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Tuesday, 8 March 2005
Page: 65


Senator KNOWLES (4:50 PM) —The Labor Party really know no shame. To come in here today and play fast and loose with the truth yet again, on International Women’s Day, is nothing but shameful. But it does not seem to matter to them; as long as I have been here, it has not mattered to them. I want to come back to the actual subjects that were raised by Senator Lundy in this MPI.

First of all, they claim that the federal government needs to ‘redress the decline in women’s wages compared with men’s over the life of the Howard government’. Just look at the facts, Senator Lundy; it would be a great start, I would put to you. Wages have increased by 21 per cent, at an annual growth rate of 2.2 per cent. Under the Labor Party it was 0.6 per cent. So why on earth would the Labor Party want to come in here and claim that there has been a decline in women’s wages compared with men’s? Women’s earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings have gone up from 83.2 per cent to 84.8 per cent. So, it does not matter which way you look at it: women’s earnings have actually gone up. But the Labor Party will come in here or go outside and say the reverse. It is simply untrue.

Part (2) of Senator Lundy’s MPI is:

(2) develop a solution to punishing effective marginal tax rates which act as a barrier to increasing the participation of women and sole parents in particular in paid work …

What a joke for the Labor Party to come in here and have the gall to talk about tax! They are the people who have taxed the living daylights out of every earner. Here we go once again: the facts do not substantiate the claim—


Senator Lundy interjecting—


Senator Crossin interjecting—


Senator KNOWLES —and they scream like a bunch of banshees over there because they do not like the fact that prior to the new tax changes many families were facing a marginal tax rate of 34c in the dollar and a family payment withdrawal rate of 50c in the dollar. The government has significantly cut taxes. In particular, the government has provided significant tax relief to all Australians in three stages of personal income tax cuts. It is not one, not two but three stages, and the Labor Party come in here and ignore that today. How can they possibly be so blind? Is it any wonder no-one voted for them? But the fact of the matter is that the effective marginal tax rates have gone down, not up.

The third issue that Senator Lundy raised was that the federal government should increase access to affordable child care, and ensure that the supply and cost of child care makes child care available et cetera. Once again, they completely and utterly ignore the facts. The number of Australian government funded child-care places and services has increased, not declined. Child-care places have increased from 306,500 to 561,000, up 83 per cent—a mere 83 per cent—but, as Senator Ferris said a moment ago, the most important statistic that they carefully ignore is that in the six years to 2003-04 around $8.8 billion was spent on child care and that equates to more than double Labor’s spending in their last six years of office. But they come in here and completely ignore the truth. It happens day in and day out.

Let us have a look at women in the work force, for example. Since 1996 full-time adult ordinary time earnings for women have increased in real terms. That is after taking account of inflation. They have increased by $153 a week. The Labor Party would have one think otherwise, but that is a 21 per cent real increase, as I said before, and that represents an annual increase of 2.2 per cent. Looking at women in jobs, since 1996—


Senator Crossin interjecting—


Senator Lundy interjecting—


Senator KNOWLES —It is worth noting that they have not stopped screeching like a bunch of banshees since I started, because they simply cannot tell fact from fiction. They want to come in here and completely misrepresent the facts. Since 1996 women have benefited from the creation of 819,200 new jobs—53 per cent of the total of more than 1.5 million new jobs that have been created by this government. One would think that on International Women’s Day they could actually come in here and say, ‘Isn’t that fantastic to think that—


Senator Crossin —But they’re casuals.


Senator KNOWLES —Here we go. We have Senator Crossin over there once again whingeing, ‘But they’re casuals.’ The Labor Party just does not get it. There are a lot of women out there who have children and family responsibilities who actually want casual work, and the Labor Party cannot understand that. It cannot comprehend it. This additional employment for women is composed of 339,000 full-time jobs—do you want to go out there and repeat that, Senator Crossin?—and 479,300 part-time jobs because that in many cases is exactly what women want. It would be a really pleasant change for the Labor Party to come in here and actually tell the truth about what is happening with women in the work force, what is happening with child care and what is happening with tax rates instead of coming in here with this little litany of fibs.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brandis)—Order! The discussion of matters of public importance is concluded.