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International Women's Day - Break the Bias


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Tags: Women

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Speaker, I too rise to mark International Women's Day, and to note that this year's theme is Break the Bias, to help end discrimination and inequality in our communities. Some members may know this, many women in the Chamber will know this, but International Women's Day was first celebrated on 8 March, in Russia.

On 8 March 1917 in Petrograd, or 23 February of 1917 on the Julian calendar, women textile workers began a demonstration that eventually engulfed the whole city. They were demanding bread and peace, an end to World War I, to food shortages and to Tsarism.

While International Women's Day was only celebrated in communist countries for decades, it was adopted by the United Nations in 1967, the year of my birth.

Given the terrible state of the world, it will be difficult for many people, and particularly women who mark this day, to comprehend the Russian origins of International Women's Day. If you look at what is happening in Putin's Russia, he decriminalised domestic violence in February 2017, he is undertaking persecution of feminists in Russia, he has jailed the musicians from Pussy Riot for daring to challenge him. This is a little man who clearly fears strong women, as so many little men do.

The other autocrat in the world, dictator Xi Jinping, in his country, China, Uyghur women are imprisoned, their children are taken away from them, they are subject to forced marriage, forced sterilisation, slavery. For Chinese women, in the past two or three years, there has been a crackdown on the budding feminist movement in China. Weak men fear strong women.

While here we have the relative luxury of democracy in a troubled and increasingly fascistic world, we have the privilege of free speech and a free press and the privilege of public dissent. I acknowledge those women who came before us in this Chamber, who really copped it. Our predecessors in the Greens, Christine Milne, Di Hollister, Peg Putt, the mighty Judy Jackson, Fran Bladel, Lara Giddings, who was a pioneer as the first female premier, the wonderful, hardworking and decent Sue Napier and to thank them for the work that they did to make this place a safer place for women.

We have to defend our democracy and the right we have to free speech. It is a responsibility we should take seriously on our island. An example of what we are up against, of course, is the Gutwein Government's anti-protest laws. These will be laws that will threaten gutsy Tasmanian champions who would dare to speak up, should they do so in the wrong place. Under the law, people like Grace Tame and those who rallied in support of Brittany Higgins on that incredible day on the lawns of Parliament last year, and all women who have been abused or harassed in the workplace. Those laws - the Gutwein Government's anti-protest laws - are designed to put frighteners on anyone who is standing up to the Government.

This morning, the new Minister for Women in response to a question from Ms Johnston said:

As I look around this Chamber, I see good Tasmanian female politicians and I would like to acknowledge everybody in the Chamber today on that score.

Well, thank you, Ms Ogilvie, for the Greens' place in your compliment. We do not mind being called 'good women' but we would prefer to be who the corrupt misogynist sex predator, former US President, Donald Trump, called 'nasty women' when he was having a crack at Hillary Clinton. 'Nasty women' are so often the ones who stand up to bad governments and bad policy for all the right reasons. 'Nasty women' rattle cages.

In Tasmania, we have so many fierce champions. These are good women and they are 'nasty women'. Just a sample - the already mentioned, mighty Grace Tame; proud palawa women Heather Sculthorpe, Nala Mansell, Teresa Sainty, Kartanya Maynard; former Governor and law reformer, Professor Kate Warner; human rights defender with her own extraordinary story of survival of flight arrival and a new beginning here, Grace Williams; former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Robin Banks; equality campaigner, Martine Delaney. There are also Tasmanian women like Kristen Desmond; Jane Wardlaw; Dr Lisa Denny and Rosalie Martin who stand up for people with disabilities, young people and for those trying to break the cycle of prison; and of course, the forest defenders: Jenny Webber; Dr Jen Sanger and Blue Derby Wild's Louise Morris.

Just today, a group of Bob Brown Foundation (BBF) 'good' and 'nasty' women, led by the tenacious Dr Lisa Searle, walked into an active logging coupe in the Esperance forests within 500 metres of the Southwest National Park, to highlight the ongoing devastation of swift parrot habitat. We will often find Lisa up a mighty old tree to defend the forest.

Mr Speaker, well-behaved women do not change the world, they do not shake up the place and call out corruption, racism, sexism or climate crimes. It is the 'nasty' women in lutruwita - whether they be a bit more tempered in their approach or more loud and fierce - they are the ones who change the world; and my wonderful colleague who is also another great and 'nasty', for the right reasons, woman, Dr Rosalie Woodruff. I will stand by these Tasmanian women and all women every day of our work.

Dr Woodruff - Hear, hear.