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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2869


Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(9.52) —The Government rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore). As most of the amendments that have been circulated relate to one issue and one issue alone I believe that I should just say something now as we go through the debate. The whole concept of equal employment opportunity always provokes great jocularity and, of course, there are two popular stereotypes. On one hand we have the stereotype that employers will be forced to employ one-legged, black, lesbian, Chinese speaking women and on the other hand we have a stereotype that all women should be pumpkin scone cooking, who know their place-barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen-and, if in the work force, they should work in factories or do typing only.

The reality, of course, is that these stereotypes are absolute nonsense and it is about time that honourable members in this chamber had a little more maturity and just dealt with the subject of equal employment opportunity. The reality is, of course, that it should be totally unnecessary even to have this sort of thing recorded in any legislation. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is necessary. It is necessary because women and many other people are still positively discriminated against and this legislation means nothing other than equality of opportunity.

The Cabinet decided that primary industry statutory marketing authorities should be exempt from the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1987 but that statutory marketing authority enabling legislation should be amended to incorporate provisions consistent with the EEO Bill. The Minister for Primary Industry is to oversight the implementation of EEO policies through the strategic relationship between the Minister and the statutory marketing authorities concerned. This requires EEO programs to be incorporated in the statutory marketing authorities five-year corporate plans and annual operational plans for the Minister's agreement and for the statutory marketing authorities annual report to include an assessment of the development and implementation of the EEO program during that year. I spoke to the Chairman of the Wool Corporation yesterday and he sees no problem with the legislation as it is posed.

I also point out that the very basis of equal employment opportunity assumes that freedom of choice of occupation is a basic social right which should not be constrained by criteria unrelated to ability to perform the job. It promotes efficiency by avoiding waste of talent and underutilisation and underdevelopment of human resources which result from discrimination. Equal employment opportunity programs are designed to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equitably. Such programs operate to the advantage of the individuals directly concerned, the employing authorities and the community as a whole. I wish to emphasis that the programs are not intended to and will not lead to positive discrimination. The Bill expressly confirms that employment matters are to be dealt with on the basis of merit. The whole thrust of the legislation would strengthen the merit principle by ensuring the review of any existing discriminatory personnel or employment procedures. It is as simple as that. It is a pity that it is necessary but unfortunately it is because of the mores of society and the all too immature and stupid stereotypes I referred to earlier in my comments.