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Friday, 16 December 1983
Page: 3997


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women)(2.48) -The Government will not accept Senator Harradine's amendment because it undermines the basic purpose of the Sex Discrimination Bill. The Bill says that persons do not have the right to discriminate on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy in the areas covered by the Bill. Senator Harradine's amendment, as Senator Missen has pointed out, seeks to reverse that situation and to provide that one does have the right to discriminate if one's conscience tells one that women are inferior, unable to be trusted, or anything else. I use the analogy of the Racial Discrimination Act. Senator Harradine said it would be a dreadful thing if a person could not follow his conscience and discriminate against people in order to protect his business. Everybody knows that when the Racial Discrimination Act was enacted some hotel proprietors said: 'Well, we don 't want to allow Aborigines into our pubs because it might be bad for business'. That is not accepted as proper objection under the Racial Discrimination Act, nor will we accept here that a conscientiously held belief that women are inferior and can be--


Senator Harradine —That is nonsense, Senator, and you know it. We are talking about whether people are shacked up together or, whether, for example, they are genuine married couples. That is what you are talking about in regard to the care of children. Now, face the facts.


Senator RYAN —Senator Harradine knows that in the case of the residential care of children there is an exemption. There are numerous exemptions in this Bill to provide for when it is important for people to be able to employ married couples for a particular purpose. But in general the Bill is about providing that there shall not be discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy, even if an employer believes that women are inferior or that married women should stay at home and not be entitled to earn income in the paid work force. Under this legislation that conscientiously held belief cannot be used to deny a person's right to employment. Therefore, Senator Harradine's amendment is not acceptable to the Government.