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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Equal opportunity still a way off because ‘men don’t get it’

  • By Susie O’Brien
  • From: Herald Sun
  • March 08, 2011 1:42AM


WOMEN have not achieved equality because “some men just don’t get it”, Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner says.

“We are not seeing enough changes in action,” Dr Helen Szoke said.

“What we need are a range of strategies to break down stereotypical views of women, whether it is hiring a woman in a male-dominated occupation or a female AFL umpire.

“Most men have an unconscious filter, and we need them to see the world through another lens that breaks down barriers for women.”

Speaking in honour of the centenary of International Women’s Day, Dr Szoke urged men to think of their wives and daughters when making decisions, the Herald Sun reported.

“What would your wife say if she was sitting in your chair? Or your daughter?” she said.

“We need more men to confront their own views that stereotype women.

“A lot of men have done that and we need a lot more to do that.”

Her comments come as new figures show:

WOMEN earn 16 per cent less than men on average for the same work.

In some sectors, such as finance, they earn 32 per cent less.

WOMEN have half as much superannuation as men.

THE commission received 160 complaints of sexual harassment and 126 sex discrimination complaints from women in the last year.

A new Equal Opportunity Act takes effect in Victoria on August 1.

The Act will give employers, service providers, schools and landlords a duty to “eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation as far as possible”.

Dr Szoke said the Act required only “reasonable and proportionate measures” to combat inequality.

She said progress was best achieved through “cultural change led from within organisations”.

“Some people are getting it, and they are seeing that gender inequality is bad for business, and that they are missing out by not having enough women workers, or for being a sport that doesn’t have a code that respects women,” she said.

Alexandra Marriott, Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry manager of workplace relations said “cultural change was slow but we are seeing it happen”.

“It’s happening with a new generation coming through the workforce, especially in small business,” she said.

“Businesses are increasingly acknowledging that it is in their favour to increase opportunities for women.”

Read more:

What the hell? Nation in regional retreat

  • Sean Parnell, FOI editor
  • March 07, 2011 12:00AM

Regional retreat 70311

Adam and Farrah Lance, with Savannah, 2, and Jasper, 4, who left Sydney for Newcastle and a better lifestyle, are typical of a growing drift from capital cities. Picture: Jane Dempster Source: The Australian

AUSTRALIA is undergoing a historic shift in population movements, with the once pervasive flow of people to the city giving way to a regional retreat that will require governments to fund more infrastructure and services outside state capitals.

Far greater than any sea change or tree change effect, the new trend, identified in a study commissioned by the Gillard government, will challenge the notion that Australians are overwhelmingly big-city dwellers.

A draft report of the $110,000 study, conducted by Graeme Hugo and Kevin Harris from the University of Adelaide, has been obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws. It was commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and will not only guide future settlement policies, but also the work of Population Minister Tony Burke as he tries to better control and direct population growth and movements.

While the congregation of people in capital cities continued to 1981, the researchers found that “since then there has been stability in the proportion of Australians living in the capitals”.

Coastal areas and near-city regions, in particular, are recording significant growth, with families (who seek a better lifestyle and improved services) and baby boomers (who lose their work ties to the city upon retirement) leading the charge. Sydney’s reputation as a gateway city for immigrants is also slipping, with more newcomers favouring Melbourne, and others encouraged to start off in the regions.

Adam and Farrah Lance certainly wondered “what the hell” they were doing as they worked gruelling hours in their respective top-tier financial firms in Sydney’s CBD and fought congestion to and from their Bronte Beach home.

Four years ago, they moved to Merewether, just south of Newcastle, buying a house 200m from the beach — two hours away from their family in Sydney, but with more space and a better lifestyle. “It’s great for raising children here, there’s space at the beach, lots of parks to play in and there’s just not the same stress,” Ms Lance said yesterday, with children Savannah, 2, and four-year-old Jasper. “Especially for Adam it’s much better, he’s so much more relaxed up here.”

The couple have found jobs in Newcastle. Ms Lance is working two days a week in public relations while Mr Lance, who had been commuting to Sydney, has found full-time work only a 10-minute drive from their home.

“There is not really peak-hour traffic here,” Ms Lance said.

“Also, your money goes further up here; the house prices are definitely cheaper.”

The researchers’ draft report casts capital cities in a dim light and states that Sydney, in particular, has an environment which is not conducive to attracting or retaining people.

Australia’s pre-eminent metropolis is losing so many residents — offset only by international migrants — that the researchers believe it must have “social and economic” problems.

The researchers argue that governments should harness the internal migration trends and use immigration policies to provide a critical mass of people that would justify a greater investment in regional infrastructure.

Amid a broader debate over a “Big Australia” policy, Mr Burke has received about 250 submissions, and expects more in the coming weeks, on his planned national population strategy.

“I’ve held a number of roundtable discussions with key stakeholders on the economic, social and environmental issues that need to be integrated as we build a sustainable Australia,” the minister said yesterday.

Additional reporting: Sallie Don

Loonies latch on to politics of hate

  • Laurie Oakes
  • March 05, 2011 12:00AM


Source: The Daily Telegraph

WINGNUTS are coming out of the woodwork. The mad and menacing phone calls to independent MP Tony Windsor are just one indication.

There are plenty of others, especially online. The carbon tax and Tony Abbott’s call for a people’s revolt have crazies foaming at the mouth.

You see it on the “Revolt Against the Carbon Tax” Facebook page, for example.

Like this message from a Gillard-hater about a rally in front of Parliament House being planned for March 23.

“Just like Egypt we stay there and protest continuously until she and her cronies, Bob Brown greens etc, are ousted! We have got to get rid of this Godless mistress of deceit.”

Hosni Mubarak was a dictator while the Gillard Government is democratically elected, but it doesn’t seem to matter to the fanatics.

The Australian Tea Party – a fringe group based on the US right-wing movement – also attracts some prize specimens. A US tea-bagger, for example, writes: “Hello Down Under. Sorry to see we are not the only nation plagued with vermin like Obama. We stand with you in your quest for liberty from tyranny and oppression.”

The protest rally – one of a series being organised around the nation – is a legitimate response to a government policy that has aroused strong opposition. But those planning and promoting the event – among them personalities from what The Australian’s Mark Day calls “redneck radio” – need to take care that they do not egg the extremists on.

So do Abbott and his senior colleagues. Gillard and her ministers would also do well to exercise some restraint.

Australian politics – like politics in the US in recent years – is taking on an unsavoury feel. Insults are getting nastier and more personal. Debate is one thing, but stirring up hate is quite another. Politicians, pundits, talkback hosts and others involved in the political process have a responsibility to keep that in mind if our democracy is to remain healthy.

There have been similarly worrying situations in the past, of course, when controversial issues dominated politics.

At the height of the battle over waterfront reform in 1998, the Australian Federal Police gave then industrial relations minister Peter Reith close personal protection for months as a result of a death threat.

Philip Ruddock, at the centre of the asylum seeker controversy in the Howard government, was guarded by AFP officers 24-hours a day.

Not only were there threatening calls, loonies even poisoned Ruddock’s lawn.

Then the weirdos were from the Left. This time they’re on the Right. From whatever direction they come, they should not be encouraged.

Gillard herself, of course, has to accept part of the blame for the anger. Her broken promise that there would be no carbon tax was bound to provoke a hostile reaction.

Surprisingly the PM seems not to have foreseen it. There was no serious attempt to explain or justify the backflip at her news conference announcing the new policy. Small wonder talkback lines lit up, focus groups went feral and opinion polls dived.

But critics attacking Gillard for dishonesty have an obligation to stick to the facts themselves. Sydney talkback king Alan Jones seems to have forgotten this in his notorious “JooLIAR” interview:

Gillard: “In the last election campaign I talked constantly about how we needed to cut down on carbon pollution and that the best way of doing that was to price carbon through a market-based mechanism.”

Jones: “No, no Julia.You didn’t say that.”

Gillard: “Pricing carbon is the right thing to do and I said that during the election campaign.”

Jones: “No, you did not.”

Jones should have asked shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, who backs Gillard’s version. He said on radio yesterday: “She actually went there and she said ‘I will have a carbon price, I’ll have an emissions trading system, but I promise you I will not have a carbon tax’.”

Gillard is also blasted for producing a framework for her scheme without any detail of an emissions target, what the carbon tax rate will be or exactly how it will be applied.

That produces uncertainty, say critics. They may be right.

But those same critics were silent – some were even members of the government – when John Howard announced his carbon blueprint in 2007. Howard also gave no indication of the starting price for carbon, no emissions target, no information about the impact on households. And it was Howard – not Gillard – who boasted his scheme would “ensure Australia leads the world”.

Anger aroused by the broken promise fuels the violent reaction now, and means Gillard’s answers to the critics go largely unheard.

Laurie Oakes is political editor for the Nine Network. His column appears every Saturday in The Daily Telegraph

Coalition plan still in search of endorsements

Peter Martin

March 7, 2011

WHEN Malcolm Turnbull was asked to name an economist who supports the Coalition’s carbon reduction plan, he came up blank.

”I can’t cite any economists that agree with it but I have to say to you that at the moment it’s actually the only carbon reduction plan on offer,” he told the ABC’s Q&A.

Yesterday the Coalition’s finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, was asked the same question and named two economists: Greg Evans of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Danny Price, who ”has said our program as it stands is far superior to the emissions trading scheme the government sought to bring in a year ago”.

Mr Evans, normally a backroom operator, is a former Coalition aide and Treasury economist who once ran the Wool Council. Asked by the Herald yesterday whether he did support the Coalition’s plan as claimed, he drew a distinction between his own view as an economist and the chamber’s view.

”We unambiguously represent the views of mainstream businesses and energy users in particular and our view is consistent with their approach on this issue,” he said.

Unlike the Coalition, the chamber has no plan to cut net carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. It does not see the point.

”We are not proposing a model to do that,” Mr Evans said. ”There is no case until there’s international agreement. In the meantime, we support voluntary action. The Coalition is closer to us on that than Labor.”

Danny Price, the other economist mentioned as supporting the Coalition’s plan to use grants and incentives to cut emissions, is an energy specialist who worked on the Coalition’s plan at Frontier Economics.

”I had to ring them up and tell them not to say I supported it,” Mr Price said.

”All I’d said was that their numbers added up, I didn’t say I supported it.”

He believes the Coalition’s proposal ”only makes sense as a transitional plan” along the way to something more permanent.

The acting Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, described Mr Robb’s claims as ”nothing short of cringeworthy,” but had difficulties asserting it was both ”legitimate” to describe Labor’s proposed carbon price as a carbon tax and also ”absolutely incorrect”.

”It doesn’t operate like a traditional tax,” he told Channel Nine. ”The government is not going to take the carbon price out of your pay packet and we’re not going to put it in the revenue.

”It is paid, by a small number of large polluters, and used to assist industry and households.”

When the boatload of asylum seekers smashed into rocks off Christmas Island just before Christmas, certain radio shock jocks went into a lather.

Julie Bishop was acting opposition leader and found herself being interviewed by Andrew Bolt and Steve Price on Melbourne’s MTR.

Bolt, the conservative columnist who expends a great amount of energy lecturing members of the Canberra press gallery on how to do their jobs, has a particular distaste for Labor’s asylum seeker policy. As is the norm for such ”interviews”, he tended to make statements and seek agreement.

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”Look, Julie,” he said, ”this is a tragedy that is a direct consequence of the government policies that led to a resumption of the boat people trade. They were warned, the opposition warned them. I think today, now that the rescue operation is over, today is the time we start to hold people accountable. Would you agree?”

Bishop tried to play a straight bat.

”After any tragedy it is natural and appropriate for people to ask how did it happen, could it have been prevented,” she said. ”There will be many questions, no doubt there will be an official investigation, there will be formal inquiries . . . a coroner’s inquest, as there have been in the past. The Western Australian . . . ”

Bolt interjected: ”Julie, it seems to me you’re reluctant, you’ve been intimidated out of talking about the contributing factors to this tragedy. Is it not true that these people were lured to their deaths?”

And on it went until an increasingly agitated Bolt, according to Bishop, simply hung up on her.

Previously, Bolt and Price had hung up on the independent Rob Oakeshott because he wouldn’t give a straight answer on whom he was likely to support to form minority government. When Tony Windsor went public last week with concerns about the increasingly dangerous tone of public discourse, Bolt promoted his Wednesday morning radio show with the item: ”Tony Windsor’s attempt to play the victim to shut down a debate. We recall how this man who wants to ‘take on’ talkback hosts hung up on me the last time he tried.”

The boys at MTR are far from the only culprits contributing to increasing disrespect for the nation’s leaders. Gary Hardgrave, a shock jock who became a minister under the Howard government before losing his Brisbane seat and returning to radio, hung up on Greens leader Bob Brown 10 days ago.

Brown tweeted afterwards: ”What a spineless uninformed jock Gary Hardgrave is, who when losing the argument cut off the i’view! Voters of Moreton knew a thing or two!”

In their defence, radio jocks are not journalists per se and therefore are not strictly bound to address politicians publicly by their titles or Mr, Ms or Mrs. But is there any cause to be rude, regardless of the temperature of the debate or personal views?

3AW’s Neil Mitchell interviewed Julia Gillard just days after she announced the flood levy and the shock jocks were proclaiming the end of the world. The interview began with an accusation more than a question: ”Prime Minister, with your government’s history of mismanagement, like the insulation program, school rebuilding, who are you going to put in charge of the spending of this money you’re going to take from us?”

Mitchell’s line of inquiry was perfectly legitimate, but was the tone of the question? Days earlier at the National Press Club, Michelle Grattan put the same question to the Prime Minister, but with a civil tongue.

”We have seen from the global financial crisis and the government’s response to that that there are problems with speed. Have you any particular Commonwealth mechanisms to ensure that money is spent properly and there is proper value for that spending?”

The Mitchell interview, which degenerated into a slanging match, paled against the more recent Alan Jones interview. Jones clearly felt his time was more important than that of the nation’s leader, berating her for being 10 minutes late.

Politicians are the first to admit that the way they carry on in the chamber does little to engender respect among the public.

Up close, politics is an adversarial game with much at stake, but that doesn’t entitle the nation’s opinion leaders to treat them like dirt in their own race to become more notorious than the next bloke.

No more ignorant talk of a two-speed economy

The more economists examine it, the more they explode the seemingly self-evident truth that we’re living in a two-speed economy.

Why do people keep saying this? I think they’re saying that whoever’s benefiting from all the talk of a boom, it ain’t my state or my industry. In short: I see no evidence of any boom around me and I’m certainly not getting any benefit from it.

If there is a boom, they seem to be saying, it’s limited to the mining industry while the rest of the economy is struggling. Similarly, Western Australia and Queensland may be doing OK, but the other states and territories aren’t.

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There’s just one small problem with all this: the facts don’t back it up. Consider, for openers, the figures we got last week for ”state final demand” (an imperfect interim substitute for gross state product).

Growth in this measure over the year to December averaged 2.7 per cent across Australia, but varied from 4.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. The three fastest growing areas were the Northern Territory, the ACT and Tasmania.

Western Australia came fourth on 3.1 per cent and Queensland came eighth and last on 1.5 per cent.

As Saul Eslake of the Grattan Institute has reminded us, it’s not arithmetically possible for all the states to be above average like the kids in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. There’ll always be some above the average and some below it. There’ll always be a multitude of reasons why, at any moment, some states are doing relatively well and others relatively badly.

Eslake has had a good look at the figures and found that, in the past two decades, there’s never been a gap of less than 2 percentage points between the annual rates of growth in gross state product of the fastest and slowest growing states and territories.

But that gap is narrower in recent years than it used to be. Over the past five years it’s averaged 3.7 percentage points, which is 1.5 percentage points narrower than it averaged over the previous 15 years.

Eslake adds that there’s much less divergence in the performance of our states and territories than there is in comparable federations. Over the past four years our divergence has been half what it is for the American states and about a third of what it is for Canada’s provinces.

But now Kieran Davies and Felicity Emmett, of the Royal Bank of Scotland, have examined the two-speed economy proposition using labour market figures for almost 70 regions around the nation.

In particular, they test the contention that the resources boom and the high dollar that goes with it are making the economy too dependent on mining and hollowing out the rest of the economy, thus making us more vulnerable to external shocks.

They find that at the height of the first stage of the resources boom in 2008, when national unemployment fell just below 4 per cent, unemployment was low across the country. There was a gap of only about 6 percentage points between the lowest regional unemployment rate of 2 per cent and the highest of 8 per cent.

Then, at the time when the mild recession caused by the global financial crisis led to national unemployment peaking at close to 6 per cent, the gap between the lowest regional unemployment rate of 1 per cent and the highest regional rate of 20 per cent was a massive 19 percentage points.

But now, as unemployment has continued to fall back from that peak, the gap has narrowed sharply. At the start of this year it stood at 14 percentage points, with the lowest regional unemployment rate still at 1 per cent and the highest falling to 15 per cent.

And get this: many of the regions with the lowest unemployment rates are in the non-resource-rich states. The regions with rates between 1 per cent and 2 per cent are in NSW (the Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle, and some parts of Sydney) and the Northern Territory. WA doesn’t feature in the top 10, though rural WA comes in at No. 13.

In 2008, before the onset of the crisis, more than 90 per cent of the regions had unemployment of 6 per cent or less. Now, with the economy yet to return to that height, 70 per cent of regions are at 6 per cent or less. If that doesn’t prove the benefits of the resources boom are being spread right around the economy, nothing will.

It’s true the retailers are doing it tough at present (mainly for reasons that have little to do with the resources boom), but it’s just sloppy thinking to see this as more evidence of the two-speed economy.

Why is it not a two-speed economy? Because about three-quarters of us work in industries that are neither great direct beneficiaries of the resources boom, nor great victims of the high exchange rate it has brought about.

And also because we live in one national economy, not eight isolated economies. There is a high degree of trade between the states and territories. They are subject to the same exchange rate, interest rate and federal budgetary policy.

A fair bit of the cream from the resources boom goes to the federal government. And all the mining royalties gained by the WA and Queensland governments are shared with the other state and territory governments via the formula by which the proceeds from the goods and services tax are divided between them.

The rise in the dollar is actually one mechanism by which part of the earnings of the miners is redistributed to all other industries and all consumers, in the form of cheaper imports.

If you think you’ve got nothing to show for the resources boom, all you’re showing is your economic ignorance.

Ross Gittins is the economics editor.

Let’s talk about sex

Catherine Keenan

March 4, 2011


Elizabeth Broderick, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner.Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Photo: Gary Heery

Meet Elizabeth Broderick, the woman who can walk into any boardroom and strike a deal.

Late last year, as a way of participating in a campaign of activism, Elizabeth Broderick decided that for 16 days she would start all her speeches, regardless of their subject, with a discussion of gender-based violence.

She did it at a financial education conference, surprising a few of the financiers in the room, and she does it again when I walk into her airy office, high above the CBD.

She’s an excellent speaker, intensely personable, and she launches straight into a story about a woman she met recently at a refuge in Queensland.

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Available on the last Thursday of every month with The Sydney Morning Herald.Available on the last Thursday of every month with The Sydney Morning Herald.

The woman had five children and her partner earned $1200 a week – and kept $1150 for himself. The woman was left with $50 to feed and clothe herself and her kids, an instance of economic abuse that, to Broderick, was every bit as incapacitating as the physical kind. “That’s why economic independence for women matters,” she says, leaning forward.

Nearly 3 1/2 years into her five-year tenure as the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Broderick hardly looks like a radical. In a charcoal-grey skirt suit with pale pink lipstick and her hair raked into a ponytail, she looks like someone who was head girl at her high school – which, of course, she was, at Meriden Anglican school for girls in Strathfield. Before she took this job, she wasn’t screaming down the patriarchy or burying herself in feminist texts. She was a partner and head of legal technology at a law firm, Blake Dawson Waldron.

She is 50 years old, happily married to Hunter Southwick, who works in finance, and has two children, Tom, 14, and Lucy, 13. She has a warm and engaging manner and is known for the genuine interest she shows in people. All of which makes her a canny choice for this job.

She can walk into any boardroom and the men – they are mostly men; we’re getting to that – are immediately comfortable, recognising her as someone they can deal with. She smuggles in her agenda almost by stealth. It’s no coincidence that her most obvious success has been at the big end of town: from 2009 to 2010, she facilitated a nearly 600 per cent increase in the number of women appointed to ASX 200 boards.

As she quickly points out, the numbers are still tiny – just 10.7 per cent of board members are female. But at least it’s increasing. Between 2002 and 2009, the numbers went up only 0.2 per cent.

The way Broderick achieved this result is telling. She originally thought her job was all about women agitating for change. But after a while she thought, “You know what? This isn’t going to change until you get men taking the message of gender equality out to other men. I can bang on as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner but to have another CEO ring [his network of contacts] and talk about it is going to be much more influential.”

She first went out hard publicly, talking about introducing quotas – “the Q word” – for women on boards. This got media attention. Then she approached 12 powerful men she knew had a strong commitment to gender equality. Among her “male champions of change” are Michael Luscombe, managing director and CEO of Woolworths; Stephen Roberts, CEO of Citigroup; and Allan Joyce, CEO of Qantas. She asked if they would drive the promotion of women in their own organisations, then go into the business community advocating more change.

She never mentioned the Q word again.

Working with men has been a hallmark of Broderick’s tenure so far. It was headline news in 2008 when she publicly sympathised with the pressure on them to work hard and be the breadwinner. She agitated – with limited success – for men to be included in the federal government’s paid parental leave scheme and sees men as crucial to further change. “Men’s and women’s lives are so intertwined,” she says. “How can you separate them out?” Says long-time feminist campaigner Eva Cox: “I think she actually understands, much better than many people, that if we’re going to make changes for women, we’ve got to make changes with men.”

Broderick is positive, overall, about how women in Sydney are faring. Since the Sex Discrimination Act became law in 1984, “we’ve made really significant advances”, she says. Still, March 8 marks the centenary of International Women’s Day, when women began agitating for, among other things, equal pay. “A hundred years later, not only is the pay gap not narrowing, it’s actually widening again,” she says. “It’s out at 16.9 per cent if you look at the national average.”

In her capacity as commissioner, Broderick intervened in an equal-pay case being brought by the Australian Services Union and she has been integral to the many other gender-related debates of the past year. She proposed a model for the paid parental leave scheme (some aspects were taken up, she’s still campaigning for others). And she was a very public commentator on last year’s high-profile David Jones sexual harassment case, when CEO Mark McInnes resigned after confessing to inappropriate behaviour towards 27-year-old Kristy Fraser-Kirk, who worked in marketing. Broderick thinks the case is a significant warning to men. “It’s had a really strong educative value, there’s no question about that.”

Yes, she was uneasy about the media frenzy surrounding Fraser-Kirk. To Broderick, it was a repeat of how so many harassment cases play out, with attention swiftly moving from the man’s alleged misconduct to the woman’s credibility. Those who dismissed Fraser-Kirk as a gold-digger over her $37-million claim were participating in that process, she says. “The money she asked for was a matter between herself and her legal representative. We need to focus on the alleged behaviour and whether such a thing could happen where we work.”

Many people thought this intense media scrutiny of Fraser-Kirk would deter other women from coming forwards but Broderick says it had the opposite effect. “Ordinarily, 20 per cent of the complaints that come in under the Sex Discrimination Act relate to sexual harassment. If I look at the six months from June to December [last year], 50 per cent of them relate to sexual harassment.” In June and July, she says, it spiked at 90 per cent, which she links directly to the case.

Of course, having a female prime minister, premier and governor-general has sent a clear message that women can achieve at the highest levels. Yet, perversely, Broderick believes it’s also had a negative effect in that it’s made some people think “gender equality, tick, we’ve done that”.

She thinks two of the biggest obstacles holding women back now, at least in economic terms, are cultural. The first, which she deals with herself by declaring a “guilt-free zone”, is the belief that a good mother spends all her time with her children. This keeps women out of the workforce and is, in her opinion, simply wrong. “We know it’s so much more nuanced than that.” The second is particularly ingrained in Sydney, where long hours are the norm and people pride themselves on how hard they work. “The ‘ideal’ worker is available 24/7, has no visible caring responsibilities and by extension is usually male,” she says. It’s an assumption that makes it hard for women with children to compete.

Even before taking this job, Broderick railed against this. She pioneered part-time work at Blake’s and for 12 years worked three or 3 1/2 days a week while remaining a partner. It was a revolutionary change in law-firm culture: the idea that you might not be available night and day yet still get good work done. This, and her creation of a database allowing people to access low-cost legal advice, was the main reason she was named the Telstra NSW Business Woman of the Year for 2001/2002.

Still, like every other working mother on the planet, she does occasionally feel guilty, both about work and about the kids. One of the things she most worried about when taking this job was the effect on her family of going full-time so she’s made a concerted effort to maintain a work/life balance.

“If I can’t manage it, then what sort of credibility do I have when I’m going out there and preaching about it?” She declines invitations if they mean missing dinner with the children and tries not to email at night (she doesn’t always succeed). She took her kids along on the listening tour with which she began the job and in 2008 she and Lucy camped out with 200 Aboriginal women in the Kimberley.

Once again, she thinks working mothers need men to help out. Until they, too, work part-time to look after the kids or leave at 3pm to do the school run, women will always be left behind. It’s why she’s committed to improving the provisions for men in the paid parental leave scheme. “They’re the future of attitudinal changes in workplaces.”

Growing up in Caringbah in the 1960s, Broderick had an unusually progressive family. Her mother, Margot, never called herself a feminist but was obviously a woman with views. Believing that competition could destroy relationships, she made sure Broderick and her identical twin, now Jane Latimer, had different clothes and even went to different schools. One of the twins’ tricks was to swap schools for a day; their friends twigged but teachers never did. “She always used to send me when she had a big science test,” says Latimer, now an associate professor of medicine at the University of Sydney.

Margot worked part-time as a physiotherapist and helped her husband, Frank, establish his nuclear medicine practice. They both did the housework and Broderick remembers that it was a shock when she discovered, quite late, that not all the world was like this. When she was at university, one of her father’s patients asked if she had any brothers. “I said, ‘No, I don’t but I’ve got two sisters.’ She looked and me and said, ‘Oh, your poor father, no one to carry on the family name!’ It was just incomprehensible to me.”

Her parents instilled in their children an ethic of community responsibility. “Dad always said you can be in paid employment four days a week but one day a week you need to be employed in something that’s giving back to the community,” says Latimer.

Broderick didn’t make women her focus until she had kids and felt the full brunt of discrimination – late-onset feminism, she likes to call it. “I realised because I’d had a baby, my life would now go on a different track to my husband’s.” She decided to do something about that.

According to her friend Sam Mostyn, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at the University of Sydney, Broderick is driven by ideas. Not in an esoteric way but because she can see real benefit in them. Around the time she won the Telstra award, Broderick wrote herself a note outlining her goals. Mostly these were personal, regarding her commitment to family and friends, but they also included a vision of Australia as a country with improved work/life balance. To not achieve this, she says, is to waste Australia’s best selling point: the beauty of our land and climate. Giving people the leisure time needed to enjoy it, while still working productively, could be a huge factor in attracting talented workers to our shores and propelling the nation forwards.

Her twin says that Broderick is not hugely ambitious for herself. But she is ambitious about what Australian women can achieve. Which explains why Broderick was prepared to take a 50 per cent pay cut to become Sex Discrimination Commissioner and spearhead that fight.

Broderick is, says her sister Jane Latimer, a terrible housekeeper. She and Southwick have also never owned a television, which she knows sounds weird but it’s something they never got around to. Broderick loves The Mentalist, though, and borrows her son’s iPad to watch back-to-back episodes. Like many, she read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom over summer: “But I’ve decided crime novels are what I really like.”

Liz, as everyone calls her, lives a few minutes’ walk from her younger sister, Carolyn Broderick, a sports medicine physician, and Latimer in the north-west of Sydney. They share childcare and are so close that Southwick jokes about having two wives, says Latimer. The day of our interview is Elizabeth’s 21st wedding anniversary. “We decided we love each other more than we’ve ever done,” she says, girlishly.

Broderick’s mother died in 2003, when she was still at Blake’s. She says it confirmed her desire to help women and made her hanker for a national platform to direct more systemic change. She is very close to her dad, who writes speeches for her and sometimes drops off food to his daughter on weekends. One of the things Sam Mostyn admires about Broderick is her “intense and wonderful sense of family and friends”.

Her skill at relationships has been crucial to her success in this job, adds Stephen Roberts, one of her “male champions of change”. “Liz is a real person. She speaks of her family, she speaks of her own challenges and she’s been able to really garner support through those skills.” It’s been particularly effective combined with the respect she already commanded in the business world before taking on this role. “In terms of people who make a difference, she is certainly one of them.”

Who is Australia’s most inspiring woman?

Eva Cox thinks Broderick has done a “terrific” job so far. “She’s been very consultative, very open, very aware of the fact that she was learning. Very few people are critical of her. She’s warm, she’s easy to talk to, she’s competent and she’s aware of what’s going on.”

Broderick adores her job but her instinctive connection to people also makes it difficult. The stories of abuse and neglect she regularly hears cut deep. The problems she is charged with addressing are so wide-ranging, so thoroughly dug in, it would be easy to feel helpless. Instead, former head girl that she is, Broderick made a list.

Being a successful Sex Discrimination Commissioner is all about prioritising and after her listening tour she drew up a five-point plan. In an ideal world, this would be skewed heavily towards domestic violence and women in poverty – and these things do, of course, feature. But realistically, Broderick will not eradicate them. So as well as increasing the number of women in positions of power, she has overseen a strengthening of sexual harassment law. These are things she can do. They are easily measured.

But it’s the other issues – the unsexy ones that are so very hard to measure – that are closest to her heart. Getting more women onto boards is, in the end, about educated, articulate woman. “I see my role more as standing up for women who have no voice,” she says. Then, as usual, she reaches for a story. This one is about a 72-year-old woman who came into a domestic violence counselling service in the southern suburbs of Sydney. When the counsellor asked why she had come now, after living in a violent relationship for 40 years, she said it was because, over Christmas, her daughter and granddaughter came to stay.

“Her husband went out to the pub and came home and started to beat her up,” Broderick continues. “Her daughter, who was about 45, did what she had always done and hid under the bed in the spare room. Her granddaughter looked in from the adjoining room. After it finished, the granddaughter came and said, ‘Look, Nan, it doesn’t have to be like this. Here, I learnt last week at school’ – she’d done a Respectful Relationships program – ‘that we can ring this number and you and I are going to go in and see someone about it.’ ”

So yes, there are hard stories. “But,” she says with a smile, “they’re also hugely uplifting.”

International Women’s Day

Five ways to get involved in the centenary celebrations

1. The Next Hundred Years

Academic and feminist Eva Cox speaks about the future for women at this lecture presented by the History Council of NSW and Macquarie University. 6.30pm-8.30pm, March 8. $30. Museum of Sydney, cnr Bridge and Phillip streets, city. Phone: 8239 2211.

2. Fighters, Feminists and Philanthropists: Celebrating 100 Years of IWD

A selection of panellists, including historian Jill Roe, will give talks followed by discussions at this celebration of women’s activism. 1.30pm-5.30pm, March 8. Free. Dixon Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, city.

3. Crafternoon Tea

At this afternoon tea, the women of Reverse Garbage, a reuse co-op, will host a workshop where participants can design and create objects from recycled materials. 2pm-4.30pm, March 8. Free. 8/142 Addison Road, Marrickville. Phone: 9569 3132.

4. Live, Laugh and Learn International Women’s Day 2011 Brunch

This free brunch will feature a seminar with psychologist Dr Helen Correia, who will speak on well-being and the elusive work-life balance. 9.30am-11.30am, March 9. Free. Bankstown Council Chambers, cnr Chapel Road and The Mall, Bankstown. Phone: 9707 9637.

5. International Women’s Day March

Over 1000 Sydneysiders are expected to attend the annual march, which starts at Town Hall and finishes with bands and speakers at First Fleet Park. Noon, March 12. Town Hall Square, between the Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral, city.

Unfinished Business

Six prominent Sydney women on what’s still to be done and where their younger sisters are going wrong.


Chair, Sydney Writers’ Festival

What are the key issues for women? “Affordable childcare, the appalling salaries offered in careers where women dominate – childcare, teaching, nursing, aged care – and the lack of opportunity to integrate career progression with family-flexible work practices. It seems you can have one or the other but not both at the same time!”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “I think raunch culture is the most dispiriting phenomenon of recent times. We older feminists wanted our younger sisters to have the right to choose – alas, we assumed when they did, they would display good taste and good judgment.”


CEO, Carnival Australia

What are the key issues for women? “There should be no need to have to say this in 2011 but equal pay in the workplace remains at the forefront of gender-equality issues. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure women are paid the same as male work colleagues in similar roles. Too often this isn’t the case, in spite of equal pay for equal work being a matter of basic fairness.”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “I’m not sure young women are making glaring errors and even if they were, I don’t believe mistakes are always bad. We’ve all made them and hopefully learnt from the experience. But if there is a mistake for young women to avoid, it is failing to ask for advice when it’s most needed. Help is usually there for the asking.”


Chair, Telstra

What are the key issues for women? “Female candidates need to select executive or board roles that are truly consistent with their areas of interest, skills and experience. Women need to beware of being rushed into opportunities without giving themselves time to consider whether the position really suits their aspirations, interests and skills. Also, women need to understand the challenges they may face mid-career, be resilient and ask for support where required.”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “Too many young women underestimate their own skills and ability. Many young women can be unnecessarily or consistently deferential, rather than backing their own judgment or prosecuting their own argument. And many perhaps do not explicitly think through what really motivates or interests them and direct their focus accordingly.”


Managing director, Random House Australia and New Zealand

What are the key issues for women? “As someone running a company that employs a lot of women, I see a high level of exhaustion among working mothers. They work damn hard – at work and at home – and juggling everything is difficult.”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “I worry about the level of binge-drinking among young women – and I mean the mid-teens. And I wonder how what appears now on Facebook might come back to haunt them. On a brighter note, I’m encouraged by hearing anecdotally how many brilliant young women are planning to study or are studying engineering. They will change the world.”


Director, Museum of Contemporary Art

What are the key issues for women? “First of all, it’s about time we saw some progress on the issue of women on boards. The lack of progress really is a disgrace, especially in the light of evidence that having more women on boards is good for the bottom line as well as giving women a fair go. Role models are critical and we simply don’t have enough. The second issue is the extraordinary focus that the media continues to have on a woman’s appearance and personal life rather than her ability to do the job. It’s archaic.”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “Expecting too much too quickly. But that’s a generational issue rather than a gender one. Younger women sometimes lack a sense of history and don’t realise that a lot of things that they take for granted were not easily won. It’s for this reason that I do wonder about the wisdom of young women sharing photographs of excessive partying on Facebook. Sadly, double standards still apply.”


Director General, NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water

What are the key issues for women? “Working together to tackle major issues … and balancing the competing pressures of work and taking care of family, whether it is a young family or as a carer for elderly parents.”

What mistakes do you see young women making? “I particularly worry about unhealthy lifestyles that may not seem problematic now but will affect their health and well-being in the future: smoking, binge-drinking and stilettos. Being healthy and active while you are young makes for a much more enjoyable future.”

Styling Penny McCarthy Hair and make-up Liz Jones

Elizabeth Broderick wears Piazza Sempione dress from Riada and Marni necklace

Dial up death threats do not deter as shock jocks maintain the Coalition’s rage

March 3, 2011
When independent federal MP Tony Windsor checked the messages on his mobile phone yesterday, one opened with a quiet, emphatic male voice: “You die. You die you f—ing c–t”. It only got worse after that.

Windsor was not shocked. The 60-year-old former farmer has served in state and federal parliaments for 20 years.

“I’ve had death threats before, but not as many. So I’m on a popularity curve,” he quips. He had three more on Tuesday, for instance. Are there more nutters abroad these days? Windsor doesn’t think that’s it.

He says it’s part of a broader campaign targeting him and the other three crossbench MPs who helped Labor form a minority government after the election last year. “It’s not a constituent who’s got angry and snapped over a custody case or some other matter. There’s a degree of orchestration in the emails and common language in the phone calls – the police have picked up on that. It’s more of a political exercise.

“It’s not so much about carbon tax or national broadband – that’s just the hitching point. It’s aimed at destabilising the government, destroying the hung parliament.”

Who is doing the orchestrating? Talkback radio: “That’s the link point,” Windsor says. Shock jocks have been broadcasting his phone numbers and email address and urging listeners to besiege him with complaints.

Windsor has no beef with people who disagree with him, he says, only with people who try to intimidate him.

The shock jocks are the volunteer sergeant-majors in the “people’s revolt” summoned by the commanding general, Tony Abbott.

The Opposition Leader has said he anticipates “tens of thousands of people” will “bombard” Labor and the independents to stop the proposed carbon tax.

Labor was indignant yesterday that two Liberal frontbenchers had likened Julia Gillard to the Libyan butcher, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The National Party’s Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce, never short of a colourful phrase, nonetheless showed restraint: “Obviously I don’t think Ms Gillard is a person to be compared to Colonel Gaddafi, a tyrant and a murderer,” he told Sky News.

But Abbott declined all opportunities to distance himself from the comparison.

He said he wouldn’t use the Gaddafi comparison himself, but “what I can’t stop is the anger so many people feel about what they think is a betrayal by this government”.

His strategy of angry oppositionism, after all, depends on anger. He was careful, nonetheless, to insist on civility in the debate.

But Windsor worries: “There’s been an elevation of incitement in the political messages out there. It’s pretty fragile. It only takes one unhinged person and it will change everything.”

Will the anger have its desired political effect? Will it persuade Windsor and the other independents to switch support from Labor to Liberal? “It has the opposite effect,” says Windsor.

Extreme winter weather linked to climate change

March 2, 2011 – 2:31PM
A woman  climbs out of a vehicle that ended up on a guard rail   during a snow storm in Cumberland, Maine, on Friday.A woman climbs out of a vehicle that ended up on a guard rail during a snow storm in Cumberland, Maine, on Friday. Photo: AP

This winter’s heavy snowfalls and other extreme storms in the US could well be related to increased moisture in the air due to global climate change, a panel of scientists said on Tuesday.

This extra moisture is likely to bring on extraordinary flooding with the onset of spring in the northern hemisphere, as deep snowpack melts and expected heavy rains add to seasonal run-off, the scientists said.

As the planet warms up, more water from the oceans is evaporated into the atmosphere, said Todd Sanford, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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At the same time, because the atmosphere is warmer, it can hold on to more of the moisture that it takes in.

Intense storms are often the result when the atmosphere reaches its saturation point, Mr Sanford said.

This year, a series of heavy storms over the US Midwest to the Northeast have dropped up to 400 per cent of average snows in some locations, said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground.

The amount of water in that snowpack is among the highest on record, he said.

“If you were to take all that water and melt it, it would come out to more than six inches [15 centimetres] over large swathes of the area,” Mr Masters said.

“If all that water gets unleashed in a hurry, in a sudden warming, and some heavy rains in the area, we could be looking at record flooding along the Upper Mississippi River and the Red River in North Dakota.”

That tallies with projections by the US National Weather Service, which last month said a large stretch of the north central United States was at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring.

Spring floods could be exacerbated by spring creep, a phenomenon where spring begins earlier than previously.

“We’ve documented in the mountains of the US West that the spring run-off pulse now comes between one and three weeks earlier than it used to 60 years ago,” Mr Masters said.

“And that’s because of warmer temperatures tending to melt that snowpack earlier and earlier.”

In the last century, global average temperatures have risen by .8 degrees.

Last year tied for the warmest in the modern record. One place this warmth showed up was in the Arctic, which is a major weather-maker for the northern hemisphere, said Mark Serreze, director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

One driver of this winter’s “crazy weather” is an atmospheric pattern known as the Arctic Oscillation, which has moved into what climate scientists call a negative phase, Mr Serreze said.

This phase means there is high pressure over the Arctic and low pressure at mid-latitudes, which makes the Arctic zone relatively warm, but spills cold Arctic air southward to places such as the US Midwest and Northeast.

This negative Arctic Oscillation has been evident for two years in a row, the same two winters that have had extreme storms and heavy snowfalls.

It is possible, but not certain, that the negative Arctic Oscillation is linked to warming of the Arctic, which is in turn influenced by a decrease in sea ice cover throughout the region.

The only underlying explanation for these events is climate warming due to heightened greenhouse gas levels, Mr Serreze said.


Carbon tax is poll poison for NSW

  • Only 18 per cent of NSW voters support tax 
  • Poll shows Coalition plan to use it as weapon 
  • Some Labor MPs also against carbon tax 

VOTERS have rejected Julia Gillard’s carbon tax, Coalition polling across NSW state seats found, with almost two thirds of people against it.

In a sign of the battle ahead for Julia Gillard in selling the new tax to voters, only 18 per cent of NSW voters said they were in favour of a tax. About the same number said they had not yet made up their mind.

But 62 per cent said they were firmly against it.

The remainder claimed to have no knowledge of it.

The polling was conducted in NSW as part of the Coalition’s campaign for the state election on March 26.

It polled 1200 people at the weekend, just days after Julia Gillard announced she would seek to introduce a carbon price in July 2012 before a market-based emissions trading scheme by as early as 2015.

The decision by the State Opposition to poll on carbon tax revealed Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell’s plans to use it as a key weapon against Labor in the election.

“A carbon tax will lead to higher power bills, but a carbon tax will also threaten jobs – whether your company is selling into the Australian market against imports, or whether it is trying to sell overseas against countries that don’t have a carbon tax,” Mr O’Farrell said yesterday. The sentiment was supported by some federal Labor MPs in marginal seats.

Several of Ms Gillard’s caucus said the carbon tax would hurt them locally and they were concerned federal Labor’s strategy of recapturing its left-wing base through climate change policy would cost them middle-class Australian votes.

“If petrol is included, it will kill us,” one NSW Federal MP said yesterday. “It really is a divided issue and anyone in a marginal seat in NSW will be in trouble.”

Carbon tax dominated Federal Parliament yesterday, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott continuing his attack on Ms Gillard’s broken election promise.

Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott’s threats of winding back the tax would cripple the Australian economy.

She tried to inflame divisions within the Coalition over climate change, following admissions by Liberal MP and former leader Malcolm Turnbull that he still supported the idea of a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme.

“If this fear campaign fails and we price carbon on July 1, 2012, as I intend to do, then [Abbott] will go to the next election with a plan to wreck the Australian economy with economic vandalism,” Ms Gillard said.

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet say Australian households would be poorer by an average of $720 a year under the coalition’s direct action plan.

“The new figures demonstrate that direct action is so environmentally ineffective that it will deliver only 25 per cent of carbon pollution abatement required for the Coalition to meet the bipartisan target of minus five per cent (by 2020),” Mr Combet said in a statement today.

“This means that the Coalition would need to purchase 75 per cent of the required abatement from international permits at a cost of over $20 billion – which currently has no funding allocated.”

The cost of the Opposition’s plan would eventually leave a $30 billion Budget shortfall by 2020, Mr Combet said.

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