Over Easter I visited a friend who’s spent decades doing her best to protect old growth forests, preserve human connection with nature in the raw and help save our planet from the climate emergency.
‘Yes, of course I support the birth of a new wave of women’s activism for justice’, she mused, ‘but what about the even bigger picture?’
Is it a coincidence that strong Liberal Party support for climate change action in the 1990s coincided with increasing success in recruiting quality female candidates to federal politics?
And that the domination of climate change denialism last decade coincided with significantly lower numbers of female Liberal MPs?
The common thread is the collapse of actual liberalism in the federal Liberal party, replaced by a hard right antagonistic to liberal values, including equal rights for women and collective action to protect and preserve the home of all of us.
So to my mind, the zeitgeist shift we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks has – if sustainable – transformatory implications for our politics way beyond achieving positive policy and practice outcomes.
Many derided as a con Morrison’s humiliating no-other-choice outreach to women infuriated by his seemingly blatant attempt to personify patriarchal power.
He self-destructed his ‘I empathise now, I really do’ tears seeking forgiveness from swinging liberal female voters with a false slur of Samantha Maiden, the journalist leading the press gallery’s coverage.
His admission the government had systematically excluded women’s interests in policy formation by creating a taskforce of female ministers to add ‘a gender lens’ looked, to many, like he’d tossed his political problem to women to succeed or fail.
Advocate for survivors of sexual assault, Grace Tame, opined that the reshuffle looked like a classic Morrison ‘distract, don’t solve’ ploy.
But he’s made an explicit commitment to policy reform and cultural reform, starting in Parliament House, and if he doesn’t deliver, he’ll have to accept leadership responsibility for it.
But he never accepts responsibility, you may counter.
Sure, and that crippling aspect of his ‘leadership’ was exposed to all, over and over, after Brittany Higgins went public, and what’s been seen cannot be unseen.
He must now ‘perform’ for women, and that means he’s created his own wedge, because the hard right is apoplectic about the sudden power shift.
Official Australian politics has been stuck and stale for a long time.
Suddenly it is ablaze with energy and passion and collaborative grassroots politics and there’s a 1972 Labor It’s Time zeitgeist buzzing in the air around us.
An early indicator of the potential: The Women’s Safety Minister, Anne Rushton, gave an exclusive policy interview to female political journalist Rosie Lewis in last weekend’s Australian.
The government could adopt the private proposal of independent member for Warringah, Zali Stegall, to plug the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 loophole, exempting judges and politicians from liability for sexual harassment.
Ms Steggall presented a private members bill to do so as part of her visibility lift in the media.
The MP representing the ultra-rich, former blue ribbon Sydney Harbourside seat has chosen to step up as a political leader of the #march4justice movement.
Morrison had recently brushed aside her private members bill in Parliament, now Ms Rushton is touting it, and its proponent.
The government is clearly concerned that other safe seats might become even more risky than they are with climate change paralysis if it can’t change women’s hardening perceptions of Morrison.
‘What Zali Steggall has been referring to is something that was actually raised in the [email protected] report Kate Jennings has compiled’, Ms Rushton told the The Australian.
‘As part of the consideration of that report that’s currently underway by government, those types of opportunities for reform are being considered’.
Former Attorney-General, Christian Porter, bottom-shelved the [email protected] report for a year, not even asking his department to work on a response.
A response is now expected next week, and Morrison needs a big bang policy response to improve his chance or softening increasingly negative perceptions of his character.
100,000 women of all ages and political persuasions miraculously came together at the #march4justice only two weeks after Janine Hendry tweeted a suggestion for women to hold hands round Parliament House.
They achieved this together and, at the moment, they are strong.
Can you imagine the fight not being very messy and very ugly from here?
This story has just begun. If the majority of women across the barriers that so often divide and weaken us can hold unity of purpose there is a chance we can achieve a transformed politics; trusted by the people it’s meant to serve. Just a chance, sure, but, at last, It’s Time to have a go.
She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary.
Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and her own Web site.