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Friday, 16 December 1983
Page: 3985


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women)(1.40) -Mr Chairman, the Government does not accept the amendments moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Martin for the reasons really that I think were set out very clearly by Senator Haines. The added responsibility that a woman complaining of sexual harassment should have made clear her views, I think, does misrepresent the nature of sexual harassment. Many of the women we are hoping will be protected by this legislation are women who may be migrants and have a poor command of English, or be very young or be in a very inferior position in the work force and would not be in a position to articulate in a way that the harasser found reasonable her objection. Senator Martin agrees that this is often a very difficult thing to do, even when extremely articulate women are doing it. So I think Senator Haines's point about the difficulties this would create for women is our view also. But I would point out too that in both of the clauses to which Senator Martin has moved amendments it is required that the other person has reasonable grounds for believing that a rejection of the advance would disadvantage that person in connection with his or her employment or in connection with his or her education. So it is not just social sexual harassment, it is harassment in connection which would cause disadvantage in employment and education. Obviously a man, or maybe a woman-but it is more likely to be a man-who was doing that, knowing that he could cause disadvantage to that person's education or employment could not be acting innocently in that situation. So for those reasons the amendments are not acceptable to the Government.