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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 250

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women been drawn to remarks made by the Queensland State President of the Country Women's Association that country women would not be granted the same facilities and opportunities that city women would receive under the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act and that the Act discriminates against rural women in favour of city women? Do such remarks represent a distortion of the effects of the Sex Discrimination Act?

Senator RYAN —If it is true that the President of the Queensland branch of the Country Women's Association made remarks to that effect, they are certainly a distortion of the effects of the Sex Discrimination Act on rural women. I hope that the Country Women's Association has been wrongly reported, because it is an organisation for which this Government and I have the greatest respect. We regularly consult the Country Women's Association and take advice from the Association on the needs of rural women. Many of those needs are being met by way of special programs, such as the isolated children's parents allowance to assist parents to send their children to boarding schools, the accommodation assistance scheme and the special assistance that is given to those people who need to travel from isolated areas for health services. There are, in fact, special programs for country people, including women, which try to offer some compensation for some of the difficulties involved in living in isolated or rural areas.

The provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act will protect women and men from discrimination, in the areas that it covers, equally, whether they are in the city or in the country. I believe that it is just as true to say that there are women in country areas who experience discrimination in employment. Given the very high rate of female unemployment, particularly of young women in country areas, I would say that the Sex Discrimination Act would be even more useful in those areas than in the cities. It is true also that there are colleges of advanced education in country areas. Women will be given equal opportunities as a result of the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act on tertiary institutions .

Other provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act, such as access to finance, accommodation and goods and services, and the opportunity to be a full member of a registered club, will be of great benefit to women living in rural and country areas, at least equal to the extent that they will be of benefit to women in the city. In some cases, because of the greater difficulties experienced by women in country areas, those provisions will be of greater benefit to country women. Any suggestion of any disadvantage to country women as a result of our enacting the Sex Discrimination Act is wrong.

What I hope the Country Women's Association will do, as I hope all other women' s organisations will do, is to make it their business to become very well informed about the benefits that our Act offers to country women. I hope that those organisations will ensure that their membership is fully aware of the benefits and will give assistance and advice to members should they wish to take advantage of the legislation, to make a complaint under it. It is our belief that the Sex Discrimination Act will be of benefit to all women throughout Australia, and that certainly goes for country women as well.