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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3338

Senator HARRADINE(10.16) —The introduction of the Sex Discrimination Bill (No. 2) calls for some comment from me, despite the fact that I spoke on the second reading stage of the former Bill. This, in effect, is a new Bill and, because it has picked up some of the amendments sought, it does really call for some response from those of us who had been involved in discussions on the subject and had been involved in a deep study of the matter in the hope that the legislation could be so amended as would enable those of us who have a commitment to the abolition of sex discrimination and a commitment to a range of other values to support the measure. I wish to acknowledge the work that has been done and the courtesy that has been shown by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) and I assume, naturally, by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women (Senator Ryan)-

Senator Crowley —A natural assumption.

Senator HARRADINE —I said that-in the discussions that took place. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General were present, but no doubt the Minister, in the background, was conscious of these matters. I acknowledge their work and their attempt to understand some of the concerns that had been raised and to overcome some of those concerns. They have achieved this only partially, however , and it is my hope that they will see their way clear to come up with other amendments which will get rid of the problems that some people genuinely see. The people who genuinely see those problems do not see them as being in any way associated with bona fide moves to outlaw discrimination against women. I will discuss those points briefly, but before I do it is essential to say something about the question of affirmative action. It was my hope that the Minister may have seen her way clear to bring down the Green Paper on affirmative action so that it could be considered in the whole context of this matter.

Senator Crowley —It would be confusing.

Senator HARRADINE —That may or may not be. We have been pretty confused up to this time. But I think it would have been of assistance to honourable senators, who recognise, as the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs said, that there would be need for further legislative action after consideration of the Green Paper had been completed. I will just mention, for the benefit of the Senate, why I am saying this and why I feel that even at this late stage it would be important, not only for the people who are opposed to sex discrimination legislation and the people who support the outlawing of sex discrimination but also for the people who support fully the Bill that is before us. I think it would be of importance if the Green Paper were brought down for discussion. The original private member's Bill which was introduced into this chamber on 26 November 1981 by the present Minister contained provisions for affirmative action. The explanatory memorandum which accompanied that Bill stated:

The Bill establishes that various organisations must establish affirmative action plans for women employees-

It went on:

. . . A Director of Affirmative Action is established to advise on the planning and implementing of these affirmative action plans.

That is on page 2 of the explanatory memorandum which accompanied that Bill. Honourable senators will recall that most of what the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills had to say in criticism of that private member's Bill was directed to those affirmative action provisions, particularly in connection with-and I list them:

the absence of review of the guidelines (for affirmative action);

the absence of a statement as to what the 'objects' of that Part of the Bill were;

the absence of provision for a warrant for entry to premises-not just public premises but 'the premises of private bodies'; and

no rights of appeal or compensation in regard to cancellation of contracts.

Now let us come to this year. In a joint statement issued by Senator Ryan and by the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, on 11 May 1983 headed 'Sex discrimination legislation for present sitting of Parliament' the Attorney- General and the Minister said-and this was in the shape of an accouncement-that there would be a 'change in the order of events' and that the affirmative action provisions would be preceded by a Green Paper setting out options for further legislation. I repeat that-it is in the third last paragraph-Senator Ryan and Senator Gareth Evans said that in addition to introducing the Sex Discrimination Bill the Government would be issuing a Green Paper setting out options for further legislation which would provide for affirmative action programs to ensure equal employment opportunities. That was in May 1983. This announcement was in fact repeated in the Minister's second reading speech on the Sex Discrimination Bill, which was made to this Parliament on 2 June 1983. On the matter of affirmative action I refer to an article in the Australian Financial Review dated 7 October 1983 in which it was revealed that the contents of the discussion paper were available. The article stated:

In November the Federal Government will release a green paper on affirmative action for women. It-

that is the Federal Government-

plans to bring in legislation in the first parliamentary session next year.

The article then went on to state:

Affirmative action will get its first airing in November when a green paper is due to be released to engender awareness of the issue and it is anticipated a bill will be put through the first session of Parliament next year . . .

The green paper is being prepared for Senator Ryan's office by lawyer Chris Ronalds . . .

The contents of the discussion paper are a closely guarded secret.

This Green Paper was to have been released in November, but on 9 November Senator Ryan, in reply to a question in this chamber, said that although she had a draft of the paper of affirmative action she did not intend to make the draft public 'until the sex discrimination legislation is enacted'. I think the Minister sees affirmative action as part and parcel of the one aim, to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sex and to right the situations that occur in some areas relating to that matter. If that is so, I believe it would be of benefit to honourable senators and indeed to the Minister's own cause if she could see her way clear to release that discussion paper so that honourable senators and the public could study it in the context of the whole range of legislation that it might evoke and in the context of this legislation. Senator Janine Haines, the Australian Democrat spokesman on women's affairs, said as far back as 13 May:

Lack of understanding about how affirmative action for women works is no justification for excluding this important programme from Senator Susan Ryan's Sex Discrimination Bill.

She was clearly of the view, which I do not necessarily agree with as I have not seen what the Green Paper states, that some such legislation was required and it should have been included in this Sex Discrimination Bill. So it is my view that the Minister, in her own interests and in the interests of the whole of the program, should release this Green Paper.

Let me go on to the matters that I believe are now outstanding. Whilst acknowledging the effort that has been put into this by the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister, may I deal briefly with matters that I believe really need clarification, on the one hand, an amendment in the legislation, on the other, before it is, in my view, an acceptable piece of legislation which cannot be used for purposes other than those for which it was designed, namely, the outlawing of sex discrimination.

Debate interrupted.