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Wednesday, 29 February 1984
Page: 135

Senator COATES —Does the Minister for Social Security agree that the term ' dependent female' in the Social Security Act is inappropriate when it refers to a male living with a woman who is working or drawing some other income, such as invalid pension or unemployment benefit? Has the Minister given any thought to changing the terminology so that a male dependant does not have to be claimed as a dependent female? Can the Minister propose changes to the legislation to neutralise those terms and otherwise desex the Social Security Act in the spirit of the Sex Discrimination Bill?

Senator GRIMES —Like Senator Coates, I believe the term 'dependent female' applied when there is a male partner. Such a relationship is not only inappropriate but is also quite ridiculous. I might add I am not the only one who thinks so. Judge Fitzgerald, in a Federal Court judgment in October last year or the year before last in what was known as the Linehan case, said that he suspected also that the term was offensive to many people. I am pleased to say that I and my Department at the moment are removing the term from the Act and, as soon as possible, probably this session, I would expect, when we introduce a Social Security Amendment Bill which includes technical amendments of this type, and will replace it with terminology consistent with the terms used in the Sex Discrimination Bill which was passed through this place in 1983. It will make no practical difference to the payments made to such people, but it will remove the misleading description from the situation. I do not know about desexing and whether that is a good term for what we are doing to the legislation, but we are certainly trying to remove discrimination from the legislation.