Let’s be clear, there are many reason for the growing market for au pairs in Australia, including a lack of affordable and flexible childcare options and an increase in women’s workforce participation.
It has nothing to do with women lacking any form of ‘greatness’, particularly when it comes to being a great partner or great mother or something else.
So, we couldn’t help but gasp at comments shared yesterday by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Here’s what he had to say while talking to reporters.
“My wife works, but I can tell you she’s a great wife and a great mother. We never had an au pair, she never asked for one. We have never been in a situation to employ an au pair and made an active decision not to.”
The comment is patronising and judgmental, and carries the subtext that women need to ‘ask’ for au pairs, but only if they’re struggling at being a ‘wife’ or a ‘mother’, or are not all that ‘great’ at either or both roles. There are, as my colleague Georgie Dent tweeted last night, just two many shades of wrong to unpack in it.
As Annabel Crabb pointed out, the word ‘but’ is the first red flag. The use of ‘and’ would have been preferable.
I really feel like “and” would have been a better word to use here. pic.twitter.com/tDrZjcPRXN
— Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb) September 3, 2018
Dutton was responding to accusations that he had mislead the parliament back in March when he said he could rule out any personal connection to the relationship between him and the potential employers of the visa cases of au pairs that he had personally intervened on. He said he answered ‘yes’ to ruling out such connections in the context of suggestions that his family had benefited from the decision.
“My wife works, but I can tell you she’s a great wife and a great mother. We never had an au pair, she never asked for one.”
— Georgina Dent (@georgiedent) September 3, 2018
Dutton’s wife is Kirilly Dutton. She runs and owns a number of successful childcare centres in Queensland. The pair married in 2003 and went on to have two sons (now 14 and 12). Kirilly is also a stepmother to Dutton’s daughter from a previous marriage, who is now 16. According to the Courier Mail she manages the kids solo for much of the year while Dutton’s in Canberra, on top or running the childcare centres. It’s a huge load to take on — and one that plenty of women can relate to — and there’s no doubt that she does a great job.
There have been plenty of questions about Dutton’s intervention into the visa cases of three foreign au pairs, including one who had been employed by a Liberal Party donor, and another who worked for a former Queensland police officer.
Dutton could face a no confidence motion in Parliament over the matter, when Parliament resumes next week. Labor and The Greens have teamed up in support of the motion, and have already secured one independent to get behind the vote, Andrew Wilkie. Negotiations are also continuing with independents with Cathy McGowan and Rebekah Sharkie, according to The Guardian, with the Government already one vote down — following Malcolm Turnbull’s resignation.
Dutton told Sunrise today that the no-confidence motion being led by Greens MP Adam Bandt “is some sort of desperate act” by Bandt” for “trying to stay relevant.”
Staying relevant starts with understanding it’s 2018.