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Palaszczuk wants to be remembered as a leader who stood for something


If it’s “not the shoes you stand in, but what you stand for”, gender equality could be the third-term legacy of Australia’s most successful female politician, writes Katrina Beikoff

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described seeing a catch-up between former prime minister Tony Abbott and influential broadcaster Alan Jones reported as “a powerful meeting”.

When she then had her own tete-a-tete with the prominent commentator, former talk radio host and now television news anchor, she checked to see how it was perceived.

It was described as a date.

It was far from the first time she had to deal with the sexism and double standards that she says pervades Australian political commentary as a result of still too few women being in power.

Palaszczuk is generally careful not to play the gender card.

But, when it comes to what she wants to achieve in this term of government, she rates gender equality on the highest rung.

Palaszczuk told interviewer Kerry O’Brien at Griffith University’s In Conversation series held at the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts on Thursday that in her third term she want to see “a more equal Queensland”.

With her increased majority and personal popularity among voters, she said she had clear plans for the next four years outside of steering the state through the pandemic.

She said a shift towards greater equality was one of her top priorities.

“I think when you have more women involved in the political process, it actually changes the conversation,” Palaszczuk said.

“You get much better outcomes because women are involved in all different aspects of society and life and they bring that to the table, and they bring it with gusto as well.”

With her October electoral success, Palaszczuk is the most successful female politician in Australian history by becoming the first woman to win three consecutive elections.

In 2015 she was the first woman in Australia to win an election from opposition. Following her 2017 win, she created the first cabinet in Australia’s history with a majority of female ministers.

Queenslanders are not averse to female leaders.

The last state election was the nation’s first poll at state or federal level contested by female leaders of the two major parties.

For 10 of the past 13 years, Queensland has also had a female leader – Palaszczuk and before her, Labor’s Anna Bligh.

But Palaszczuk wants to do more.

“If we’re talking about equality, it is about having all voices around the table,” she said.

“I’d also like to see more people from a multicultural background sitting around the table.

“You’ve got to have diversity, you’ve got to have those voices there otherwise those voices aren’t heard.”

Tune in to a daily press conference and odds are you will see Palaszczuk and Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath, perhaps Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, or Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Palaszczuk says gender equality will come when such a formidable female line-up is no longer remarked upon.

Her current cabinet is one shy of being gender-equal. “But when you add in our assistant ministry we are OK,” Palaszczuk said.

“In my cabinet everyone is equal, everyone gets a say. It should be everywhere else, we’ve got 50 per cent on our government boards, it should become the norm everywhere, it is reflective of society,” she said.

“We have more women in the public service.  I think that sends a message that if you want to talk about equality you’ve got to practice it.”

Importantly, she said, she no longer saw sexism at cabinet level.

“I might have seen it in the past. I can remember clearly when I was young going to a meeting once and I was asked to leave the meeting.

“I looked around and wondered why I was being asked to leave the meeting. I was the only woman at that meeting and I was singled out to leave that meeting.

“It made me stronger, it never happened again.”

While continuing to lead the state, she said she hoped her contribution would not be viewed simplistically through a gender prism.

“I think the people of this state have put their trust in me and they’ve put their trust in me three times now and that’s what I keep intending to do,” she said.

“Julie Bishop was a very effective foreign affairs minister. But when she left, they talked about her shoes.

“I made a comment at in International Women’s Day breakfast, and I said it’s not the shoes you stand-in, it’s what you stand for.”

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