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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19734


Mr McCLELLAND (5:03 PM) —The opposition oppose this motion. We believe the Senate's amendments should be agreed to. We believe the amendments would demonstrate a genuine commitment on the part of this parliament to ensuring the law gives greater protection to potentially pregnant, pregnant and breastfeeding women. I refer to the speech that I was able to give in the second reading debate on this matter as well as to comments made by my colleagues in this House and the Senate regarding those issues. I refer also to the fact that the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Halliday, in her 1999 report Pregnant and Productive: it's a right not a privilege to work while pregnant also expressed the need for the amendments which we picked up and moved in the Senate.

Essentially, for all the Prime Minister's rhetoric about work and family, his government shelved that report from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday for some 17 months and took over 2½ years to draw up this legislation. Worse, the Howard government's legislation does not expand the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act to give any greater protection to potentially pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding women. The government's response to that report has been weak, and if it had supported the amendments moved in the Senate the legislation would be far more effective and give genuine rights to women. As I have indicated, the opposition will ultimately support this bill as printed, but we believe it is extremely disappointing that the government has not been prepared to reconsider its weak response to these serious concerns that potentially affect all women.

Question agreed to.