Fair Agenda Blog

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If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t take progress for granted.

That’s why it couldn’t be more important for communities like ours to keep building our power – not only to secure desperately needed advances; but also to make sure we can block the increasing attacks on progress we've previously made. And unfortunately our community’s ability to do that is constrained by our resources. 

Can you chip in to make sure our community can step up the fight for fairness and equality in 2017?

This year our 35,000 strong campaigning community has proven time and again that when we come together we can shape the national agenda, and win campaigns that are life-changing for thousands of women.

Together, we’ve secured $100 million of additional federal funding for family violence services; blocked the January 1 cuts to paid parental leave that would have hurt 80,000 new parents, won election commitments from key parties, and started to make training to prevent sexual violence a priority for university residences.

We’ve put these issues in national headlines, secured national TV coverage, had our campaigns covered in more than a dozen news outlets, and influenced the Government and key Senators.

All of this has been possible with just a tiny team to support our community. We've built incredible power. But it’s not nearly enough. At the same time we've been driving this critical impact, funding limitations have left us unable to campaign on other important issues.

If 2016 has shown us anything, it’s how vital it is that we double our efforts and stay vigilant about fighting for what we believe in. And we need your help to make that possible. Can you chip in now to help raise the $2,000 needed to step up our community's impact in early 2017?

If you donate more than $25, we’ll send you this limited edition Fair Agenda postcard as a thank you for your support!

An investment in Fair Agenda – and a fair and equal future – is exactly the kind of present we all need this holiday season.

We already know that 2017 will bring a vote on the Government’s fourth attempt to cut paid parental leave, a vote on abortion decriminalisation in Queensland, and the chance to secure training to prevent sexual violence for more university students.

But our community won’t be able to keep winning change without your support. Can you help put fair on the agenda in 2017? https://fairagenda.nationbuilder.com/donate_2017

In hope and action,

Renee for Fair Agenda

Written by Renee Carr
16 December 2016

The Labor Party have this morning re-affirmed their commitment to make changes in this area, and require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. But basic protections like this shouldn’t be contingent on which party is in government. 

That’s why we need to keep campaigning, and build the pressure on the Government to stop allowing survivors to be re-traumatised in court.

With this issue back in the headlines today, we have a critical opportunity to turn up the head on Government decision makers. 

Can you take a few minutes to email Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and Attorney-General Brandis to urge them to change the Coalition’s policy? 

Right now there are no protections in place to stop abusive ex-partners from cross-examining those they have abused in Family Court. For survivors like Eleanor, it means “I was forced to answer the questions of a man who had sexually assaulted and abused me for over a decade…. And that horrific experience was a major obstacle in my recovery from the trauma of my abuse.”

Last year Eleanor called on Fair Agenda members to stand with her, and community legal workers to call on our federal parliamentarians to make this change. More than 5,000 of us have answered that call so far. And in the lead up to the election we came together to flood the major parties with calls for change in this area. The pressure from Fair Agenda members and other community groups helped secure this pledge from the ALP.

We'll still need to see the detail of this proposal, and there are some concerns that judges will still have discretion to allow the practice - but this is a big step in the right direction.

Our campaign is working. That's why it’s critical we keep building the pressure around this issue. 

Click here for tips on what to send Minister Cash and Attorney-General Brandisor email them directly via: senator.cash@aph.gov.au and senator.brandis@aph.gov.au

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The full letter from ALP leader Bill Shorten to Fair Agenda members is available here and below:

Dear Renee and the Fair Agenda team,

I’m aware that Fair Agenda and your supporters, alongside advocates and experts, have been campaigning to stop violent perpetrators cross-examining survivors of domestic violence. Thank you for your work. I want to let you know that we are listening to you.

We have listened to the Productivity Commission, to advocates, and to experts, and Labor is taking action.

Today, on White Ribbon day, Terri Butler and I affirmed a plan that we will enact under a Labor Government. Right now, survivors of domestic violence are too often made to endure cross-examination from their violent ex-partners. That must no longer happen.

As Prime Minister, I will require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. And I'll equip them with the power and the resources to say enough is enough - no one should have to be re-traumatised by having their violent ex cross-examine them in the witness box. Labor will commit more than $43 million over four years to make sure this practice ceases.

Your advocacy is very important, and your advocacy is still needed. Malcolm Turnbull’s government is presiding over massive cuts to legal services - with a 30% funding cliff coming up in July. And his party continues to ignore your advocacy, the experts in the field, and the Productivity Commission; they are not taking action to reform cross-examination. This should not be a partisan issue. Please continue to push for these important measures, so that we don’t have to wait until the next election to resolve this problem.

On behalf of Terri Butler, Mark Dreyfus, Tanya Plibersek and all of my Labor colleagues, thank you again for getting in touch with us about this important issue. Please keep up your good work.

Yours sincerely

Bill Shorten MP
Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders 

 


*If you have been affected by sexual assault or domestic violence, you can access 24/7 counselling support at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).*

Written by Renee Carr
23 November 2016

After more than a year of campaigning, we have the votes needed to stop the Government's planned cuts to paid parental leave in the new parliament!

38 Senate votes are needed to defeat any Government legislation in our Senate. Thanks to the election promises that Fair Agenda secured from the Nick Xenophon Team, Jacqui Lambie Network, The Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party there are now 39 Senators pledged to block the Government's plans to cut paid parental leave.

That means unless they break their promise - the Government's plan to cut parental leave won't be possible in this parliament.

For more than a year the Government has been trying to make cuts that would have dragged Australia's parental leave policy back in time; tearing precious time at home away from tens of thousands of working parents, and leaving workers like nurses, ambos, teachers and Woolies staff with access to just 18 weeks of paid leave (well below the 26 weeks recommended for health and welfare reasons).

But thanks to campaigning driven by thousands of Fair Agenda members and other community groups, the Government now won't be able to pass its planned cuts in this parliament.

It's a huge win for the tens of thousands of working parents who face having time at home with their newborn torn away - and it's only possible because of the efforts of thousands of Fair Agenda members like you.

It’s only possible thanks to the efforts of thousands of Fair Agenda members who have driven this campaign since Day 1. Members like Anna who launched the petition calling on other Fair Agenda members to stand with her in campaigning against the cuts… members like Trish, Kyla and Belinda who met with former Senator Glenn Lazarus and asked him to use his Senate vote to block the cuts… members like Heather and baby Luca who came to Parliament House and stood with Senator Lazarus and Senator Lambie as they committed the votes needed to block the legislation in the previous Parliament… and members like Sascha, Colleen, Cassie, Kate and baby Ella who met with election candidates and got them on the record on this issue.

Fair Agenda members have helped stop these cuts not once, not twice, but three times. It’s a testament to the power of our movement, and to our ability to drive change on the national stage.

Important campaigns like this are only possible thanks to the generous donations of Fair Agenda members. Can you chip in to help our community drive more change?

www.fairagenda.org/donate

Today's win is a massive victory for our community. But unfortunately, as the attacks on parental leave have shown – we can’t take any wins for granted. We still have to be ready to defend against those who want to drag us backwards on these issues. 

That means it’s critical that we keep working to hold those pledges accountable for their commitments, as well as working to secure the policy improvements we need to make progress on women’s economic inequality.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this campaign – whether as a donor, volunteer, or as someone who has used their voice to join the call for change. 

How we did it 

When the Abbott Government announced on Mother’s Day last year that they planned to cut new parents’ paid time at home, Fair Agenda member Anna asked you to stand with her – and within days 15,000 Fair Agenda members joined her. 

When it became clear that the Government weren’t going to back down from their outrageous attack on working parents, we worked together to win the votes needed to block this proposal in the Senate.

Over the months that followed Fair Agenda members called, emailed and met with key cross-bench Senators to make sure they knew about the strong community opposition to the Government’s cuts.

This community pressure helped ensure it was impossible for the Abbott government to negotiate its cuts through the Senate.

That should have been the end of it. But instead, when Malcolm Turnbull took over the leadership, he doubled down – and announced a new, slightly different proposal he was planning to negotiate through the Senate. 

But we didn’t let him.

The Turnbull Government’s had made their announcement in the weeks before Christmas – the perfect time to announce something you don’t want to attract bad press. We made sure that strategy didn’t work.

In the weeks before Christmas Fair Agenda members came together to raise the urgent funds needed to commission expert modelling on the impact of these cuts on workers like nurses, teachers, ambos and Woolies staff.

We then released that research in January, securing syndicated print coverage across major cities, keeping this issue in the headlines where it belonged. 

This coverage helped get crossbench Senator John Madigan on the record as opposed to the new cuts – securing a critical vote needed to block the Government’s attack. 

Then, Fair Agenda joined our friends at The Parenthood in Canberra, to meet with key Senators Glenn Lazarus and Jacqui Lambie.

Together with fair Agenda member Heather and her son Luca, we stood with the Senators as they told media they would pledge the final votes needed to block the Turnbull Government’s new cuts in the Senate. 

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It won us a reprieve under this parliament, and it should have been the end. But then Minister Porter told media that the fact that the Government's hadn't been able to pass the legislation: "does not mean that this government at the moment is not trying to change [the current system], or if it were re-elected wouldn’t also be looking at ways in which to modify the existing system along the lines that we have suggested.

In response, Fair Agenda members stepped up our campaign – donating and volunteering to make this an issue for voters at the July 2 election.

Fair Agenda members led meetings with key candidates, and funded an election scorecard that got 6 key Parties on the record as opposing any cuts that the Turnbull Government might try to get through.

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Then we got that scorecard in front of more than 15,000 voters before they headed to the polls. 

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And today, we confirmed that the pledges won by Fair Agenda mean that we have the number of votes needed to block these cuts in the Senate.

Thanks to all the Fair Agenda members who helped make this win possible!

Written by Renee Carr
11 August 2016
Liberal MPs

In response to this year's shock election result the Liberal Party are commencing a 'no holds barred' review of their election campaign. 

It's an election that saw the number of women serving as federal Liberal politicians pushed to a 20 year low, and the replacement of three retiring female MPs with male candidates. 

It's unacceptable regression, and it's prompting senior Liberal party members to speak out about the need for urgent, strong action to ensure balanced representation of women within the Party. 

Fair Agenda members have said that women's under-representation is one of the top issues concerning our community; so we're speaking up to show we support the calls of advocates within the Liberal Party calling for change on this important issue.

Here's the submission we've just sent to Federal Liberal Party HQ, expressing Fair Agenda members' support for immediate action (PDF copy here):

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Att: Richard Alston & Tony Nutt
Liberal Party Federal Secretariat
PO Box 6004
Kingston ACT 2604

Re: Submission to review of the federal election campaign

Dear Mr Alston & Mr Nutt,

I write on behalf of Fair Agenda, an independent community campaigning organisation working to bring about a fair and equal future for women.

Fair Agenda is a community made up of 35,000 women and men from all backgrounds and walks of life, and from across the political spectrum.

One of the issues Fair Agenda members are concerned about is the ongoing under-representation of women in our parliaments. They are particularly concerned about the low number of women currently serving as federal representatives of the Liberal Party.

As part of the election review being undertaken by the Party, I are writing on behalf of Fair Agenda members to urge the Liberal Party to make women’s representation an internal priority. Fair Agenda members support strong measures to increase the number of women pre-selected as Liberal candidates, particularly in safe seats, before the next federal election.

Australia’s political leaders should reflect the full array of talent that Australia has to offer, and the varied perspectives and life experiences that make up the communities they represent. 

Yet when federal parliament reconvenes next August, 8 out of 10 federal Liberal MPs will be men. 

I note the 2015 report from the federal executive warning that the Liberal Party risks losing relevance if it doesn’t lift female participation.

The report highlights barriers to women’s participation in the party, and processes that perpetuate the power of those already in political positions, to the exclusion of others, particularly women. On behalf of Fair Agenda members, I urge you to address these issues as a priority through this review process.

Fair Agenda welcomes the Party’s endorsement of a target of 50% female candidates by 2025. However, our members are concerned that the Liberal Party has actually gone backwards in terms of representation; and that Liberal Party representatives themselves have stated that women are being recruited and preselected into mostly marginal or unwinnable seats.

We note that at the most recent election in the three seats of Murray, Mackellar and Brisbane where women were retiring, they were universally replaced by male candidates.

As part of the election review and response process, we urge you to make addressing the barriers to women’s election, pre-selection and promotion within the Liberal Party.

We particularly note the sentiment of Fair Agenda members like Ms R, who said “you will continue to disenfranchise loyal supporters if you don’t support women at branch level and beyond. Myself and my friends included.”

On behalf of concerned Fair Agenda members, we would welcome your response and further information on the actions being taken to address barriers to women’s pre-selection and promotion.

Yours sincerely, 

Renee Carr
Executive Director
Fair Agenda 

Written by Renee Carr
01 August 2016

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Together, this election we kept the issues our community cares about in the headlines, and put them on the agenda for key candidates across the country. We were also able to work with experts to create an election scorecard showing how the parties compared on key issues affecting women, which our community then got in front of thousands of voters. Thank you for helping making that possible. 

The election results are still trickling in – but one thing is very clear: the Government is going to need the support of a number of Senate crossbenchers to pass much of its legislative agenda – including its proposed cuts to paid parental leave.

And thanks to Fair Agenda members – we have public commitments from key Senators to oppose any attempts to cut the current parental leave system. We won’t know for sure until the Senate counting is finalised in coming weeks, but right now it looks like there we are very, very close to having the 38 Senate votes needed to block any cuts.[1]

It’s great progress – and it’s only possible thanks to the tens of thousands of Fair Agenda members who have kept the pressure up over the past year – calling, emailing and meeting with key Senators and candidates to help secure commitments from 6 parties to block any cuts. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in that campaign over the past year. 

As well as campaigning to protect paid parental leave, this election our community worked tirelessly to keep funding for family violence services on the political agenda.

Together, we secured public support for full funding from key parties in the Senate; ensured the ALP publicly committed to deliver their $200 million funding package in addition to the $100 million committed by the Coalition (ensuring their commitment was boosted by $100 million); kept the issue of service funding in the headlines in the key election and budget weeks; and worked with key experts to ensure thousands of people knew how the parties compared on funding for family violence services.

The Fair Agenda community and our partners across the community helped make the continuing failure to adequate fund services so much of an issue that 53% of voters said funding for family violence services was influencing their vote this election;[2] and enough of a political issue that the Coalition re-announced parts of the funding package it had already launched in the May budget on three separate occasions during the election.[3]

Over the past ten weeks Fair Agenda has worked with survivor advocates and service workers to keep a media spotlight on the fact that thousands of women are being left without access to the service support they need to escape abuse; ensured the Government’s shocking changes to 1800 RESPECT featured on The Project; secured coverage of our family violence scorecard in Fairfax papers in the final days before the election; and worked with members to keep the pressure up. Coverage of our community's campaigns reached almost 1 million voters this election!

And, when Rosie Batty spoke at the National Press Club, highlighting the appalling Family Court rules that survivors of domestic violence can be forced to endure direct cross-examination at the hands of their abusers, we flooded both major parties with a call to make the change. Over months, Fair Agenda and our friends at Never Alone and Women's Legal Services Australia helped generate the community pressure needed to secure that commitment from the ALP.

There’s still much more to be done to win change on the issues our community cares about – but one thing is for sure – this election Fair Agenda members have proven we’re a powerful force for fairness and equality, and that we can keep issues on the media and political agenda. 

Thank you to all Fair Agenda members who contributed to our community's election efforts - this campaign was only possible thanks to the hundreds of people who chip in as member donors, meet with local candidates, sent emails to decision makers, put posters up, shared campaigns and gave their time to campaign actions.

Thanks for all the ways you contribute to the Fair Agenda community,

Renee for Fair Agenda

- More information -

1. Fair Agenda’s parental leave scorecard with commitments from Senators. Read with: Senate calculator: can you get legislation passed after the Australian election? The Guardian, 4 July 2016.

2. Federal election 2016: What Labor and Liberal are promising on domestic violence, Daily Life, 2016.

3. From the $100 million, 3 year package announced in the federal budget: Coalition announces $30 million for frontline services in Petrie on 12 May 2016. Coalition announces $25 million to address domestic violence in Indigenous communities, 20 June 2015.  Government announces $15 million for family violence, 21 June 2016.

Written by Renee Carr
15 July 2016
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