Bruised and battered by waves of protest over the government’s response to charges of a sex-charged work culture in Parliament, Scott Morrison has announced a Cabinet reshuffle, with several changes as well as the creation of a ‘Minister for Women’s Safety’, a ‘Cabinet taskforce’ and the dubbing of Senator Marise Payne as ‘the Prime Minister for Women’.
According to Senator Payne, for the first time in an Australian government, women’s issues will be treated as a priority across all operations.
But will they?
A ‘Cabinet taskforce’ will address the issues of ‘women’s equality, women’s safety, women’s safety, women’s economic security, women’s health and wellbeing’, says Mr Morrison.
This taskforce will be co-chaired by himself and Senator Payne.
Around the table will be all women in the government’s ministry – just 27 per cent female – as well as treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham.
Women have certainly got a leg up. Michaelia Cash as the Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister and Karen Andrews as the Home Affairs Minister.
But only 23 per cent of Liberal members are women, so it will be the male politicians who will need to be brought on board and become the cheer leaders for equality.
Jane Hume’s appointment to the new position of Minister for Women’s Economic Security gives us heart.
Senator Hume has already spoken out about the inequalities of the super system. She recently outlined some issues including the breaks women take to care for young children, as well the effect of the gender wage gap.
She championed our TogetherAustralia campaign last year to bring down the cost of financial advice.
When she talked recently of the financial plight of women, she placed particular emphasis on the wage gap and female workplace participation, stating they ‘are the real great contributors to women’s equality and empowerment economically’.
The first big test will be the Budget in May. But Senator Hume has already suggested we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much. “I don’t think you can appropriately put a gender lens on the budget”, she said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has declined to comment on whether the Coalition will take into account the impact of the budget on women.
While the concept behind the reshuffle represents a positive direction, time will tell if it is a genuine driver of policy or a political sidestep.
Labor MP Tanya Plibersek was critical of the reshuffle. “The Australian people want to see the Prime Minister take responsibility, and today’s cabinet reshuffle has failed to demonstrate that,” she said.