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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2326

Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (4.58 p.m.) —I have to pick up on that point. The minister is suggesting there that somehow we are talking about compulsory retirement. We are not. Indeed, as Senator Patterson said earlier today, she knows of someone in her 80s who is enjoying still being in the work force. We are talking about women who do not have the opportunities that we have, for example, to accrue super and who do not have employment and who will be forced, instead of having the relative security of the pension, to exist on some other form of allowance that is going to be at least $12 a week less. We are not talking about women now being forced out of the work force at 60. Indeed, in most states, we have legislation that prevents them from being forced out of the work force due to age at any time. We are talking about opportunity, particularly for those women who have not had the work chances that we have had and the chances to accrue any sort of super.

  As the minster well knows, many men are able to retire on packages at 55. Very few women are in that position. What the government wants to do will particularly impact on women in low paid jobs, women who, as Senator Harradine has said, have chosen to stay home and look after children and, therefore, have accrued no super whatsoever. It will impact particularly on women from non-English speaking backgrounds who tend to be concentrated in the low paid, manual end of the work force. Indeed, I think Senator Cook acknowledged that today in question time when he said women are `streamed into low paid jobs'. Later he said that women `drop in and out . . . more than men do', referring to their movement in and out of the work force.

  All of those factors build up to mean that the options that women have are reduced. It is not a matter of giving them an extra option. They have that now. In most states now, women can stay in the work force for as long as they like. If there is a problem with federal anti-discrimination legislation for women of any particular age, perhaps the government should look at other legislative measures to make sure that women are not forced out of the work force at any particular age.

  Progress reported.

The PRESIDENT —Before I call Senator Forshaw, I remind honourable senators that this is Senator Forshaw's first speech and, therefore, I ask that the usual courtesies be observed.