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Monday, 21 June 2010
Page: 6060

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (7:52 PM) —I rise to second this motion on initiatives supporting working women. I am delighted to support a motion that outlines the important steps the government has taken to support working women. Since coming into government, the Rudd Labor government has been working tirelessly to make Australia a stronger, smarter and fairer nation. We have done this because we believe that every Australian should have the same opportunities in life and we want to see all Australians realise their goals. This, of course, includes equal rights for women.

Over the past 2½ years, the Rudd Labor government has been busy making changes so that this can one day be realised for every woman around the nation. In this short space of time, we have improved the conditions of working women by scrapping Work Choices and giving parents the right to ask their bosses for flexible working arrangements. We have also taken steps to make sure that historically female-dominated sectors are properly valued and reformed, and we have reformed the early childhood education and care sector to help Australian families meet the costs of child care. Most recently, the Rudd government is extremely proud to have delivered Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme. Australia has waited too long for this reform, which will be available to parents from 1 January. Under our landmark scheme, parents will have access to 18 weeks pay at a federal minimum wage, which is currently $570 a week. The scheme will provide mothers with a choice when it comes to balancing work and family commitments. It will support Labor’s core mission: to make this nation stronger and fairer.

Given how far we have come for Australian women over the past 40 years, there is cause for optimism—particularly the Paid Parental Leave scheme, which has taken too long in coming. In addition, Fair Work Australia legislation is a major boost to working women. The principal benefit of the new legislation is that it takes away the unfair provisions of the previous Work Choices legislation that threatened the job security and work-family balance for so many working women. Under the new Fair Work system, modern awards and enterprise agreements will allow employers and working parents to make individual flexible arrangements. Individual flexibility agreements can vary the terms of a modern award or enterprise agreement, to help employees better balance their family responsibilities and help employers retain skilled staff. This is a very big plus for working women.

Looking quickly at child care, the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, and the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Kate Ellis, earlier this month announced 190 childcare centres that will receive special grants to upgrade their facilities. Grants of $20,000 will be provided to long day care services in disadvantaged areas—and I repeat, in disadvantaged areas—from this month to help those providers improve the quality of their childcare centres.

I have absolutely no doubt and I am really very proud to stand here with the member for Throsby and support this motion. Women’s rights are not a joke. We are not an optional extra. We deserve the right to determine how we care for our own bodies. We deserve the right to choose how and when we work. We deserve the right to live in safe and respectful relationships. I do not want to see any of that come under threat. Should there be a change of government, heaven help us, at the election, a lot of that will come under threat, as indicated by the very discussions we sometimes hear in the parliament.

The previous speaker made a point about how we can possibly change some things that we might have said at times. I really have a bit of scepticism about that, particularly given that some of the things we hear of we hear consistently. We hear the same sorts of comments about a lot of these issues from the opposition in a consistent fashion. The women that I represent in this place do not want to hear that. They want to know that we are moving forward with programs that are going to support women, and in that way support working families, individuals, whoever out there is needing that support.

I am particularly pleased to note in passing—and I think it should be noted—that we have a very high number of women now in this place, though not acceptably high enough, who can argue these causes. We do not do it alone. Some of the male members of the House are very good at supporting us as well. But, as I say, I am pleased to support this motion. I thank the member for Throsby for bringing it forward, and anything we can do to ensure the future advancement of issues that affect women and their families we should stand right behind and support.