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Abortion is an electoral issue? Australia needs political leadership focused on moving forward, not the ghosts of the past

According news this week from Prime Minister Gillard, Australian women (and indeed men, in so much as they are impacted by it) should be very afraid that after September 14 we’ll lose control of our reproductive rights.  Gillard’s campaign assertion that women should be concerned “with abortion again becoming the political play-thing of male politicians” appears to be aimed at rallying women against the tide of anti-Labour sentiment. But is it anything more than an ill-informed grab for a media soundbite?

It’s easy to forget how far the women’s movement has come when the raft of statistics is presented on women in leadership roles. Sure, women are massively outnumbered in our boardrooms, in leadership roles, and even in our Parliament.

Yet when  the advancements of women are considered in totality over the course of Australian history – from the right of women to own assets in their own name, to granting of the vote, to workforce participation and important social structures like childcare and healthcare and family planning rights – it really is a monumental shift from the world my mother and grandmother grew up in to the one I know now.

In my lifetime women have held all of prominent leadership roles in business and public life and the key thing this brings to women is a presence at the decision making table.  And because women are now involved in leading our companies, political debates and in making important decision about the allocation of resources and the way we work and live, women collectively have more power than ever before.

What we see in the progression of women’s rights – and what I’m sure will be a lead indicator to change across other minority representation – is a constant momentum driving us forward to a better state of being.  Is the change slow?  Sure, it has been.  But in my professional work as a management consultant, what I know for sure is that big change takes time.


The important thing is the change continues, endures and is sustained in one direction only: for the better.

Now that women have the vote, and the right to work with their children in appropriate care, and to lead our workplaces and institutions, and even make their own personal choices about their reproductive rights, can you actually imagine any leader attempting to take those rights away?  The requisite lack of foresight and common sense to do so seems implausible.

I cannot think of a woman who has crossed my path (and in my work and life there have been so many) who are not in a more fortunate position than their predecessors.  The same is true for Australian men: we are indeed a lucky country.  In the case of Australian women though, we are truly beginning to understand our collective power and we demand that our voices are heard.  And we will make the choices about our bodies and lives, and family and work, that are best for us. I can’t see any politician pushing against that tide. Pollies want women in their corner, working with them and not against them.

Whether we like or not, Australians will spend the most of 2013 in electoral limbo land being bombarded by nonsensical messages aimed at driving a reaction from an electorate who would rather be left alone to their live their lives, do their work and run their households.  For those who are concerned about political policy, it’s likely that policies impacting employment, childcare, asylum seekers, climate change and even NBN will be on the radar.  Abortion?  I don’t buy it.  In the current reality, surely we’ve moved beyond this as an electoral issue.  Let’s focus on the real issues moving forward, not the political red herrings and ghosts of the past.

Your thoughts?


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