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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 1437

Senator CASH (3:34 PM) —I seek leave to make a short statement on the motion.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator CASH —The coalition will not be supporting the Greens motion. The coalition is committed to fostering a culture within our nation where women are full and active participants in all spheres of public and private life across a wide range of decision-making positions. The coalition believes that the high-level appointments of women should recognise merit and excellence rather than be based on some unilateral quota which could be intended or interpreted to placate women rather than promote excellence and advance the cause of Australian women.

We hold the view that the appointment of women to boards for reasons other than merit or excellence could be counterproductive and work against the long-term interests of women. We believe that encouraging skilled and talented women to contribute to this country’s decision-making processes is a far more effective way of increasing women’s participation than relying on arbitrary quotas.

The coalition believes that there is no job women should not aspire to. However, a woman should never be appointed to a role in an attempt to justify or satisfy an arbitrary quota or some presumed politically correct position. Using women to justify or satisfy an arbitrary quota is demeaning to women and has the potential to hinder the aspirations of women and develop a second-class of citizen.

We need to foster the opportunities that give women real choices in life and encourage female talent to make it to the top. The coalition prefers to see this done by giving women a fair go to demonstrate their special skills, aptitudes, capacities and abilities, not by having to rely on a mandated quota. Quotas can be a crude, blunt instrument that have the effect of failing to promote ability or excellence and can ultimately let firms off the hook.

Quotas can work against the interests of women rather than address problems and create policies and opportunities designed to help women balance work and family life. As the opposition shadow spokesperson for women’s interests, I hold the view that there should be no room for gender based discrimination in Australian workplaces, but I stress that the interests of women are not necessarily served by implementing arbitrary quotas. We must all strive to make a difference by encouraging skilled and talented women to aspire to higher profile and more challenging roles.