Ladies, a Plate


Inviting just one woman to join the Steering Committee for this huge festival of great ideas was a big mistake and raises the critical question: Who, for God’s sake, will bring the sandwiches?

"Ladies, a plate" is one thing, but expecting Cate – who is expecting herself – to feed 1000 of the nation’s brightest and best, is just, well, so like a man. She just doesn’t have the time, Kevin!

A successful business woman, Catherine Harris – who also happens to be the mother of the PM’s media adviser, Lachlan – explained in a radio interview just where the PM had gone wrong in all this. "I felt like screaming: Hello! Kevin!" she said. "I can’t believe it. He has a successful wife. He understands that most women are not at home, looking after the grandchildren and children."

Lachlan wasn’t turning his back on this one – Kevin was quick off the mark with a reply. He pointed out that men would be in the minority on the Government side at the summit. "I just note for the record that six of our 10 from the ministry happen to be women," the PM told reporters, as he reeled off the impressive names of Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Nicola Roxon, Tanya Plibersek and Jenny Macklin. Maxine McKew will also be there.

Let’s get real though. Can you imagine any of that lot cutting sandwiches or making fairy cakes?

The 2020 Steering Committee’s job is simple, it just has to choose 1000 of Australia’s best and brightest. What an assignment! The Curmudgeon admits that he is available. But he, too, will probably be passed over.

The Committee will be chaired by Professor Glyn Davis, who Rudd knows well. They worked closely together in the back rooms of the Goss government many years ago. The former Westpac chief David Morgan is also on the Committee. As a child actor he was one of The Terrible Ten, let’s hope it’s not prophetic.

From the conservative side there’s Warwick Smith, a former Liberal minister and more recently a Macquarie bank executive, and Tim Fischer, whose most memorable pronouncement in a long career in parliament was that Aborigines could expect "buckets of extinguishment" after the Mabo decision gave them very limited residual land rights.

Then there’s the recently retired Roger Beale, who was once a senior public servant, Professor Michael Good, Tim Costello, Kelvin Kong, John Hartigan and the former spook, Michael Wesley.

Which of these intellectual giants could Kevin kick off to make way for more women?

Rudd promises that every Australian will be able to nominate to attend the summit, but you must do so by today: 29 February.

Unfortunately, many women may well have other things on their mind today. Marriage, for example. This is the one day when single women have the right to propose marriage to the men who have been courting them.

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.