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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 790


Mr HAND(1.20) —I have the great honour of speaking in support of the motion moved by the honourable member for Brand (Ms Fatin). I listened with interest to the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan) and I can assure her that the messages she relayed to me in her speech I will in fact take on board. I am sure the Government will address some of the points she raises.

The motion is in four parts, as the honourable member pointed out. It is important to remember that this motion was, in fact, introduced in the House some time ago, so I think it is fair enough to reflect on some of the initiatives that the Government has taken since the motion was introduced. We have introduced affirmative action legislation. We have now a very detailed social security review under way, which honourable members on all sides of the House would welcome. It is an historical review taking place. There are initiatives encouraging more women into labour market programs and education, and there is a commitment-and it is something we will achieve-to provide 60,000 new child care places by 1988.

I refer to some information supplied to me which I think puts to rest the last minute of the speech of the honourable member for Moncrieff. By June 1988, the Government will have established over 60,000 new places, taking the total number of places to some 106,000 or 152 per cent more places than were available when this Government came to office. As a result of our initiatives, an extra 85,000 children will have access to government-funded child care services. I make the point because of the concluding remarks of the honourable member for Moncrieff-an increase of 152 per cent over and above the figure that was in place when we become the Government.

The principal aim of this Government, Mr Deputy Speaker, is to provide ways in which women can move out of the poverty circle and into economic independence. That is the substance of the motion that is currently before the House. Wage justice is an important area of the motion. The first part of the motion, as I said, calls on the Government to continue the pursuit of wage justice for women. The plain fact is that women still earn considerably less than their male counterparts. Since 1975, when the equal pay for work of equal value principle began to have real effect, the ratio of female to male earnings of all adults has narrowed only marginally. Women's average weekly earnings are still only 66 per cent of men's, or 79 per cent of men's excluding the part time work sector.

The reasons for this are many and varied. Discrimination against working women in this society is based on a complex series of interlocking factors. The major reason is that women workers are found in a narrow band of occupations and industries. Women are concentrated in four main categories: The community services area, wholesale and retail trade areas, manufacturing-notably in industries such as the textile, clothing and footwear industries-and finance and insurance services. Nearly 40 per cent of women work in clerical occupations. Those industries in which women are disproportionately represented have the lowest average weekly earnings of all employees, while such male-dominated industries as mining, the power industry, construction, transport and storage are very much above the average.

Historically, women's work has been undervalued. Today women's skills are still undervalued. Of course there is a host of other factors which determine women's lower wage rates and they include: The hours of work that women are engaged in in the work place, over-award payments, overtime worked, age structure of the work force, interrupted career paths of women and outright discrimination. The major obstacle to the realisation of wage justice for women is legislative and award restrictions on where and how women can work. These restrictive practices contribute to a very high level of occupational and industrial sex segregation in Australia.

In 1981, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Australian Council of Trade Unions undertook a survey which identified discriminatory provisions in some 300 awards in this country. Legislation prohibiting women from undertaking certain tasks or working under certain conditions is also widespread. Of course, some of the legislative provisions discriminating against women were introduced for health and safety reasons but many more are based on outmoded concepts of what appropriate work and working conditions for women should be.

In relation to this issue, major steps have been taken recently to erase these sexist provisions. An historic conference was held on 17 October last year under the auspices of the Commonwealth Government to seek ways of removing these outmoded legal proscriptions against women. The conference took place in order to bring together a range of parties who are responsible for ensuring that these legislative restrictions which are currently exempt from the Sex Discrimination Act are changed to ensure conformity with that Act. Participants included all States with the exception of Queensland and Tasmania. I repeat: With the exception of Queensland and Tasmania. Obviously they are two State governments which are totally uninterested in doing anything to overcome the problems faced by half of their population. Other parties to the conference were the ACTU, representing the trade union movement and the Confederation of Australian Industry representing the employers. An historic communique was issued by the ACTU and the CAI on a joint approach to handling such problems as manual handling, lead, shift work, overtime and night work, facilities provided on the factory floor or in the work place, apprenticeships, underground mining, industrial processes and a review of all awards. A task force under the Office of the Status of Women will oversight the implementation of the commitments that have been made.

I would like to make a brief comment about the need to address the hidden pay inequalities of our society. We need to take action to regulate an area of work which I am sure the honourable member for Bass (Mr Smith) who will follow me in this debate would be concerned about, and that is the area of work described as work carried out by outworkers. At present tens of thousands of women work in unregulated or exploitative conditions as outworkers. Grossly underpaid, the work of these women is never taken into account in the official statistics on women's earnings. If it were, the discrepancies between men's and women's earnings would be even greater. I point out that I am not suggesting for one moment that we are against arrangements that these women have negotiated with a particular employer over a long period. However, as I am sure members of this House are well aware, if one stands on some of the housing estates or gets to know where there is an area where outwork is done one will see heavy machinery, sewing machines, being carted in and out of homes where people are required to work all night for very low return. Sometimes when they get the electricity bill for the month or the quarter, depending on the State, they find that they have actually been working for absolutely nothing. I would like to pay a compliment to the clothing trades union which has undertaken a national campaign to bring these people into the mainstream and into the work force so that they receive proper return for their work. I think that is all that anybody asks for: Proper return for the work done. Even parliamentarians, I am sure, would suggest that they ought to get proper return. It is mainly women who are being exploited. I have numerous cases of women who have come in and found themselves working on the production of a garment only to receive less than a dollar for the production of that garment. It is just totally wrong. Something needs to be done. I would hope all members of the House would join with the clothing trades and, incidentally, the employers to whom I have spoken, who are equally as concerned about this aspect of their industry.

Of course real wage justice for women will occur only when the likes of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) are no longer with us. Honourable members will recall that the honourable member for Maranoa said in the affirmative action debate-something which we have just been told the Opposition supported-that women belong in front of the kitchen sink or in that other place. It is clear that a long educative process is required before such outmoded social attitudes are completely swept away from this place.

I would like to move on now to another part of the motion, that which deals with work opportunities for women. It is interesting to hear members of the Opposition talking about what they support or what they do not support. Obviously we will hear from the honourable member for Bass about what they did in the past and what they have planned for the future. But there is a factor here that they do not talk about, and that is the factor of cuts. Both the Liberal Party of Australia, depending on what side of the Liberal Party one is currently on, or whether one is sitting on the fence, and the National Party of Australia, depending on what Leader of the National Party one is currently following, have a common position and that is to cut programs. There is a bit of a one-upmanship game going on in our society at the moment and that is in the area of what the value of these cuts ought to be. A couple of days ago the Confederation of Australian Industry wanted cuts of $2 billion. The Business Council of Australia had previously put in a bid for $3 billion. Lo and behold, the cockies, the leadership of the National Farmers Federation, come out and say that they want to cut $10 billion. Even members of the business community are somewhat mystified about how this $10 billion worth of cuts will be applied. But the Federation's President, Ian McLachlan, said that $7 billion worth of cuts have already been identified in health, welfare, education and the labour market. Details would be available in a few weeks. Everyone of those areas affects women. So members of the Opposition should not come in here and start telling us about their commitment to women when they support people like Ian McLachlan, when they support people like Joh, or Gray, or whoever else it is that they are currently putting their allegiances behind. But here we have the Farmers Federation, a group who are becoming more and more involved with the Liberal Party.

The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) is again under attack in his electorate by the farmers body. A survey is being conducted in the electorate of the honourable member for Higgins, paid for by private enterprise-I think Carlton and United Breweries or somebody is paying for it-to see whether or not people like the honourable member for Higgins--


Mr Duffy —That could not be right!


Mr HAND —It is right. In the first group of 150 people they interviewed they said: `Do you like the honourable member for Higgins?'. A few people said they did. So do honourable members know what they did with the next 150? They changed the question.


Mr Tim Fischer —Mr Deputy Speaker--


Mr HAND —There is no need to take a point of order, I have dropped off that point. I have made my point.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I call the honourable member for Farrer.


Mr Tim Fischer —Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Melbourne has been around for long enough to know that he is now well outside the framework of the motion and I ask that you draw his attention to that fact.


Mr HAND —The point I am trying to make, I say to the honourable member, is that it does not matter what political party a person is in, if he is off line with these people he is going to suffer the consequences of his opposition.

The Farmers Federation has said that it wants to make cuts in the labour market area. There are some interesting statistics which I would like to include in the Hansard so I will read them out. They deal with the labour market. The community employment program is an area that has to go, according to these people. Strangely enough, the CEP, implemented by this Government, has been very successful as far as women are concerned. Women who have been denied the right to have training and enter the work force for a range of reasons are now able to get involved in the work force. The community employment program has been one of the most successful Government initiatives for unemployed women. Strict targeting guidelines have meant that apart from jobs on the roads component, where a quarter of the places went to women, in the rest of the CEP-and I ask the honourable member for Bass to listen to this-51.2 per cent of placements went to women; 30.2 per cent of Aboriginal approvals were for women; 46.4 per cent of non-English speaking background applications were for women; and 40 per cent of disabled people on the program were, in fact, women. These are the sorts of programs that members of the Opposition talk about cutting. It is simply not good enough for them to come into this place and parade themselves as the defenders of women when, in fact, right throughout their time in office they attacked and attacked and attacked areas of assistance for women.

I will give honourable members opposite a couple more statistics, and I am responding to the previous speaker, the honourable member for Moncrieff, in this area. Since Labor came to office it has increased rates of additional pension-benefit and the family income supplement payments for children by 70 per cent. Mothers and guardians allowances have been increased by 100 per cent. Under the previous Liberal-National Party Government the number of children in low income families more than doubled from just under 9 per cent to nearly 20 per cent. At the same time additional pensions-benefits were allowed to decline by 32 per cent in real terms between 1975 and 1982. So for heaven's sake, honourable members opposite should not come in hear and tell me about their commitment to this area.

I am not totally satisfied with the state of play at the moment; I want to see more money allocated. But when people opposite go out pandering to interest groups around the electorate trying to curry favour with them, they should be fair dinkum. They should tell those interest groups that they are going to slash until they start to squeal, as the honourable member for Maranoa said, or as the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said: `We are going to slash, slash, slash.' And the areas they will slash are the areas that affect the poor. The area they are going to make gains in for people is the area that affects the rich. So I say to them: Be fair dinkum.

I wind up by saying that I noted the comments of the honourable member for Moncrieff. I found them very interesting. I accept the challenge she threw out to me about talking to government.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.