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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2323

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (4.39 p.m.) —I wish to make some brief comments on what has been said in this discussion. I would point out that I was a member of the committee that dealt with community services and welfare under the chairmanship of the then Senator Elstob. That committee looked at the subject of retirement income in the 1980s. Senator Lees may be interested to know that the age of eligibility for pension was extensively canvassed. All the issues dealt with by Senator Lees in this debate were at that time examined, costed and argued about. I am not sure when that committee issued its report; I believe it was in the mid-1980s. Certainly it is not a new subject and has not just been brought on to the agenda without consideration or discussion. It has been discussed at considerable length.

  I take the honourable senator's point about the conditions and the equality of women. One could say that maybe I should not have argued about women's earnings over 10 years. I make the point—and I think the honourable senator nodded agreement—that many more women have entered the work force in the last 10 years. I do not have with me the graph which shows this but we have to be a bit cautious about the figures and data in respect of movements in earnings. The graph compares women's wages in general from 1960 until now and it shows that there has been a steady increase—a quite dramatic increase.

  It may well be that we will have to do something more particular and specific apart from just letting those things happen. It may well be that we will have to wait and see what the position will be when the figures reflect the higher earnings of women with better education as a result of affirmative action. I agree that there are still things to be won for women. But we are talking about the status of women now and about the 65 years age pension in 20 years time. I think the issues and points raised by honourable senators have been extensively canvassed to this point and that there is not much more that can be said.