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Monday, 13 December 1993
Page: 4387

Senator TROETH —My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women and the Minister for Family Services. I refer specifically to a recent Affirmative Action Agency report that indicates that only 19 per cent of trade union management positions are held by women, despite the fact that women make up 58 per cent of employees; that jobs held by women are likely to have less power and status than those held by men; and that no union has a strategy to address the lack of career paths for women. Given the government's much touted commitment to greater job opportunities for women, can the minister explain the hypocrisy whereby the government's alter ego, the trade unions, has one of the poorest records in promoting women to higher jobs and, indeed, could be seen to be excluding women from senior elected positions?

Senator CROWLEY —I have not seen the report of the Affirmative Action Agency relating to the trade unions, but I do not wish to dispute the figures at all. It depends which way we look at figures as to whether they are moving up or moving down. But there is no way we could take any comfort from those figures and the trade union movement itself does not. Indeed, that is why the ACTU has direct programs and policies setting targets to improve the number of women in the ACTU.

  The climate change that is happening across our country in which we are seeing an increased representation of women in senior positions is being reflected in the union movement, just as it is being reflected in business, in banking and in parliament. Any way that Senator Troeth looks at it, there is no way women in Australia or I as minister could settle for the figures we have at the moment. However, it is also true that those figures indicate certainly that gains have been made to this point and, in the case of the ACTU, goals and targets have been clearly set to ensure that the position improves. The ACTU has clear goals to increase the number of women, just as the Liberal Party has, just as our party has, just as is the case in business and banking.

  I am not strictly the minister for the trade union movement. While I am very happy to take responsibility for the status of women in this country—and I am pleased that Senator Troeth is interested in the outcome of the Affirmative Action Agency report—I will certainly continue to argue for increased representation of women in all forums. But I also admit—certainly I hope Senator Troeth does too—that that is not entirely a government responsibility.

  Finally, we may set the cultural climate, we may set the challenge and we may set the tone, but it is up to some of those organisations—business, the private sector, banking and industry—to follow. However, I point out that this question should have been addressed to the minister responsible for the Affirmative Action Agency, the Minister for Industrial Relations.