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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1535


Senator VALLENTINE(3.48) —I commend the Government for consulting with Australian women on setting the agenda towards 2000. It is high time that the important role of women in every aspect of life was acknowledged, and high time that opportunities were made available to women to utilise their talents. The present Government has made improvements in many areas of urgent need relating to women, and I think it needs to be congratulated for those efforts. The Minister for Education and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Ryan) has acknowledged in her statement that many areas still need a great deal of government support; for example, the provision of child care facilities and the provision of women's refuges so that women and children have access to safe places when they are subject to domestic violence.

One chapter that I recommend to all Australians, particularly all male Australians, is the one about the dignity of women. The words of women themselves are very good educative material. I think the Australian community in general needs a great deal of education about the attitudes that women have. I was very interested in the questionnaire which was part of the national consultative process. While there was an attempt to be comprehensive on a wide range of issues affecting women, I noticed a huge gap. That gap was the omission of any reference to what worries most women I know-the future of this planet in terms of threats from weapons of mass destruction.


Senator Giles —You will find it on page 80.


Senator VALLENTINE —I am coming to that. In the questionnaire there was no mention of Australia's role in contributing to the threat of nuclear war. It could be argued that such questions would have been inappropriate because they are not exclusive to women. However, it is good to know that women did have some input along those lines. It is pleasing to see that women's overriding concerns were acknowledged in the Government publication `Setting the agenda'. On page 80 one woman is quoted as saying that in the year 2000 she wants to `be here' and further, as saying:

The needs of Australian women cannot be attained without a world free from the threat of war.

The need for education about peaceful resolution of conflicts is also acknowledged. This requires a great deal of emphasis by education authorities at both Commonwealth and State levels. Women also added-uninvited-views about caretaking the environment and also about the awareness of the impact of aid programs for women, especially in so-called developing countries. I know that there are many women in Australia concerned about the priorities of government spending on defence, as opposed to the rising and falling percentages spent, for example, on health and education. I trust that these areas in which women's views were not directly sought-that is, peace, environmental care and the impact of aid programs-will be taken very seriously by the Government as a whole, and by the Opposition, because they are very important issues affecting all Australians as world citizens.