There is little doubt the government, in particular Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis, hoped the parliamentary recess would act as a circuit breaker following last week’s penalty rates onslaught.
It did not.
Mrs Sudmalis went to ground briefly following a torrid few days which culminated in her being reduced to tears in Question Time.
Then in Batemans Bay she spoke up again, this time about the unfairness of being in the crosshairs over her description of cuts to Sunday penalty rates as a “gift” to young people. She said the three-day onslaught was gender based.
Especially after the relentless treatment of Julia Gillard by the then Coalition opposition when she was PM, it’s important for female politicians to call out sexism.
But Mrs Sudmalis’s claim gender was behind last week’s furore rings hollow.
Mrs Sudmalis told Fairfax Media she was concerned about “trying to encourage women to stand up for themselves, to be strong and to jump in”. Ironically, it is those very women who stand to lose the most by cuts to penalty rates.
Women are more likely than men to work in the professions which will bear the brunt of the pay cut (they make up 54 per cent of retail and hospitality workers), and they’re also far more likely to work casually or part time.
For many, working on the weekend is necessary – they spend time away from their kids at a time their partners or families are available for childcare, knowing they’ll get paid a little bit extra for giving up this universally valued weekend time.
Social policy commentators, women’s experts and academics from around the country last week told Fairfax Media that the penalty cuts would hit women hardest.
Mrs Sudmalis is right that women in parliament have a harder time than men; that’s clear because there are still far fewer women than men in ministerial positions. The shrill treatment of Ms Gillard still echoes loudly.
But if Mrs Sudmalis is going to label policies that will widen the already shocking gender pay gap in this country and make it harder for women earn a decent living as “a gift”, she deserves to be called out.
Perhaps instead of mourning the “unfairness of it all” about the way she was treated in the parliament, she should think about how unfair her party’s stance on penalty rates will be for thousands of women.