[Update: I can now confirm that Barnett was speaking about (or attempting to speak about) the Fishing Industry Women’s Association of WA. I can also confirm that, according to the Government, the Fishing Industry Women’s Association of WA is not a Government committee at all. Its mention in this context was both gratuitous and misleading.]
Barnett was speaking at the CEDA-hosted 2009 “Economic and Political Overview”, billed as “Australia’s premier series of briefings on the Australian economy and politics for the year ahead.”
Check the video. The contempt for women starts from 42 seconds:
“What’s happened over successive governments, as new issues have arisen, new bodies are being created and the old ones have just been left in place. We have a Rock Lobster Fishermen’s Wives’ Committee. I’m not quite sure what that does, I’m sure they do good work. They might not be there at the end of the term.”
Logansrogue writes, in : “Sexism in WA State Government = NACEY SMASH!”
He made a snide remark that the “Rock Lobster Fisherman’s Wives” association wasn’t one that would be around for much longer.
Disregarding the fact that he got their name entirely wrong (I forget what the actual name is), and the fact that they’re self-funded, he basically called women concerned with a CHIEF and IMPORTANT industry here in Western Australia as FISH WIVES.
How fucking DISRESPECTFUL can you get? This is the PREMIER. But what else can you expect from a man that doesn’t even bat an eyelid at the shenanigans of Troy Buswell?
Would he DARE to be so snide and dismissive about a fisheries lobby group run by men? I doubt it. The WAY he said it as a side joke, sniggering with the crowd, it makes me sick to my stomach. I’m not even that concerned with the fisheries department (other than marine preservation) and I’m utterly INCENSED with his bullshit.
So who is this group? We think it’s The Fishing Industry Women’s Association of Western Australia, or possibly the Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community. There is absolutely no trace on Google, Hansard, or anywhere else of a “Rock Lobster Fishermen’s Wives Committee”.
And if it’s FIWAWA, Barnett knows damn well what they do, the disingenuous twerp. The government has only a couple of weeks ago had a public political disagreement with FIWAWA, which suggests a rather more likely motivation for his public sledging is political posturing. Not a high-minded, disinterested budget review.
Mr Barnett’s chumly sneering lays bare his disdain for women working in community groups. He chose to couch his disdain in sexist language, choosing the word “wives” for women instead of their self-chosen term, “women”. The resonance with “fishwives” is, I believe, too obvious to be entirely accidental.
Barnett chooses to construct women who are active in their communities as subordinates to men — with a side serve of harridan.
Does he for a second know where we’d be without women’s community work? For a start, imagine the State school system without P & C work. No playgrounds, no fund-raising, no tuckshops, and a whole host of other less visible services falling by the wayside. Carers’ groups, support for seniors and people with disabilities and people in rural areas, poverty alleviation, domestic violence assistance, indigenous women’s safety and family help groups, gay and lesbian counselling, youth work, disaster support, wildlife rescue – the list goes on and on, the list of largely women-run community assistance groups. All of these depend heavily on the unpaid work of volunteer women who have decided to step up and make their communities stronger.
You might have seen a bloke rescuing that koala from the bushfire, but who nursed her back to health? Who ran your kids’ playgroups? Who comforted your child when he ran from a bully into the nearest Safety House? Which docent showed you around the museum and the zoo last weekend? Who supported you through breastfeeding difficulties? Who runs your local Freecycle, your op shop, your school uniform shop? Who is going to deliver your library books and your Meals on Wheels when you’re unable to drive or cook for yourself? Women’s volunteer work is making life more pleasant for all, and less dangerous and isolated for the most vulnerable.
But here’s the thing. So long as we stick to the domestic and caring domains, we’re golden (if financially unvalued, and taken-for-granted). But when women stand up for themselves politically, and lobby for their own interests – that’s where the politicians start to panic and think “It’s smackdown time. Back to the tuckshop where you belong, as WIVES.”
You can’t convince me that women’s groups are irrelevant frivolities that “we” can’t afford in these troubled times. Not now, not ever. And ain’t it strange how that “we” means “rich white businessmen”?