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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 2954


Senator TEAGUE(9.22) — I support the Liberal principle that men and women ought to enjoy the same fundamental human rights and freedoms. If a man, because he is male, or a woman, because she is female, is denied a fundamental human freedom, I am offended by such an injustice. If a man or a woman is discriminated against in a manner which denies a fundamental human right such as equality before the law or freedom of speech, I am offended by this injustice. In order to prevent such an injustice and to provide a remedy I support the principle of there being legislation to overcome this offence of sex discrimination. In the same way I have supported legislation to overcome the offence of racial discrimination. However, I do acknowledge that the law cannot create attitudes of the heart and mind. One cannot legislate for morality but we can by law seek to prevent offensive actions and seek a remedy for those actions in the same way as there are laws regarding theft and assault.

However, it is not sufficient just to be in broad agreement with the goal of achieving a sound statement or an effective law to eliminate sex discrimination. It is not enough to agree only with the general concept. Rather it is necessary I believe to achieve this goal and to ensure that the details of any statement are wisely drawn and the particular provisions of any proposed law are those which will be effective in practice and will not be misapplied to allow other even unintended wrongs or disadvantages.

Now in Australia, in 1983, and in the debate currently before the Senate, we have the need not only to express broad support for the general principle of anti-discrimination legislation but also to apply ourselves in detail to two important current measures-measures that are actually before us. One is the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a convention which was signed by the previous Government in 1979, which was ratified by the present Government a few months ago and which is proposed as a schedule attached to the Sex Discrimination Bill 1983 (No. 2) now before us. The second measure is the Bill itself and the particular details of the 116 clauses set out in it. For my own part I have examined in some detail both the Convention and the Bill and I support both. I support the Bill subject to the several amendments which we in the Opposition have determined to put forward. I support our second reading amendment and I support the series of particular amendments we will move at the Committee stage of the Bill.

Having participated in the drafting of the words of these several Opposition amendments I look to subsequent discussion of them in due course, but among other things by these amendments we seek to do several things. We reject in principle the use of the external affairs power; that is, we reject the Commonwealth usurping the responsibilities of the States. We have sought also to exempt single sex schools from provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act. This is an amendment which I am glad the Government has now agreed to accept. We will seek also to ensure that any group, an independent school or otherwise, having the care of children will not be prevented from explicitly advertising employment for a married couple or choosing persons who will conscientiously support the beliefs, values and principles of the group concerned. At a large public meeting in Cleve in South Australia late in July I expressed this view and undertook to seek this amendment.

We will also seek to amend the Bill to ensure protection of civil liberties and in particular a provision for safeguards against self-incrimination. By a comprehensive second reading amendment we seek, contrary to the scurrilous misinformation spread about the Opposition, to affirm that we do not see this Bill as weakening the fundamental importance and strength of the family as the basic unit of society, nor do we see any obligation in this Bill for anyone to go from the family and home to enter the work force.

Madam Acting Deputy President, I am a South Australian and I am proud of the fact that South Australia over the past century has led the world in gaining universal adult franchise. The vote for responsible government was extended in 1856 from a small privileged group of male property owners to persons of all kinds, even those without any property. Especially, South Australia took a leading role when the vote was extended to all women, but that was only in 1894, and South Australia led the world. It may seem incomprehensible to young Australians that women were once denied the vote. In the same way it may now seem incomprehensible to think that slavery was once protected by law-but not in Australia-and was finally abolished only in the 1880s, which is in the lifetime of some living Australians. It is of interest to recall that in respect of these newly won freedoms, both in the case of the abolition of slavery and in the case of women being allowed to vote, there was an uproar from a conservative and self -righteous minority shouting a lot of nonsense about the breakdown of society and the undermining of all that it, even some well intentioned people, felt to be sound and true. It is much easier now with the view and values of hindsight to affirm that these extensions of fundamental human rights and freedoms were very positive gains.

South Australia has also taken a leading role in being the first Australian State to enact anti-discrimination legislation both in regard to racial discrimination and sex discrimination. My friend and Liberal parliamentary colleague, David Tonkin, when a back bencher in 1973, initiated the sex discrimination legislation which became law only in the period of the Dunstan Government in 1976. At that time in his debate on the South Australian Bill, which is a foundation for the Bill we have before us in this debate, David Tonkin said:

We have come a long way since the days when woman was considered by Aristotle to be an inferior being incapable of thought or anything else.

There is still a long way to go, and this legislation is but a small part. I hope it will be the first step in the long run home to final equality not only in legislation but also in actual community attitudes.

I, as another South Australian Liberal, share the same hope about the legislation now before us. The legislative step is necessary, but more than that , I hope we will go on to see community attitudes in Australia come to a more generous and unforced maturity where women are not left out, their abilities undervalued, their benefits inferior, their participation less than fully welcomed. I hope we may see in Australia, in every place, a new and full appreciation of the enormous worth, ability and contribution of our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters; that there will be a new and full appreciation of men and women alike and their equal access to every fundamental human right and freedom.

At this point I take the opportunity of affirming the statements concerning women and the family which are set out in the current Federal platform of the Liberal Party of Australia. I helped to formulate these statements when a member of the policy and platform review committee of my Party prior to their endorsement by the Liberal Party's Federal Council. I seek leave to incorporate these statements.

Leave granted.

The statements read as follows-

THE INDIVIDUAL IN SOCIETY

The Family

The family is the fundamental and most important social and cohesive force in society and should be encouraged to take the primary responsibility for the care and development of children and providing for its members a source of personal happiness, economic security and social and psychological support. Liberals acknowledge the vital contribution of the family in the development of the individual.

Liberals will continue to ensure that the family has the support necessary to sustain it. Society's investment in the family is an investment in the future. Liberals seek:

A social environment where individual families are self-reliant and free to determine and pursue their own chosen opportunities for family development and fulfilment.

A physical environment where adequate housing education and health services are available to all.

A financial environment where a family as a group is not penalised in comparison with other members of the community, in particular by any inequitable effect of the taxation or social security systems.

Recognition of the value of full time care by a parent during the early years of childhood wherever possible.

An opportunity for each member of the family to share the responsibilities, duties, pleasures and problems which are part of family life; and an equal opportunity to pursue occupations, activities and interests, paid or unpaid, which may contribute to their personal development and satisfaction, to the development and well being of their families and to the community in general.

Recognition of the importance of older citizens and the contribution they make to our society so as to encourage tolerance and respect between the generations.

Recognising that families may pass through periods of adversity. Liberals advocate by consultation and co-operation among the Commonwealth, State and local governments and voluntary agencies the following means of assisting the family:

Education for marriage and family relationships, guidance on family planning and the fostering of community organisations which assist people to prepare for and understand the complexities and responsibilities of married life.

Encouragement of families to care for their own children but assistance in the provision of childhood services to supplement family care where needed.

Assistance to overcome the special difficulties of one-parent families, handicapped parents, parents of handicapped children and isolated families.

Encouragement of families to care for their aged and invalid relatives within their own environment.

Women

The Liberal Party believes that while this Platform applies to both men and women certain matters specifically relating to women identify themselves and call for continued action.

These include:

Women to have equality of opportunity and freedom of choice to engage in political, civil and community activities, employment and education.

Removal of remaining areas of discrimination against women.

Recognition of the vital role of women in the stability and development of the family.

Opportunity and choice for mothers to fulfil their family role and also, if they wish to engage in other satisfying activities including further educational achievement, remunerative employment or voluntary social activities.

Encouragement of training and re-training schemes for women wishing to re-enter the workforce, in order that they and the nation may further benefit from the economic and social value of their skills and capabilities.

Awareness that child care facilities are essential and require co-ordinated action by governments and private organisations.

The realignment of working hours to accord with family responsibilities and the encouragement of arrangements for part-time work in the public and private sectors.


Senator TEAGUE —I thank the Senate. I turn now to the Convention attached to the Bill, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Since April this year I have received far more mail on the Convention than on any other matter. It is also true that the Senate has received the greatest volume of petitions on this subject. I have considered most carefully these many letters and petitions, phone calls and conversations. First of all, I am conscious that the objectives of the Convention, and of this Bill for that matter, are supported by all political parties and by the majority of Australians. The Bill and the Convention are supported also by the National Council of Women, the National Women's Advisory Committee, the Young Women's Christian Association and by women's groups throughout Australia. They are supported very strongly by the State Council and by the Women's Council of the Liberal Party in my State of South Australia. The Women's Council of my Party on 17 June this year reaffirmed the resolution already adopted by it on 14 March 1980. That resolution was in these terms:

That this Women's Council asks the Federal Government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

That is the full resolution. There were no riders, no reservations, and no amendments suggested. However, despite the clear majority support for the Convention and the Bill throughout Australia, at the same time hundreds of the letters I received were critical of the Convention and the Bill. Most of these letters were from Liberal and National Party supporters. Nevertheless, and as it happens, almost all expressed to me that they were Christians. Perhaps they know that I, as one senator, do try to think about legislation not only as a senator with liberal political principles but also as a Christian. I believe in the teaching of Jesus and in the Bible's teaching about our relationships and in the relationships we have in the community, about love and truth and justice. I believe in the importance of the family and in the loving relationships expressed in the family, in marriage and in the care of parents for their children.

In response to the concerns expressed in the many letters I received I put in this debate eight straightforward propositions, all of which I support. The first, which I believe and which is simply put, is that men and women are fundamentally different. Men and women just cannot be made into so-called unisex persons. Second, the privacy of any individual and any family is important and should be protected. Third, a mother and father's care for children should not be secondary to their otherwise important commitment to their employment. Rather , the parents' employment should enhance the higher priority of their care for their children. Fourth, the family is the basic unit of society and children are best cared for by their parents rather than by state institutions. Fifth, the care for children by parents and by others should seek to avoid the causes of serious emotional problems and any psychiatric disorders. Sixth, sound and happy family relationships should be fostered so as to avoid marriage insecurity and marriage breakdown. Seventh-this I also firmly believe-Australia is a Federal Commonwealth of States and is a sovereign country; that is, Australia is not subject to foreign control. Eighth, and last, the cost of any government decisions and programs should not over-burden the taxpayers. These are eight clear and widely held propositions that I happen to support strongly. I would not want to be haphazard or in any way uncaring about them. But it is on these exact eight matters, all eight of them in turn, that there has come the shock, the concern, the dismay from hundreds of people in South Australia and elsewhere that these were the very matters being undermined, being set aside by both the Convention and the Sex Discrimination Bill.

What had happened was this: These hundreds of shocked South Australians and others all over the country had received the same propaganda, a propaganda sheet setting out very directly and crudely these eight direct accusations. All of the accusations, I believe, are clearly false and can be shown to be clearly false. I ask leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard this propaganda sheet.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Last Monday, March 28th, it was reported in the press by the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, that the Federal Government will move quickly to ratify the United Nations Convention on:

THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SAID THAT SUCH LEGISLATION WOULD OPERATE NATIONWIDE

SOME OF THE IMPLICATIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS;

1. The changing and wiping out of our traditional ''gender'' roles of man and woman. In order to bring about this change of thinking among the young people there would be revision of school textbooks so as to eliminate male and female roles. This would be done in the books from kindergarten level upwards. Changes are already being made to the Bible so as to obliterate differences between the roles of masculine and feminine.

2. If such changes were controlled by law it would involve an intrusion into the privacy of private individuals and families.

3. The above Treaty or convention expresses strong incentives for mothers to join the workforce. Mothering would, by implication, become a second class calling or profession.

4. A network nationwide of baby creches and childcare centres is already planned, so that the mothers can be freed to go out to work from the early weeks of the child's life. In the long term the result would be that the State would have the care and control of the child from infancy to maturity with the opportunity and power to mould its emotional life and its thinking.

5. One of the results would be the likely development of emotional problems among the children and young people as a result of early separation from both parents. Such deprivation can be a serious cause of childhood psychiatric illness.

6. The exchange of sex roles, or ''gender'' roles, within a marriage, with the woman becoming the main breadwinner and the man doing household work which is the traditional sphere of the woman, is likely to cause further increase of marriage insecurity and even further marriage breakdown.

7. One serious and far reaching implication is that Australia's RATIFICATION of this international treaty places her under the control of foreign powers; she is no longer free; she has to submit to laws and regulations imposed by International Courts and powers.

8. The COST of such legislation would be exceedingly great. The tax payer-the rank and file of the nation-is the one who pays the Bill.

The next sitting of parliament in Canberra will be in May. Petitions are being sent to both houses and to the Governor-General asking that the Australian Government will refrain from ratifying this United Nations convention because of its profound, long lasting and widespread effects on the family life of our Nation.

For further information telephone-

07-201 6244 07-396 9472 Dr A. Rendle-Short Mrs Jackie Butler

07-286 2498Mrs Robyn Sully


Senator TEAGUE —This false propaganda attacking the Convention was distributed early in April over the names of Dr Rendle-Short, Mrs Butler and Mrs Sully, all of Queensland. As I understand it, partly from their subsequent letters and telephone calls to me, they were moved to make these wild and extreme accusations by their quite conscientious opposition to humanism, materialism, socialism and communism. In my remarks I am not attacking their conscientious beliefs; what I am saying is that even with good intentions they made their own aunt sally. They distorted the Convention to appear as a monster and then set out to cut down the monster. History is full of such over-anxious, self- defeating campaigns. This campaign was self-defeating because the accusations were false and they were seen subsequently to be false by those who actually read the Convention and who sought to understand it without the distortions that had been created. All the political parties in Australia represented in this Parliament have referred to that nonsense about the Convention and the Bill. But the propaganda had its effect, nevertheless. Of the many individual letters I received, I refer to two which I have extracted at random. Both of these are from constituents of mine in South Australia. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter to me from Mrs Denise Kitto of 7 July and the letter to me from David and Helen Wallace of 22 September.

Leave granted.

The letters read as follows-

3 Poplar Avenue, Keith 5267, South Australia July 7th 1983.

Senator B. C. Teague,

Westfield Shopping Town Clarion,

297 Diagonal Road,

Oaklands Park 5046,

S.A.

Dear Sir,

I write out of deep Christian concern regarding the Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, which was signed by the previous Government on July the seventeenth 1980.

I believe that this convention will effectively eliminate the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept of the family as the basic unit of society.

I believe that it opens doors to deny mothers the freedom of choice to stay at home and rear their children.

I believe that parental guidance will at least be greatly reduced by the provision of networks of state run child care centres.

I believe that the Bible will be regarded as ''sexist'' and become a banned book, especially in education, but also in many other areas.

I believe that by ratifying the convention, Australia will be yielding her sovereignty to foreign powers through international courts, and thereby the fundamental concept of Western Democracy will quickly disappear.

This matter is being brought to your notice because I feel very deeply about the erosion of the family which will inevitably result should Ratification of this Convention take place. I would therefore urge you to take all action in your power to see this Ratification of the United Nations Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against women does not take place.

Yours sincerely, D. A. Kitto

Mrs Denise Kitto,

3 Poplar Avenue,

Keith 5267

Bosdell Avenue, Paradise 5075 22.9.83

Senator Baden Teague,

Parliament House,

Canberra 2600

Dear Senator,

I wish to register a strong protest against the Sex Discrimination Bill 1983 and the underhand way in which it was ratified.

It discriminates against those women who choose to remain at home and nurture their children. I see it as a serious threat to the values of family life, leading to a totalitarian and socialistic society.

Why should we join ourselves with the communist countries in this way, when the U.S.A. and the U.K. have failed to do so.

The Bill is so broad in its phrasing that it could mean almost anything and leaves the way open for serious infringements of our religious liberties, an issue profoundly affecting large numbers of Australians.

I also object to the Federal Government being able to overrule the State Government.

I urge you to vote against this Bill.

Yours faithfully, David and Helen Wallace


Senator TEAGUE —I thank the Senate. These letters include phrases such as the ' the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept of the family', 'the fundamental concept of Western democracy', 'the threat . . . of a totalitarian and socialistic society' and 'serious infringements of our religious liberties'. Again, I say that I am entirely sympathetic to the genuine personal commitments expressed in these letters, that is to the family, to freedom, to democracy, to the Bible, to Australian sovereignty and so on, but in my view none of these are put in danger, none are put in jeopardy, by the Convention nor by the Bill as sought to be amended by my colleagues in the Opposition.

When I say that it is my view that none of these supposed dangers is to be found in the Convention or in the Bill, this has not been a view worked out in the isolation of Parliament House but rather following weeks of open dialogue at public meetings at which I spoke, in the city and in the country, and after long , careful discussions with people such as Mrs Robyn Sully and Dr David Phillips, who have been at the forefront of attacking the Convention and the Bill. These and others were invited by me to try to sustain their arguments, but I believe that they failed to sustain them. Their accusations do not lead to the actual words and provisions of the Convention or of the Bill.

So, what I understand to have happened over the past six months is this: Those hundreds of South Australians who read the false propaganda, but read it in good faith, accepted these accusations and became alarmed-many irretrievably alarmed. But they had not read a copy of the Convention itself and, when some did so in the months that followed, the original distorting prejudice was, for some, already too unconsciously retained. They also had not read the legislation because it was only later, on 2 June, that the Bill itself in its original form was introduced here in the Senate. The damage was already done. In the scattered groups about the city and the country the seeds of alarm spread by the distorting propaganda took root and started to grow. It was easy also to surmise that the Convention must be bad, because is not the United Nations dominated by communists-that is not true but it often appears so-and the Sex Discrimination Bill must be bad because is not the newly victorious Labor Government dominated by radical feminists? This may or may not be true but it has appeared so to some .

I have considerable sympathy for the very many ordinary Australians who were led astray by the mischief of this false propaganda. They were being told that their dearly held values were in danger and now was the time to act. Hundreds of them-thousands when all the States are taken into account-signed the petitions they were asked to sign, which accompanied the propaganda sheet and which were often presented to them for support even at the church door.

In signing these petitions the people were wanting to say: 'Look we do not want the family undermined; we do not want marriage undermined, we do not want children taken away to a network of child care centres; we do not want mothers who are caring for young children to be forced to go into the work force; we do not want foreign intervention in Australia's affairs; we do not want the differences between men and women to be submerged in some unisex existence, which is impossible anyway; we do not want censorship of the Bible, but the text of the Bible is not subject to the fickle fashions of change, anyway; we do not want our education institutions prevented from employing only persons who share the values, beliefs and principles of those institutions; and we do not want a new usurping interference from a feminist mafia whose motives we distrust and whose values we reject'. I believe that this is what the petitions they signed and the letters they sent to me were all saying, and, given the limited bits they were told, and which alarmed them, I am not surprised that they responded by putting pen to paper in the way they did. I have a lot of sympathy for those Australians but I have no sympathy at all for the perpetrators of the false propaganda. The propaganda was not only exaggerated and outrageous in its distortion of the Convention and of the Bill but also, in very much of what was circulated, was downright dishonest. I have no sympathy for the authors of this campaign.

One of the persistent misinterpretations of the Convention concerns article 2 ( b), which states:

To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women.

The preamble of Article 2 states:

State Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms.

These extracts from Article 2 were quoted by the propagandists as if they had no limitation, as if they allowed every extreme of interpretation and as if they implied some sort of unisex outcome. But what these misinterpretations overlook is Article 1 of the same Convention-the fundamental article-which gives the definition of the term 'discrimination' and which restricts its meaning to the foundation concept of 'human rights and fundamental freedoms'. In the light of Article 1's actual definition, all the fanciful and mindless extremes are reduced to nothing.

The misinterpretations of Article 2 become baseless when this and the other articles are read properly in the context of the Convention as a whole-that is, when they are read as I believe they are intended to be read. Let me quote this definition, Article 1, in full:

For the purposes of the present Convention, the term 'discrimination against women' shall mean any distinction exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Here, then, is the first article of the Convention which governs all that follows it. Discrimination is restricted by this definition to the matter of ' human rights and fundamental freedoms', not petty things like unisex public lavatories or habits of dress, or even distorting things like equivalent outcomes in every area of our lifestyles and livelihoods or even distractions about some endorsement of affirmative action or some right to claim abortion on demand. These extreme interpretations are nonsense and mischief in the light of Article 1.

For the record, may I add that I am opposed to affirmative action and no one is still alleging that there is anything of this concept in the Bill. Also for the record, as honourable senators may know from our earlier debates, I am opposed to abortion on demand.

I also note that, when the Hawke Government in July ratified the UN Convention on Australia's behalf, it did so with two provisos-firstly, that ratification did not mean Australia's endorsement of paid maternity leave nor, secondly, did it mean Australia's acceptance that women would have combat roles in the defence forces, which is not our practice in Australia. I welcome these two provisos but in any event I sincerely do not believe the Convention actually espouses these outcomes. At worst, the Convention is very indirect on these points and at best neither offers nor requires any prescription for them.

Given the restriction of half an hour on our individual contributions on this second reading debate, I will defer my views on more particular topics to the Committee stage, if necessary, when such matters may be raised-matters such as marital status, access to accommodation, superannuation and life insurance, employment, freedom of religious belief and expression, ownership of land, the activities of clubs, sexual harrassment in the work place, the powers of the Human Rights Commission, the interface of Commonwealth and State laws and the provision for conscientious objection. Other matters may be raised which are even more particular but which have made for anxiety for some.

The case of the New York Fire Department seemed to be quoted all over the place , often wrongly and with bias. That led to false statements being made about it. Likewise, that was the case regarding the employment of women in the United States Army. I refer also to the membership of the United Nations committee relating to the Convention and the scandalous, incorrect, advertisements in our papers; the censorship of books in Australian school libraries and the case of Winnaleah High School; the freedom of association in golf and bowling clubs all over Australia; and the special safeguards to be guaranteed to protect independent schools and freedom of religious belief generally. If any of these or other matters becomes an issue in the Senate let us debate it at the Committee stage in whatever full degree of detail may be necessary. I am not embarrassed by the detailed findings in any area.

I conclude by indicating my support for the principle of the Bill, the Opposition's amendment to the second reading motion and the Opposition's foreshadowed amendments which will be moved at the Committee stage. When I say I support the Bill, I do so subject to the acceptance of the Opposition's second reading amendment and the Opposition's foreshadowed Committee amendments. The Opposition's amendment to the second reading motion is as follows:

At end of motion, add:

', but the Senate, whilst welcoming the intention of the Bill to remove discrimination against people on the basis of their sex, marital status or pregnancy, is of the opinion that:

(a) the Bill should not rely on the external affairs power as a head of power;

(b) Australia's signature to the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women should not be used to extend the powers of the Commonwealth;

(c) the removal of discrimination against people on the basis of sex should be recognised as not obliging anyone to enter the paid work force or alter their view of their responsibilities towards their spouses or children;

(d) no decision or action by any educational or child care or other body established for the education of students or the care of children in accordance with the doctrines of a religion or creed or in accordance with stated principles should be affected where that decision or action has been taken in good faith to enable the body to conform with those doctrines or principles;

(e) nothing in the Bill should be taken as approving those articles of the Convention which are not implemented by the Bill; and

(f) the clauses of the Bill should be re-drafted accordingly'.