A Switch in Time is The Victorian Women’s Trust’s call to action in our long standing quest for gender equality, our interest in strengthening our democracy and our commitment to care for the earth. Published in September 2012, this document is aimed at restoring respect to Australian politics by facilitating discussion within the community. The document contains four sections:
Respecting Democratic Principles
There have been a number of scathing attacks on Australia’s minority government decrying it as illegitimate. Minority government is constitutionally valid, and a legitimate form of government in the Westminster system. These attacks, and calls for a fresh election, damage the democratic principles of an elected government that should be allowed to carry out its full term. “What matters is that a representative democratic government’s formation conforms to accepted key principles and that it is stable, serves its term, manages the economy and implements a legislative program that is fair, reasonable and serves the common good.”
Respecting a Fair Go
When Mary Crooks was writing A Switch in Time, she had no idea just how topical it would become. The focus on sexism in Australian politics in the past few weeks has brought gender discrimination to the fore as a key issue in Australian society. The gender-based attacks on the Prime minister have a broader societal effect, sending the message to women and girls that their role and capacity is not equal to that of their male counterparts. “Sexism and misogyny offer no benefit to our advancement as a society. Distortions in power relations become further entrenched. Active discrimination is made easier.”
Respecting the common good
The discrediting of climate science in the public discourse threatens the common good of Australian democracy. There is a scientific consensus that climate change is a reality that needs swift action. This has been attacked by a number of parties aiming to shift the conversation away from collective action towards a common goal in favour of their own self-interests. “The fear campaign around the carbon price package has wilfully ignored the urgency of climate science as well as made a series of unsubstantiated claims about the impact of a carbon price on people’s livelihoods and households. It has exploited people’s fear of change and, in the process, lowered their expectation of what they can do to play a part in climate change mitigation.”
Throw the switch, redirect the current
This section spells out a number of actions that people can take in order to restore a “respect agenda” to our political discourse.
Recent events in media and politics have shown the public’s dissatisfaction with the level of abuse, sexism and vitriol that has been rising in national dialogue over the past two years. The public reactions to Alan Jones’ comments regarding Julia Gillard’s father and Julia Gillard’s speech on sexism and misogyny prove that the public are no longer willing to sit back and watch as the discourse surrounding our politics deteriorates into abuse. Through raising these issues A Switch in Time aims to initiate a change in our national conversation. It’s time for decent Australians to take a stand against the attacks on democratic principles, sexism and misogyny and the discrediting of climate science.
So it’s up to you, do you want to see a change in the way the national discourse portrays a democratically elected government, our first female Prime Minister and the science of climate change? Then throw the switch, get the conversation started!
Georgie Proud is about to graduate with a Master of Social Policy from the University of Melbourne. Prior to that she studied a Bachelor of Arts with honours, her thesis focused on portrayals of Chinese Australians in the media. She is also a volunteer at The Victorian Women’s Trust. When she’s not studying she enjoys travelling, crochet, sewing and live music.