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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2323

Senator HARRADINE (4.43 p.m.) —This is a very serious matter indeed. It is a matter that will have an enormous impact on women. It seems to me that the government's definition of `equality' in this instance is to take away from women an advantage that they now have. If that is what equality towards women is all about, I think the government should have another think. It is odd that the government, in trying to promote the interests of women, is seeking to take away from them the advantage that they have so that they will be equal to males. That is a nonsense anyhow because so many women are not in the paid work force.

  The minister has been talking about the paid work force, and I will come back to that in a moment. But what the government is doing here is denying to mothers who have been in full-time, or predominantly full-time, care of children their right to a pension at age 60. The government is going to tell them to wait another five years for their pension. That is a disgrace. I would hope that members of the Australian Labor Party will come in here and express themselves about this type of anti-female approach that is being taken by this government.

  Let me remind the committee that the trade union movement is diametrically opposed to this proposition. Indeed, the ACTU executive council stated at its meeting on 8-10 March in Melbourne that the ACTU should make further representations to the government expressing concern over the proposals to raise the age eligibility for women to receive the age pension from 60 to 65 years of age. That view is held very strongly by a large number of other people—a large number of unions and a large number of organisations that represent women workers. It is a retrograde step. One organisation with a predominantly female membership wrote to me and said that this is a retrograde step and will cause much financial and physical hardship to many thousands of hardworking women. I think this proposal is a disgrace. I do not know what the government is doing. I really do not know what the parliament—

Senator Kernot —They are saving $400 million; they are looking for $400 million.

Senator HARRADINE —Women are going to be ripped off to the tune of $400 million—is that what it is all about? That is interesting. The minister previously said, `We want to encourage women to stay in the paid work force; that is what the extension of the pension age from 60 to 65 will mean.' Where does choice come into this? Obviously, this will force many women who might otherwise choose to retire at age 60 to stay in the paid work force until 65 years of age. What will that do to employment? The government has a so-called plan to reduce unemployment. It is an odd government that would put further pressure on the labour market by forcing women to stay in the paid work force for another five years, thus denying their own daughters the opportunity of getting into the paid work force.

  The government is crazy. That is absolutely stark raving mad. If the government is looking at the employment problem, it really has to look at a number of situations. It needs not only to look at creating jobs, enhancing the economy and the fiscal measures that might be taken; it really must also look at the constitution of the paid work force. It has to see who in the paid work force has more socially desirable reasons to come out of the paid work force; and has to see who has the desire to do so. It has to accommodate those people. With this legislation, the government is going the other way: it is forcing women who would otherwise retire at age 60 to stay for another five years, thus denying other women the opportunity to come into the paid work force.

  I cannot believe what the government is doing. I cannot believe what the Labor Party is doing. Its view of equality is to take away an advantage that working women and other women already have over males. I would rather favour females myself; I have always rather favoured females. In respect of this particular question, it is an outrage for the government to act as it is against the express views of those who represent women workers and the organisations that represent retired women and pensioners. What is the government doing?