Why is the NSW parliament treating this as the “most urgent” issue relating to women? - Women's Agenda

Why is the NSW parliament treating this as the “most urgent” issue relating to women?

The NSW Parliament has just two and half sitting weeks left until it rises ahead of the March 2015 election. Even if the ‘reserve week’ is used, there are still only 12 days left. While this may come as a relief for those MPs now sitting on the cross benches after the Independent Commission Against Corruption, some are using what little time remains to continue their focus on an “urgent” and “must address’ issue relating specifically to women.

You might wonder which issue is so urgent. Is it Australia sliding to 24th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report? Australia is behind Rwanda, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Burundi, and Latvia, having fallen from a more-respectable rank of 15th in 2006. Given this report came out last week, though, you can see why it might not be top of mind.

Perhaps more urgent is the closure of domestic violence and homelessness services catering specifically to women, and the tender process that saw large organisations win contracts that will leave no service in inner Sydney, and close a number of services in regional and rural areas? It’s not that.

And it’s not the gender pay gap either, which in November last year stood nationally at 17.1%. NSW was the second-worst performing state with an annual change of -2.1%. Only the mining boom state of WA (-2.7%) has a gender pay gap getting worse at a greater rate than NSW.

Unfortunately, it’s none of these things, or even addressing the frightening realities of domestic violence, for example.

In a state where abortion remains a criminal offence for women and doctors, the good men (and it is mostly men) of Parliament want to spend their last few days imposing further restrictions on abortion access


Women’s Agenda have covered the Bill in question, dubbed Zoe’s Law, several times before. It passed through the Lower House on a conscience vote last year, but has languished in the Upper House without the requisite support.

ICAC’s Operation Spicer has seen it’s movers in both Houses, Member for Central Coast Chris Spence and Marie Ficarra MLC, moved onto the cross bench with reputations tarnished. The hard Right faction they are members of is well represented on the post-ICAC cross bench too, after allegations relating to soliciting banned donations and funneling them through sham companies came up during ICAC’s ‘Operation Spicer’. This hard Right, anti-choice faction had lobbied hard for the Bill, consistent with the playbook of anti-choice groups in the US from whom the ‘personhood’ aspects of the Bill are taken.

ICAC has ended or curtailed a number of Liberal careers- those of a Premier, a Minister for Police, an Energy Minister, six State MLAs, one MLC and a Federal Senator. Two of these MLAs resigned from Parliament altogether, losing both seats at last weekend’s by elections.

Spence, a former official for One Nation, will have served only a single term after ICAC heard allegations about a sham company funneling donations called Eight by Five. This hasn’t stopped him from pressing on with his faction’s social agenda though; quite the opposite.

He has left his party and new leader Mike Baird a parting gift in the form of a media release stating Baird “must address this issue and see this bill adopted as a government bill”, and passed as a matter of “urgency.” Baird presumably could do without such gifts six months out from an election. It does beg the question for Spence and his faction: Why this Bill, and why now?

So at a time when a strong majority of Australians want abortion to be at least as accessible as it is now, when one woman is killed a week by their partner, women have nowhere to go when violence makes them homeless and we are going backwards in terms of equal pay – not to mention we are under represented on boards and in Parliament – this faction of the Liberal party, ably supported by Fred Nile, are pressing on with a ‘must address urgent’ issue for them- abortion? Abortion is already criminal in NSW, just how far do they want to go?

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