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The Left is not immune to the patriarchy



The Victorian state election is on this Saturday and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I could be less inspired about it if I tried. I want readers to understand just how much of a statement this is coming from me. I loathe our political system and most of our politicians but being an Aboriginal woman who works in the union movement and writes opinion, I am deeply invested in it all.

Labor poster demanding Greens' accountabilityI have been known, for example, to sit at home on election night with a six pack of beer next to me yelling at the screen like I’m watching the AFL Grand Final. This election though, I don’t think I will be doing that. It doesn’t warrant that kind of enthusiasm from me.

The deal was sealed for me when I worked out that women were pretty much expendable in the race to the seats. I’m in a unique circumstance — I live in one of the safest Labor electorates in the state, but it borders two marginal seats where the battle is between the ALP and the Greens. These electorates cover areas that I travel and socialise in on a daily basis, so not getting swept up in these Lefty battles is near on impossible. And that’s saying nothing about my personal involvement in the Left already.

The other day, I noticed a poster (right) authorised by the Labor Party quoting the #MeToo movement and criticising the Greens about existing allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual assault within their ranks. The inference appeared to be that Labor is a safe haven for women, unlike the Greens.

It was an easy kick for the ALP. Jenny Leong had just used parliamentary privilege in NSW to call on her Greens colleague Jeremy Buckingham to stand down due to allegations made against him, and her call was backed at a national level by Senator Mehreen Faruqi. It also followed a series of muckraking news articles — first highlighting some three-year-old social media comments made in jest about shoplifting and drugs by former Greens upper house candidate Joanna Nilson and secondly, a video also from a few years ago featuring Greens candidate for Footscray Angus McAlpine rapping some misogynistic lyrics. Two days after I saw the poster, a staffer for sitting Greens MP Lidia Thorpe resigned after tweets he had made resurfaced featuring sexist and racist content.

The problem for me is that I’m yet to see evidence that the ALP is better when it comes to the treatment of women. Just last year, Young Labor was rocked by sexual assault claims within its ranks allegedly perpetrated by an individual who, according to reports, had been a repeat offender. I have additionally been at union events dominated by Labor affiliates and heard claims that domestic violence occurs because men on picket lines are 'stressed'.

Bill Shorten has himself been accused of sexual assault in historical changes that were eventually not pursued by police because the Office of Public Prosecutions advised there was 'no reasonable prospect of conviction' — a not uncommon finding in such circumstances. No ALP MPs used parliamentary privilege to call for his resignation when the allegations came to light.


"At the end of the day, one party pointing the finger at another and claiming moral superiority on 'women’s issues' isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m too experienced, and cynical, to take these claims at face value."


And that is just the ALP and the Greens. What about all the other progressive parties and groups getting around this election?

Long story short: I am yet to find an area within the broad Left which can lay claim to the fact that women in their ranks are treated well. Indeed, often the Left — being social progressives — believe they’re already across women’s equality and when allegations arise within the ranks it unsettles them because many wrongfully see it as being an attack on a 'movement'. They therefore don’t tend to deal with it well. The Right, on the other hand, are more likely to believe it’s a problem with whomever they've identified as the offending individual alone, and that in all other matters, women simply need to 'lean in'.

At the end of the day, one party pointing the finger at another and claiming moral superiority on 'women’s issues' isn’t going to cut it for me. I’m too experienced, and cynical, to take these claims at face value. I don’t particularly care how many tweets are unearthed; we remain in a patriarchal society where one woman per week is killed due to domestic violence, or a woman cannot simply walk safely home after a gig — our political parties reflect this society.

I’m not sure where my vote will go. I only know, thanks to Antony Green’s analysis, that there is no way I will be voting above the line in the upper house and therefore allowing my vote to go on a 'magical mystery tour across the ballot sheet'.

I am sure though that this use of 'women’s rights' to gain power in inner city progressive marginal seats is dirty politics, and a lot needs to change within the Left for me to see it as anything but.


Celeste LiddleCeleste Liddle is an Arrernte woman living in Melbourne, the National Indigenous Organiser of the NTEU, and a freelance opinion writer and social commentator. She blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist.

Topic tags: Celeste Liddle, Victorian state election, auspol, #MeToo



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Existing comments

Spot on Celeste. Party politics is all about power plays and self-interest. Anyone who steps out of line is quickly stood on.

Frank S | 23 November 2018  

This is an interesting article and one can see the difficulties in our society especially for women and for people of aboriginal backgrounds. I am reading the book Dark Emu and am appalled at the ignorance of the English settlers and their criminal behavior towards the original peoples of Australia. I would like to pose a question to Celeste following her comment "I loath our political system..." What would you replace our political system with, Celeste? My question is not one of hostility Celeste, I am curious to know what you may have as an alternative.

Kevin Vaughan | 23 November 2018  

Celeste, The reality is such tactics are not just in politics, they are a part of the business world, education systems , employment relations , recreational sport, both professional and amateur, in short its a part of our Australian society, both Angelo /European and Indigenous . It has been around 'since Adam was a boy'. It will take generations by means of education at our schools, proper example shown by parents and significant others in our children's lives, to eradicate.

Gavin O'Brien | 23 November 2018  

No party is immune from inappropriate behaviour from some of its members. But the biggest challenges we face today are climate change and poverty, and these two issues are inter-linked, and the policies of the Australian Greens are by far the best in these regards. We're currently heading for catastrophic climate change, from which no one will be immune, but the world's poor will be least able to respond. Check out the reports in the Climate Council website. Time is quickly running out for an adequate response to avert catastrophic climate change. Even now we're witnessing massive dust storms affecting NSW, one of our most devastating drought, and of course California has had the most devastating fire-storms in its history and is still counting the terrible death toll.

Grant Allen | 23 November 2018  

The older I get, the more I learn of the world, the more deeply I understand the statement 'women have no government'.

Jess | 23 November 2018  

The ALP is not left, and the Greens are centre-left at best. They're but the tip of the iceberg, not indicative at all of what else there is further down.

George | 24 November 2018  

Andrews lost all credibility for me when he said it was OK to jail teenagers in adult prisons after they complained about the terrible conditions in the old prison, most were on remand and Aboriginal. His disgusting attack on the women in the Greens was monstrous, especially with so many catholics and others in parliament who have been silent about the abuse and torture of kids in those churches.

Marilyn | 24 November 2018  

I did the numbers over night, the ALP elected just 32% women

Marilyn | 25 November 2018  

Beautiful writing Celeste. I look forward to reading more.

LaLegale | 01 December 2018  

Raw honest article written absolutely beautifully and I sincerely hope leaders from both the Greens and the ALP read it and take it on board. Unfortunately, I'm old, bitter and twisted from my own experience with unions, "left", "right" and brindle... and I know that probably wont happen. I also used to look forward to every election, these days due to the way the ALP have a tendency to eat their own children, and the Green's inability to organise themselves I find it downright depressing. I'll vote ALP next federal election for the first time since 2007. Not because I think beige Bill has the goods, I don't. Partly due to the way NSW ALP handled the Luke Foley assault on Ashleigh Raper... I feel it was a rare occasion where they actually listened, acted and behaved decently in a timely manner. I wont be voting Green at all, not even in the Senate. If their women have to stand in Parliament to alert the general public that their own sexual harassment policies aren't working, then how can you in good faith expect them to come up with decent policies for the general public? I'll vote ALP mainly because locally they generally deliver aside from the State member for Townsville who's really only there for the shady tree. Also because aside from the Green's lack of organising abilities, their local candidates are complete fruit cakes and no one in their right mind ...left, right or brindle would give them a shot. As for the way women and minority groups are treated by the ALP up here... I think the ALP have lost their way on so many base issues, that articles like this are of paramount importance. They need to be called out in the way they treat women, asylum seekers, and minority groups in general. I hope Celeste keeps writing in this vein and encourages other's to do the same. It's needed.

Evie Hanlon | 11 December 2018  

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