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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1012

Dr STONE (4:20 PM) —The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 requires an annual report to be tabled in parliament identifying any organisations or businesses that have failed to comply with the reporting requirements of the act. The act requires that a workplace not discriminate between men and women, that women not be harassed, that women receive equal pay for an equal work contribution, that women will be able to access career opportunities that keep them in the main game and that women will be part of the informal networks of decision makers. Businesses are required by law to submit a 12-monthly report on their planning and progress in relation to them taking every practical measure to address these gender issues.

It is very disappointing therefore that 12 businesses have been named and shamed in the report to parliament made just a few days ago because they have not complied with the equality for women in the workplace act requirements. Seven of these 12, or over half of these businesses, had been non-compliant for more than three years and one for two years. These businesses include Rivers Australia; Berri Hotel; Thomas Jewellers; Roverworth, a meat manufacturing company; and Charles Hull Contracting, a construction services company.

Apparently, the sanctions do not worry these companies. Some of them are household names and we see their branches or shops across the nation. The sanctions include the naming and shaming as I have mentioned, but they also mean that the business cannot tender for government contracts and request business assistance in the future. Apparently, these 12 businesses are not providing any evidence of their efforts to provide a safe and supportive workplace or equal pay for equal work for women. Is this because they are discriminating in their workplaces or because they have no respect for the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act and its requirements? Either way, the noncompliance helps us to understand why Australia has a growing gender pay gap of over 17 per cent for equal work performed by men and women, a growing gap that is the shame of the federal government and a shame for the whole nation.

As well Australia has amongst the lowest participation rates of women in the workforce. We have some of the highest rates of education of women in the developed world but we see too often that they are wasting these skills as they leave their workplace. They hit the glass ceiling and they find little flexibility when they have their babies and they want part-time work, work from home or job sharing. We have still a major problem in Australia in addressing gender issues in the workplace. Our own parliament does not reflect a fifty-fifty balance of men and women as it should. I repeat my disappointment that 12 companies in Australia failed to comply with the act and over half of them were non-compliant for more than three years.