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All women are equal but some are more equal than others

By Russell Grenning - posted Friday, 6 October 2017


I bet you didn't know that there are WOMEN and then there are women.

I have this on the highest possible authority – Emily's List, no less – which proclaims in the preamble on its website, "A woman candidate, to be satisfactory, must be a 'feminist' in the best sense of the word…she should believe absolutely in the equality of status, liberty and opportunity between a man and a woman. A woman candidate that is shaky on this matter, or not sufficiently imbued with its importance to be able to speak convincingly on the matter, will do the movement towards establishing women in Parliament far more harm than good."

If you have guessed that Labor Senator Helen Polley is not a member then you would be spot-on. Senator Polley has terribly upset the leadership and, no doubt, the Emily's List ladies by saying publicly that she has been pressured to pretend to be in favour of the YES case in the same sex marriage postal survey when she most decidedly is not. Leader Bill Shorten has thoughtfully spoken to her and, no doubt, he has told her she has his full support for her stand on conscience. Well, he would, wouldn't he since current official Labor policy on the matter is for a conscience vote? Then again, perhaps not.

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Emily's List is the ALP affirmative action crowd, the official sisterhood, comprising Labor women who obviously pass the "satisfactory"test. Emily is, their website informs me, an acronym for "Early Money Is Like Yeast" which, sadly, is far too obtuse for me, a mere male. It seems that even quite a lot of female Labor Party members, both elected to office or rank-and-file don't pass the "satisfactory"test and either don't qualify for membership or just don't want to be members.

There are 42 female Federal Labor MPs and Senators and 10 of those are not Emily's List members. Very possibly, they are not "satisfactory"like Senator Polley.

Naturally, and understandably, no women who have been elected to parliaments from non-Labor parties are "satisfactory". Probably, they are most unsatisfactory being gender traitors like Margaret Thatcher. According to their 2015/2016 Annual Report there are only 1,021 members which suggests that it is not all that wildly popular even among women could could be generally regarded as "satisfactory".No Greens women are members despite the fact that an objective observer might consider them "satisfactory" and, indeed, very very "satisfactory"– in fact, even rather too "satisfactory" for Emily's List.

For an allegedly activist organisation Emily's List is practically moribund.

The 2016/17 Annual Report is yet to see the light of day more than three months after the end of the last financial year. This year they have issued only one media statement paying tribute to former Victorian Minister Fiona Richardson who died of cancer on 23 August. Again, according to their own website, they have not appeared in mainstream media so far this year and didn't appear at all in 2016.

Their announcement that "Emily's List has an annual calendar of events in each stateand territory" seems somewhat overblown given that only two events are listed for this year – in Victoria there is a fundraiser for the "Joan Kirner Gender Gap ResearchFund"but, curiously, when you follow the link to book a place you come up against a notice stating, "This event has no dates available for booking. Please contact the event organiser".

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Heralding this event, we learn, "In these troubling times, many of us miss the late Joan Kirner for her wise counsel as well as the jolt into action her advice or speeches would inspire. In her absence, the inaugural 'What would JK Do?' will allow the audience to hear from a panel of progressive women about what they think, as well as what Joan would expect us to do, about current challenges to the feminist and progressive movement. Come and join us for good company, good insights and good food over afternoon tea."

Now, wouldn't you expect that this event would be a runaway success requiring the booking, not of some modest suburban pub function room but the MCG? It seems not.

In New South Wales, the annual "Polka Dot Ball"scheduled for November 18 can happily be booked. Labor MP Anne Aly is the guest speaker and all satisfactory women are urged to buy tickets. They are warned, "We know this will book out so book early to avoid disappointment."

Students of history may recall that former Labor Premier of Victoria Joan Kirner was mercilessly lampooned for her polka dot dress by Magda Szubanski. Ms Kirner, a founder member of Emily's List, proved her feminist credentials after her government's landslide defeat in 1992 by endorsing a man – Steve Bracks – for her seat after she resigned from Parliament. Factional loyalties were far more important for Ms Kirner at the time.

Incidentally, the other pin-up girl for Emily's List, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a member of the Labor Left faction, proved her feminist credentials in 2013 when she endorsed a man – David Feeney – as the Labor candidate for Batman. Mr Feeney, a singularly uninspiring former union hack from Julia's opposing Right faction was up against some impressive and, no doubt, "satisfactory" women for the endorsement including the former Emily's List national convenor Hutch Hussein and fellow Left faction member Mary-Anne Thomas.

Indeed, her then Families Minister Jenny Macklin said at the time that Labor would be in breach of its national rules to have 40% of candidates in winnable seats be women if a woman wasn't the candidate for Batman. Michael Gordon, writing in The Sydney MorningHerald at the time (June 3, 2013) said, "The irony is that a victory for a woman in Batman will be an embarrassment to the country's first female primeminister."Ms Gillard's endorsement of Feeney had everything to do with repaying a political debt which was obviously far more important than the noble principles of Emily's List.

"Satisfactory"women can buy tickets to the "Polka Dot Ball"for a mere $100 each although they can also buy a "Solidarity ticket" for $50. "Satisfactory"women are urged, "If you can't come, will you help cover the cost of a young woman attending?"I suppose it is too bloody bad for middle aged and elderly women who might have benefitted from a "Solidarity ticket". I can only conclude that women can be "satisfactory"while still being afflicted with the politically incorrect sin of ageism.

And that is that. Nothing for "satisfactory"womenanywhere else in the country.

Despite Ms Gillard's brazen breach in 2013 of the ALP national rule about having 40% of women as candidates in winnable seats – the view of her own Families Minister Jenny Macklin at the time – she remains a sentimental favourite among "satisfactory" women and they can purchase at their website tea-towels ($25) and posters ($20) featuring her so-called "Misogyny Speech" when she got stuck into Tony Abbott.

Emily's List has what could be politely described as a curious attitude to democracy.

For example, when Anna Bligh's Queensland Labor Government suffered an overwhelming defeat in 2012 winning only seven seats in a Parliament of eighty-nine, Labor's "satisfactory" women issued a statement bemoaning, "Saturday was a sad day for the Labor Party in Queensland, but what has gone unreported is just how sad a day is was also for Queensland women."

It was a "sad" day for Queensland woman, they said and we all know whose fault this was because Emily's List told us, "These disturbing figures were further evidence ofthe contempt the Liberal National Party held for women." The voters had nothing to do with it presumably.

Seventeen Liberal National Party women MPs had been elected in that election but, of course, they weren't "satisfactory".

International Women's Day on March 8 - surely the most important day in the feminist calendar - didn't rate a single mention let alone celebration by Emily's List this year. Perhaps they found the theme "Be Bold For Change"just a bit too daunting.

Now I think that is most unsatisfactory, don't you?

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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