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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2318


Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (4.17 p.m.) —I move:

2.That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:

  Clause 27, pages 59 and 60, omit paragraph (b), substitute the following paragraph:

      "(b)by inserting after subsection (5) the following subsections:

        Pension age

  "(5A) A woman reaches pension age when she turns 60.

  "(5B) A man born before 1 July 1930 reaches pension age when he turns 65.

      "(5C) A man born within the period specified in column 2 of an item in the following Table reaches pension age when he turns the age specified in column 3 of that item.

"

TABLE

PENSION AGE FOR MEN

column 1 column 2 column 3

item no. period within which man was born pension age

(both dates inclusive)

1. From 1 July 1930 to 31 December 1931 64 years and 6 months

2. From 1 January 1932 to 30 June 1933 64 years

3. From 1 July 1933 to 31 December 1934 63 years and 6 months

4. From 1 January 1935 to 30 June 1936 63 years

5. From 1 July 1936 to 31 December 1937 62 years and 6 months

6. From 1 January 1938 to 30 June 1939 62 years

7. From 1 July 1939 to 31 December 1940 61 years and 6 months

8. From 1 January 1941 to 30 June 1942 61 years

9. From 1 July 1942 to 31 December 1943 60 years and 6 months

"(5D) A man born on or after 1 January 1944 reaches pension age when he turns 60.".

This is the first of several requests that the Australian Democrats will be moving on the women's pension age changes. We are trying to do what the Australian Labor Party should have done before introducing a change as radical as this—that is, open up debate on some alternative options.

  By simply grabbing a piece of what was the Fightback document of the Liberal Party at the last election, the Labor Party has caught many women by surprise. Many women do not realise that they may have to wait as long as an extra five years to access the pension. All women aged 45 years or under will not be able to access it until they are 65. Women between the ages of 46 and 59 will have that pension age increased slowly, step by step, incrementally.

  This is at a time when we can see from the statistics that there has been no improvement in the ability of women to catch up with men as far as average weekly earnings are concerned. Senator Kernot and I have raised this issue with Senator Crowley in this place at question time over the last month. We were concerned about the most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which show that average male earnings have increased by 2.3 per cent to the year ending February 1994, while average female earnings have gone up by only 1.8 per cent.

  We finally got a response from Senator Crowley that basically went back to some other statistics. She decided that she would prefer those statistics to the ones we were using. Whatever time frame the minister likes to choose—and the one she ended up with was between November 1991 and February 1994—to argue on, it is the overall trend of the last 10 years that really matters.

  If we look at the trend from February 1993 to February 1994, we find there is a very different picture. That picture shows that women's earnings as a percentage of men's earnings declined quite dramatically from December 1983 to September 1986; picked up again to September 1987; declined to September 1989; peaked in December 1991; and have been declining ever since to the point where, indeed by February this year, they were almost back to where we women started from in 1983.

  In other words, over the last 10 years women have made virtually no progress towards equal pay with men at all. Perhaps what we should do is ask the minister a series of questions relating to equal pay for women. As we can see that we are obviously nowhere near that point, I ask the minister to tell us when she believes women will reach equity with men by way of average weekly earnings.