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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2798

Senator WALTERS(4.25) —It is with pleasure that I speak on this National Agenda For Women. I am very disappointed that I have been unable to find in the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) any words in support of women who choose to stay at home.

Senator Crowley —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I have to refer to that comment by Senator Walters. It is a blatant untruth; it is in the document.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! That is not a point of order.

Senator WALTERS —There is no mention of that section of women who choose to stay at home during their children's formative years and to act as a stabilising influence for their families. There are 10 points outlining what the Government has done, but not one of those 10 points that have been put forward has supported women at home. The Government padded out the points and talked about all sorts of things, such as the Sex Discrimination Act, to which Senator Crowley referred, but it did not mention that the whole of the Sex Discrimination Bill had to be rewritten at the instigation of the Opposition. Indeed, the Government still has not got it right because the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has been forced to discard certain sections of that piece of legislation.

The Government then referred to affirmative action, but it did not mention that the unions have not yet fallen into line and that there are still some sections where sons of union members are the first put on. I will not go through all of this because I do not have time, but there is no reference in that 10-point plan to women who stay at home and bring up their children during their formative years. On page 3 of the National Agenda for Women the Government talks in a derogatory way about women who stay at home. The wording states that we must be free to achieve economic independence through employment to escape from poverty and dependence. I do not believe that this is the way that women generally see their role in our community. I believe that we do not see ourselves as victims of a male-dominated society. I believe that we see ourselves as partners in a family team and in a work force team. Our status is gained, just as the status of men is gained, via our contribution to that team. Our status derives from the quality of our work, the quality of our family, and the quality of our social life.

I believe that most women see their children as a parental responsibility, not as the Government's responsibility or an employer's responsibility. We do not accept that a woman's status is diminished or her contribution to society lessened by making a choice to join the part time work force or by making a choice not to enter the paid work force. I believe that the current feminist ideology makes it look as though women are in some way inferior if they work fewer hours for less money than men. That is a veiw which assumes, or pretends, that women in the part time work force, no work force or a lower paid work force are being discriminated against. The view held by women is that they are making their choices and they are balancing their degree of responsibility in the paid and unpaid work force with responsibility to their families. The view of the feminists denies the concept of choice and freedom of choice.

It has always been Liberal Party philosophy to support equal opportunity, along with two other basic tenets-freedom of choice and the value of individual choice. The Government does not understand the concept of real choice. If the Government did understand the need for women to have a real choice it would introduce income splitting and allow women to have a real opportunity to make a choice as to whether to stay home and bring up their families or to enter the paid work force. For the Prime Minister to say, in a derogatory fashion, that economic independence is the most important thing for women to enable them to escape from poverty and dependence, I believe, is a disgrace.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.