Gary Johns and Judith Sloane won’t limit Broderick’s plans

Gary Johns and Judith Sloane of the Australian wrote articles recently criticising the latest report by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. The report is called Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review.

It is heartening to see such criticism of Feminist governance, even if neither of them refer to it by name. It is also enlightening to examine Broderick’s reply in the same publication.

Johns describes the “world inhabited by the Australian Human Rights Commission.” Clearly he sees it as delusional, although the criticism remains implied rather than overt. In this world at least half of all mothers have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Johns doesn’t buy it, and rightly so.

The Human Rights Commission, it seems, believes all women have a right to have a career that progresses as though uninterrupted by pregnancy, birth and child-rearing even if it is actually interrupted by pregnancy, birth and child-rearing. Of course, this consequence free zone can be summarised in a slogan:

Her body, her choice, everyone else’s problem.

But Johns wants to bring us back to the real world:

There is a world of difference between discrimination and not accommodating someone’s desires.

Johns makes some valid comments on the details of the survey. For example, a complaint that hours were changed whilst a woman was pregnant does not mean that the hours were changed because she was pregnant and the intent was to disadvantage her.

Johns also doubts the economic claims made by the report and thinks the overall recommendations do not stand proper scrutiny:

[The Australian Human Rights Commission] wants these major changes made to employment contracts based on flimsy evidence and bad economics.

Judith Sloane, felt that Johns was “a bit too kind” in his remarks. She found the report “tendentious and pointless.”

The real conclusion is that government bodies such as the Human Rights Commission are clearly too generously funded when they can commission surveys and produce such poor quality, prejudiced reports that set back the debate rather than contribute to it.

Sloane sees real problems with the methods used in the survey.

This underscores a further weakness of the survey — it contained no control group of matched workers apart from the characteristic of having been pregnant and returned to work.

She continues:

The exclusion of a control group is made more problematic because the questionnaire essentially invited respondents to whinge.

Yes, and every whinge, whine and moan becomes a statistic of discrimination. Sloane, like Johns, also questions the economic credentials of the report.

If the deficient survey is not depressing enough — and, no, we don’t need to repeat it every four years — the babble about the economic benefits of eliminating discrimination and greater workforce participation of women is a very poor undergraduate ­standard.

To quote highly questionable studies that point to massive gains in gross domestic product if only more women participated in the workforce ­completely misses the point

And yet, of course, it is Johns and Sloane who actually miss the point. They are correct in saying that the report is utter rubbish. They are correct in saying that the costs will outweigh the benefits. Eventually, even the mothers they are claiming to help will end up worse off as the system collapses on itself. If everyone is being subsidised, then there is no one left to supply the extra.

But they are dead wrong if they think that facts will win the argument. The truth is, the laws that the Human Rights Commission are calling for will become law, in one form or another. It is just a question of time.

We can see this in Broderick’s response to the pair, which appeared in The Australian on Friday last week.

As I stepped down from the podium in Sydney last week, after having launched my report about the direct link between pregnancy discrimination and women’s workforce participation (Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review), I was approached by women from all directions; women who wanted to tell their stories.

Broderick does not take on Johns or Sloane directly. In fact, while it is obvious that she is responding to the pair, the only people who would know that are those who had already read their articles. Instead, she acts like she is announcing the breakthrough we’d all been waiting for.

I have travelled to eight cities in the past eight days, to every state and territory. One thing remains constant: the scores of women wanting to share with me their experience of pregnancy, parental leave and return-to-work discrimination.

The messianic overtones are not to be ignored either. Indeed, whilst Johns is wondering about grubby details such as “who pays for it,” Broderick sees far beyond this to a brighter future where we all need shades.

As Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner and a mother of two teenagers, I know the most important work I do every day is my unpaid caring work. But I also believe that paid work and care should not sit at opposite ends of one hard choice. We can do both. And when we are supported in this choice, we all flourish — individuals and organisations alike.

Broderick doesn’t need facts. She has the backing of the Australian Industry Group, The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, leading Australian academics,  employer peak bodies and unions and more bodies that Johns and Sloane could point a fact at. She defends her survey and report by simply relying on her supporters’ credentials.

Any remaining doubters are to be simply to be shamed into compliance. She quotes ACC&I CEO Kate Carnell:

Limiting women’s participation in paid work limits us as a society and reduces our productivity.

Broderick implies that Johns and Sloane, with their limited, negative view are just part of the problem. If we all just believe and comply, nothing can go wrong. This is not just the opinion of our own elite, remember. International experts are on the Commissions side too:

[The survey] drew on international best practice from surveys in Britain and Ireland.

Cynics would note that the next survey, done in the USA or Canada, will cite “international best practice from surveys in Britain, Ireland and Australia.” The issue of a control group is also fielded by Broderick:

In accordance with reputable international methodologies, control groups are not used in surveys of this nature.

What makes it “best practice” and “reputable international methodologies” can be summed up in yet another slogan:

Feminist experts agree that the Feminists are correct in every way.

There is nothing new in Broderick’s approach. In 1996 the Women’s Safety Study, commissioned by the Australian government’s Office of the Status of Women, used a broadened definition of violence to invite women to whinge about men.

The definition of violence included threats. It is true that, in certain conditions, like whilst holding a gun for example, verbal threats can be very damaging. However not all threats or name-calling are therefore violence.

But they were for that study. This gave us, among other things, the “one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime” claim that still reverberates in the Domestic Violence lectures we endure today. And, of course, this figure is now an “international” one that has grown in size.

Here Julia Gillard tells us “one in three women will be beaten or raped in their lifetime” using her office of the Prime Minister of Australia as the authority for this claim.


So the reality, for Johns and Sloane, is they had better hope a lot more Australians take the red pill, and take it soon, otherwise Broderick’s sought after laws will become a reality.


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