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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3128

Senator WALTERS —by leave-While endorsing everything that Senator Martin has said on behalf of the Opposition, I too am very concerned-Senator Haines indicated her concern also-at the bias shown by the Government in its selection of member of the National Women's Consultative Council. I am delighted that the National President of the Country Women's Association, Mrs Vera Norris, from my State, is on it. I am delighted at many of the other members who are on the Council. However, there are two members from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, while there are not any members from the more conservative groups, as Senator Haines indicated-the women who represent mothers who are at home. For instance, the Women's Action Alliance has been specifically excluded; the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia has also been specifically excluded. This is the attitude of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Ryan). People whom she has chosen are from organisations which employ large numbers of women and which, as she says, are committed to raising the status of women. In other words, she says that the nursing mothers are not committed to raising the status of women and that, in her view, the Women's Action Alliance is not committed to raising the status of women. I object very strongly to that inference.

In answer to a previous criticism I made when the Minister left out similar organisations from an invitation to Canberra, the Minister said that the people she had chosen were 'from organisations which had shown, over a number of years, that they were prepared to be constructive and co-operative with governments which are prepared to improve the status of women'; she said there was no point in consulting women's organisations if those organisations have a record of negative participation in public debate. That is the Minister's opinion only and should not be the opinion of the Council. When in government we included the ACTU and the Women's Electoral Lobby in our national advisory council. If the Minister is not prepared to include groups supporting women in the home I think the bias is really appalling. I thank the Senate for the time it has given me to speak.

Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2 p.m.