Women in Politics

27 November, 2019

The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:33): I rise today to speak about women in politics. This year marks the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage, and it is a special milestone to pay tribute to trailblazers such as Mary Lee, Catherine Helen Spence and many others for their strength and enduring campaign to allow the passage of the bill that changed the history of the world forever in 1894.

This historic piece of legislation granted women in South Australia the right to vote and the right to stand as members of parliament. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, for her outstanding leadership in chairing the Joint Committee on the 125th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage, and acknowledge other members on the committee for their wonderful contribution.

I want to express my appreciation to those who have always championed for more women to be involved in politics and for breaking down barriers for women to play their full part in public life. As a female politician and from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, I have encountered my fair share of barriers that are faced by many women in coming to this place.

As a migrant who arrived with my family in 1979, I did not see many people in positions of power who looked or sounded like me when I was growing up. While progress has been made on gender equality in the public sphere, many actions are required to ensure that women and men who represent us in office represent the full diversity of our society. As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald by Mr Bagshaw on 19 January 2019, it is interesting to note that:

Parliament is no more diverse than it was in 1988, as the government and opposition benches swell with white men, political staffers, unionists, lawyers and bankers.

Similarly, in South Australia we have 27.5 per cent female representation in our parliament. As long as women hold one seat for every three held by men, it is difficult to achieve gender parity in political officeholding. Our nation's most visible policymaking body must be more reflective of the population it is meant to serve. Three things must take place in order to get more diversity and women in politics: women must exercise our voting rights, women must run for office, and women must be visible and loud.

On the point that women must be visible and loud, I am incredibly honoured and privileged to be elected to represent the people of South Australia. I am fully committed to serving our multicultural communities, as it is the portfolio which the Premier has entrusted me to assist him with. In order to keep our diverse South Australian community informed about what is happening in our state, I have taken the liberty to produce a community engagement report to provide a summary of the population data and ancestry profiles of South Australia and to showcase the diverse cultural activities that we all should be proud of.

Yesterday, Labor member the Hon. Russell Wortley asked me a question about my community engagement report. In his explanation, let me quote what he said:

I am not sure whether the name 'Advance Together' was plagiarised from the joint propaganda campaign between China and North Korea.

I found those remarks to contain innuendos that are unparliamentary, inappropriate, offensive and insulting. As a former president of the Legislative Council, we would have thought that he would know better than to use objectionable or offensive words, as per standing order 193.

Today, it is a privilege again to declare that I am a proud Australian. I have used the slogan 'Advance Together' because those words are in line with the spirit of Advance Australia Fair, our proud Australian national anthem, which reflects those words.

I am elected to this place to serve the people of South Australia and I will not accept any intimidation or bullying by other members in any way. I call for all elected members to be more respectful to each other so that we can get on with the job of better serving the people who elected us to this place.