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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7145


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (19:35): My question is to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for the Status of Women. It relates to the latter portfolio. Before I ask my question, however, I will make a short statement about gender equality.

When I look at the 'at a glance' section of the Women’s Statement 2012—Achievements and Budget Measuresreport, I see so many areas covered which demonstrate the good public policy decisions of the Gillard government and which you, Minister, have been involved with. There is the Fair Work Act, the pay equity decision, the reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999, the creation of new opportunities for non-traditional employment—including in the Defence Force—and the requirement for a minimum representation of women on Australian government boards of 40 per cent. I often think, 'Why has it taken so long and why does it seem so hard when it is just such an ordinary thing to do?' But sometimes we have to make those bold decisions to make sure that women do get access to those opportunities.

The question is a broad question. It is about what steps have been taken to improve gender equality in Australia and what measures are in the budget to support this work. I also note that the statement talks about the National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010-2022. Sometimes people will say, 'What are we talking about, why do we need to keep doing these things and why do we need to keep drawing attention to inequalities?' In my lifetime I have had to fight a lot of gender battles. I can remember that in court years ago it was standard for the judge to give a warning to the jury, 'You do not have to accept the uncorroborated evidence of women, children or lunatics.'

Mr Neumann: They were not even allowed to wear pants.

Ms SAFFIN: That is right. I could not wear pants when I was in court; otherwise I would not be seen—as you know.

Mr Neumann: That is exactly right.

Ms SAFFIN: Sometimes we have to look back at some of the history—where we have been and where we are—to remind ourselves that we still have some work to do. If we do not, we can often take those things and those battles for granted. We all know the saying 'two-thirds of a man'. It comes from a book of that title by Edna Ryan. We have not got there yet but we are getting there—and we are getting there because of things like the Fair Work Act and the pay equity decision. Beyond the pay equity decision, there is the fact that we are putting money in. Some governments are anyway—I am not sure the one in New South Wales is going to.

When I think back on some of that history—the legal history mainly, because that is largely what I have been involved in—around women, I go back as far as the 'rule of thumb' that came from an ancient code. You know the one I mean: the one that said a man could beat his wife so long as the thickness of the rod did not surpass the thickness of his thumb. It was from the Code of Hammurabi. I am not here to give a history lesson on women's—

Mr Perrett: You are doing very well.

Ms SAFFIN: When I look at the good things that are happening, it brings to mind some of those battles. That is what I am asking you to comment on—how we are supporting the continued advancement of gender equality through the budget.