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Establishment of Joint Sessional Gender and Equality Committee

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 16 June 2022

Tags: Women, Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we are also very pleased to support this initiative that has been put forward by the new Minister for Women, Ms Palmer.  It will be a body that is gender inclusive, which is very important, and it will be established for this session of the parliament.  We hope that this ultimately becomes a standing committee of both Houses of the Tasmanian parliament.  Dr Woodruff is very much looking forward to being a constructive contributor towards the work of this committee.

It raises the question of what has happened to the committee system though, that we are debating the establishment of a really important joint sessional committee.  It was not that long ago that we had standing committees, for example, for community development, for the environment where references could be sent and committee members could examine particular issues, call for submissions and present recommendations.  Dr Woodruff and I would very much like to see that committee system re-established.  Once the House is restored to 35 seats it will be much more doable, because you will have more members with a capacity to represent their constituencies through the committee process.  That will lead to much better representation, where community members can put forward referrals and where we can be examining matters of significant public interest. 

On that note I will say, we need  -without too much further delay - to have a joint standing committee on climate action.  It is, arguably, the most important work that we have to do as a community - to make sure that we are ready for the future which is barrelling towards us very fast.  Dr Woodruff and I will continue to take that up with the Premier and have some conversations with our other colleagues in the House about how we might work together on climate action.  What are the things that we can agree on?  What are the steps that we can agree to take together?  What is the message that we send to young people about the possibilities of collaboration to deliver some meaningful action on climate; and that includes emissions reduction and helping communities to adapt; and making sure we are as climate-ready and resilient as we are capable of being.

Establishing a gender committee will help parliament have a much more inclusive lens applied to legislation and policy.  In some ways we need this committee to be mindful of the multiple layers of inequality in our society and to note that inclusion has many elements; I think Ms O'Byrne referred to this.  This is no disrespect to our male colleagues but if you have that gender lens applied to legislation, policy, and practices in this place you are likely to have a more inclusive parliament.  We need to be ever mindful of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, of young people, of people living with a disability, and of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer.  Establishing a committee that specifically focuses on gender issues and gender equality, will lead to a more open frame about inclusion more broadly in our community, and that would be fantastic.

It is frustrating, particularly to people like Ms O'Byrne, Ms Archer, Dr Woodruff and I and plenty of other female MPs, that we seem to be having the same conversation over and over.  In the Labor-Greens government we had the Tasmanian Women's Strategy, which was to apply a gender lens to all legislation and policy.  That is now 10 years ago, and we are still in a situation where we are having debates in both Houses of the parliament about how we apply a gender lens to all areas of law, policy and parliamentary practice.  Let us hope this same conversation is not being had 10 years from now.

The great thing about this House and this parliament is that it is one place in the world, at least, where the women have the numbers.  We support the motion.