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The Sunday Sandwich (That’s a Wrap)

By far the biggest political action in Australia this week occurred in the state of Queensland, which overnight saw its majority eviscerated at the hands of a unified Campbell Newman led Opposition. But alas, this blog is about Australian politics and aside from some electoral implications for the federal Australian Labor Party and the change in complexion of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the events of the week in Queensland have little relevance when examining the events of federal politics over the past week.

Yes, the result is in many respects another stake in the heart of federal Labor which on results tonight would be all but wiped out across Queensland if swings were uniform statewide. When the Gillard Government is already in a minority government situation, the trend toward the Coalition in Queensland alone, if it were borne out at the next federal election would see the government fall easily, before even adding in New South Wales where there is potential for catastrophic losses.

An incoming Newman LNP Government means that another Coalition Premier has a seat at the COAG table, along with the Premier’s of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. This probably will not have a major impact as COAG in recent years has tended to be fairly tame and “cooperative federalism” has reigned supreme. However from time to time issues may present themselves where the Liberal Premiers feel the need to join together in opposition to something that the ALP Government chooses to pursue. It would appear that the carbon tax is in the sights of the Premier-elect, so this and the MRRT appear to be at least two exceptions to the rule.

Julia Gillard and her government saw the passage of their Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), by the Senate this week which was alone in major events in Canberra for the week in Australian politics, the last sitting period before the budget is handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan in May. Tony Abbott and the Opposition have vowed to continue to fight the tax after its implementation and to repeal it in government and their parliamentary strategy over that and the carbon tax in recent months have echoed those words.

The parliament shared its focus  in Question Time between the carbon tax, largely as a result of Opposition questions and the newly passed mining tax. The Opposition focused on perceived effects of the carbon tax on business and households and the revenue projections of the mining tax and the effect the tax  may have on the economy.

The government focused on the spending associated with the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and the tax cuts to small and big business which the Coalition opposes because it opposes the tax.

Also this week, Canberra descended into gaggles of laughter which transcended political boundaries after a very strange speech from mining magnate Clive Palmer who has since tried to put distance between himself and his comments. Mr Palmer claimed that the Greens were funded by the CIA to wreck the Australian economy by destroying the mining industry which helped keep the nation afloat during the GFC.

As Australia continues to meander toward the May budget, the focus outside of the parliament will be on Treasurer Wayne Swan and the ability he and his government have to deliver the surplus they promised for fiscal year 2012-13. The focus  of the media will be on trying to get a picture of the extent of the task before confirmation of the severity of any further cuts and just how much the effort will rely on the sneaky deferral of spending priorities for the budgetary year. There promises to be much political fodder over the coming weeks and the political discourse will certainly not be dull.

Happy International Women’s Day, But Sorry Quotas Still Aren’t the Answer

Today, Thursday the 8th of March marks a very important 24 hours in the international calendar of days, a day for roughly half of the world population, women. To all women, my mother, sister, friends, followers and strangers I wish you the happiest day today on International Women’s Day.

Women are an integral part of society, without whom there would be no future population unless we suddenly discovered and were legally and ethically allowed to clone human beings in place of the natural act of reproduction. Women are the givers of life, they go through about 9 months of mood swings and childbearing weight gain and then hours of pain to bring new life into the world. For that alone women deserve unending praise and awe the world over.

For the integral part that women play in society, not just in childbirth but in the broader day-to-day motions of life, women, even in a prosperous nation like Australia, are still not treated as equal to the fullest possible extent. There is a low concentration of women in senior management roles and women are still not paid equally to men, even though that statistic is slowly creeping up to the parity line. The equal pay case success in the community services sector will certainly aid that important aim.

While women are not on an equal footing with men in positions of authority, that has certainly been evolving over recent years in Australia. We now have a female Premier of Queensland, even though that is about to end, a female Governor of Queensland and other states, a female Governor-General and even a female Prime Minister. One of the most powerful bank bosses in Australia is also of the fairer sex, namely Gail Kelly from Westpac and over time the representation of women in these positions will surely continue to grow.

The question is what is the way to achieve greater representation of women in the workplace? There continues to be a debate in this country, made even stronger and more public on days like this as to whether or not quotas on boards or in political parties is the answer.

The quota argument says that businesses must choose a certain number of women from a pool of candidates of men and women for board and senior management positions after appointing a maximum number of men, regardless of exact levels of experience and skill base, a kind of positive discrimination for the workplace if you will.

Quotas simply are not the answer, not forced ones at least, voluntary ones are a totally acceptable option for businesses to undertake to implement because there are certainly always a suitable array of female candidates available for any role in any occupation, whether it be at board level, senior management or otherwise.

Merit is by far and away the best option for the appointment of women to any role, the problem is that women are often overlooked for equally meritorious male candidates for various reasons, none of which are suitable and are often very discriminatory.

Merit in a perfectly pure sense should allow for the equal allocation of positions to women, particularly with women taking up a large percentage of undergraduate and further degrees, particularly in the recent decade or thereabouts.

To be able to use merit effectively though, to the advancement of women requires a change of mindset on the part of employers from the frankly pre-1950s view of women that must surely continue to exist in some businesses across the land, most notably in the higher echelons of management in these businesses.

Businesses must also openly encourage women to apply for positions, no matter what and do what they can within their means to identify and foster identified female talent, to keep them connected with their respective companies through practical measures that suit the circumstances of women.

To break down these barriers will not be easy but it will a better, more fair outcome for both men and women and will, in a pure way of the practise of merit, likely lead to the same outcome. Women deserve an equal chance at being chosen for jobs based on the skills that they have gained and practised to the same extent as men.

Again a thank you to all women and may all of you have a happy 2012 International Women’s Day and may the next year be even better for you in all that you do.

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