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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1545

Mrs KELLY(10.14) —I rise to speak in support of the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1987. When I spoke on the previous legislation in relation to affirmative action I congratulated the Opposition for its approach to this legislation in supporting the Bills. I thought that I would be able to do the same today. It is a great shame that in this House we have lost that bipartisan approach that we had to women's affairs and to the treatment of women in our community.

One of the reasons we are discussing the legislation today is the initiative of a member of the Opposition and the encouragement of a senator from New South Wales, who I must say is a member of the Liberal Party of Australia-Senator Baume. I refer to a section of the speech he made in the Senate on 22 August when he was speaking on the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Bill.

Mr Slipper —Which Senator Baume?

Mrs KELLY —Senator Peter Baume. In that speech he pointed out that the legislation that was then before the Senate did not cover statutory authorities and he emphasised the importance of that. He pointed out the error of the Government's ways in not including statutory authorities in the coverage of that legislation. He said:

The answer is, of course, that some of the people in senior administrative positions within Commonwealth statutory authorities have no interest in equal opportunity, in employment equity.

Senator Baume was pointing out the need for this equal opportunity legislation to cover statutory authorities. He said that this legislation was needed to cover statutory authorities because there were people in senior administrative positions within Commonwealth statutory authorities who had no interest in equal opportunity or employment equity. He said:

I would have thought that they would be at the forefront of seeking to have the regulations extended to their employees, but not one single authority has sought that.

Now we have this legislation to cover statutory authorities and the Opposition, for which Senator Peter Baume is the spokesperson on women, rejects the Government's initiative, which is a direct result of the comments made by Senator Baume in the Senate on 22 August. How hypocritical that position is. Why is that the case? That does not seem logical at all. It is the case simply because of the power of those members of the National Party of Australia sitting opposite, the 21 National Party people. They are the people whose views have prevailed on this issue. I know that there are a lot of people in the Opposition who would want to be on this side today, supporting this legislation, but because of the views of some of the troglodytes in the National Party the Opposition will be opposing this Bill. It is a great shame. The views of people such as the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) have prevailed. Although I am slightly embarrassed about quoting from a speech by the honourable member for Maranoa, I would like to do that for the information of the House, so that honourable members have some idea of the philistine views that members of the National Party have about women and their role in our community. When the honourable member for Maranoa was speaking on the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Bill, which is the first part of this legislation, on 10 April 1986-I stress that these are not my words-he said:

I have never seen such a wank of a Bill in all my life.

That is what the honourable member for Maranoa said about it. He said:

Why on earth do we need this sort of legislation?

Most members of the Opposition at that time rejected those views of the National Party. Today they have listened to the views of members of the National Party such as the honourable member for Maranoa; his simplistic views about this legislation and his archaic views about the role of women in our community. They have listened to those views and it is a disgrace to that once great Liberal Party of Australia that it intends to reject this legislation.

It also says a great deal, unfortunately, about the leadership of the Liberal Party. It makes a joke of some of the recent comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) about the independence of the Liberal Party from the National Party, asserting that independence. On 23 March the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr N.A. Brown) was talking about the role and independence of the Liberal Party. Referring to his Leader, he said:

He wants to continue to present himself as a strong leader, someone who has put, and will continue to put, his stamp on the direction of the Liberal Party.

What is his stamp on the direction of the Liberal Party today? It is giving in to these troglodytes in the National Party, opposing this legislation which a few months ago Opposition members were prepared to support. Mr Howard is very good at words; not too good at actions. Look at what else Mr Howard said:

I have no intention of having a dishonourable Coalition with the National Party.

He said that on 26 February. Could anything be more dishonourable than the Opposition's opposition to this legislation today? In another statement, to Michael Schildberger on 19 February, he said:

The point I'm trying to make is that the Liberal Party is not going to be dictated to from outside.

We see the reality of that today. It is being dictated to by outside forces, by the Bjelke-Petersens of this world with their philistine views. It is also being dictated to by the 21 members of the National Party. It is a great shame for the Liberal Party today. I would like to take seriously the points that were raised by the Liberal Party in its opposition to this Bill and I would like those honourable members who I know have more of an open mind on this issue to listen to the points of view that were put. One of the arguments that were put in this debate last night by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was that this was a back-door way of getting quotas into statutory authorities. I would like to take that issue on because I know many honourable members opposite are seriously considering their position in relation to this Bill today.

Mr Goodluck —Never. I've got five daughters, a wife and a grandmother.

Mrs KELLY —I know that the honourable member, who just came into the chamber, would not consider this Bill seriously, nor does he consider many others seriously. He just made some comment about representing his five daughters. To that I say that I represent my daughter and many women in this country who want a fair go for our children and for women in Australia. That is why the Government is introducing legislation such as this. It is not because of the nonsense we hear from the National Party; we are doing this because we believe that this country has a right and an obligation to give the women of Australia a fair go. We want to give the women of this country a fair go.

Mr Hodges —You have a twisted view.

Mrs KELLY —What greater right has the honourable member to be a representative of the women in this country than I? None.

Mr Cadman —He has got a right to his views though.

Mrs KELLY —He has a right to a view and so have I and what I am telling honourable members opposite today is that I do represent a lot of the women of this country who want to give women a fair go.

Mr Hodges —You've got a complex-an inferiority complex.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Petrie will cease interjecting.

Mrs KELLY —Again, I want to take seriously the points that were raised by the Opposition. The Bill does not represent a definite step towards quotas which are externally imposed. It clearly does not. The quantitative indicators referred to, which are to be developed by the authorities themselves, are part of the program development and planning. The provision in the Bill which requires authorities to set these quantitative and other indicators-this is contained in clause (6) (g) (ii)-do not go beyond the provisions of the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Act of 1986 or section 22b of the Public Service Act. They do not step beyond those provisions. It is quite clear that the legislation before us today is totally in keeping with the amendments to the Public Service Act and the legislation that was previously before this House. Clause (6) (g) (ii) requires authorities to set quantitative and other indicators. It does not require quotas at all. The Affirmative Action Act requires employers to set objectives and to make forward estimates. Forward estimates are then defined by that Act to mean a quantitative measure-or aim-which may be expressed in numerical terms, which may be designed to achieve equal employment opportunities for women. That is not a quota; it is just setting out an aim. It is the same as set out in the other legislation which was debated and which the Opposition supported.

Another matter raised by the Opposition was in relation to the Business Regulation Review Unit. The Commonwealth authorities provisions also apply to research and administration bodies. Major authorities, in particular government business enterprises, were consulted directly on the proposal for separate equal employment opportunity legislation. The decision to exclude primary industry statutory marketing authorities was taken because it was recognised that arrangements for these authorities were comparable more with those applying to the private sector. So certain concessions have already been made in relation to the application of this legislation. I do not believe that the objections the Opposition has put forward are serious at all. I would like members of the Opposition to consider that during the debate. They said that they would keep their options open and wait for the response of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis). I hope they will do so.

Another point that was raised concerned the reporting processes. Some differences arise between the reporting processes in the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Act and those in this Bill. There are a number of reasons for that. The first is that the Affirmative Action Act's reporting requirements are geared to private sector employers. I am sure that the Opposition would want that anyway. The Bill covers statutory authorities and its reporting processes are based to a very large extent on those provided for in section 22b of the Public Service Act. However, some variations from the section 22b procedures have arisen in that authorities will be allowed to elect whether to report to their portfolio Minister or to the Public Service Board. The reporting arrangements to portfolio Ministers are consistent with the general reporting arrangements between authorities and Ministers, and they are intended to dovetail as far as possible with those arrangements by allowing authorities, for example, to report on equal opportunity programs in their annual report. That basically takes up the three points raised by the Opposition.

I would like in the few moments left to me to show how important the equal opportunity legislation which was previously agreed to by this House is in its application to the Public Service. The Australian Public Service equal opportunity report has shown that there has been considerable improvement and progress in the role of women in the Public Service since the equal opportunity legislation came into effect. That has occurred in a wide range of areas. Most government agencies have now devised comprehensive general plans which will affect all the groups referred to in this legislation, particularly in the area of women, about which I have been concerned.

Statistically, I am pleased to see, there have been some results. A few years ago the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and I, serving on the Public Accounts Committee, looked at the training of public servants. One of the glaring defects we saw was the small number of women at senior levels of the Public Service. The Bill that was passed by this House last year has gone some way towards rectifying that situation. Of course, we still have a long way to go. Again we have not done this by quotas; we have done it by setting targets. There is a very big difference. When the Government has put so much emphasis on the soft approach of having targets and goals rather than quotas, why on earth would we want to change that for statutory authorities?

The number of women in the senior levels of the Public Service has increased markedly. The number of women in the Senior Executive Service has grown from 67 to 99. That is nearly a 50 per cent increase, so we have done very well in that area. At class 11 level the figure has increased from 137 to 249 and at class 9 level from 551 to 839. These increases have occurred since the commencement of the Act. Women still represent a very small proportion of the total staff at these levels. In the Senior Executive Service only 6 per cent are women, with 11 per cent at the class 11 level and 18 per cent at the class 9 level. But the signs are encouraging, especially the doubling of class 11 numbers, because, for those who know the structure of the Public Service, this is the feeder group into the Senior Executive Service.

The success has not been limited to the public sector. Affirmative action has not long been introduced in the private sector but there are already promising results from the banks, the Australian Institute of Management and others. A women in management group has now been set up in Adelaide in direct response to affirmative action. These improvements could not have taken place without the Hawke Government's initiatives, not just in this legislation but also in many other areas. There is no point in bringing in legislation such as this if we do not follow it up and give women the sort of community support they need and a change in attitudes. That is one of the reasons why I am so disappointed with the position of the Opposition today.

What this legislation is about is setting targets. But without the community support that women need to get to the top levels of business, the private sector, tertiary education and the Australian Public Service, they will not achieve very much. All this legislation is useless without that support. It is all very well for this Parliament to set targets, but none of it will be successful unless it has wide community support. We also need to look at other things. Obviously, we need to look at education and child care. That is why this legislation cannot be seen in isolation but has to be seen as part of the overall view of this Government towards women, a view for which up to now we seemed to have had the support of the Opposition.

Let us briefly consider what the Hawke Government has done for women since 1983. It is quite a list. I will outline some of the achievements. We have set up the Office of the Status of Women. We have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We have set up the National Women's Consultative Council. We have set up women's research and employment initiatives programs. We have also dealt with a women's Budget program. In 1985 the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) announced consultation aimed at establishing a national agenda for women in the year 2000.

I am not satisfied with those improvements. We have a long way to go, but it has to be a community effort. It has to be an effort for which we get support on all sides of the Parliament. It is all too simple to stand up in this House and talk about `socialist ratbags', as the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) does. But we are very genuine in our attempts to give the women of this country an equal go. No country can survive without 50 per cent of its work force having the same opportunity as the other 50 per cent. No country can survive without everyone having every opportunity possible. That does not mean that we believe that at this stage every woman should be out in the work force. That is not possible, nor would any Government want that.

We are very supportive of the role women play in the home but we want to ensure that every woman in this country has the opportunity to develop herself to the fullest. That is the philosophy behind this legislation and that is why it is important that the Opposition supports legislation such as this. We need a united front because, if we do not develop women to their fullest, this country will not develop to its fullest. I recommend the Bill to the House.