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Tuesday, 8 October 1996
Page: 3634


Senator PATTERSON —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. As the minister would be aware, at the Labor Party's New South Wales annual conference over the weekend, Labor again admitted that they have no hope of meeting their promise of preselecting women for 35 per cent of their safe seats by the year 2002. As former Labor federal MP and former minister Jeanette McHugh said at the conference:

It has become a huge humiliation and embarrassment for Labor every time they fail to preselect a woman.

What has the Howard government done in this regard, and what actions has the government taken to advance the cause of women?


Senator NEWMAN —I thank Senator Patterson for her question. She has long been interested in and concerned with trying to get women into politics. She is a classic example of why women of ability should be encouraged to come into parliament. In fact, on this side of politics we are very proud of the large numbers of women who have come in on our side of the parliament.

But, of course, it is true that Labor has no chance of getting 35 per cent of their safe seats by the year 2002. The New South Wales Minister for the Environment—

Opposition senators interjecting


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator NEWMAN —Madam President, they do not like to hear the quotes. But the New South Wales Minister for the Environment, Ms Pam Allan, said just at the weekend:

Federally we have failed miserably to promote women. Meanwhile the Liberals managed to put a clutch of women into marginal Labor seats at the last federal election.

Also, as Senator Patterson has just said, Jeanette McHugh, a former Labor federal minister, said that it has become a huge humiliation and embarrassment for Labor every time they fail to preselect a woman. That is why we get such a noise on the other side when there is anything to do with the representation of women. There may be a chance, of course, that they will try to put a woman into Holt if the current incumbent disappears from there. But they have not done much good so far.

We have had Jeanette McHugh retiring, replaced by Anthony Albanese; David Simmons retired, preselected Robert Allan, won by Peter Andren independent; Wendy Fatin retired, replaced by Kim Beazley; Michael Duffy retired, replaced by Gareth Evans; Chris Haviland retired, preselected Lowry, won by John Fahey for the Libs; Brian Howe retired, replaced by Martin Ferguson; Eric Fitzgibbon retired, replaced by Joel Fitzgibbon; Gary Punch retired, replaced by Robert McClelland; Ben Humphreys retired, preselected Kevin Rudd—and that was a seat that was actually won by Graeme McDougall for the Liberals; Peter Staples retired, replaced by Jenny Macklin—one woman; Ross Gorman retired, replaced by Frank Mossfield; Alan Griffiths retired replaced by Bob Sercombe; Paul Keating retired replaced by Mike Hatton. I hope I have the time to finish. Of 13 ALP members, including two women members, who retired at or since the last election, in only one case—that is Jenny Macklin—was a woman preselected to replace the retiring member. That is one out of 13.

By comparison, our side of parliament now has women coming on and on and on. We have four women in the ministry, two of them in the cabinet. We have yourself, Madam President, the first woman elected President of the Senate. We have acted; we have not gone on with rhetoric as the Labor Party has done. We have given support to women. We have preselected them. But we have first of all encouraged them to come forward and get the support of the party in applying for preselection and in fighting their campaigns. They have been given the opportunity.

We are going to win one of our women back into the parliament shortly in the Lindsay by-election—Jackie Kelly. It is a Labor man who is whingeing about losing the seat to a Liberal woman. We are going to show that that Liberal woman, who has well represented her electorate for the last seven months, is going to come back here with renewed force and vigour. The Labor Party likes to shout because there is such embarrassment. We have had Jennie George. What was Senator Belinda Neal's husband telling them at the weekend? Didn't he tell them to go away or get lost or something? We have supported our women. (Time expired)


Senator Harradine —Madam President, on a point of order: is Senator Newman's reference to coalition women members as a `clutch of women' parliamentary? I have heard of a clutch of ducks but I have not heard of a clutch of women.


The PRESIDENT —I shall take advice from my colleagues as to whether or not they regard it as offensive and advise you privately later, Senator Harradine.