Speech on International Women's Day 2018

In Parliament | 08.03.18

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE (16:17): I am happy to wear a ribbon but I do not particularly want to go to a breakfast. I try not to eat the brownies at the morning teas and I definitely do not want to buy a handbag or a shirt. Whilst I have done some of those things today for International Women's Day, tonight these are the things I really want to talk about when it comes to women. I want to talk about women's autonomy, whether it is the one in four young women and girls women who are married before they are 18; the 68,000 women worldwide who die from unsafe abortions; or the seven million women each year who are admitted to hospital as a result of unsafe abortions. Until women can decide when and if they will have sex, when and if they will marry, and when and if they will have children, they cannot be free. I want to talk about the education of women and girls. I want to talk about the 16 million girls between the ages of six and 11 who will never go to primary school, and the 500 million women in the world who cannot read or write.

Closer to home I want to talk about the cuts to TAFE that have had a significant impact on women seeking to reskill themselves or return to the workforce. I want to talk about women's work and why childcare workers and hairdressers earn less than motor mechanics and plumbers, why women are clustered in lower paid and insecure work, and why domestic violence leave is not automatic in all workplaces. I want to talk about why a survey released this week found that one in 10 women in Australian workplaces have experienced sexual harassment, more than two-thirds of women are worried that they will not have enough retirement income to retire comfortably, and only 31 per cent of women said they thought men and women were treated equally at work.

I want to talk about women and power. Unless and until women are able to fully participate in decision‑making at all levels of government and in the community and the world of work, women will never be equal. I want to acknowledge Labor's success as a result of our affirmative action rules and urge conservative parties to stop hiding behind bogus merit arguments as an excuse for excluding women. It is time to ensure that our parliaments look like our people.

I want to talk about why the majority of the world's poor are women. I want to recognise single mothers as heroes who should be supported, not penalised. I want to shout from the rooftops about the growing number of older women who are becoming homeless. I want to talk about women not in work and how the tax system makes it harder for them to work. I have to talk about violence. One woman a week in Australia is murdered by her current or former partner. One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence and one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence. Why is this still not a national emergency? Finally, I want to talk about equality for women being a project that seeks equality for all women. With the advances we have made, we are still leaving too many women behind.

More women chief executive officers and members of Parliament is a step forward. But let us not make that the central focus which diverts attention from our Aboriginal sisters who still do not have land rights or the autonomy and support they need to overcome generations of trauma; young women being thrown out of home because they tell their parents they are gay; our trans-sisters harming themselves and suffering horrendous discrimination every day; women with disabilities being ignored altogether while the Government de‑funds their advocacy organisations; and the number of women in our prison system who themselves are victims of the most hideous neglect and abuse and who need a hand up rather than incarceration, which leaves them without their children or their housing.

On International Women's Day, let us not just wear the ribbon and eat the brownies. Let us all commit to taking concrete action to improve the lives of all women. This year, my commitment as a member of Parliament [MP] is to put in place safe access zones for women outside reproductive health clinics and to keep working with supportive MPs and the incredible feminist women in our community who are working to get abortion out of the New South Wales Crimes Act. I also commit to encouraging every woman I know to join her union. The journey to equality will be faster if they do so.

HANSARD - NSW Legislative Council, 8 March 2018