- Joe Blomefield
Same-sex marriage in Australia: The first step of many
The legalisation of same-sex marriage is an extraordinary achievement for a country with a relatively conservative social policy. However, it has only legally resolved one of the many stigmas that plague all echelons of Australian politics and many sections of Australian society. In order to become a more tolerant and socially liberal country, the nation as a whole has to tackle the rampant sexism and misogyny that some members of the Australian Parliament display.
When Julia Gillard was elected Australian Prime Minister in 2010 as Leader of the Labor Party, it could have been a watershed moment for women in Australian politics. In a profession dominated by males, having a female in the highest political office in the country was remarkable. However, Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister three years later. Whilst serving on the opposite bench to Ms Gillard, Abbott had stood in front of signs labelling the then-Prime Minister a "witch" and a "man's b*tch", as well as commenting on the sex appeal of a member of his own party in the election campaign that eventually brought him to power. Rather than driving towards equal gender representation in Parliament, the Australian people effectively voted for a u-turn in the liberalisation of Australian politics by electing a well-known misogynist. As Ms Gillard aptly put in her famous "Misogyny Speech", "if [Mr Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia... he needs a mirror."
Abbott's actions are representative of his own party, which had a total of one female cabinet member at the beginning of his premiership and now have an equally impressive total of 4 in the current cabinet, led by Malcolm Turnbull. Although this doesn't suggest explicitly that all members of Turnbull's party are sexist, the actions of MPs like Jamie Briggs and Peter Dutton - both of whom have been involved in harassment scandals whilst serving in Parliament - demonstrate that there is a serious sexism problem in the Australian Parliament.
Sexism is prevalent in politics wherever you look. The abuse Hillary Clinton received during her election campaign and the questioning of Theresa May over her lack of children being good examples (would a man be asked that?). However, Australia's position is unique. The chance to ultimately eradicate sexism in Australian politics is greater than ever. They have the opportunity to treat the new marriage bill as a springboard to further reform, not a landing pad with which oats can be taken and eaten. The people demonstrated their overwhelming agreement over same-sex marriage over the autumn months; they should now display their support for women in Australia by voting against those who display acts of misogyny in the next election.