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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3127

Senator HAINES —by leave-I did not intend to speak on the statement made by the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Ryan) because, like Senator Martin, I had not received a copy of the report of the National Women's Advisory Council. I am grateful to Senator Martin for seeking leave to continue her remarks so that at a later stage we can all comment on what is contained in that report. From the Australian Democrats' point of view there are one or two things in the statement that are worth commenting on. First of all, I endorse the Minister's comments about both Mrs Quentin Bryce and Dame Beryl Beaurepaire and I fully endorse the points made by Senator Kathy Martin. Those two women have done a tremendous amount for the women's movement in this country and in improving the status of women. Their strengths and achievements, both at a personal level and in their capacities as convenors of the National Women's Advisory Council, have to be admired by us all. I hope that Edith Hall is able to follow in the footsteps of those two very brilliant and very committed women. Like Senator Martin I wish her and the rest of the members of that Council the best of luck.

Without wishing to make any personal criticisms or reflections on the members of the Council whom Senator Ryan has named today, I would have to express some disappointment at the range of representatives. Fairly obviously we cannot put everybody on that Council; that goes without saying. Senator Martin said she detected just a slight bias in the area-

Senator Ryan —She didn't say which way.

Senator HAINES —No, she did not say which way but I do not think it would take a genius to work it out. She also pointed out, quite rightly, that governments of all persuasions have a tendency to be biased in the appointments they make to various statutory authorities, boards, councils and so on. It would have been strange indeed if this Government, in changing from the National Women's Advisory Council to the National Women's Consultative Council, had not taken the opportunity to be selective, shall we say, in its choice of appointments. However, one group of people I think is significant in its absence from this list. I ask the Minister at least to consider in the future whether a very large group, a group which represents a significant number of women in the community, could ultimately be given a position on the Council. The group I refer to is the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia.

Senator Giles —They have all been nursing mothers, or most of them have.

Senator HAINES —Senator Giles speaks for herself.

Senator Giles —Most of the members of the Council have.

Senator HAINES —I am not quite sure whether when one appoints women to this sort of council one ought to go around asking them whether they ever have been nursing mothers. Leaving that point aside, while I recognise the contribution of , say, Beryl Ashe from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, or Lesley Yates from the Australian Union of Students, or any of the others on the list, it does not alter the fact that a group such as the Nursing Mothers Association has a very significant grass roots contact with suburban women and suburban women's problems. We have quite a significant number of representatives from professional organisations on this Council and I think that is to be applauded. I simply reiterate: Will the Minister in the future consider looking at groups which actually represent suburban women, women who are in the home looking after children on a full time basis-they are entitled to do that and are proud of doing it-and are aware of the problems that those women face. Like Senator Martin I wish the new Convenor and her Council the best of luck.