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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1140

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. Has the Government given priority in implementation of the affirmative action policy to the advanced education sector? If so, what is the reason for this, and what progress has been made so far towards this goal?

Senator RYAN —Yes; the phasing in arrangements decided on by the Government on affirmative action will involve coverage of the higher education institutions first-that is, we expect to have the legislation passed early next year and higher education institutions will be covered from then. In the next year the coverage will extend to corporations that employ more than 1,000 employees, after that to corporations that employ more than 500 employees, and then, last, to corporations that employ more than 100 employees. The reason for starting with higher education institutions is fundamentally a practical one. Many higher education institutions already have affirmative action programs under way. All institutions in New South Wales are already covered by the New South Wales legislation, although it is the view of representatives of higher education that we should seek to have them covered by Federal legislation when it is enacted. But certainly that will be facilitated by the fact that all institutions in New South Wales are already required to develop affirmative action programs.

It is the case that many other higher education institutions have voluntarily started to develop affirmative action. The processes are well under way and the job for the Government to set up a government monitoring agency and a form of communication with the participants in the program will be easier. It is also a fact that higher education has a very bad record when it comes to equal employment opportunities for women. If one makes a gender analysis of employment in higher education, the results will show that in many cases higher education institutions seem to have worse structural discrimination against women than some corporations, so the need is certainly there to act. There is also unanimous support from unions covering staff in higher education institutions and their co-operation is assured. We believe that the program will be most successfully implemented by starting with those organisations, many of which are already preparing to do this, and where there is widespread support.

Great support was given to the Government's affirmative action pilot program by representatives of both higher education sectors. Professor Michael Birt, Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales and current Chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, and Dr Graham Swain, the representative of the Australian College of Directors and Principals Association, were extremely constructive and gave a great deal of assistance to the work of the working party. So we believe that, in starting with higher education, our policy will be falling on fertile fields.