Spence – Australia 2022

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    Aspiring Labor women face stand-over tactics, threats and intimidation when they dare to seek office against factionally-backed male candidates, a damning ­report prepared for the ALP’s Emily’s List has found.

    Despite hailing the success of the party through Labor’s affirmative action rule – a quota of 40 per cent of women for winnable seats rising to 50 per cent in 2025 – the report says male-dominated factional culture within the ALP is pushing women away from advancement.

    It also includes horror stories from women who have sought preselection against favoured male candidates only to be warned off, told it is not their turn, in some cases being directly heavied by factional leaders and their allies who have threatened to end their careers.

    In one case a woman who had sought preselection revealed that her parents had been phoned and then approached in person by factional players demanding they talk her out of running against a preferred male candidate.

    The findings are contained in a major report by Australian ­National University PhD candidate Medha Majumdar, who is the 2020-2021 Julia Gillard Next Generation Intern working for Emily’s List, the ALP-aligned group that champions affirmative action and women’s rights within the party.

    While its findings are levelled at all the major political parties and based on interviews with dozens of women from across politics, the report also focuses on the experience of Labor women who have been blocked in preselection battles.

    One of the women interviewed is thwarted South Australian preselection aspirant Alice Dawkins, a 27-year-old policy analyst who incurred the wrath of the SA ALP by running against the factionally-backed and union-backed male candidate Matt Burnell for the federal seat of Spence in July.

    Ms Dawkins, the daughter of Hawke/Keating government education minister and treasurer John Dawkins, said she had already been contacted by young Labor women since her defeat saying the episode had put them off politics.

    She said the findings of the Emily’s List report reflected her own experience where she had been told not to upset an agreed arrangement between the factions and the Transport Workers Union for Mr Burnell to be slotted into Spence, where long-serving MP Nick Champion is not contesting the next election.

    “This is the way these deals get done and the message to young women like me is wait your turn and if you don’t wait your turn you will pay a price for it,” she said.

    “It is pretty patronising and ­demeaning that we are told the party wants us to get involved but then when we have to sit back ­quietly and wait while the blokes divvy up the spoils and decide who gets what.”

    Ms Dawkins endorses a key finding of the report that is the lack of transparency surrounding preselections.

    “There needs to be a level playing field otherwise we are going to keep having situations like mine where women go into politics feeling idealistic and inspired only to find they can’t advance because secret deals have been done that prevent them from getting ahead,” she said.

    The report, entitled The Missing Women of Australian Politics, examines how violence, harassment and intimidation prevent women from entering and progressing in politics. It devotes much discussion to the Brittany Higgins rape case and the role that played in exposing a toxic and alcohol-fuelled culture within Parliament House and has acted as a deterrent against female participation.

    It interviews volunteers, staffers, current and former MPs, all of whom say that their gender has been an obstacle or issue for them in politics.

    The comments from defeated candidates mirror the experience of Ms Dawkins who has become a pariah in the eyes of some in the SA ALP for taking legal action and approaching Labor national executive to challenge her preselection in Spence.

    “Women seeking to contest preselections face threats related to their support within the party and their careers in politics,” the report says. “They are pressured to ‘wait their turn’, or face exclusion and blacklisting, unless they withdraw their nomination. The power imbalance in these circumstances is stark. The perpetrator of the intimidation is often a senior person with influence and power within the party.”

    Women needed to be prepared to face this intimidation in preselection contests.

    One female interviewee noted: “They are going to really pressure you to withdraw. What are you going to do when that senator calls you and says, ‘come on, you don’t want to ruin your career’? Because that call is going to happen. That is what happened to me.”

    The report proposes a series of recommendations across all parties, specifically calling on Labor to include the ­offence of intimidation in its code of conduct.

    David Penberthy is a columnist with The Advertiser and Sunday Mail, and also co-hosts the FIVEaa Breakfast show. He’s a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Mail and news.com.au.

  2. Good to see all those Labor values, ethics, & higher moral standards at work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
    For all you committed Murdoch media conspiracists David Pemberthy is married to Kate ELLIS the former (Labor) member of Adelaide. So i guess you could say he has a “special interest, & insight.

  3. I hate when certain Labor seats are reserved for the left or the right factions. It means the preselection is ultimately a bit rigged.

  4. The key here who is the best person for the job. A policy analyst (What is that) or a twu guy who has properly faught for workers. If people want equality then get rid of quotas.

    Sounds like Dawkins wants an easy ride based on her father who did spit the dummy and quit politics when he couldn’t get his own way. Was the start of the demise of Keating and I am a Freo boy.

  5. James
    IIRC Dawkins spat the dummy over Keatings betrayal & duplicity over the LAW L.A.W. “tax cuts” & the aftermath of a myriad of appallingly inefficient minor taxes which Dawkins was charged with implementing, announcing, & attempting to defend.
    Remember some of us have lived experience of Keating playing “fast, & loose”!. Dawkins was already exhausted, & this debacle pushed him over the edge health wise.
    Popular history as promoted by PJK has propagandised this period into the “nation changing policy success” of compulsory Superannuation. IMV this has been a policy disaster for australian workers when compared to the far more effective NZ national pension scheme. Still history is written by the victors………


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