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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3126


Senator MARTIN(12.35) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement and paper.

I do not have a copy of the final report of the National Women's Advisory Council, which the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) has just tabled, so I shall be very brief. At the end of my remarks I shall seek leave to continue my remarks later. I hope that the Senate will have a chance to debate this report at some time in the future.

I wish to make a couple of comments on what has just been said. First of all, on behalf of the Opposition, I join with Senator Ryan in expressing appreciation of the work of Dame Beryl Beaurepaire and Mrs Quentin Bryce, who were convenors of the National Women's Advisory Council. Dame Beryl Beaurepaire had the important job of establishing the Council and having it accepted Australia-wide. She also had the important job of establishing the research record and program of the Council. As has been said in previous debates in the Senate, particularly when reports have been tabled, the contribution of the reports and research commissioned by the National Women's Advisory Council has added a dimension to government consideration of policies in a number of areas and has undoubtedly improved those policies. Mrs Bryce, who succeeded Dame Beryl, carried on that work and was very successful in achieving a high public profile for the National Women's Advisory Council. Mrs Bryce is now with the Queensland Women's Information Service and will have the opportunity to continue to contribute her expertise in the affairs of women. As I said, on behalf of the Opposition, I thank them and all the women, very distinguished women with a wide variety of skills, who served on that Council.

I wish briefly to reply to one comment which is made time and time again and which the Minister made in her statement, highly inappropriately. I would have thought it was the most inappropriate thing one could say when tabling a report of the National Women's Advisory Council to say that the previous Government did not have a priority on women. I want to place on the record some of the more outstanding things that the previous Government did in this area. I do it because Senator Ryan's comment is made time and again and I think the reply should be made time and again if only to stop this misinformation. First and foremost, of course, the previous Government established the National Women's Advisory Council to provide the Government with advice on matters of concern to women and to act as a channel of communication in presenting to government the views and needs of women. It established through the Office of Women's Affairs the Shopfront Information Service to provide information on government policies, programs and services which affect women and their families and to collect women 's views and ideas about the relevance and effectiveness of such policies. It was responsible for Australian participation in Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development high level conferences on women's employment. It launched the National Labour Consultative Council's guidelines on equal employment opportunities for women and it launched the open doors campaign to promote apprenticeship opportunities for young women.

The previous Government signed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women at the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women in Copenhagen. Under that Government, Australia had membership of the Preparatory Committee for the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, contribution was made to the Voluntary Fund for the United Nations Decade for Women and Australia was elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In addition, the Fraser Government introduced family allowance and established, amongst other things, the Women's Film Fund. The record is one of which I think we can be proud and of which we are proud. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to place those things on record.

In conclusion, I offer the new members of the National Women's Consultative Council congratulations and the very best of wishes in the work that they are to undertake. There is a very broad range of talents in these women. Some of the appointments show a political bias, one may say, but that is not surprising. I suppose when we were in government we did not fall over ourselves to appoint women from the Communist Party or some such organisation to the National Women's Advisory Council. For all I know there was one but I am not sure of it. I wish the Council luck in the task that it undertakes. The trail blazing has been done by the National Women's Advisory Council. I particularly wish Mrs Edith Hall luck. She is the Convenor of the National Women's Consultative Council. I look forward to debating in the Senate reports from the Consultative Council. I seek leave to continue my remarks later, Madam Acting Deputy President. I am not trying to stop anyone else speaking in this debate, but I did say that I wanted to speak on the report when it is available. I understand that other speakers can seek leave if they wish to speak.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.