trial and result in an outcome that declares that women in Queensland can take control of their bodies and their fertility without successful state persecution is better politically than a) the case being dropped or b) unsuccessful or further damaging attempts to legislate (without precedent).

I’d even go so far as to posit that the public outrage, media attention and political involvement of organizations like GetUp only came about because the case actually went to trial and that if it hadn’t we’d be stuck – loud in our feminist corners but still invisible in the mainstream – hailing that, rather than today’s outcome, as the victory it might not have necessarily been.

Obviously none of this might matter to Brennan and Leach who have probably had an unimaginably horrible time dealing with the public attention cast on them. I’ve read reports that they received death threats – a despicable and terrifying thing for both of them to have had to experience. I can only imagine the strain this would have put on their lives and their relationship and there is no reasoning that excuses or makes acceptable what they’ve had to endure. While I can argue that the way things panned out – while risky and awful for those directly involved – was a more successful route to change for feminists and women in Queensland, it’s distressing that no matter what path we take it still has to involve pain and suffering for those doing something as simple as seeking an abortion.

This wouldn’t have had to be the way change came about if members of the Queensland parliament listened to the 90% of Australians who believe abortion should be legal and stood together to legislate accordingly. As it is, my totally-not-legally-trained self sees this as a potentially good precedent. That’s really not enough. Let’s see the laws change now, before any more women have to stand trial.

Posted in law, Politics, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reasons to not vote for Tony

Posted by caitlinate on August 5, 2010

In no particular order…

“The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.”

“If half the effort were put into discouraging teenage promiscuity as goes into preventing teenage speeding, there might be fewer abortions, fewer traumatised young women and fewer dysfunctional families.”

“Why isn’t the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community?”

- From an address to the Adelaide University Democratic Club, 17 March 2004.

“Since 1996, contrary to poltical correctness, the Australian parliament has overturned right-to-kill laws and (almost) banned gay marriage. Perhaps a political constituency may even be starting to emerge to ban abortions after 20 weeks. “

- From a speech delivered at the CIS Consilium in Queensland, July 31 2004.

“The problem is backyard miscarriages if unscrupulous doctors prescribe these drugs for desperate women. “

“If an application did come to me, I would have to satisfy myself that compelent doctors would administer the drug in safe circumstances to women who had fully considered the alternatives and understood the risks”

- On RU486, 6 February 2006.

“Even if dispossession is taken to mean that government has a higher responsibility to Aborigines than to other Australians, the production of beautiful art and connectedness to the land does not warrant the maintenance of a way of life also characterised by unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence. If people choose to live in difficult to service places, that’s their business.”

- From an article published in The Australian, 27 June 2008.

“I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t mean that he is necessarily pure of heart in all things.”

- Said to Channel 9 reporter about asbestos sufferer and social justice campaigner Bernie Banton, October 2007.

“…we just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice…”

- Said to a Catholic social services conference, February 2010.

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”

- Quote from an undergraduate piece he wrote on feminism, featured in this GetUp ad that also highlights other quotes.

TONY JONES: So are you making a case against teaching in indigenous languages? Is that what – I’m trying to get on top of the point you’re making.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I am making that case.

- From Q&A, 27 August 2009.

“You don’t have to be a Catholic to be troubled by the current abortion culture”

- From Sunday Profile, 12 June 2005.

“…Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. I mean Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

“Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage”

- From Q&A, 5 April 2010.

“The Government accepts that some 14 and 15-year-olds might prefer that their parents not know about the medical procedures they have had or the prescription drugs they are on. But children should not be presumed to be the best judges of their own long-term interests and should not have the right to go behind their parents’ backs… The real issue here is whether 14 and 15-year-olds can make informed decisions about what is right and wrong for them. And if they don’t have that capacity, should they be allowed to operate in a moral and ethical vacuum?”

- On Howard legislation giving parents access data about government benefits provided to their teenagers (for example, young women’s Medicare claims related to contraceptive advice), June 2004.

“The point I make in the book is that a society… is surely capable of providing additional recognition to what might be thought of as traditional marriage…. Something akin to a Matrimonial Causes Act marriage ought to be an option for people who would like it.”

- On the reintroduction of at fault-divorce, July 2009.

On queer people being members of a Catholic congregation:

“…if you’d asked me for advice I would have said to have – adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about all of these things…”

On aid to the ‘third world’ funding abortions:

“I just think that surely there are higher priorities for Australia than funding things like that.”

On whether a national celibacy campaign would be helpful to counter the rise in teen sexual activity, sexual infections and pregnancies:

“I think that it’s very important that we empower people to reject this kind of rampant sensuality.”

- From Q&A, 19 March 2009.

“It’s the responsibility of government to try to put policies in place which over time will allow people to improve their situation. But we can’t abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour.

We can’t stop people drinking; we can’t stop people gambling; we can’t stop people having substance problems; we can’t stop people from making mistakes that cause them to be less well-off than they might otherwise be. “

“Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that…”

- From Four Corners, 15 March 2010

LIZ HAYES: Homosexuality? How do you feel about that?

TONY ABBOTT: I’d probably I feel a bit threatened…

“I’d always been against the death penalty but that contemplating the enormity of certain sort of crimes I sometimes thought that some crimes were so hideous that if the punishment were to fit maybe we were left with no alternative but the death penalty.”

- From an interview on 60 minutes, March 2010

LEIGH SALES: What was “threatened” referring to?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, there is no doubt that it challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things…

- From an interview on Lateline, March 2010

Mr Speaker, we have a bizarre double standard; a bizarre double standard in this country where some-one who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder, but a woman who aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice.

- In Parliament (pdf), 15 Feb 2006.

Racism used to be offered as the complete explanation for Aboriginal poverty, alienation and early death. Racism hasn’t disappeared. Still, if racism caused poverty, why hasn’t poverty declined as racism diminished.

- From a paper presented to The Bennelong Society (pdf), September 2004.

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year….”

- Previously covered here at TDC, March 2010.

” I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak”

- From Q&A, 19 March 2009.

Posted in Media Watch, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 77 Comments »

Best of the rest on PM Gillard

Posted by Nic Heath on June 25, 2010

Australia might be ‘tickled pink at having its first female prime minister’, but what else is being said about the dramatic leadership change that saw Kevin Rudd suddenly ousted by Julia Gillard this week? 

Eva Cox at Crikey sees Julia Gillard’s achievement as the first step, rather than the end point, for those desiring gender balance in positions of power: 

‘We will know we really have made progress when women in top positions become normal and not worthy of comment. It will also mean we get better leaders, not just because many are women, but because we no longer exclude good people because of their gender.’ (register to read) 

Also at Crikey Shakira Hussein warns us that Gillard’s ascension to the top job means that some will think that feminism is finished: 

‘The danger now (well, one of the dangers) is that feminists will be told that the battle is won, that anyone who is still on the battlefield is just a whinger, that if a woman can become prime minister, then we have no further reason to complain.’ 

Annabel Crabbe acknowledges the sense of hope that has accompanied Gillard’s promotion:  

‘The approbation of her colleagues, seasoned with a groundswell of genuine delight at the elevation of Australia’s first female prime minister, give her an opportunity to make the sort of progress that eluded her predecessor.’ 

Catriona Menzies-Pike at New Matilda considers Gillard’s momentous caucus win and is left seeking answers: 

‘Once the fuss dies down, some of these questions will be answered and a bigger one will emerge: are Australians really ready to elect a female prime minister? 

‘There’s no doubt that Gillard’s promotion is an important symbolic victory for Australian women. But is this the exemplary trajectory for female success? To act as deputy until those whom you have vehemently opposed act to support you?’ 

 The Australian’s Caroline Overington sees evidence of change stamped all over our new PM: 

Julia Gillard is a woman, but that’s not the only extraordinary thing about her rise. 

She’s got a de facto. 

Imagine that, 30 years ago: an unmarried woman, living in sin with a man. Who is a hairdresser. And aspiring to high office. 

Leo Shanahan at The Punch believes Gillard could be the person to get the government back on track: 

Call me a honeymooner if you want, but in both policy and rhetoric Prime Minister Gillard made a lot of sense today, and that’s something that’s been missing from the Federal Government as of late. 

In Josephine Tovey’s piece at SMH, Gillard’s fruit bowl runneth over, Tovey wants women to stay on their toes: 

Just being a woman in power is not enough. There will be questions, rightly so, from women across the feminist spectrum. 

Will she, as Prime Minister improve the lot of other women, and make their paths to equality easier? 

But these are all questions for tomorrow. For now at least, we should all celebrate this landmark moment. 

 More excitement over at Femisting, with another reminder that all is not yet equal:

Julia Gillard, our new WOMAN PM – sorry, I can’t stop writing that in delighted caps – is a very impressive woman, and I have high hopes that this ouster will get voters’ approval in the upcoming Federal election. But one woman leader does not an egalitarian society make. 

At The Drum Helen Razer, enjoying ‘a little gynaecological bloat as Her Majesty’s female representative swore in the female representative of the people’, writes: 

‘A colony founded in masculinity, Australia can still feel like the land that feminism forgot. On this “historic” day, perhaps Overington, Wilkinson and co can be excused their greeting card gush.’ 

Mia Freedman briefed her readers about their new PM, adding: 

Julia Gillard is a remarkable woman. A fighter who has fought and won against many odds. A self confessed feminist and socialist, Gillard has survived the many attacks from the media and conservatives in Australia to become the Prime Minister of Australia, put in the position by the right wing factions that have previously tried to tear her down. 

Catherine Deveny sees Julia Gillard’s win as ‘a victory for all who do not fit into the category of white, middle aged, middle class, straight (or acting), god fearing (or pretending) university educated males granted a priority pass access to power (and therefore money, control, leisure and choice) at birth.’ Deveny affirms her faith in Gillard, writing: 

I believe in Julia Gillard. Not because she is a woman. But because she’s Julia Gillard. Smart, brave, strong, experienced and independent. I believe in equality and diversity. Which means knowing she can be a maggot and a mongrel when necessary. Delight and disappoint. Her promise not mine.  

  

If you have read any great comment or analysis that I have missed feel free to post it in the comments.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Julia Gillard Is Australia’s New Prime Minister

Posted by Clem Bastow on June 24, 2010

We’ll write more once the fallout from the spill has settled and we’ve had time to gather our thoughts, but – regardless of how it happened – Australia now has its first female Prime Minister. From The Age:

Julia Gillard has become Australia’s first female prime minister after Kevin Rudd stood aside at the last minute before this morning’s historic leadership ballot.

Ms Gillard was unelected unopposed, making her the nation’s 27th prime minister and its first female leader. She has chosen Treasurer Wayne Swan to be her Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms Gillard had the numbers – reportedly 74 of the 112 caucus votes – and the majority support of the party.

Yes, it would be nice – in an ideal world – for our first female Prime Minister to have been voted in by the public rather than a secretive party ballot, but Kevin Rudd has ended up a disappointment (not to mention certain election promises, like same-sex marriage, that evaporated completely) while Gillard has worked hard behind the scenes and will no doubt reinvigorate the party and government.

But quietly, we’re thrilled and moved that our first female PM will be sworn in by our first female Governor General, no matter how it happened.

Posted in Announcements, Media Watch, Politics, women we love | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Spill fever and the feminist fallout

Posted by Nic Heath on December 9, 2009

Politicians, pundits and the public alike have been giving women’s role both in the electorate and in elected office a fair amount of thought recently following the spill fever in federal and NSW state politics.

First off: the Liberal spill that led to Tony Abbott’s surprise ascension to Leader of the Opposition. As the Twittersphere lit up and the nation tried digesting this unexpected development one thread of analysis looked at Abbott’s somewhat erratic relationship with female voters.

I must admit I rarely pay mind to anything that flows from Miranda Devine’s pen, but now I’ve read her defense of Abbott’s inherent appeal to women (or rubbishing of “the aggressively secular, paleo-feminist, emasculating Australian broad, for whom unabashed red-blooded blokeishness is an affront of biblical proportions”) I might as well take a moment to disagree with her.

In Abbott’s real trouble is the sisterhood Devine’s premise is to refute the claim that the “popular perception of the new Opposition Leader is that women can’t stand his blokeish, confrontational style.” This is a deliberate misinterpretation of the reason women voters may steer away Abbott. By pinning the problem on Abbott’s style, Devine skips over the real problem – which is the substance of Abbott’s views on social policy.

What women voters are more likely to find worrying than political bluster is Abbott’s previous history of blurring the line between his personal religious beliefs and his public role in federal cabinet. A notorious example of this is Abbott’s handling of RU486. As Health Minister Abbott was seen to make a decision based on his personal morality rather than for the overall good of Australian women’s reproductive rights, which effectively constituted a violation of trust.

I would argue that the big issue here is not Abbott’s attitude to women per se, but how his Catholicism affects his political and social views. Is it acceptable in Australian secular society to have the country governed by leaders who have trouble separating religion and politics? It strikes me as dangerous territory.

So what makes Abbott potentially divisive to the electorate lies in his conservative views and whether you are sympathetic to them or not, rather than your sex. Miranda Devine for one is clearly unperturbed by Abbott’s views on abortion (she probably thinks he’s a bit liberal). It is likely though that an openly religious politician whose faith directly informs his politics such as Abbott has a greater chance of alienating women when his religious views clash with reproductive rights.

More worrying than his perceived ‘blokeish’ demeanour is Abbott’s reshuffled front bench. As Crikey’s Bernard Keane puts it:

“In the event of an Abbott election victory, this line-up would almost certainly drive action on abortion and other social policy touchstones in government. Eric Abetz tried to stop Medicare funding for abortions in the last term of the Howard government. Hardline Catholic Kevin Andrews first came to prominence striking down the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws. Barnaby Joyce, another Catholic, has described abortion as “carnage” and has said he wants sexual assault victims to take a resulting pregnancy full-term. Bronwyn Bishop, Phillip Ruddock and Sophie Mirabella all voted in support of retaining the ban on RU-486”.

It remains to be seen whether this conservative shadow ministry will campaign on conservative social policy, or will Abbott as Opposition Leader put his electoral responsibilities before his faith? This comment made by Abbott on the 7.30 Report isn’t at all encouraging:

“Well, I’m not gonna try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes – women’s or anyone else’s. I will be myself. I will not try to remake myself. I imagine that as my political circumstances change, people will see different aspects of my political character, and they’ll make up their own minds.”

It will be interesting to see how women vote in next year’s federal election.

Meanwhile, Kristina Keneally has the dubious privilege of becoming NSW’s first female premier. Dubious of course because it is NSW, and a privilege because Keneally has made one more crack in the glass ceiling.

Or has she?

Much has been made of Premier Keneally’s ties to factional heavyweights in the Labor Government, with the epithet ‘Puppet Premier’ appearing in dozens of headlines reporting her promotion last week.

So is it true, as Tory Maguire suggests, that “those looking for a feminist victory to celebrate should probably look elsewhere”?

Is it fair that every female politician in leadership roles be assessed for their suitability as a clear-cut feminist role model? What makes a ‘feminist victory’ anyway? Keneally is an imperfect candidate for the post of premier in much the same Nathan Rees was 15 months ago. She’s inexperienced and at the helm of a government flawed by its factions, so we’d best wish her luck.

So where do I look for my feminist victory? Can it be argued that KK makes the cut? Julie Bishop – Stepford Deputy?  Who in Australian politics constitutes a bona fide candidate for feminist success? Who can we be proud of?

My vote is for Julia Gillard, but comment with any other suggestions of female politicians who float your boat.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

On banning the burqa

Posted by Nic Heath on August 18, 2009

As has been widely reported in the last few months, French President Nicholas Sarkozy has the burqa in his sights. In June he announced to his compatriots that France would not accept a garment that made prisoners of the women who wear it. The latest controversy has seen a woman banned from wearing a burqini in a French public pool, ostensibly on hygiene grounds.

Sarkozy is the latest in a long line of politicians who have attacked aspects of Islamic dress in the name of women and their rights. These moonlighting feminists, by headlining their stance with a women’s lib tag, I think mask the true scope of their agendas – which in Sarkozy’s case could be to protect a certain aspect of a country’s cultural identity, or to marginalize another, or to assert authority.

As much as I dislike the burqa myself, vilifying the aesthetics of fundamentalist Islam – rather than say, focusing on the actions and beliefs of those who oppress women in the name of Islam – is a misalignment of energy and policy. Symi Rom-Rymer says it well in the Christian Science Monitor:

There are, no doubt, some women who are forced to wear this all-encompassing garment by their families, just as there are non-Muslim French women who are mistreated by their families in other ways. But to view the garment solely as a prison and as a symbol of male oppression, as Sarkozy does, oversimplifies a complex issue and may end up hurting the very women he’s trying to help.

If Sarkozy is truly concerned about the rights and dignity of these women, he ought to use high-profile speeches to discuss their needs, their concerns, and to focus on what they can contribute to and gain from French society, rather than on what they wear while doing it.

What will happen to women not permitted to wear the burqa in French public life (of whom there are reportedly 400 in France)? Will they happily cast it off and bare their exposed faces to shopkeepers and bus drivers? Will they enroll in university or vocational courses? Will they leave abusive husbands? Will it solve all their problems?

I have no definitive answers of course but I imagine that the result could be otherwise – could lead to further marginalization, could leave women further ostracized and isolated from the general community. As difficult as it is, if one is concerned about the rights of women wearing the burqa, it would be more useful to take a positive stance through giving those women support and fostering opportunities for their self-determination.

The wider Australian community also has a strained relationship with Islamic dress. The burqa perfectly manifests the other when held against Australia’s traditional cultural identity – laidback laconic larrikins living it up on the beach etc. The burqa threatens many people’s sense of self and of belonging. As Irfan Yusuf noted in July in The Age, Muslim women wearing the burqa provide the media a ‘potent symbol of Islam in the West’, one that is regularly exploited by news outlets.

When one Sydney Muslim man called for polygamy to be legalised, the Herald Sun website carried a photo of two burqa-clad women crossing the street. The website of its Sydney equivalent regularly carries photos of burqa-clad women in any story even mildly related to Muslims.

Julie Posetti, speaking at a forum at the ANU in July (which you can watch at ABC Fora), sums up my position pretty well. She argues that banning the burqa would be an oppressive move, and that much of the language used in calls against the burqa recalls cultural imperialism. She rightly says that the state has no place in a woman’s wardrobe. Imagine the government legislating against bikinis, or Catholic nun’s habits - it becomes an ethical minefield. Similarly murky of course is the boundary between cultural sensitivity, or regard for an individual’s rights, and cultural relativism.

Banning the burqa looks more like another symptom of France’s troubled relationship with ethnic minorities than a step forward for feminism and women’s rights. Policies of social inclusion and education would surely be more beneficial than those of prohibition and exclusion.

Posted in Faith and Religion, Fashion, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

McClelland Talks, Says Mostly Good Things

Posted by caitlinate on July 24, 2009

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced a series of (potential) changes to the family law system in Australia. These changes are aimed at tackling domestic violence and child abuse in Australia and altering the way the courts operate in terms of these issues. In the introduction to his speech he stated:

“I believe that at the moment there are still too many families that slip through the safety net. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions and they can’t be overcome by taking action in isolation. To address violence we need to identify holes in the system, and collaborate to tighten the safety net. It’s not enough to look for holes in the law, or in court processes or in the delivery of services, or any of these things on their own. Our safety net must provide the tightest protection possible for families negotiating the family law system.”

This is obviously in large part politician speak (he says ‘safety net’ three different times, somewhat unnecessarily) but I feel that his heart is in the right place and that revamping or strengthening the way the system works is a good thing. I do, however, have some reservations, in particular that the focus of this speech and these changes seems to be to the system after the fact – so after when the abuse occus rather than working on prevention in the first place.

The four main announcements he made are outlined in bold.

• A training package for family law system professionals and the development of minimum screening guidelines;

Training and information for ‘professionals’ within the system is a really amazing thing and I’m glad they are prioritising this. A lot of the problems that victims and survivors of violence have with legal system professionals (including the police) is that they are untrained and unaware of the impacts and complications involved in violence and abuse. This often results in behaviour/advice that can be further traumatising or unhelpful.

I am a little concerned that these training packages will be of a bureaucratic nature. The best way to inform people about the requirements and experiences of abuse survivors is to have survivors communicate about what they need or needed and the best ways to proceed. Nonetheless, it does seem that they are taking cues from the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children’s April report ‘Time for Action’ which came from a lot of community and survivor consultation.

The ‘minimum screening guidelines’ mentioned aren’t really elaborated on but I think McClelland’s talking about mandatory reporting levels and altering what he terms ‘inefficient jurisdictional boundaries’

• A pilot of legally assisted mediation for families experiencing violence;

I think this is an interesting one. The Howard government pretty much banished lawyers from some aspects of family law disputes, preferring separating couples to use counselors for mediation. McClelland has commissioned this pilot project to instead fund lawyers for mediation in cases where violence is alleged. He states:

“In assisting families to exercise choice in resolving their separation disputes, I am funding a pilot program to provide legal representation in mediation sessions to families who have experienced violence or are at risk of it.”

This could be positive. I don’t think that someone should have no legal support or recourse when the partner they are separating from has been violent towards them or their children. However allowing lawyers to the table could bring about two negative possibilities. One that bullying abusive lawyers will be in the room and it will be about forcing one party into submission. Secondly that if one partner is in a more stable financial position they will be able to hire a more experienced lawyer who can work for more favourable outcomes for their client – regardless of if they’ve been violent.

• A review of the family court practice and procedure, lead by Professor Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge;

This review seems to be about expanding the current model for dealing with children who have been abused or in abusive situations. Currently in use is the Magellan case management model – introduced in 1998. It brings together the family courts, police and child protection agencies to ensure the Court has all the information it needs to make decisions “in the best interest of the child” but is incredibly flawed. The current laws require the Family Court to presume the “best interests of a child” are served by a meaningful relationship with both parents after divorce, regardless of if one parent has been abusive. It forces parents into ongoing relationships with violent ex-partners and requires them to regularly hand over their children to the care of said ex-partner.

Chisholm is going to be consulting experts and examining whether the practices and procedures in the family courts encourage appropriate disclosures of family violence, and whether appropriate support is provided within the family court system for families who have experienced or are at risk of violence.

• An enquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to identify gaps in the law and reinforce the previously mentioned ‘safety net’.

This inquiry will look at two important issues raised in the National Council’s report:

1. It will examine the interaction of State and Territory laws relating to family violence and child protection with Commonwealth family laws and criminal laws to determine whether changes are required to better protect women and children; and

2. It will examine the impact of the inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in the context of family violence, on the victims of violence.

I can do nothing but applaud the fact that this enquiry is happening and cross my fingers that the outcomes will be positive for victims and survivors of violence, abuse and assault.

Overall I find the announcements to be on the positive side, even if only because action is being taken and family violence is being taken seriously. Some of the measures that will be introduced do raise questions but I don’t feel that any are to be damned but rather watched closely to see what the results are. I do wish that this was all less about enquiries and reviews and about real and substantial action being taken. However if the ‘reviews’ and ‘enquiries’ involve talking to communities, affected groups and survivors then I think extended evaluation is probably a better thing that rushed but ineffective action.

Finally, one other thing of interest McClelland mentioned is the following:

“Measures to address family violence will assist the Government’s effort to halve homelessness by 2020, as we now know that family violence is the principle cause of homelessness among young women with children.”

This statement displays, to me, an understanding of the wide and varied effect that domestic violence has on families, individuals, women and children, something of a relief after the draconian attitude of the previous government.

Posted in law, Parenting & Family, Politics, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When Supermarkets Are More Aware Of What Women Want Than The Government

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 2, 2009

One of my – and I’m sure many other Australians’, female and male – biggest bugbears is the fact that the Rudd Government has flatly refused to remove the GST on women’s sanitary products that was brought in approximately fifty thousand years earlier by the Howard Government when the GST was introduced to Australia. Their refusal to bin, as my friend Mel called it on Twitter, “the world’s stupidest and most sexist tax” suggests that there are people in the Rudd Government who honestly believe that tampons and pads are monthly “luxury” items and not feminine hygiene essentials.

Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day that a supermarket chain drew attention to the idiocy of the ‘tampon tax’ – which it’s worth adding is nearing its 10th birthday – in a marketing campaign: Coles will be “paying” the GST on all women’s essentials for the next week as one of their specials. I spotted a television ad during morning tele today, and here’s the word-up from Coles’ website (emphasis mine), in this instance regarding Carefree liners (though all sanitary items are included in the special):

You shouldn’t be taxed for being a woman. Coles will pay the GST to the government for all feminine hygiene products bought in our stores, so that you don’t have to.

It’s a shame that the special only lasts for the next week, but in terms of a statement made within an economic climate and retail industry that generally wants women to spend as much as they possibly can (or perhaps more correctly, can’t – hello credit cards) on anything and everything, I find it quite revolutionary. Sure, it’s a marketing ploy – they want you to spend your dollars at Coles – but the fact that they are also willing to highlight the ridiculous nature of the ‘tampon tax’ in the meantime is heartening and suggests that, unlike our Government, someone high up in Coles is actually listening to what Australian women want. (If you’d like to send Coles a thumbs-up, you can do so here.)

So, for the nth time, Prime Minister Rudd and Mr Swan: WHY ARE WOMEN STILL BEING TAXED FOR GETTING THEIR PERIODS?

Update at 12.30pm: here’s the catalogue page, too, in all its newsprinty glory:

Picture 61

Can we say it’s a small handful of loose change, but one giant change for womankind?

Posted in Business, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Politics, Watching The Ad Breaks, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Bolt’s Theories On Theophanous’ Accuser: “Deeply Ashamed Woman” Or Gold-Digger?

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 22, 2008

You will have read in the past week of Victorian MP Theo Theophanous’ being accused of rape, which led to his standing down from his duties. The media has followed the emerging case keenly – Theophanous was questioned, alone, for an hour at St Kilda Road police complex yesterday – as police have begun their investigations. Theophanous has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing as his accuser – the woman remains anonymous – stands by her claims.

Now everybody’s favourite columnist Andrew Bolt has offered his two cents on the matter (I no longer make a point of regularly reading Bolt’s work – it’s not good for my blood pressure – so thanks to Dawn Chorus pal Ben for the heads up). He begins by discussing the effect an accusation of rape – in particular a false one – can have on a man’s career; while it may seem unfair to discuss such matters in the face of a woman’s distress, it is true that false allegations can have devastating effects on a person’s family and professional life, even long after accusations have evaporated. But it is a fine line to walk in discussing such matters for the sake of balance as while false accusations are a huge problem for the accused, scandalously low rape conviction rates (or even report rates) are surely still a far more pressing issue, and giving air time to the former can seem to belittle the latter, particularly when you consider how many actual rapes (and unsolved/unreported cases) outweigh false accusations and their fallout.

However Bolt doesn’t stop at the impact the allegations will have on Theophanous’ career, which would have been difficult territory but at least an understandable (if not necessarily palatable) point to raise, instead going on to begin an efficient smear job on Theophanous’ accuser. Here are some highlights:

What’s more, Theophanous’s accuser – unlike him – has her identity kept secret by journalists who clearly know her name. She – unlike him – risks no public shame should her claims prove to be baseless.

Bolt conveniently forgets that the law protects rape victims, who remain anonymous precisely because of the implicit “shame” he predicts will befall Theophanous; why else would cases like Tegan Wagner‘s become such high profile stories? Anonymity protects victims’ privacy and dignity, when so much of that has already been removed by the crime. Men may not want to be tagged as rapists, but I’d hazard a guess that not many people want to be known as rape victims, either. And who’s to say that these “journalists” know the woman’s name, either? He continues:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Victorian MPs Vote In Favour Of Abortion Legalisation

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 10, 2008

This “just in”, from The Age:

Abortions are set to be legal in Victoria after the upper house supported a controversial bill allowing terminations.

MPs voted 23 to 17 in favour of the bill after an exhaustive and emotional debate, with Brumby Government Minister Theo Theophanous and Treasurer John Lenders voting against the bill.

The result of the vote was initially greeted with silence but two pro-life activists were removed from the gallery for shouting abuse at MPs.

“There is blood on your hands,” one screamed.

“There will be retribution in this country,” another yelled.

The upper house will now consider amendments to the legislation.

“Retribution”? Nice.

It will be very interesting to see just what those amendments turn out to be, but either way, this is a big step forward for Victorian women’s reproductive rights.

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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