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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4203


Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (13:26): I rise to speak on the member for Canberra's motion on International Women's Day. International Women's Day has been celebrated for 100 years. It is a day to reflect on the economic, political and social achievements of women. As we reflect on the last 100 years, many things have changed. Women in Australia have more choices at all stages of their lives. They can go to school and study subjects of their choice. They can go to university to continue their studies if they wish. They can enrol in the course of their choice, subject to academic entry requirements. They have the choice of working after they have married and returning to work after they have had children. Legislation has been passed that provides for equal opportunity, but have attitudes really changed over the years? Is there now true gender equality?

There are a number of observations that I can make in relation to my electorate of McPherson. From a political perspective, there are four state seats that are either wholly or partly within the boundary of McPherson. Three of those four seats are held by women. There are six council divisions, again either wholly or partially within McPherson, and three of those six divisions are held by women. So, arguably for McPherson voters, the gender of elected representatives is not an issue. I make the point that I believe that those who make it to this place have a special duty to remember and acknowledge the contribution to society that women make and to encourage other women to consider a role in politics.

When I look at surf lifesaving I see an increasing number of girls and women becoming actively involved and being acknowledged formally for their skill and competence at the annual award presentation ceremonies, and many of those award ceremonies are currently being conducted throughout the Gold Coast. When I look at small business I see an increasing number of women starting and operating a small business, particularly a micro business, many of which are operated from home. When I look at community organisations I see an increasing number of women taking on executive committee roles, as well as providing operational support, as they have done in some cases for many, many years. I believe that women are perfectly placed to represent communities. They appreciate and listen using broad inputs; they understand the difference between outputs and outcomes.

I am a mechanical engineer, an industrial advocate, a small business operator and a politician. I am the mother of three beautiful daughters, Emma, Jane and Kate, who I miss every day that I am here. I understand the conflicts that working mothers face every single day. For those women who choose to stay at home and tend to the children, I understand your choices and celebrate your right to choose that course. Women who stay at home work hard and deserve recognition for placing families first, often to the detriment of their careers.

I turn now to the issue of the recent decision in the equal remuneration case 2011, handed down by Fair Work Australia last week. The case revolved around non-government social and community services—SACS—workers employed in mainly not-for-profit organisations. It is a sector with which I am familiar. This decision is not about male and female gender based pay. At its core is an argument about one predominantly female private sector employment grouping against another that involves state and local government employees. It is a comparison of two predominantly female groupings. I am troubled by a decision that focuses on arguments based on the pay rates between the private and government sectors in the name of comparable worth.

David Gregory, Director of Workplace Policy with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said of the decision:

… the Tribunal's willingness to compare public sector wage levels with private sector awards is a dangerous path given the very different circumstances between the business of governments and the business of private community employers, many of whom are small not-for-profit businesses.

Mr Gregory went on to say that ACCI will continue its intervention in this case 'to ensure that the gender pay jurisdiction remains tightly limited to actual and genuine claims about gender rather than other wage setting factors'.

I make it clear that I support equal pay for work of equal value, but I do not support a claim for a wage increase for predominantly female sectors based on a comparison of the public and private sector wage rates.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 13:31 to 16:01