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Harnessing the Most Appropriate Coalition Talent

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now announced the ministry that will, hopefully, be taken to the 2016 election and beyond. That is of course unless there is more ministerial impropriety which takes place or is uncovered from the recent past. The new ministry is quite strong and relatively youthful, which suits the image, messaging and substance which PM Turnbull wants his government to portray.

A particularly brilliant choice was awarding the trade portfolio to Steve Ciobo, the MP for Moncrieff. By all reports, he has been a hard-working member of parliament and has excelled in his junior ministerial role in international development. Mr Ciobo is also a strong and confident when it comes to engaging with the media.

There were however some missed opportunities as a result of today’s reshuffle.

A few women were promoted, including new Deputy Leader of the National Party, Fiona Nash, and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. However, there could have been promotions offered to more, including Senator Joanna Lindgren, and the Member for Brisbane, Teresa Gambaro.

Today was also an opportunity to deal with the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, who is simply not across his portfolio. Mr Dutton is also trying very hard to pull the politics of immigration and citizenship even further to the right and that is not healthy.

It must be said however, that Minister Dutton was probably kept in cabinet to appease the Abbott-backers. Also, a new minister would only be able to make the language used around asylum seekers and immigration more positive, rather than any substantive policy change. But an improvement is an improvement.

Given the bipartisan push toward the recognition of indigenous people in the Constitution of Australia and the sentiments from the Prime Minister in his Closing The Gap update to parliament, perhaps the biggest missed opportunity was in the indigenous affairs portfolio.

Currently that post is occupied by Senator Nigel Scullion, who is widely respected and has been quietly going about his business. However, for someone in what is a very important policy area in terms of the current political discourse, his voice has been conspicuously absent from a lot of the debate.

If you couple that with the fact that the Coalition Government now has two indigenous members of parliament within their ranks, then it is easy to see that talent and experience has not been harnessed there.

Ken Wyatt has extensive experience in the area indigenous health and welfare both prior to and during his time in the parliament and he would be the perfect candidate for Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Senator Joanna Lindgren, although she has not yet been in parliament for a year, would be an ideal candidate for the junior role in this portfolio area.

Shifting Senator Scullion from the role would have proved a bit of a complicated situation, given he has held the role since 2012 and that the process for constitutional recognition of indigenous people is well underway. But, a successful change would not have been impossible.

Today, Senator Matt Canavan was appointed Minister for Northern Australia and will assist Josh Frydenberg in this role – someone who lives just about as far south on the Australian mainland as is possible.

Senator Canavan is a satisfactory choice as assistant minister in this role, given that the north of Australia is close to his heart. However, given that the government wants development of northern Australia to remain a key focus, the ministerial experience of Nigel Scullion, who lives in the Northern Territory, should be utilised in the senior role, rather than Josh Frydenberg retaining it.

Rather than election-winning moves, the changes outlined above are simply minor improvements to better serve the people who are represented in these areas of society.

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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