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News from the Senate on the Greens women’s portfolio

Lee Rhiannon 10 Jul 2012

Blog post by Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon

I was able to take up issues relevant to women in the June sitting of parliament. While we had some wins with Greens motions being agreed to in the Senate, the passing of the Stronger Futures legislation is an enormous setback for Indigenous and other disadvantaged women and their communities.

Domestic and family violence discrimination

The Senate passed my motion that called on the Government to consider introducing domestic and family violence as a separate form of discrimination and making discrimination related to such violence unlawful in the workplace.

The Australian Human Rights Commission and other groups are doing ground-breaking work on discrimination as a result of domestic and family violence. For all the divisions in our society I thought the Senate passing this motion unanimously was significant and I hope that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will take the chance to make a real difference to women’s lives by recognising domestic violence in the government’s soon to be released draft bill consolidating discrimination laws.

Inquiry into Australian aid to Afghanistan

Australia’s aid budget has made a difference to the lives of many Afghan women. This work becomes even more important with the impending withdrawal of foreign troops. This was one of my motivating factors for raising with my colleagues that it is time to investigate Australian aid to Afghanistan. The Senate agreed to my motion and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee will undertake this inquiry.

Women and democracy

I was reading an excellent book “Silk and Calico” by Betty Searle recently and realised that next year is a double celebration for women’s suffrage – the 110th anniversary of women winning the right to vote and the right to stand in elections in Australia, and the 70th anniversary of the election of the first women to the Federal Parliament. After talking to a number of colleagues I moved this motion with Labor Senator Claire Moore, to acknowledge these events and encourage various government departments to mark these anniversaries. The motion was passed by the Senate.

Futures damaged by strong arm approach

The Greens have been a consistent voice in opposition to Stronger Futures. ‘Stronger futures’ is the title Labor with the support of the Coalition are using to rebadge the racist Intervention policy brought in by the Howard government. Labor also have plans to extend Income Management to disadvantaged communities in five pilot sites around the country, including Bankstown.

Income Management, with the imposition of a Basics Card on disadvantaged people, hits women particularly hard. It is well-documented that women carry a heavy burden when families break up and income is tight. Targeted communities in the Northern Territory and now Bankstown and the other trial sites around the country can be forced onto this scheme. People on Income Management have about half their income held by the government and that money can only be spent in certain shops on certain items by using the state issued Basics Card. 

Senator Rachel Siewert has this portfolio for the Greens and her website details the extensive work she is doing with Indigenous communities.

This is a link to my speech against the Stronger Futures Bills and a link to the whole debate on this regressive legislation.
I was at the protest outside Bankstown Centre Link on Monday morning when the trial started. It was a strong turnout with local Indigenous, Muslim and tenancy groups represented. Union opposition is growing with speakers also from Unions NSW and four other unions that are opposing the introduction of the Basics Card.

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