Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A childcare announcement is sexist? Must be Opposite Day

Bill Shorten has claimed that “the men of Australia rely on the women of Australia to organise the childcare and do the childcare”. He’s right. They do.
Fairfax reported research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2013 that found women spend almost twice as much time on housework and childcare than men, even when they increase their time in paid employment.
It isn’t even a value judgment by Shorten; it’s a statement of fact, one recognised by the people it’s about. I believe that men should be more involved in childcare. And – fun fact – so does Bill Shorten, which was exactly the point he was trying to make when the Turnbull Coalition’s crack YouTube team got its digital scissors out to plaster Bill Shorten saying these words on every media channel it could find, and insisted there be a sexism controversy as a result.
There’s an election on, so every day becomes Opposite Day. There she is, the Coalition’s minister for women, Michaelia Cash, who does not describe herself as a feminist, calling Shorten’s views “outdated” on her Facebook page. There’s Fiona Nash – who attended the infamous “Ditch the Witch” rally outside Parliament House with little thought for the sisterhood – insisting that Shorten is “disgraceful”.
Shorten made the comments in the context of a $3bn childcare pledge – it’s centrepiece is a 15% increase in the childcare benefit, as well as a rise in the cap from $7,500 to $10,000. Labor’s claiming the benefits will be enjoyed by every family on less than $150,000 a year, and there’ll also be $100m to fund extra childcare places ... which doesn’t sound “disgraceful” to me. Childcare is a massive issue in the electorate, and don’t the pollsters know it.
But it’s Opposite Day, so presumably the Coalition’s delay of any childcare rebate rise until 2018 is what Cash, Nash and the rest of the chorus will be out loudly praising. On Opposite Day, we can also praise the Coalition’s freeze on the Medicare rebate that endangers the health of women who respond to “price signals” in such a way that averts them from care and the Coalition’s attacks on penalty rates that disproportionately hit women because women dominate the industries they pertain to and do the most work on Sunday.
And on Opposite Day we don’t even need to think about the 30% cut to community legal centres that strain the resources of centres already unable to cope with demand, let alone that the May budget made no mention at all of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s specific policy needs in this area.
You know, the one where they are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence and 10 times more likely to die from violent assault than white women.
Let’s instead hail Michaelia Cash for suggesting that the best way to achieve pay parity was to drive down wages for men. And that she believes that domestic violence leave provisions will discourage employers from hiring women (just like maternity leave and equal pay did?).
And let’s forget that Tony Abbott – who is still a member of their “team”, still the member for Warringah, still a member of the government, still out on the hustings for this election – claimed his greatest achievement as minister for women was removing the carbon tax. Or that for a significant chunk of the time that Bill Shorten has had a majority female Senate caucus, the Coalition’s Australian cabinet had fewer female members than Afghanistan.
Because if Malcolm Turnbull has realised that the largest percentage of undecided voters are women, that women don’t like him as much as men do, that women’s policy priorities are focused on health and education and the Coalition policy cupboard is quite bare in this regard, there’s only one way to convince Australians the better alternative is a $50bn tax cut – that’s to smear your opponents. Make a schmaltzy video of yourself crying poor. Declare yourself a feminist. Drop dead cats on the table. And get your hat on, it’s Opposite Day.

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