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Tuesday, 31 August 1993
Page: 636

Senator REYNOLDS —I address my question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. I note that earlier this year the minister launched the publication Women and Media at a national industry forum held by the national working party on the portrayal of women in the media. Can the minister inform us of what progress has been made regarding the portrayal of women in the media?

Senator CROWLEY —In 1988 the government established a national working party to achieve a fairer and more accurate portrayal of women in the media. On 1 July 1993 the national working party's work culminated in a national forum on the portrayal of women in the media. At that forum I was able to launch the women in media kit—

Senator Vanstone —Really exciting news.

Senator CROWLEY —Yes, I think it is very good news because most of those opposite do not know it. I am happy to tell them that that kit conveyed documented evidence—

Senator Vanstone —How long ago is this?

Senator CROWLEY —If Senator Vanstone had been listening, she would know that it was 1 July this year. That kit conveyed the measured evidence that the portrayal of women in the media is still very insufficient in amount and content—to the point where I think all women in this place, if not all honourable senators, should be concerned. I am interested that opposition senators do not seem to be concerned about it.

  I draw Senator Vanstone's attention to a report in the Advertiser about this launch because I think it reflects very much the challenge that faces us when we are looking at the portrayal of women in the media. The report in the Advertiser was written two days after the event. Amongst other things, the editor, Peter Blunden, had this to say about the portrayal of women in the media and, in particular, in the Advertiser:

. . . recent news stories in The Advertiser reflected the diversity—

Senator Newman —I raise a point of order. Mr President, I draw your attention to the position on the Notice Paper of ministerial statements, which this government does not see fit to use very often. The opposition would be very interested to hear the minister tell us what was done back on 1 July. She obviously has just got in touch with it herself; she has only caught up with it. We would like to hear about it in some depth, but not at question time. Mr President, would you ask the minister to defer her statement until the time set aside for ministerial statements?

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Newman is quite aware that that is not a point of order.

Senator CROWLEY —I do know what I am talking about, but Senator Newman does not. She was not there; she did not come. The opposition has just discovered women, so it will take it some time to catch up. Mr Blunden said:

. . . recent news stories in The Advertiser reflected the diversity of women's lives. These included coverage of sexual harassment figures, drug use at menopause, home birthing, de facto rights, older women ending marriages and teenage girls' attitudes to romance.

I say to Mr Blunden, editor of the Advertiser, that that is not what I, or any women, would call a comprehensive coverage of the diversity of women's lives. I am shocked that the opposition does not come in here and object to the Advertiser thinking that that is a comprehensive coverage of what women in the media are about.

  The Advertiser deserves acknowledgment for one thing: its coverage of women's sports is better than that of any other paper in the country. That coverage takes up about 5 per cent of the columns in the newspaper. That is not sufficient either. I give credit to the Advertiser for its sports pages. But if Peter Blunden thinks that litany is a coverage of the diversity of women's lives, we certainly have a challenge ahead of us in the portrayal of women in the media.

  I notice that the opposition has recently discovered the importance of women when it comes to votes. It certainly objected to it in the last election. It was only in July last year that Dr Hewson was saying that the opposition did not have a policy about women so much as a social equity policy with implications for women. In the last election the women of Australia did not want to be implicated by Dr Hewson. The opposition has since realised the error of its ways. If it were sensible, it would listen to what this government has discovered about the portrayal of women in the media. It is an issue that should enjoy the support of the opposition.

  Members of the opposition are now saying that we need a bipartisan approach to issues such as violence against women. I would be much more interested to see them supporting the government in a better portrayal of women in the media than hearing their carping criticism today, which suggests that they are not serious about it.