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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2377

(Question No. 5091)

Mr Duncan asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 19 February 1987:

(1) Is he able to say whether Denmark now has a program that allows women to volunteer for naval duty as gunners and navigators on torpedo boats and minesweepers.

(2) Is he also able to say whether the Royal Netherlands Air Force is assigning its first female fighter pilot to an F16 Squadron.

(3) Have the operational readiness of NATO forces been jeopardised by these innovations.

(4) Are Australian women regarded as inferior to Danish and Dutch women.

(5) Is it a fact that in the Australian Defence Forces service in combat units enhance promotional opportunity.

(6) What steps will he take to extend equal employment opportunity to women in the Australian Defence Forces.

Mr Beazley —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes. Such a program was introduced by the Danish Navy about 3 months ago.

(2) The first Dutch female fighter pilot is currently operating NF5 aircraft and the Dutch Air Force intends that she convert to F16s in about 12 months time.

(3) I am unaware of any announcement that these initiatives have jeopardised NATO operational readiness.

(4) Not by this Government.

(5) Conditions of promotion differ widely between Services and career streams, and promotional opportunities are subject to many variables, such as attrition rates. A comparison between different groups would therefore be inconclusive. However, excellent promotional opportunities exist for all members up to and including the rank of Brigadier. Because of the wide spectrum of responsibilities associated with the most senior ADF positions, incumbents of positions at major general rank and above, require previous experience in combat or combat-related areas.

(6) Since 1983, the proportion of Australian Defence Force positions available to women has increased from 12 per cent to 35 per cent, and approximately 66 per cent of employment categories are now open to women. At present, the proportion of women in the Australian Defence Force is 8.5 per cent and according to most recent overseas advice, this is some 3 1/2 times greater than the percentage of women in the Danish Forces, and 6 times greater than the female representation in the Dutch Forces. The Australian Defence Force, assisted by the Office of the Status of Women, continually reviews progress in implementing Government policy in this area, to ensure that women are given every opportunity for equal employment, subject to exemptions in combat and combat related positions and consistent with the maintenance of combat effectiveness.