So it looks like Team Gladys are throwing everything in for the final fortnight of campaigning – including just making s**t up.
A “personal touch” video released on March 10 on the NSW Liberals’ Facebook page shows the Premier looking relaxed in a totally non-rehearsed way and talking about her favourite reality TV shows – and it also features a caption singing her praises.
Including the tidbit that she’s “[t]he first female Premier of NSW – chosen on merit.”
The comments, of course, are full of people pointing out that not only was NSW’s first female premier Kristina Keneally (2009-2011), but that Gladys actually rose to the position unchallenged when Mike Baird resigned – whereas Keneally won a party room vote against two men after a leadership spill.
There’s a lot of chat about whether quotas for women in political roles are appropriate or helpful. People who are against the idea of having a minimum number of women mandated in certain positions or on ballots argue that it might mean women who aren’t that great will get jobs over more qualified men.
Of course, this means that those people think there are generally more qualified men than there are women – but that’s another whole can of worms.
“I’m a bit disappointed that it is being raised in the eve of [an] election in a very politically charged context.”
That context is that Labor announced a bold new policy in early March, meaning that abortion is going to become part of the conversation whether the PM likes it or not.
What’s the Liberals’ official policy on abortion?
Neither the federal Liberal Party nor the Coalition have announced any specific reproductive health policies for the 2019 election (which is yet to be called), and the Liberal Party’s official site doesn’t mention terminations or reproductive health specifically in either their Health or Women policy pages.
Scott Morrison was asked about abortion during a media trip, where he explained how “disappointed” he was.
“These are matters that are dealt with by the states and territories,” he said. “I have no desire to overstep what the constitutional authorities are of the Commonwealth in these matters.
“I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion because frankly, I don’t think it is good for our country.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Buzzfeed News that the federal government has no jurisdiction, as abortion is a state and territory issue, but is “currently working with women’s health groups and the medical profession to develop a new women’s health policy which will be released soon”.
It’s unclear whether he’s referring to an election policy or to the government’s Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. The draft strategy does not contain the words “abortion” or “termination”, although one planned outcome reads:
“Improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services that offer options to women to empower choice and control in decision-making about their bodies, including contraception and unplanned pregnancies.”
The Women’s Economic Security Statement launched in November last year says in a health-focused section that: “The Government recognises that women have specific health needs at different stages of their lives, and is committed to providing healthcare that supports women – from birth to childhood and adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and ageing.”
The words “abortion”, “termination”, or “reproductive” do not appear in the document.
GOAT contacted the office of Federal Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer to request clarification on any official party policy, but we’re yet to receive a response.
So what’s Labor said to kick all this off?
On March 6, Labor unveiled an ambitious policy around reproductive health. The proposal would tie Commonwealth funding to the consistent provision and availability of termination services in public hospitals.
Labor’s policy also includes a discussion about the government rebates for long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and Implanon, as well as longer-lasting prescriptions for the pill so people don’t have to go back to the doctors as often just to re-approve pill scripts, and support to increase the number of GPs who can administer medical terminations using the “abortion pill”, RU-486.
“Access to legal, safe, affordable reproductive health services varies across Australia,” Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek said. “This requires national leadership. Medicare and the PBS are both the responsibility of the federal government.
“Every Australian woman should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them.”
Labor would also support efforts to decriminalise abortion in NSW and across the country.
Any federal reproductive health policy would need to take into account each state and territory’s rules about abortion.
The procedure is still in the criminal code in NSW, although it can be accessed by pregnant women where a doctor confirms it will have a severely detrimental effect on their mental health.
In Tasmania, abortion is legal but only available in public hospitals in case of an emergency, with no low-cost options available in the state.
All Those Pollies Who Quit Parliament Just Guaranteed Themselves Massive Pensions For Life
Pyne will receive the equivalent of over 17 years’ worth of Centrelink payments every year until he dies.
Over the weekend came the news that two more current MPs will bail on the Parliament at or before the federal election.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne (not to be confused with Chris Pine, thanks very much) and Minister For Defence Industry Steve Ciobo both announced they would not be contesting their seats at the yet-to-be-called election.
Some commentators are speculating that the reason for the number of ministers quitting before the election is not to spare themselves the embarrassment of losing their seats, but to guarantee that the calculation for their lifetime pensions is taken from their ministerial salary – not the much less tasty (but still high) baseline for backbenchers or even shadow ministers.
Pyne has been in Federal Parliament for 26 years, and as such is entitled to a pension of 75% of his salary plus a variety of extra percentage loadings due to his time as a minister.
Yes, Pyne will receive the equivalent of over 17 years’ worth of Newstart payments every year until he dies, even if he spends every second of it sitting at home reading trashy crime novels and eating cheese (which is what I’d do) or gets a cushy private sector job or government appointment.
The same system means former Opposition Leader Mark Latham is still on a pension of at least $80,000 a year, no matter what else he does, says, or runs for. (If he wins a seat in the NSW election this month his payment will be suspended, but will resume once he’s out of state parliament.)
Politicians elected after 2004 don’t get the big juicy pension, due to changes implemented around the election that year.
But it’s not out of the question to retroactively axe the pensions even for the pre-2004 MPs.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters announced on Friday that she’ll move to scrap the pension scheme during Budget Week this May, request info from the Budget Office on how much it would save, and keep pushing for the move after the election.
One 2015 estimate calculated that taxpayers fork out about $45 million a year to retired pollies.
“Politicians have their snouts in the trough, while ordinary people struggle with the cost of living, wages have flatlined and Newstart hasn’t increased for 24 years,” Waters said in a statement.
“It’s no wonder people think so little of politicians, when the rules are rigged in their favour. If they’re not doing the job anymore they shouldn’t be paid.”
In unrelated news, the nation hit a big milestone a few days ago: the national gross debt now is now double the entire number racked up between 1901 and the beginning of the current government’s term in 2013.