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                            Published and printed by the Department of the Senate
Parliament House, Canberra
ISSN 1031–976X
To order copies of Papers on Parliament
	Jack Waterford is Editor-at-large at the Canberra Times, where he has worked as a journalist and editor for 43 years. He currently writes about law, politics and public administration.
	James P. Pfiffner is University Professor and Director of the Doctoral Program in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, Virginia. He has written or edited twelve books on the presidency and American national government.
	Dr Aaron Martin is a lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and the author of Young People and Politics: Political Engagement in the Anglo–American Democracies (Routledge, 2012).
	The Hon. Dr Rosemary Crowley was the first female ALP senator for South Australia, serving from 1983 to 2002. She was the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women in 1993 and Minister for Family Services from 1993 to 1996.
	The Hon. Amanda Vanstone was a Liberal Party senator for South Australia from 1985 to 2007. In 1996 she was appointed to the cabinet and remains the longest serving female cabinet member since federation.
	Laura Tingle is the political editor at the Australian Financial Review. She has covered politics, policy and economics from Canberra since 1986 for The Australian, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review.
	Robyn Archer AO is a singer, writer, artistic director, arts advocate, Creative Director of the Centenary of Canberra (2013) and Deputy Chair of the Australia Council.
	Michael Maley is an Associate, Centre for Democratic Institutions, Australian National University and ACT convenor of the Electoral Regulation Research Network. He spent more than 30 years as an election administrator before retiring in 2012 from the ...
	Glenn Ryall is a Principal Research Officer in the Procedure Office of the Department of the Senate.
	I. The causes of congressional polarisation
	II. The consequences of structural change: partisan polarisation in Congress
	Conclusion: polarised politics and the 2012 elections
	Political participation
	Democracy in the twenty-first century and voter engagement tools
	Definition of ‘election observation’
	Sources of standards
	Typical observation activities
	I Introduction
	II Background to Williams
	III The decision in Williams
	IV Criticisms of the decision in Williams
	V The legislative response
	VI Conclusion
Canberra and the Parliament: An Increasingly Uncomfortable Marriage(
	Jack Waterford
Dysfunctional Politics in the United States: Origins and Consequences(
	James P. Pfiffner
Political Engagement among the Young in Australia(
	Aaron Martin
Women in Federal Parliament: Past, Present and Future(
	Rosemary Crowley, Amanda Vanstone and Laura Tingle
Re-imagining the Capital(
	Robyn Archer
International Election Observation: Coming Ready or Not(
	Michael Maley
Williams v. Commonwealth—A Turning Point for Parliamentary Accountability and Federalism in Australia?
	Glenn Ryall
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Document Text Contents
Page 1

Papers on Parliament

Lectures in the Senate Occasional Lecture
Series, and other papers

Number 60
March 2014

Published and printed by the Department of the Senate
Parliament House, Canberra

ISSN 1031–976X

Page 2

Published by the Department of the Senate, 2014

ISSN 1031–976X

Papers on Parliament is edited and managed by the Research Section,
Department of the Senate.

Edited by Paula Waring

All editorial inquiries should be made to:

Assistant Director of Research
Research Section
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Parliament House

Telephone: (02) 6277 3164
Email: [email protected]

To order copies of Papers on Parliament

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Page 76

I am going to talk a lot about stereotypes, and how the ones applied to women in
federal parliament by the media have evolved over the years. But if I was to only
venture down that path, I would be doing a considerable disservice to the history of
women in the federal parliament. I sometimes think that the frustration with dealing
with the stereotypes overlooks both what actually happens in the parliament, the
considerable advances that have been made by women in becoming accepted in
parliament, their enormous contribution to policy and politics and also the positive
changes that have taken place in the way the media portrays women MPs, certainly
during the almost 30 years I have worked in the Canberra Press Gallery.

The thing that struck me when I started preparing this paper was how utterly shocking
the numbers were—and had been—when I arrived in Canberra. In 1987, it was not
only unusual for there to be female ministers, it was still astonishingly unusual for
there to be federal politicians. There had only been 25 female senators since
federation. But more extraordinarily from the perspective of 2013, just 11 female
members of the House of Representatives elected in 86 years.

When I arrived in Canberra, there had been one Liberal cabinet minister—Margaret
Guilfoyle—and one Labor cabinet minister—Susan Ryan. I remember when Ryan
was appointed education minister by Bob Hawke in 1983. The cartoonist Patrick
Cook drew Hawke saying something to the effect of ‘I have already made my biggest
decision … finding a job important enough for Susan Ryan’.

It was light-hearted but the cartoon reflected the mood of the times. Women in
parliament were a trend that male politicians knew they should ascribe to. We were
still talking serious novelty value in the media. It was post women’s lib but a time
when the media went out looking for stories about successful women in business and
politics but found them quite thin on the ground. The issue of the role of women was,
by 1983, part of the fabric of the new government. Anne Summers was poached to
head the Office of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Yet I remember very well from this time the conundrum faced by my good friend
Jillian Broadbent, who went on to be a member of the Reserve Bank board and the
Chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. In the early 1980s she was a director
of one of Australia’s most successful merchant banks. Invariably, when journalists
wanted to write a piece about women in business they went to her, because they had
found earlier profiles in the clippings. Broadbent got to the point where she declined,
in her wonderfully gracious way, to be part of any more of these pieces. ‘If people just
keep seeing me and a couple of other women in all these pieces’, she said, ‘they’ll
come to the view that we are the only ones who have actually made it’.


Page 77

Women in Federal Parliament

So the more sophisticated end of the media was a bit stuck: on the one hand you
wanted to profile prominent women where you found them. On the other, there was
always the risk that by writing ‘gee and she’s a woman’ pieces, you were continuing
the idea that it was unusual for women to be in such roles. Which at the time it was!
And whether it was male politicians coming to terms with female arrivals, or the
media, it was a little unclear how to proceed.

When I arrived in Canberra, the numbers of female senators was starting to grow but
the number of MPs in the House of Representatives was still relatively small. There
were 15 senators but just five female MPs. One of the first MPs to get a lot of media
attention was Ros Kelly, the Member for Canberra. Ros got a lot of media attention.
Not a lot of it was positive. A 1995 profile of Kelly notes that:

From the press has come allegations of using her children, her dog, her
football team (the Canberra Raiders), a cooking book she wrote for
constituents, her hair and more to further her political career.3

Her travails in dealing with the attitudes of her fellow MPs were also recorded:

In 1981, she won an apology from Sir Billy Snedden for a sexist innuendo
in parliamentary debate. Two years later, the Coalition MP Bruce
Goodluck suggested neglect in her return to work within a week of the
birth of her first child.4

Mick Young was said to have commented when he was stood down as
Special Minister of State during the Paddington Bear affair in 1984 that ‘Within half
an hour, Ros was in my office taking measurements for curtains’.5

In 1987, Woman’s Day ran a profile of Kelly when she was appointed a junior
minister. The heading? Ros Kelly: ‘I’d quit politics for my family’.

Why have I spent so much time on Ros Kelly? Partly because she was becoming a
minister at the time I arrived in Canberra but importantly she was the first Labor
woman from the House of Representatives to become a minister.

As I mentioned earlier, there had always been more women in the Senate than the
House and there is a very different atmosphere in the red chamber which I think was
reflected in the way women in the parliament were portrayed. The more civilised

3 Sunday Age, 10 September 1995, Agenda, p. 3.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.


Page 151

Williams v. Commonwealth

raised doubts as to whether, in a practical sense, Williams could be considered a
turning point for parliamentary accountability and federalism in Australia. However,
the doubts are ameliorated by the general consensus that if not the whole FFLA Act,
at least certain spending schemes (such as the NSCP) authorised under it, remain
invalid and would be struck down by the court in any future litigation.

VI Conclusion

Of course, a single decision of the High Court will never completely halt
Commonwealth intrusions into areas that have traditionally been state responsibilities
or rectify the vertical fiscal imbalance in the Australian federation, nor will it ensure
that there is a perfect system of responsible and representative government in
Australia. Any consideration of the impact of the decision in Williams must therefore
take this into account. With this in mind, it has been suggested that, on balance and
even taking into account the legislative response, Williams can be considered a
turning point for parliamentary accountability and federalism in Australia. The fact
that the court has held that it is unconstitutional for the Commonwealth executive to
spend money in areas beyond the day-to-day running of the government without
statutory authority means that it is now clear that the Constitution mandates (when
compared to the erroneous understanding prior to Williams):

• an increase in executive responsibility to the Parliament
• an increase in executive responsibility to the people through improved

political processes and procedures and

• improved state ‘sovereignty’.

The decision can also be seen as a positive one more broadly because, as Cheryl
Saunders suggests:

At a time of financial constraint there is much to be gained from
procedures that ensure that spending programs are not undertaken hastily,
that there is a broad-based commitment to them, that they are well
designed and implemented and that money is well spent.84

It is clear, however, that this story is far from over. Recently, the Senate
Appropriations and Staffing Committee stated that it intends to consider the
implications of the Williams decision and the legislative response ‘with a view to
ensuring that the Senate’s constitutional rights are not affected’.85 Moreover, Mr

84 Cheryl Saunders, ‘The scope of executive power’, Papers on Parliament, no. 59, 2013, p. 30.
85 Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee, Parliament of Australia, Annual Report 2012–13,

p. 5.


Page 152

Williams’ second challenge to the NSCP86 suggests that it is too early to establish the
extent to which Williams represents a turning point for parliamentary accountability
and federalism in Australia. However, it is clear that starting this journey is a
significant step in itself.

86 Williams v. Commonwealth, Case no. S154/2013, High Court of Australia.


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