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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2870


Ms FATIN(10.00) —In listening to this debate tonight I am absolutely astonished by the lack of understanding about the whole notion of equal employment opportunity. I hope that the many women around Australia who have been listening to the debate will recall in future times the contributions from honourable members on the other side of this chamber. Nobody on this side of the chamber has said-nor is it in the legislation-that there is positive discrimination in the Wool Marketing Bill. There is no positive discrimination in this Bill. In this concept of equal employment opportunity we are talking about the notion of merit. When we are talking about equal employment opportunity we are talking about employing women, migrants, Aboriginals and handicapped people, based on merit. If people in this chamber and elsewhere in Australia imagine that there is no such thing as discrimination out there in the community when these classes of people are trying to get jobs, they do not understand what it is like trying to get work out there. It is absolute nonsense to suggest there is no discrimination out there. It does exist.

I was interested to see the other day in the Sun newspaper a report of a poll that showed that 75 per cent of Australian men and women support anti-discrimination laws. So why on earth the Opposition parties are suggesting today that under this Bill we should not include the notion of merit when employing people in the Australian Wool Corporation astounds me. The Wool Corporation employs approximately 460 people altogether around Australia. Why should people who apply to work there not be given jobs based on merit? Experience for years has shown that the classes of people specified within our equal employment opportunity legislation do not get jobs based on merit. This type of legislation is absolutely crucial in enabling them to get work based on merit.

For the moment let us not talk only about women looking for work. The example of women is always used. Let us consider some of the handicapped men and women who, because of a handicap to their leg, spine or some other part of their body, are not given a job. Anybody who has anything to do with handicapped people in the community knows that that happens. This Government over the last three years has introduced legislation to eliminate discrimination in the community and to introduce equal employment opportunity-in the private sector, the Australian Public Service and, only last week, in statutory corporations. We have seen Opposition parties vote for such legislation one year, against it another year and tonight have a little bit each way. They will support this Bill but are putting up amendments which will eliminate all reference in the Bill to equal employment opportunity. That is absolutely disgraceful.

The Wool Corporation has a good record in this area. I will allow some other honourable members to contribute now but as I said when I began my speech this evening, I hope that the women of Australia have listened to this debate and to the contributions from the other side of this chamber. I hope that they will remember in months to come the nature of the contributions from members such as the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron).

Amendment negatived.