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Speech notes for Senator Susan Ryan, Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, for ANU Politics Society



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SPEECH NOTES FOR SENATOR SUSAN RYAN, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

AND YOUTH AFFAIRS, FOR ANU PO LITICS SOCIETY 18 SEPTEMBER 1984

AS MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND YOUTH AFFAIRS AND MINISTER

ASSISTING THE PRIME MIN IS TER ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN I AM

VERY PLEASED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS STAFF AND

STUDENTS OF THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL U N IV E R S IT Y , WHICH IS

NOT ONLY ONE OF THE N A T IO N 'S MOST ILLUSTRIOUS CENTRES OF

HIGHER LEARNING BUT ALSO ONE OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE

GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR WOMEN.

I AM ALSO PLEASED THAT THE P O L IT IC S SOCIETY IS GIVING

SERIOUS ATTENTION TO THE IMPORTANT TOPIC OF WOMEN IN

P O L I T IC S . AS YOU KNOW, P O L IT IC A L SC IE NTISTS AND SOME

P O L IT IC A L PARTIES HAVE NOT ALWAYS GIVEN THIS TOPIC THE

SERIOUS ATTENTION I T DESERVES.

WHEN I TURN TO ADDRESS THIS TOPIC I AM CONSCIOUS OF HOW

FAR WE HAVE TRAVELLED SINCE 1981 WHEN I ADDRESSED THE

FIRST NATIONAL LABOR WOMEN'S CONFERENCE ON THE SUBJECT AND

ON THAT OCCASION I SAID:

"WE ARE CERTAINLY D IS S A T IS F IE D WITH THE WEAKER APPEAL

OF OUR PARTY FOR WOMEN VOTERS, AND THE CONTRIBUTION

THIS SITUATION HAS MADE TO OUR OVERWHELMING

D ISSATISFACTION - NAMELY THAT THE ALP HAS YET AGAIN

FAILED TO WIN OFFICE AND THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE WILL

HAVE TO ENDURE ANOTHER THREE YEARS OF GROWING POVERTY,

UNEMPLOYMENT AND INJUSTICES - THE INEVITABLE RESULTS

OF CONSERVATIVE POLICIES AND AD MINISTR AT ION."

IN 1981 I ALSO COMMENTED ON THE NEED TO INVOLVE ALP WOMEN

IN THE DECISION AND POLICY MAKING PROCESSES OF THE PARTY.

WHILE THE 1980 ELECTION DID NOT RESULT IN A VICTORY FOR

THE ALP IT DID RESULT IN A SIGNIFICANT ADVANCE FOR WOMEN

IN PARLIAMENT. THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN BOTH HOUSES OF

PARLIAMENT WENT FROM 6 TO 1 3 . IN THE HOUSE OF

REPRESENTATIVES THE NUMBERS' OF WOMEN WENT FROM NONE TO 3 -

ALL ALP MEMBERS; (THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE HAD HAD ONLY

4 WOMEN MEMBERS IN ITS PREVIOUS H IS T O R Y ).

TODAY ONLY THREE YEARS AFTER I ADDRESSED THE FIRST

NATIONAL LABOR WOMEN’ S CONFERENCE, OUR SITUATION IS VERY

DIFFERENT. THE ALP HAS AN EQUAL APPEAL FOR MALE AND

FEMALE VOTERS AND ATTRACTS THE MAJORITY OF VOTERS. THE

ALP IS NOW IN GOVERNMENT AND HAS ACHIEVED INCREASED

NATIONAL PROSPERITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND NATIONAL

CO-OPERATION. WE HAVE INTRODUCED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

POLICIES FOR WOMEN, AND WOMEN PLAY AN INCREASING PART IN

THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE PARTY. IN 1984 THERE ARE

19 WOMEN IN THE FEDERAL PARLIAMENT, 13 OF THEM ALP WOMEN.

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IT IS S T I L L TRUE AS IT WAS IN 1 9 8 1 , THAT THERE ARE CLOSE

CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE P OLIT IC AL AC TIV ITY OF WOMEN AS

VOTERS, AS PARTY MEMBERS AND OFFICERS, AND AS CANDIDATES

AND PARLIAMENTARIANS.

THERE I S A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN WOMEN'S VOTES AND THE

MAKING OF AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENTS. I MIGHT ADD THAT THERE

ALSO SEEMS TO BE A RECOGNITION OF THE CLOSE CONNECTION

BETWEEN WOMEN'S VOTES AND THE MAKING OF AMERICAN

PRESIDENTS.

IN AUSTRALIA I T WAS SAID IN THE PAST THAT WOMEN'S VOTES

KEPT THE ALP OUT OF OFFIC E. NOW IT CAN BE SAID THAT WOMEN

ASSURED THE VICTORY OF THE ALP IN 1983 AND I F THERE IS AN

ELECTION IN 1989 I AM CONFIDENT THAT WOMEN WILL AGAIN

ASSURE THE VICTORY OF ALP.

HOW HAVE THESE CHANGES COME ABOUT? THEY ARE DUE IN NO

SMALL PART TO THE INFLUENCE OF THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT WHICH

HAS RAISED THE P O L IT IC A L AWARENESS OF WOMEN. THE CHANGES

IN THE ALP ARE DUE TO THE TIRELESS A C T IV IT Y OF RANK AND

F I L E WOMEN MEMBERS OF THE PARTY AND THE SUPPORT THEY HAVE

RECEIVED FROM SOME OF THE MORE ENLIGHTENED MALE MEMBERS OF

THE PARTY, IN PARTICULAR THE SUPPORT OF THE PRIME M IN IS T E R .

I MAY CLAIM TO HAVE PLAYED AN EDUCATIVE ROLE WITHIN THE

ALP MYSELF. I THINK MY MAIN CONTRIBUTION WAS TO GIVE MALE

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MEMBERS OF THE PARTY SOME LESSONS IN ELECTORAL ARITHMETIC

AND POINT OUT TO THEM THE STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE

WOMEN'S VOTE. I ALSO DREW ATTENTION TO THE RIGHTS AND

NEEDS OF WOMEN BUT I THINK THAT IN SOME CASES I T WAS THE

ARITHMETIC LESSON WHICH DID THE T R I C K .

THE CHANGE IN WOMEN'S VOTING PATTERNS AND THE MOVEMENT OF

WOMEN TOWARDS LABOR HAS NOT OCCURRED THROUGH CHANCE OR

COINCIDENCE BUT RATHER THROUGH HARD WORK. THE SHIFT TO

LABOR BEGAN IN THE EARLY 1 9 7 0 ' S BUT I BELIEVE THAT THE

WORK WHICH WAS DONE WITHIN THE PARTY IN THE EARLY 1 9 8 0 'S

WAS V IT A L IN CONSOLIDATING THOSE GAINS.

IN 1981 THE ALP ADOPTED A POLICY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR

WOMEN AT ITS NATIONAL CONFERENCE. THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE

ESTABLISHED A NATIONAL STATUS OF WOMEN COMMITTEE AND IN

1982 THE NATIONAL WOMEN'S POLICY WAS LAUNCHED. IN 1981

THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE APPOINTED ME TO THE NATIONAL

CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE WHERE I WAS ABLE TO EMPHASISE THE NEEDS

AND CONCERNS OF WOMEN VOTERS.

THERE WERE 2 COMPONENTS TO THE INCREASED SUPPORT WHICH

WOMEN GAVE THE ALP IN THE 1983 ELECTION. FIRSTLY A GREAT

MANY WOMEN CHANGED THEIR VOTE IN RESPONSE TO ALP POLICIES

AND SECONDLY OUR RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THE ALP WAS

PARTICULARLY SUCCESSFUL IN ATTRACTING YOUNG WOMEN VOTING

FOR THE FIRST TIME.

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BETWEEN 1981 AND 1983 WOMEN VOTERS TURNED TO THE ALP WITH

THE CONFIDENCE THAT THE PARTY WOULD RECOGNISE AND MEET

THEIR NEEDS, AND THE HOPE THAT THE ALP WOULD WIN THE POWER

TO DO SO. THEY ALSO TURNED AWAY FROM A GOVERNMENT WHICH

FAILED TO MEET THEIR NEEDS AND WHICH CERTAINLY

UNDERESTIMATED THEIR ELECTORAL MUSCLE.

IN THE NEXT ELECTION THERE WILL BE AN ADDITIONAL REASON

FOR WOMEN TO VOTE ALP - THE PARTY'S RECORD OF PERFORMANCE.

I WOULD L IK E BRIEFLY TO REFER TO THIS RECORD OF

PERFORMANCE. TIME DOES NOT PERMIT ME TO ENUMERATE ALL THE

ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT WHICH HAVE BENEFITTED WOMEN

IN MAY 1984 WE ISSUED A STATEMENT WHICH LISTE D GOVERNMENT

ACHIEVEMENTS FOR WOMEN. IT LISTE D 54 MAJOR GOVERNMENT

COMMITMENTS TO WOMEN. IN OUR FIRST 18 MONTHS 49 OF THESE

COMMITMENTS HAVE EITHER BEEN IMPLEMENTED OR ARE IN THE

PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTATION. FOR EXAMPLE:

WE PROMISED TO ENACT COMMONWEALTH SEX DISCRIMINATION

LEGISLATION. THE SEX DISCRIMINATION ACT PASSED ON

7 MARCH 1 9 8 4 . THE ACT WAS PROCLAIMED ON 1 AUGUST AND

IS NOW IN OPERATION. A SEX DISCRIMINATION

COMMISSIONER, MS PAM O ' N E I L , HAS BEEN APPOINTED.

WE PROMISED TO PROVIDE A PROGRAM OF A F FIR M A TIV E ACTION

FOR WOMEN. THE GOVERNMENT'S GREEN PAPER WAS TABLED ON

5 JUNE 1984 AND THE PIL O T PROGRAM FOR THE PRIVATE

SECTOR AND HIGHER COMMENCED ON 2 JULY 1 9 8 4 . ON 11

DECEMBER I CHAIRED THE FI RS T MEETING OF THE WORKING

PARTY WHICH W IL L MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE

GOVERNMENT ON THE FORM AND CONTENT OF A F FIR AM TIV E

ACTION L E G I S L A T I O N .

THE PUBLIC SECTOR I S NOW COVERED BY THE F.EO

L E G I S L A T I O N PASSED LAST SESSION.

- THE GOVERNMENT PROMISED THAT HIGHER EDUCATION

INSTITUTIONS WOULD UNDERTAKE POSITIV E MEASURES WITH A

VIEW TO ACHIEVING EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EXPANDED

ROLES FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS IN AND THROUGH HIGHER

EDUCATION. CHAPTER 3 OF THE COMMONWEALTH TERTIARY

EDUCATION COMMISSION'S RECOMMENDATION FOR THE 1 9 8 4 - 8 7

TRIENNIUM CONTAINS MEASURES TO IMPROVE WOMEN'S ACCESS

TO HIGHER EDUCATION.

IN THE PERIOD BEFORE THE 1984 BUDGET THE GOVERNMENT

ID E N T IF IE D FOUR PRIORITY AREAS FOR WOMEN.

- ACCESS TO EMPLOYMENT, TRAINING AND EDUCATION;

- TAXATION AND INCOME SECURITY;

- SERVICES FOR WOMEN; AND

- INFORMATION AND RESEARCH.

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IN AUGUST THIS YEAR AFTER THE TABLING OF THE BUDGET THE

PRIME MINISTER MADE AVAILABLE A 107-PAGE ASSESSMENT OF THE

IMPACT ON WOMEN OF THE 1 9 8 4 - 8 5 BUDGET. THIS GOVERNMENT IS

IDENTIFYING THE HIGH PRIORITY NEEDS OF WOMEN AND PUBLICITY

AND COMPREHENSIVELY EXAMINING THE IMPACT OF OUR POLICIES

AND PROGRAMS ON WOMEN. WE ARE VERY HAPPY TO BE JUDGED BY

Au s t r a l i a n women on our r e c o r d an d our o n g o i n g c o m m i t m e n t .

I S THAT SOMETHING OUR P O L I T I C A L OPPONENTS CAN SAY? I

THINK NOT.

I HERE ARE A NUMBER OF FACTORS IN ANY SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN

TO WIN WOMEN'S VOTES. WOMEN ARE MORE L I K E L Y TO VOTE FOR A

PARTY WHICH ADDRESSES THEIR NEEDS AND CONCERNS AND WHICH

PURSUES P O L I C I E S TO THEIR B E N E F IT . HERE I AM NOT

REFERRING ONLY, OR EVEN M A IN L Y , TO S P E C I F I C P O L I C I E S FOR

WOMEN SUCH AS SEX D I S C R I M I N A T I O N L E G IS L A T IO N OR

AF FIRMATIVE ACTION BUT TO THE BROAD RANGE OF BASIC ISSUES

SUCH AS EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION, SOCIAL SECURITY, TAXATION

AND THE ECONOMY. P O L I T I C A L PARTIES WHICH TRY TO NEATLY

PIGEON HOLE "WOMEN'S I SSU ES " AND F A I L TO CONSIDER THE

NEEDS OF WOMEN ACROSS THE FULL SPECTRUM OF POLICY AREAS

WILL NOT SUCCEED IN WOOING THEM.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT FACTOR IN WINNING WOMEN VOTERS IS A

PARTY'S P O L I T I C A L P R O F IL E . AN ALL-MALE IMAGE W IL L NOT

A S S I S I A P O L I T I C A L PARTY IN ATTRACTING WOMEN EVEN I F ITS

P O L I C I E S ARE RELAT IVELY B E N E F I C I A L . THE ALP HAS SUFFERED

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F ROM T H I S

PROBLEM IN THE PAST AND I B E L I E V E ONE OF OUR GREAT

SUCCESSES HAS BEEN THAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CHANGE THE

IMAGE AND ALSO (ALTHOUGH PERHAPS SOMEWHAT SLOWER) THE

R E A L I T Y .

WHILE I BELIEVE THAT WITH REGARD TO WOMEN THE ALP HAS A

GREAT DEAL TO BE SA TI SF IE D WITH, I WOULD WARN STRONGLY

AGAINST RESTING ON OUR LAURELS. WOMEN HAVE MADE GREAT

GAINS IN THE EIGHTIES IN TERMS OF P O L IT IC A L P AR TICIP A TIO N,

REPRESENTATION AND RECOGNITION BUT WE NEED TO SEE THESE IN

PERSPECTIVE. THERE ARE S T I L L ONLY 19 WOMEN OUT OF 189 IN

THE FEDERAL PARLIAMENT - 1 0 % . AND MOST STATE LEGISLATURES

ARE IN A SIMILAR PO SITION. IN TERMS OF PARTY MEMBERSHIP

WOMEN S T I L L FORM ONLY 35% OF ALP MEMBERS ON A NATIONAL

AVERAGE AND HOLD ONLY A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF O F FIC IA L

POSITIONS E. G. THERE ARE NO WOMEN STATE SECRETARIES.

AUSTRALIAN WOMEN S T I L L ONLY EARN 78% OF THE AVERAGE MALE

WAGE, THEY COMPRISE 69% OF SOCIAL SECURITY PENSIONERS,

THEY ARE S T I L L SEGREGATED IN LOW STATUS, LOW INCOME

SECTORS OF THE WORKFORCE AND SUFFER UNEMPLOYMENT LEVELS

S I G N I F I C A N T L Y HIGHER THOSE OF THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS.

THERE IS A TENDENCY, WHEN WOMEN BEGIN TO MAKE GAINS IN

PUBLIC AND SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC L I F E , FOR THE MEDIA AND

SECTIONS OF THE PUBLIC TO ASSUME THAT ALL I S IMMEDIATELY

ROSY. THAT IS NOT THE CASE. TH ERE'S A LONG WAY TO GO.

BUT WE ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DI RE CTIO N.

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F I N A L L Y I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO HAZARD A GUESS AS TO THE

NUMBER OF WOMEN WHO W IL L S I T IN THE NEXT FEDERAL

PARLIAMENT. AS NOT ALL ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES HAVE BEEN

F I N A L I S E D AND AS MOST PRESELECTIONS HAVE NOT YET TAKEN

PLACE, T H IS I S A CHANCY BU SI NE SS . HOWEVER, BEARING IN

MIND THE INCREASE OF WOMEN MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT IN THE

PERIOD FROM 19 80 TO 19 83 ELECTIONS AND THE INCREASED

NUMBER OF SEATS IN THE NEW PARLIAMENT, AND BEING PREPARED

TO TAKE A GAMBLE, I VENTURE TO TAKE THE O P T I M I S T I C VIEW

THAT THERE W IL L BE ABOUT 30 WOMEN I N THE NEXT PARLIAMENT

AND THAT THE S P L I T - U P W I L L BE ABOUT 17 IN THE SENATE AND

13 IN THE HOUSE. AROUND 21 OF THESE W IL L BE MEMBERS OF

THE ALP GOVERNMENT. THE ACCURACY OF THIS PREDICTION, LIKE

THE DATE OF THE E L EC T IO N, REMAINS TO BE SEEN.

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