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June 12th 2013 print

Peter Smith

Superwomen of the left

It should not be difficult to install strong Labor women in Parliament. Given the lacklustre likes of their male comrades, being a strong, capable and superior specimen is not a hard brief to master


“Capable women” has some recent lineage in budding Labor folklore. The government is apparently replete with self-confessed capable women with whom, as a species, Tony Abbott has a lot of trouble. His own female colleagues, in and outside of parliament, and his female family must feel disquieted that he seems to have no trouble with them. What does this say about them they might well ask themselves in their reflective moments? One can only wonder.


But “capable” was never enough and two more adjectives have been found necessary to adorn Labor women when it comes to the Victorian seat of Batman. Martin Ferguson is relinquishing the seat, amid wailing and gnashing of teeth as befits a man who reached heady political heights despite the disability of never quite mastering English pronunciation.

I digress. Mary-Anne Thomas – the favourite female candidate for preselection – was reported as saying that Labor needs “quality women” in the parliament. Let me guess, Ms Thomas notwithstanding being on the left side of the Labor Party, and therefore being congenitally oblivious to consequences and the demonstrable experience of failure after failure, believes she qualifies; sui generis. However, she better also believe that she’s “strong”; because Penny Wong thinks that “strong women are the key to the modern Labor Party”.

Not to be outdone, and in fear of being relegated to second place because of his man parts, Senator David Feeney, who thought he was a shoo-in with the PM’s support, showed his metrosexual New Age credentials. Labor, he said, had a fine record of having strong and capable women in the Parliament. It wasn’t clear what he intended to do, or would be prepared to do, to add to this record if preselected and elected. But the mind boggles in admiration at the prospect of his potential preparedness to take a walk on the wild side.

Isn’t this all getting a bit much for the real feminists among us? “Capable women”, “quality women”, “strong women”; what will be next: superwomen?

Do we need capable and strong men of quality in Parliament? Oh, come on, we have to make do with what we’ve got. And what a motley crew they are. If Conroy, Emerson, Swan, Slipper, Oakeshott, Windsor, Thomson and Bandt et al can make it in, why not a few incapable women to balance the scales? Hooray for incapable women, I say. They are absolutely equal to incapable men and deserve their chance too.

Why should women members of parliament have to be capable and strong and of quality. Tony Abbott would be fraught. Give Tony a break. It is a well know fact that he gets on much better, famously in fact, with incapable women.

Ergo, secretly Tony and Julia must be the greatest of pals. Offstage, when the cameras’ and audiences have long gone, I am sure they pass the most endearing of pleasantries:

Felicitations my dear, ahem, capable lady; what awful blunders and deceptions have you committed today? Here, rest your weary and muddled head on my shoulder. It will all soon be over. That traitorous Rudd, meddlesome Crean, and mocking Fitzgibbon will soon fade. There are many on the erudite left who will write well of your time. Truth has no strictures for them. Read the right stuff and your legacy is safe.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economic

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics