The Politics    Tuesday, June 2, 2015


By Sean Kelly

Joan Kirner leaves behind a formidable legacy. There is more to do

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is that we recognise progress when we see it.

It’s also important to name those areas where not enough progress is being made, however much we sometimes like to tell ourselves the opposite.

Joan Kirner died yesterday. She was the first female premier of Victoria; a co-convenor of Emily’s List, which fights for the election of progressive women; a campaigner for abortion rights, and for affirmative action in the ALP; a devoted advocate for better education; and many other things besides.

She was a mentor to many women, including Julia Gillard, whose emotions were evident in her tribute to Kirner today. Gillard, of course, was the country’s first female prime minister – one sign of progress. Another sign is that since 1996, Emily’s List has supported more than 400 women to campaign for office, with more than 210 elected. Abortion law reform was passed in Victoria in 2008, and the ALP adopted affirmative action.

A lot has changed since Kirner was elected. A lot of good has been done.

But when we say Kirner was Victoria’s first female premier, it’s worth remembering that she is still Victoria’s only female premier. To some her term may seem recent. It’s not: it was almost a quarter-century ago, and there have been six premiers since then, three Liberal, three Labor, all of them men.

Also today, Amnesty International released a report showing indigenous young people are 24 times more likely to be in detention than other people their age. They make up 5% of the population in their age group, but almost 60% of those in detention.

As a society, it’s essential that we celebrate our achievements. But let’s not forget how much further we have to go.

Tony Abbott told his party room today that he’d spoken to cabinet about recent leaks, warning there would be political and personal consequences for leakers. He said last week’s national security leak had been a “come to Jesus” moment. No-one’s really sure what that means, but it may mean “get on the team or get out”.

For the first time in 14 months Tony Abbott has a better approval rating than Bill Shorten – but Labor remains ahead on the two-party-preferred vote, says Newspoll.

Interest rates stayed the same, and the minimum wage rose by $16 a week.

A special series from the Guardian on women who have left abusive relationships.

“While Goodes’ single victory dance mutates into some bizarre moral panic about the threat of symbolic assaults with non-existent weapons, there is no such panic or outrage over shortened Aboriginal life expectancies, third world living conditions, incarceration rates or deaths in custody.”

We may have just tipped into a parliamentary majority in favour of gay marriage with Liberal MP Sarah Henderson declaring her support (as well as her support for a free vote). But some Liberal MPs are frustrated that ministers aren’t sticking to the party’s official policy against gay marriage.

Wesley Enoch has been appointed artistic director of the Sydney Festival. I wouldn’t ordinarily mention festival appointments here, but it’s interesting in the light of recent budget cuts to arts funding, Enoch’s criticism of the timidity of the arts community (“Artists have found comfort in the official culture, loved being looked after by powerful friends at the centre instead of embracing our fringe-dwellerness”), and the controversial call last year by Belvoir artistic director Ralph Myers for Australian artists to run festivals rather than international appointments or managers.

And in other appointments news, an Australian woman has been named editor of Guardian US. Editing jobs in the newspaper industry remain male-dominated.

Liberal MP Sharman Stone has called for potential citizens to be given an English test.

A story that former NSW Premier Morris Iemma wants a federal seat.

Tony Wright on the PM’s out-of-touchness.

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.


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