Monday 23 January 2017 marks a new achievement for women in parliaments across the globe, with the announcement of NSW’s second only women Premier. What’s more, Gladys Berejiklian was declared unopposed to the position – surely something that ought to be greeted with celebration in the rough-and-tumble and darkly mysterious world of politics. This gives Berejilian a clear mandate to run the highest office in NSW in the manner and style in which she chooses.
Having achieved this most prestigious of all career highs, Women for Election Australia suspects that Berejiklian will not have the easiest time ahead. Sadly, her detractors have sounded out already, declaring that she’s a factional stooge (is that really a criticism, when all key appointments, in all parties, are the result of negotiation and territory claim). Put that aside, it’s the quiet misogyny that has accompanied her ascendency and about which Berejiklian will need to fortify herself. This is assuming of course that her Parliamentary time has not already resulted in her developing a pretty tough hide! WFEA thinks that Berejiklian, having spent 13 years in Parliament and having held senior roles in shadow portfolios and importantly in cabinet, including as Treasurer, finds her absolutely suited to being Premier. This, through, from the same commentator who opined that our first woman Prime Minister be drowned at sea after being discarded in a chaff bag.
Berejiklian’s unopposed elevation gives her a clear mandate to put her own touches and perspective on to a highly complex and contested policy environment. Given her track record of supporting and advancing women in politics, there is a high expectation that numbers of women in cabinet will increase, as they ought across the parliament’s committee system. And come the 2019 election, increased numbers of women ought to be preselected, despite her party’s stand against quotas.
Over the weekend, women across Australia marched in our thousands to remind us all of the importance of an inclusive political agenda. The elevation of a woman into the Premier’s office in NSW is a step in the right direction. And judgment of her needs to be on policy grounds, and nothing less.