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Senator newman's book: "Australian women speak" to be launched by Dr John Newman



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR JOCELYN NEWMAN

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE STATUS OF WOMEN

SENATOR NEWMAN'S BOOK: "AUSTRALIAN WOMEN SPEAK" TO BE LAUNCHED BY DR JOHN HEWSON

Senator Jocelyn Newman's book Australian Women Speak, a report on the issues facing Australian women and their hopes and expectations for the future, will be launched by the Leader of the Opposition, Dr John Hewson, today in Sydney at the Liberal Party National Convention.

The book is based on transcripts from consultations Senator Newman held with representatives from 130 women's groups and on written material supplied by thesp organisations.

From July 1991 to April this year (and between Parliamentary sittings), Senator Newman travelled Australia-wide, from large cities to isolated Aboriginal communities, listening to women's views and learning of their hopes and aspirations for the future.

The valuable information Senator Newman gained from these consultations was «,-.used in the policy development process that led to the release of Fightback, and is being used in continuing policy development.

Most importantly, Senator Newman's consultations gave women a real chance to be heard and to exert influence. As she said: "I have learnt a great deal from their expertise. They have made a substantial contribution to Fightback and to

the future of our country". .

The subjects covered in Australian Women Speak are wide-ranging. Economic issues are dominant - jobs, financial security, family-friendly workplaces, education and skills training, the tax burden and child care.

Other issues include the care of the aged, the needs of non-english speaking background women and Aboriginal women, violence and pornography and the need for a caring society for those most vulnerable.

Senator Newman would welcome the opportunity to discuss her book with you. For further information, or to arrange an interview, contact Jeannie Cameron in the Senator's Parliament House office, ph [06] 277-3660.

Thursday July 2nd, 1992

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P A R L I A M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A ■ THE SENATE

SENATOR JOCELYN NEWMAN

SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION O N THE STATUS OF WOMEN

FIGHTBACK! FOR CHANGE

Address by Senator Jocelyn Newman Shadow Minister assisting the Leader on the Status of Women

5th National Liberal Women's Conference Sydney, July 2, 1992

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

oLNHIUK M NLLUMHN L ! I UN f t L NO . 0 0 3 3 4 1 6 2 4 0 2 , 0 7 , 9 2 16 = 49 P . 0 3

A decade of Labor Government in Australia has given us a huge debt of $180 billion, e l rural crisis and massive unemployment, turning Australia into an economic and social cripple.

During the past decade, the Government has failed to deal with our country's ills. They have not made the necessary changes for genuine recovery.

"What they have done is destroy the veiy incentive, initiative and national pride that this country needs if it's to grow stronger.

And what they will do, with One Nation, is increase our debt by an extra $100 billion and ensure our grandchildren have a lower standard of living than we have now.

The clear need for change, together with the messages we r eceived from Australians, was the motivation for our Fightback package.

As you know, when John Hewson became Leader of the Liberal Party over two years ago, he introduced the Australia 2000 consultation program.

He wrote to individuals and organisations Australia-wide asking for their views, concerns and hopes for the future of our country. These letters were sent to men and to women and included 300 women's organisations. There were workshops and mootings and consultations with interested groups and Dr Hewson received thousands of letters from Australians expressing their views.

Since July last year and between Parliamentary sittings, 1 have been travelling the nation, meeting with representatives from women's organisations, listening to their agendas and learning of their hopes for the future.

After a few months of visiting capital cities, provincial towns and isolated Aboriginal communities the messages 1 was getting were strong and consistent and I passed them on to John Hewson. They became part of the policy development process which led to the release of Fightback.

Of course they covered many topics other than economics - the care of the aged, the needs of non-english speaking background women and Aboriginal women, violence and pornography and the need for a caring society for those most vulnerable.

But over and over again, economic issues were the dominant issues - by that I mean jobs, child care, family friendly workplaces, financial security, education and skills training, and the tax burden.

Underlying these issues is the need for change to ensure that women no longer remain the vulnerable members of our society.

* * *

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Surely the availability of jobs and financial independence has to be the most important issue for all of us.

Unemployment is increasing - in May, 905,900 Australians were unemployed, and of those 341,700 were women.

The youth unemployment rate has reached a high 34.1 per cent - this time last year one in four young Australians could not find work, now it is as many as one in every three.

Then there is the hidden group of women who don't bother to register, as they are not entitled to benefits, and the under-employed - women whose hours of work have been reduced.

Even Fran Bladel, the Labor spokesman for the Status of Women in Tasmania, acknowledged on ABC radio recently that the One Nation package did nothing for women's employment.

Our reforms are basically targeted at two groups - Australian businesses which can provide jobs for Australians, and Australian families who are battling to keep their heads above water.

The first stage of the Coalition's tax cuts are principally directed at those with annual incomes under $50,000. Their tax rates will be substantially reduced and the tax threshold will rise from $5400 to $7000. This will mean 320,000 low income earners will no longer pay income tax at all.

There are 42 per cent of Australians who earn less than $20,700. Yet one Nation gives not one cent of relief! So much for the Labor claim that we are helping the rich. Our tax and family allowance changes are heavily targeted at lower and middle income families.

Lets not forget that nearly two million of those earning less than $20,700 are women - some are those young people lucky enough to have found a job, and others are elderly retirees or farmers.

Our battling families will also be helped by massive increases in family allowances, increases to the Dependant Spouse Rebate, introduction of a first home owners scheme and help for young Australians to get a deposit for their first home, and approximately $11 slashed off each tank of petrol.

I think we all recognise that both the nation and individuals benefit if we can increase our total savings. This is the reason for one of the most important changes in Fightback. A Tax Free Savings scheme is to be set-up to encourage Australians to save.

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This will mean that taxpayers earning less than $50,000 who save and earn interest on their savings, will pay no tax on that interest up to $1000 per year, if they're single, and $2000 for a married couple.

* * *

The Government would have Australians believe that the GST is a bogey. It's not. It's integral to the Fightback reform package and it's an essential component in producing jobs.

It allows us to take $20 billion of taxes off businesses so they can grow and prosper, employ more people, and compete better as exporters and against imports. By making our industries world-competitive, we can provide an extra two million real jobs for our neighbours and families by the end of the decade.

While the GST allows us to make changes to grow stronger, all Australians will be more than adequately compensated for the 4.4 per cent rise in the CPI. In fact Treasury says that the rise will only be 3.6 per cent. Pensioners and other

beneficiaries will be more than compensated by a rise of 8 per cent on pensions and 6 per cent on allowances. Tax payers compensation will come through dramatically reduced taxation.

Retired people over 60 earning income of less than $30,000 will be eligible for a one- off payment to protect the value of savings they have accumulated for their retirement.

Health and education will be zero rated for GST purposes and rent will also be exempt from tax - all of which help protect lower income earners.

Some friends of the Labor Party are helping to spread a fear and smear campaign about the GST. They conveniently ignore the substantial taxes already built into a product before it reaches the retailer. By that I mean the fuel excise component of freight, the payroll tax at the factory, and the wholesale tax on the goods and/or

their packaging,

These taxes will all disappear with our proposals. The unit cost of each item will be lower than it is now - that is before the GST is levied at the point of sale.

These people also ignore the compensation measures which are going to be more than generous, and they make no mention of the supervisory role of the Prices Surveillance Authority which is to be given the role of preventing profiteering. We

intend to ensure that the consumer gets the benefit of the reduced costs of products prior to the levying of the GST.

The sm art retailer and the smart consumer will also find that, where the benefits of these reduced costs are passed on, competition in the marketplace will give more business to the retailer and lower prices to the consumer.

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Fightback was released 18 months before the election so that it could be studied and debated. It deserves a balanced, informed and fair debate.

* * *

The most massive and welcome change that Australians will get from Fightback is the change to a job producing Nation.

To achieve that, we are going to change the tax burden on business. But we must also change our industrial relations system.

Australia's system is failing it's workers.

Intrinsic to Fightback is the recognition of the need for workers to negotiate employment agreements, the need to provide workers with a choice in their representation and the need for workers, particularly women, with family responsibilities to have a fair go.

With the Coalition's industrial relations policy women will not have to become a member of a union which has shown little interest in them in the past. They can however voluntarily choose such membership.

They may choose to stay in the centralised system, but where employees and employers agree, they can negotiate either enterprise or personal contracts.

Those who stay in the centralised system are likely to find before long that those on enterprise contracts are doing better.

Women will be freer than they are now to negotiate either individually or with the help of a workplace committee, their union or alternative advocate, with their employers for the multitude of variations which go to making up a package of pay and conditions under enterprise bargaining.

If a union remains relevant to its members it will survive. However, so many Australian unions have ignored women in the past, they will only have themselves to blame if their members look for alternative bargaining agents.

Some unions have actively prevented women from getting the part-time or casual work they want.

Women will be able to negotiate different arrangements for the different stages in their lives. For example, employees will find maximum income to be a prime concern at some stages in life; at other stages the opportunity for shorter working hours, coupled with a smaller income, will be more important.

For other employees the opportunity to negotiate a package which includes some assistance with child care will take priority, while for others, a package which emphasises superannuation needs or elder-care may be more important.

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For women especially, this ability to vary the package, regardless of the dictates of the union, the bureaucracy, or the Industrial Relations Commission is of critical importance.

In New Zealand there is a clothing firm in a provincial town. It is a CMT (cut, make and trim) operation that employs 50 staff, mostly women and where, traditionally, a large percentage of costs were labour costs.

Two years ago the women working for this firm almost lost their jobs - the company was losing money and the bank was ready to pull the plug.

However management and staff abandoned standard wage rates and moved to a piece rate system under which their workers would receive 65 per cent of the CMT price. Within a month output doubled, the firm was in profit, jobs had been saved and instead of getting the award rate of $320 a week, these women are now paid $430 a week and the company is employing more women.

I used this New Zealand example because, while our industrial relations policy is not the same as New Zealand's, there are similarities, and the early results of New Zealand's brave and dramatic decisions show it's not all gloom and doom.

Indeed the rehabilitation of that country is extraordinary - a reduction in unemployment and inflation, a dramatic growth in exports, and in productivity, and an increase in real wages for 53 per cent of its work force. All in one year!

It's interesting to note that in New Zealand approximately 50 per cent of agreements have been negotiated by non-union bargaining agents and while some unions are going under, enterprise level unions are growing. Those agreements have been negotiated by workers, others by lawyers and accountants on their behalf.

My experience is that no matter what their education, Australian women are usually pretty astute and quick on the uptake as to where their best interests or those of their family lie.

Yet the Labor Party and some of the union movement are devoting considerable time and attention in trying to persuade women that our policy will disadvantage them.

The recent reports which indicate that women are more likely than men to succeed in their own small business, gives a different picture of women's ability to stand up for their own interests.

The criticism of our policy also seems to be based on the expectation that women will become "sweated labour", conveniently ignoring that our policy is predicated on a minimum hourly rate of pay and occupational health and safety standards and the right to remain in the centralised system if they prefer.

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Turning now to other Fightback measures of importance to women; the Coalition fully recognises the need of parents to have access to adequate and affordable child care.

We have set aside an extra $90 million in the Fightback package for increased child care support. We are examining a number of options to provide a suitable system of support for a targeted range of Australian families.

This, combined with our encouragement of employer assisted child care, will provide v/omen in paid work with greater access to child care and provide women in part­ time, casual and unpaid work with better access to occasional child care.

I note that the Government is now undertaking a total review of its child care arrangements. Unfortunately its determination to go down the accreditation path is going to add drastically to child care costs and reduce accessibility for parents even more.

As one women said to me recently in talking about the need for quality child care: "We have to make sure we don't have a Rolls Royce child care system that most families can't afford".

* * #

Another important area where change is desperately needed and where the Federal Government has failed women, is the area or retirement income. All women need to plan for their financial security in retirement.

Older people experience declining incomes with increasing age, divorce and widowhood. In 1991 69 per cent of old aged pensioners were women. Yet adequate superannuation arrangements are still not available to many employees, mostly

women, in part-time or casual work.

We are very concerned about the move to compulsory superannuation payments by employers - partly because of the impact on business costs therefore, cutting jobs and also slowing employment growth. The changes introduced in Fightback will provide women with the opportunities to save for their retirement with Retirement Savings Accounts. They will be available

from banks and building societies and will extend the range of savings options available to women.

These accounts will be available to women moving in and out of the casual and part­ time workforce and also to women in the unpaid workforce at home.

While these women are not in the paid workforce, their spouse may contribute to a savings account that is in the name of the woman and which remains the property of the woman.

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I'm specially pleased with this measure because, symbolically, it recognises the value of unpaid work. While I don't claim that it will help all women, it's a step in the right direction.

The spouse, either in a married or defacto relationship, will receive a tax rebate for his contribution in addition to the rebate for his own superannuation arrangements,

The Fightback package also entitles older women who have returned to the workforce in their middle years, to make tax deductible "catch up" contributions to their superannuation. There will be no tax on lump sum super payouts.

However, we recognise that for some people superannuation is of doubtful value and will never take the place of an adequate old age pension.

Compulsory retirement ages will be abolished and in line with non-discriminatory arrangements, the pension age for women will be raised from 60 to 65 over a five to six years phase in period,

Those who choose to work on past pension age will be entitled to draw a pension which is 8 per cent larger for every year the pension is deferred. For example, a deferment of two years will mean an old age pension which is 16 per cent larger than it would have been if taken at pensionable age.

Both these measures will help to reduce the number of women living in genteel poverty for 20 years or more into their 80s.

* * *

An important area for change to correct Labor's band-aid solutions is education and training. Tens of thousands of Australians have been denied access to TAFEs and universities.

As the second session this morning will be dealing with education I will merely mention that there will be substantial change to education under Fightback. The Coalition is committed to ensuring Australia is not left behind in terms of education and training.

To achieve world-class excellence we must make major changes. This will involve an additional $3 billion of expenditure over the rest of this decade. Fightback commits us to developing world class schools.

* * *

One area crying out for massive change is health policy because Medicare is in crisis.

While our public hospital system is over-worked with around 90,000 Australians on waiting lists, our private system is grossly under-utilised.

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SENATOR J M NEUMAN L ! TON TEL No. 0 0 3 5 4 1 6 2 4 0 2 , 0 7 , 9 2 16=54 P . 1 0

The medicare levy only funds about 19 per cent of total health expenditure. In rural areas services are closed or down-graded. Private health insurance is declining with 44 per cent of Australians currently privately insured compared to 67 per cent prior to medicare in 1982. Between 20 and 25% of Australians earning more than $50,000 are no longer insured. They take their place in public hospital queues, along with the poor and the elderly.

Keating's so-called "free" health system ($30 billion a year) works by rationalising services and reducing standards.

In contrast, and briefly, our policy which covers 30 pages in Fightback, provides a momentum for change that will provide greater choice, better productivity, a better mix of funding, and affordable, quality health care for the entire population.

One of the key elements is health insurance subsidies for those on incomes up to $30,000 and to those over 65 at various rates depending on income. This will encourage private insurance, and a genuine reform of the hospitals.

It also ensures that women of all ages and from a variety of cultural backgrounds, whether living in cities or country areas, will have access to general and specialist health services.

* * *

Other important changes which I don't have time to cover include: extra funds for respite care to help those women who are caring for the frail aged and those suffering from senile dementia. We will also give priority to english language training to help non-english speaking migrant women aspire to skilled jobs and to access quality health care and legal assistance.

* * *

Before I close I want to talk about equal opportunity for women. Let me remind you that it was the Fraser Coalition Government that in 1980 signed the Copenhagen Convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women - this became the basis for the Sex Discrimination Act introduced in 1984,

We support equality of opportunity and we will encourage greater use of alternative dispute resolution procedures in the enforcement of rights before the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, rather than encourage a legalistic approach which can be such a turn-off to those wanting to exercise their rights.

We will retain the Office of the Status of Women and the National Women's Consultative Council. All Federal Government departments will be required to develop policy and programs relevant to women, in addition to the work being done by the Office of the Status of Women.

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SENATOR J M NEUMAN L ! TON TEL No. 0 0 3 3 4 1 6 2 4 0 2 , 0 7 , 9 2 16=54 P . l l

We do not accept that sufficient women of ability are being appointed to boards and committees, either by the Federal Government or by the private sector and this must be rectified.

While we will not retain the Affirmative Action Agency, there is no way that its work will be scrapped. The abolition of the Agency will not impact on the legislative guarantees of equal opportunity. The job can be done just as effectively within the Industrial Relations Department.

I look forward to the results of the current review of the Affirmative Action Agency's strategies for equality programs and the way to achieve them. I'm especially concerned to ensure that there is more and better feedback to the workforce.

It is not good enough if neither the employer or the union gets the information on the affirmative action plan to the workforce: Women can only take advantage of that plan if they have all the information. I believe that a summary of the plan needs to be given to each staff member.

I spoke only a few weeks ago to a very ambitious member of the Myer staff. She knew nothing of her company's plan at all. In fact, she'd never heard of it!

It's also not good enough for governments to focus on women in the public sector or the professional and managerial groups. Due recognition and equal opportunity is also needed on the factory floor and in the home and for voluntary workers. They have rarely had recognition in the past.

* * *

I'm glad that the women's vote is regarded as important these days, because our party has a very good record when in government of implementing measures of importance to women.

The changes we've introduced have included:

The opening of the Armed Forces to women in 1941.

The provision of child endowment in 1941.

The setting-up of the Women's Bureau, in 1963, to research women's employment.

* The lifting of the Commonwealth Public Service marriage bar in 1966.

The introduction of Equal Pay legislation, and the Child Care Act in 1972, by the McMahon Government.

The establishment of the National Women's Advisoiy Council in 1977, following a national inquiry into the role of women.

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* Establishment of the Human Rights Commission and the Institute of Family Studies.

* The payment of the Family Allowance to the mother in 1976/77.

And, of course, in 1980 the Copenhagen Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was signed and became the basis for the Sex Discrimination Act.

The changes to be introduced by Fightback! will be part of a long tradition of important measures for women.

Dr Hewson placed the details of our changes before the nation so they can be studied. People are calling for an end to "devious*1 politicians. Yet others say that it would have been smarter to have "sprung" these measures on the country after an election,

I leave you to be the judges of that.

I know that I'm proud to be part of a team which has researched what is needed for our country's future, has put a broad ranging and detailed reform plan together, and is now busy explaining it to Australians. That is the "up-front" way I believe we should take.

And I know that as Dr Ann Summers commences her taxing three-month stint to try to rectify Mr Keating's woeful credentials on issues relating to women and to try to improve his low-level of support among women, the many positive benefits for women in Fightback will be highlighted as Dr Summers advises Paul Keating that our policies are just what he needs!

Yet he and his party have had nearly a decade to implement the necessary changes.

We have the plan to rebuild Australia, to meet the needs of Australian women, to implement changes that will ensure the vulnerable are cared for and that all Australians will prosper.

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