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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2796


Senator PETER BAUME(4.15) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The Opposition parties welcome the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) made last week in the House of Representatives. It is a pity that we each have only five minutes to speak to it now. There is no doubt that the history of women in Australia has been one of repressed economic, social and political status. The agenda which the Prime Minister has put down is an attempt to overcome some of the disadvantages faced by women. For the last decade the governments of the world have joined together to acknowledge and to alleviate this problem. The Prime Minister's statement comes soon after the official ending of the United Nations Decade for Women. For much of that decade the Liberal and National parties were in government in this country. Our record is one of contribution towards overcoming some of the problems and the achievement of some of the goals which many women have sought.

In our society, women have traditionally taken on the responsibility for the young and for the family-the role of carer and of nurturer. Our parties maintain that a recognition of the maternal and child caring and rearing role which women have undertaken is very important not only to society but also because it has a very important cultural, economic and social significance of its own. We recognise those facts, but there is no doubt that women have found it more difficult to achieve equal opportunity because of the role which they have taken on. I refer to the double role which many women are forced to undertake if they wish to discharge their duties and to participate fully in other avenues which society can offer.

The maternal and caring role has led to special social and financial burdens for women. The Opposition understands this and wishes to be part of any reasonable steps which can overcome those problems. These burdens have not always been adequately shared by men. For example, the role of home maker, the nurturing role and the caring role are often left to women, and those roles are not seen as something in which many men need to be or should be involved.

I am proud to belong to a party which has had so much involvement over the last decade in the advancement of women's opportunities. It was the Liberal Party which in 1976 which established the Office of Child Care, introduced the family allowance scheme which moved money from the wallet to the purse for the first time, set up special women's units in a number of government departments, altered the Superannuation Acts to make new arrangements for equal provisions for women public servants and established the women's film fund. In 1977 it was the Liberal Government which established the National Women's Advisory Council, and in 1978 it established the home rehabilitation services section in the Office of Women's Affairs. We established shop-front information offices between 1979 and 1983 and we increased and improved the benefit for supporting parents, most of whom are women who have become supporting parents as a result of family breakdown.

The Party to which I belong at the moment happens to have women presidents in its two largest divisions. I refer also to Jenny Adamson in South Australia. She has been a Cabinet Minister and is one of the prominent members of the South Australian Parliament. Many women have been active politically in our Party.

The only thing I want to say in the few seconds remaining is that we are aware of the strains of the double role which many women bear. We are aware of the importance of providing adequate child care. We are aware of the issue of equal employment opportunity. All of these issues need to be addressed if some of the goals laid down by the Prime Minister are to be achieved. As Mr Howard said, and as I want to say now, the Opposition wishes to participate as far as it is able in the achievement of those goals. There will be disagreements on detail, but to the extent that we can establish a bipartisan approach on some of the goals of equal opportunity for women, the Opposition wishes to be part of that effort.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I call Senator Crowley.


Senator Georges —Show him that you can be magnanimous.