It’s Mad Men for Abbott’s government
It might be early days to make the call – the Coalition government will only be sworn in on Wednesday – but the fact that the incoming Abbott Cabinet will be composed almost exclusively of rich white ruling class men indicates a return to an era of extreme conservatism when Liberal men ran the government and women ‘knew their place.’
The Abbott government is the Mad Men of politics today.
Of the 20 Cabinet members 19 will be white men. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will be the only woman among the band of hostile brothers.
Abbott says the cabinet was picked, by him, on merit. So no other woman has the ability to be a Cabinet Minister? Unlike say Warren Truss or Barnaby Joyce who just brim with talent.
Of course merit is really about being white, male, rich and educated at a private school. Occasionally a woman is admitted to the boys’ club.
Abbot also downsized the titles of Ministries. There is no ministry for science, none for aged care, none for disabilities, workplace relations, higher education, youth or climate change. There is however a Minister for the Anzac Day Centenary, another for Border Protection and one for Sport. The whiff of backwardness and populist nationalism grows stronger and stronger.
Of course we need to think about this in class terms as well as gender terms.
If this is the way Abbott treats ruling class women imagine what he has in store for working class women.
Already the incoming Coalition government has announced it will rescind the pay increases for up to 350000 aged and child care workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are women.
The new Government is the party of the 1% so will attack workers and social spending to improve profitability if the economy worsens, as predictions indicate it will.
Of course Labor have been painting themselves as different. It is true they had 6 women in Cabinet and the first woman as Prime Minister.
But this is more about show than reality for the vast majority of working class women. The gender pay gap was 15% under Howard in 2004. Under Labor it grew to 17.5%
Nowhere was Labor’s tokenism and hypocrisy more on display than the day Gillard launched her admirable attack on Abbott’s misogyny. On that day the Gillard government shifted over 80,000 single parents from the single parent payment and onto Newstart, cutting their benefits by between $60 and $1000 a week and condemning them to increased poverty. Over 90% of single parents are women.
Having a female PM and six women in Cabinet didn’t save poor women from Labor’s vicious attack. That’s because Labor runs the system for the capitalist class not poor or working class women.
To imagine that having more women in a capitalist government will benefit working women is to imagine having more women as bosses will save working women’s pay and jobs. Sue Morphet sacked 1850 mainly women workers when she became head of Pacific Brands. Her salary package rose from $685,000 to $1.8 million.
Julia Gillard’s efficiency dividend cut the public service by 5000, and the majority of lower level public servants are women.
What Abbott’s male dominated cabinet shows is a government trapped in the past, reverting to the thinking of the 1950s. It reveals an anti-woman attitude which will translate into attacks on poor and working class women, if we and our unions let them.