On Sunday, in Brisbane, the Labor party formally launched its election campaign and it did something its key opponent, the Liberal party, will struggle to replicate. It put women front and centre. Literally.
As experienced and credentialed professionals with, among other things, a shared history advocating for women.
Chloe Shorten was a brilliant move.
She spoke convincingly, without auto cue (just notes). She’s one of Bill’s most important assets on the campaign. Brings authenticity to his image.
There was no whiff of her being there as an adornment.
A woman in her own right.
— Laura Jayes (@ljayes) May 5, 2019
By contrast when the Liberal party officially launches its campaign next Sunday, on Mother’s Day no less, it will struggle to find women who can credibly stand alongside the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Of course, his wife, Jenny, will be by his side but she is the first to admit she has no interest in playing a substantive political role. She will stand beside her husband as a proud wife.
Who can stand next to Scott Morrison and credibly lay claim to both being integral to his leadership and supporting the advancement of women?
Senator Marise Payne has played an important role as defence minister but has largely worked behind the scenes. She hasn’t been a central figure of Morrison’s team. Linda Reynolds has certainly spoken up about women in the Liberal party but, again, has not been a highly visible ally of Morrison’s.
Nor Michaelia Cash, Melissa Price, Karen Andrews.
The Liberal party’s problem with women has never been so stark, and the fact the party has picked Mother’s Day as the date for its Federal election launch is perfectly telling.
To be clear, Mother’s Day is symbolic and laden with hypocrisy, but it’s an occasion in the calendar that plenty of families celebrate.
Network Ten’s chief political editor Peter van Onselen tweeted that his kids are unimpressed with the timing.
My daughters are more than a little upset that the largely male parliamentary Liberal Party are launching their election campaign on Sunday…Mother’s Day 🤬
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) May 5, 2019
Presumably plenty of other kids, mothers and fathers will be disappointed with the timing too. Was it not considered by the party operatives or deemed so inconsequential that it didn’t matter? Neither scenario reflects well.
The issue of where women stand in these parties is far from symbolic.
Aside from having a number of senior women in the leadership team, Labor has introduced a range of policies it plans to implement if elected specifically aimed at addressing issues that disproportionately and adversely impact women. From reproductive rights to increasing pay for childcare workers to investing in domestic violence prevention, improving the lives of women and addressing inequality appears to be a key pillar of Labor’s pitch to Australian voters.
If the Liberal party has given any thought to this issue it certainly isn’t obvious. Scott Morrison hasn’t raised any solutions – either in government or campaign mode – that appear to be aimed at women. And that says an awful lot.