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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2172

Mrs DARLING —I refer the Prime Minister to the statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicating that the entry of Australian women into the work force has gained momentum. Will the Prime Minister comment on those statistics and on the momentum so indicated?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for Lilley for her question. I preface my answer to her by saying that, as she knows, when we are talking about women in the work force this Government also recognises that the perception of many women in Australia of what their best interests are and the things they want to do is that they should remain in the home, to be the mother and wife in a full time sense. The concern that we have in ensuring that Australian--

Madam SPEAKER —Would the Prime Minister speak into the microphone?

Mr Goodluck —I can't hear a word you are saying.

Mr HAWKE —All right; the honourable member is missing something, I can assure him, so I will not deprive him for any longer. I assure the honourable member that what I have to say about women in the work force is important. This Government recognises that for a significant proportion of Australian women the concept of being a full time wife and mother represents their perceptions of what their major interests are. Nevertheless, we recognise, and indeed we welcome the fact, that an increasing number of women wish to work and are now entering the work force.

Some statistics as to what has happened over the last four years are of interest. As you know, Madam Speaker, and as the honourable member for Lilley knows, one of the matters of great pride for this Government is the record increase in employment that has taken place in the period that we have been in government. In fact, over three-quarters of a million people have entered the work force. To be precise, there have been 760,000 new entrants into the work force, and it is interesting to note that 58 per cent of those new entrants are women.

We have, of course, provided increased child care places to enable mothers who wish to work to do so. We have also sponsored legislation to ensure that women are not disadvantaged in the work place. Of course, in that respect, landmark affirmative action legislation was passed last year. Interestingly, that legislation that was passed last year was passed with the support of the Liberal Party. We welcome the fact that we received that support from the Liberal Party. Of course, there have been further developments since then. The Commonwealth equal employment opportunity legislation has been passed by this House and will be debated in the Senate later this week.

It is unfortunate to have to note the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, in opposing that legislation in this House, prevailed upon his Liberal Party colleagues to bury their principles for a coalition that he could not save. There is absolutely no argument amongst analysts in this country that the Liberal Party agreed with the legislation, with the principle and the fact of it, but the Leader of the Liberal Party, desperately trying to save the coalition, said: `We cannot support that legislation because, if we do, that will offend the National Party'. So the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party, sacrificed the rights of women, he sacrificed Senator Peter Baume, and now he is asking his colleagues in the Senate to sacrifice their principles for a coalition which is now dead and buried.