In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian Government last week decided to announce the appointment of the first Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner, Dr Niki Vincent, to head up a new unaccountable and powerful identity-politics-based bureaucracy which will divide and dehumanise Victorians.
For the general public distracted by the ritual reading of the COVID-19 cases the appointment might have passed them by. Just as in February when the law that created the position was up for debate the Victorian Coalition was fawning over the cash for containers scheme. This radical law was rushed through parliament without opposition or comment, except for the singular valiant effort of David Limbrick and the Liberal Democrats.
The job of this new Commissioner is to enforce the Gender Equality Act. This law socially engineers the bureaucracy by imposing a new duty to “promote gender equality.” Come next March, more than 300 public bodies from councils to universities will be compelled to compile a “Gender Equality Action Plan” detailing how they will achieve equal gender representation in the organisation. The legislation even allows the Commissioner to publicly name and shame non-compliment organisations.
But what’s worse is that the Gender Equality Act does not even deserve its name as it promotes neither gender, nor equality, but intersectional equity.
Intersectionality is defined in the Webster dictionary as the “cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect.” For example, intersectional theory would say that a woman is more oppressed than a man, but a black woman is more oppressed than a white woman.
The law introduces this concept by explaining that “gender inequality may be compounded by other forms of disadvantage.” The effect of this wording is that all Victorian public bodies must now review and amend their policies, programs and services not just for how they affect women but also consider “Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation and other attributes.”
Moreover, the law defines equality as “equality of rights, opportunities, responsibilities and outcomes between persons of different genders.” This is not equality but equity.
Equality requires that people are treated the same, and are given the same opportunities to use their talents and succeed. Where equality of opportunity is afforded to people the outcomes are based on the aspirations and talents of individuals.
Equity, by contrast, requires that people are treated differently in order to achieve equal outcomes (this is also known as positive discrimination). Practically this means proportionate gender representation in everything from schools to garbage collectors.
Positive discrimination often reflects poorly on the very group it is trying to advance. It can result in people pushed into positions they are not yet prepared for, or, assumptions that people are only hired to fill a quota.
More importantly, positive discrimination is dehumanising. No one wants to be a quota or to be told they can’t succeed without special treatment.
All this is the result of the deeper problem referred to as identity politics which is the formation of political alliances based on group characteristics rather than appeals to people as individuals.
Treating groups as monolithic is to deny individuality, qualities, experience, and freedom of choice. It drives a wedge between different groups when there is far more to unite them as Australians, such as by drawing on shared culture, heritage, and values.
These divisive ideas and concepts will not be quarantined to the Victorian public service. They will metastasize out of the bureaucracy and into every nook and cranny of society. Engage Victoria (whose role is to conduct public consultations on legislation) excitedly describes the law as a “once in a generation reform opportunity to influence policy shifts, social norms, cultural expectations and attitudes across Victoria … Australia and internationally.”
The new Commissioner will be nothing less than the legal enforcer of radical and divisive identity politics. Victorian public servants will become quotas and targets based on immutable characterises like sex and race, rather than individuals with different qualities, experience, and desires.
If the inept response to the coronavirus has shown anything, it is that Victorian’s need a practical and capable public service. The last thing they need is more ideological positions like a Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner.