Hypocritical State Government does “total backflip” on proposed new gender equality laws

8 March 2023

The State Government has been branded “pathetically hypocritical” for refusing to support proposed new gender equalities laws – after doing so in Opposition. 

SA-BEST MLC and Attorney General spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, said she was bitterly disappointed with the stance of the Malinauskas Labor Government - especially after it supported the proposed new legislation in Opposition. 

“It is an insult to the whole gender equality discussion for the Malinauskas Government – which has you believe it is ‘progressive’ - not to support the important new laws I am proposing,” Connie said. 

“And it makes a complete mockery of its so-called ‘commitment’ to the gender equality debate,” she said. 

“It’s simply not enough to fill Parliament with female MPs. It does not fix gender equality. This Bill will see constructive steps forward in creating equality in South Australia - and we know South Australians want it because they voted for it. 

“How many more reports and how much more consultation is needed before the government is proactive. 

“If a government can’t lead from the front on such a crucial issue, what chance is there for the rest of the community – and business sector – to embrace gender equality. 

“How can you expect private business to invest in gender equality and do their part, if the government of the day isn’t. 

“What makes its stance particularly disappointing is that South Australia was the first state to grant women the democratic right to vote and introduced the Equal Opportunity Act years before the Federal Government.

“Here was another opportunity for SA to be one of the nation’s driving forces on gender equality – and for the government to be one of the leading voices on a national level – but despite all its embellished hyperbole in Opposition, has now shown its true colours. 

Regardless, Connie took her Private Member’s Bill, the Gender Equality 2023 Bill, to a vote today – coincidentally, on International Women’s Day. 

This proposed legislation aims to improve workplace gender equality across the entire SA public sector, with a key platform being the establishment of a Commissioner for Gender Equality. 

The Commissioner would work with the public sector, local councils and the courts to foster and enhance gender equality in the most effective and appropriate way for each particular workplace. 

Significantly the Bill will create a State Gender Equality Action Plan which will take co-ordinated action to build attitudinal, behavioural and the structural change required to improve gender equality. 

The Bill is based on the following objects and principles, that: 

• all South Australians should live in a safe and equal society, have access to equal power, resources and opportunities and be treated with dignity, respect and fairness; 

• gender equality benefits all South Australians regardless of gender; 

• gender equality is a human right and precondition to social justice; 

• gender equality brings significant economic, social and health benefits for South Australia; 

• gender equality is a precondition for the prevention of family violence and other forms of violence. 

• advancing gender equality is a shared responsibility across the South Australian community; 

• all human beings, regardless of gender, should be free to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices about their lives without being limited by gender stereotypes, gender roles or prejudices; 

• gender inequality may be compounded by other forms of disadvantage or discrimination that a person may experience on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes, and; 

• women have historically experienced discrimination and disadvantage on the basis of sex and gender. 

Connie revealed the gender pay gap in South Australia was 7.8% - significantly behind the nation gap of 13.3%. 

“On the current pay gap rate in SA, it will take another 14 years before female employees receive the same pay as their male colleagues - in what universe is that pay gap acceptable?” Connie asked. 

“I’ll tell you where, here in Parliament House where all MPs receive the same base salary regardless of their gender. We were able to fix our own workplace, but aren’t prepared to fix others,” she said. 

“It is imperative the government stops talking the talk, and starts walking the walk. Actions speak louder than words. It needs to lead by example on the crucial issue of gender equality. 

“Nearly 130 years after giving women the right to vote, we now have more women than men in State Parliament - yet gender equality is going backwards. 

“Nothing in this Bill takes away from this government’s ambitions to introduce an Equality Bill. It is just expediting gender equality and recognising women need action now. 

“If the issue of gender equality isn’t important enough to warrant a dedicated, stand-alone Gender Equality Commission and Action Plan, I don’t know what is. 

“In Opposition, this Government supported this Bill – but has suddenly done a complete backflip. I'm now calling on Premier Malinauskas to stop using women to win votes and finish what he started.”

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