Finally, a group of women have put together a list of demands on the government. If governments take any notice, they will have loyal voters.
When our first baby was born, back in the '80s, I was entitled to paid maternity leave of six weeks. I tried to time the leave to delivery perfection but baby wouldn't budge (she's still stubborn) and I ended up with just five weeks at home with my squishy angel. My husband took some time off too, I think about 10 days.
Money was pretty tight but on my husband's first day back at work, he rang from the office with good news. His boss had given him a pay rise based on the fact that he now had three mouths to feed; and because the boss didn't think I should return to work.
We laughed. Oh how we laughed. Nothing quite like parenting to introduce you to gender stereotypes; and even in the eighties, it was pretty clear that buying a house while having kids in Sydney's inner city required DIAMONDS. Double Income. Awesome Mortgage. Offspring. No Dough.
We manage our working lives while trying to maintain relationships with partners, children, employers. Some years it can be hell – the five years I spent working for a hideous boss who would farewell me each day with "thanks for dropping by". There are certainly some things governments could do to make it easier for its citizens.
So when I sulkily tell Sara Charlesworth that nothing has changed, that nothing will ever change, she gently reminds me that we have government-funded paid parental leave these days. She reminds me that the struggle matters.
"That was an incredible win for women, for activists, for parents, for kids."
Charlesworth, a professor at RMIT and co-convenor of the Work and Family Policy Round Table which released its report, Work, Care and Family Policies: Election Benchmarks 2016 on Monday, says that there definitely has been improvement but it's slow. Yes, she reminds me, we even have payments for Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP).
It's abysmally low – but it's something. Here's how we value DAPP. It is currently $657 per week before tax, for a maximum period of two weeks. That's the weekly rate of the national minimum wage and that's how the government values the input of partners. Charlesworth's co-convenor, Elizabeth Hill, from the University of Sydney, says that men don't even want to take DAPP because they fear it will make them look as if they are not committed to their jobs. Mind you, those good little soldiers who are Army Reservists, they get to do their adventures and get paid decent money and nobody turns a hair.
In fact, and straight from the website, the Employer Support Payment Scheme provides financial assistance to eligible employers of Reservists and self-employed Reservists, when the Reservist is absent on eligible periods of Defence service. "For full-time employees, ESPS payments are made at a set weekly rate equivalent to average weekly full-time adult ordinary time earnings (AWOTE). The FY 2016-17 payment rate is $1499.30 per week. A pro-rata payment may be made for a part-time employee."
Weird, isn't it? Army Reservists are more than twice as financially important to us than dads.
Charlesworth and Hill, heading a network of 34 academics from 16 universities, have made it pretty clear what governments need to do.
The list. Please send this list of policy areas to your local member.
1. An accessible, affordable, quality early childhood education and care system for all children. Truly! How hard can this be? Fix it and family voters will flock to your side. Stop telling families there needs to be trade-offs. There doesn't need to be trade-offs. There needs to be a commitment.
2. Improved paid parental leave. Stat. I reckon this might also cut down on relationship breakdown.
3. Job Security, flexibility and working time. I spoke to Michael Smith, the director of the Eastern Community Legal Centre in Victoria. He worked part time when his children were young and so did his partner. No jobs were hurt in the process. Now he is an employer, he encourages workplace flexibility. Sometimes it's tricky. He deals.
4. Gender pay equity. How do you spell der? Equal work for equal pay. Enforce it. Make everyone report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, even government departments.
5. Workforce participation and the tax/transfer system. Never support a tax system which encourages gender inequity. As the report says, many "second earners" face huge tax disincentives when they start to do more paid work. How does that make sense?
6. Superannuation and retirement savings. Just as recently as the last federal budget, the government decided to change superannuation rules. And guess who gets hit with the biggest percentage slug? Yep. Women.
7. Work and care for an ageing Australia. I can't possibly do everything I need to do to look after the wonderful older people in my life. But I definitely don't feel good about passing those jobs on to the poorly paid and the exploited. Plus, I don't want to be shoved off the recruitment list just because I'm old. Sixty is the new 35, but with far fewer childcare responsibilities.
8. Institutional support and leadership for work and care.
God, you'd love a bit of leadership around this and the rest of this list, wouldn't you? Yes, send this list to your local member. Tell them you are sick to death of successive governments faffing around.