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The Australian Labor Party and Australian women

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1. INTRODUCTION : Purpose of Paper 1


3. AUSTRALIA -.1980 : The Realities of the Present 6

Changing Roles of Men and Women 6

Development of the Australian Family 7

Government Support for Families 8 Women and the Family : The Dangers of Fanaticism 11

New Approaches to Old Problems: 13

Unpaid Work of Women in the Home 13 Being Married is Not a Job - Marriage - Parenthood 16

Better Services for Women v. Lower Taxes for All 17

Affirmative Action 18

Moving Forward : A Broader Role for Women 19/20

4. THE FRASER GOVERNMENT'S RECORD Attacks on Women and the Family 20


Office of the Status of Women


Labor Philosophy 25

Jobs for Women 26

Equality of Employment Opportunity 28 Anti-discrimination Legislation 31 Administrative Measures 32

Education/Training 33

Other Factors Affecting Female Employment: 33

Part-time Work 33

Parental Leave 34

Child Care 35

Women in Trade Unions 36

Labor Commitments 36



•Labor Philosophy 37

Supporting Mothers' Benefit 38

Family Allowances


Unemployment Benefits for Married Women 38

Superannuation, Compensation and Rehabilitation 40



.Labor Commitments



Labor Philosophy


Women and Girls in Education 43

The Current Situation Female Students 44

Education as an Area of Employment for Women 45

Rural Education


Education. and Technological Change 47

Labor Commitments 49



Labor Philosophy


Women and Health


Labor Commitments




Labor Philosophy


Housing for Women


Labor Commitments




Labor Philosophy


Women and the Media


Labor Commitments 57,


Anti-discrimination Legislation


Legal Aid


Rape Law Reform







The expectations of Australian women have risen sharply in recent years. Women themselves made an enormous contribution to a long period of economic growth and affluence in the post-war period and, in doing so, experienced both economic and social gains. It was this experience, combined with greater participation in education and employment, which shaped their expectations that progress will continue towards a society where rewards and burdens will be shared more equitably between women and men and where their capacities will be used more effectively.

Developing Policies to Advance the Economic and Social Status of Women

The purpose of this discussion paper is to develop policy options for a future ALP government, which will express the Labor Party's determination to advance the status of women. Issues affecting women

are discussed in the light of ALP philosophy, in order to clarify the responses women, could expect from a future Labor government. Some of the proposals outlined will not necessarily constitute a blueprint for Labor government action. But they are significant issues on which the ALP wishes to promote widespread discussion before proceeding with developments and reforms.

Many of the issues discussed concern all members of society and rightly belong in the political arena. The traditional distribution of rights and


responsibilities, status, wealth and influence between the sexes must be challenged by a reforming government.

The Australian Labor Party is a party of reform, committed to securing the equal rights of all working people to jobs, to leisure and to protection from exploitation and discrimination. Within its own organisation, the ALP is at present exploring ways of increasing women's participation and influence,

following its recent open inquiry into party structure.

Consequently, this paper will not concern itself with internal party matters. Rather, it is concerned with the development of policies which will free women and men to work together for a secure and

fulfilling life in both the private and public spheres.

Many of the problems discussed in this paper are not new. Moreover, they are not confined to Australia but exist in most countries, rich and poor. The Australian experience is typical of most developed nations. Women's lower levels of education,

their career aspirations depressed by social conditioning, their unshared obligation to care for the dependent, their concentration in a narrow

range of occupations with relatively poor conditions and low rates of pay all contribute to the high incidence of poverty, dependence and unemployment•

among women.

Across the world, women constitute half the population and perform nearly two-thirds of work hours but receive only one-tenth of world income, according to the 1979 State of the World's Women , a UN report for its Decade for Women.

What can be done to reduce or eliminate such inequalities?

A future Labor government would be strongly committed to finding answers, in the Australian context, for this question now being asked of governments and political parties around the world.


In this task, the Labor Party would draw on the strengths, interests and energies of Australian women, acknowledging their long-standing contribution through many active organisations. Over 150 national women's organisations are currently active in Australia. Many of these groups such as the Country Women's Association, the Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the National Council of Women, Women's Electoral Lobby, Women's Liberation groups, and

the YWCA have made an important contribution. In addition, there is a high proportion of active women in such organisations as residents' action groups, environment protection groups, consumer groups, parents and citizens organisations, religious groups, charitable bodies, sporting bodies, art and craft groups, family planning associations! The Australian Labor Party does not share the view that women are passive by temperament or politically inactive.

In the following discussion, it is assumed that women as a heteregoneous group in Australia face many common problems.. At the same time, particular groups of women have especially severe problems. Aboriginal women, some migrant women, disabled women and women who are geographically isolated all face, in a more acute form, the problems outlined later in this discussion in regard to employment, education, housing and health. Moreover, they experience special difficulties in making their voices heard, and are under-represented in the decision-making which affects their lives.

Specialised forms of consultation are required so that policies can be developed to meet their special needs.


The ALP has already demonstrated, when in government, its commitment to replacing myth and habit with objective, solid evidence on which to build policies which meet community needs. During the Whitlam years, the Labor Party showed its capacity


to respond to the ideas and initiatives of women themselves. A future Labor government would develop this capacity, since it is women themselves who are primarily responsible for expressing and realising their own hopes.

Towards the end of the 60's, a new public consciousness developed about the condition of women in Australian society. Both women and men began to express their concern at the degree of pervasive discrimination against women, and at the prejudice and neglect they faced in the community. Attitudes began to change, women began to move once more towards

their goals of equality, security and independence.

It was in this climate that the Whitlam government demonstrated its commitment to changing some of the rules which had depressed the status of women.

Having regained office, the Liberal Party was forced to recognise the new expectations of women.

to the extent of setting up the National Women's Advisory Council.

But the Australian Labor Party's commitment to women began long before the 1970's. The ALP has always been concerned with seeking advancement for the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the dependent.

In its earliest days, the Labor movement worked for universal adult suffrage and helped to pass it into

Federal law.

The widows' pension was an early goal of the Labor movement also. Child endowment was included in the 1890 Platform of the Australian Labor Federation and first introduced by a Labor government in New South Wales. In 1912 the Fisher government introduced the Maternity Allowance Act, which gave ,J5 to the mother on. the birth of each

child. Though this allowance eroded in value over the years, it remained of particular benefit to mothers with low incomes, until it was discontinued by the Fraser government in 1978.


It was the Curtin Government which introduced widows pensions in 1942, for widows and those in a comparable plight -- deserted wives, divorcees, wives of mental patients and deserted de facto wives. This benefit was extended to prisoners' wives by the Chifley Government in 1947.

But it was during the years of the Whitlam Government, 1972 to 1975 that important steps were taken towards the goal of true equality in our community. Labor's initiatives in health, education, social security, housing, child care, industrial and income policy and human rights were of general benefit to men, women and children. But certain measures were aimed at repairing gaps and deficiencies and redressing

injustices in areas directly affecting women:

Some of these were:

* provision of the supporting mothers benefit;

* the, extension of the adult minimum wage to women; (indeed the re-opening of the national wage case in December 1972 was one of the principal reasons Labor formed a Government as soon as possible after polling day 1972;)

* the ratification of the I.L.O. 1958 Convention on discrimination in employment and occupation and the I.L.O. 1951 Convention on equal remuneration and the U.N. 1953 Convention on the political rights of women;

* the establishment of committees to investigate discrimination in the employment of women in each state;

* the appointment of women to senior statutory and judicial positions;

* the establishment of the Women's Section in the Prime Minister's Department and statutory bodies;

* by setting up of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships headed by a woman judge;


* the establishment of women's health centres

and refuges;


the establishment of pre-school and child care programs catering for 100,000 children;

* the introduction of the Family Law Act which recognised the contribution made by women in the home to the property and assets of a marriage;

* the setting up of the Family Court with its counselling facilities to help resolve marital problems;

* participation in International Women's Year;

* the inquiry into the educational needs of women and girls which presented a report in 1975 -- "Girls, School and Society";

* the provision of maternity and paternity leave for Commonwealth employees;

* the removal of sales tax on oral contraceptives and increased levels of funding for family planning.

Much was achieved during these years. It would be an exaggeration to say that the actual position of women was trans-formed, the prejudices laid to rest, the unequal rules all changed. But a good start was made.


The Chanqinq Roles of Women and Men

The roles of women and men in Australian society have undergone changes in the past and are continuing to change. For some, these changes come too slowly. They regard with frustration and impatience the gap between present reality

and the goal of equality. For others, these changes are too fast, bringing with them tensions and insecurities, fears that women and men will lose their traditional social and economic identities.

The nature and extent of change is often misunderstood.

For instance, the workforce participation of women is higher today than it was at the turn of the century -- but not so much higher as is often imagined. In 1901, the participation rate of women

was 31%. By 1978 it was 44%. The dramatic increase in workforce

participation has occurred among married women. But this

reflects the growing popularity of marriage as well as a change in the behaviour of married women. More women now marry and they marry younger than they did eighty years ago.

These developments are little understood by those who see women's paid work as a threat to marriage and the home.

Some tensions are inevitable. Few of the advances made by women have ever been uncontentious. It is difficult to believe today the absurd fears, the spectres of social breakdown, which once accompanied women's entree to such common activities as voting; studies for the professions; public bathing; and cycling. The female pioneers of birth control were-persecuted.

The Development of the Australian Family

It is quite misleading to portray the traditional Australian family as a re-run or update.of thestandard American TV family of the 1950's. The Australian-family in its varied forms has survived many changes in its short history, dating

from the early days of the colony when it has been estimated that 2/3 of all children were born outside marriage.

A long-standing inequality in the sex ratio in the early days, the gold rushes, the opening and shutting of other mining centres across the continent, the great depressions of the 1890's and the 1930's -- all effectively cut a proportion of Australian women and children off from two-parent family

life in one generation after another. The support of an extended family network was no more widely available to many young parents in our past, who had migrated away from their families overseas, than it is today. Australian rural life in particular has presented a harsh challengeto'families down

the years, as our literary and art history "attests.

The fact that fewer parents die young has been a stabilizing influence for the modern family. But, on the other hand, formal separation and divorce have grown more common, so that the traditional high incidence of 'single parent families in Australia has persisted.


In this century, Australian society has changed from one where a number of women gave birth to many children to one where many more women now give birth to fewer children each. Thus, while marriage and parenthood are more widely enjoyed by Australians now than earlier this century, their

families are smaller.

The family is still popularly assumed to consist of a married man, his wife and children -- all dependent on his income fairly shared between them. But the Family Survey (ABS, May 1975) and the last census (ABS, June 1976) provide

the latest figures available and show that:

In over 50% of Australian families there are no

dependent children.

• The two-parent family where a mother stays at home full-time with dependent children represents only 20% of all Australian families, and less than half of all families with dependent children.

In around half the two-parent families with dependent children, both parents work.

• There are more two-income families in Australia than those with a single income.

Government Support for Families

The Australian Labor Party believes that support for

families must be based on the needs of all families. Family policies should not favour one type of family over another.

Among the families most in need are large families dependent on one relatively low wage; and families headed by pensioners and beneficiaries. Around 97% of all those on single supporting.

parents' benefits are women. A vast majority of all single parent families are headed by women. It is vital to ensure that their struggle to raise families should not be intensified by community disapproval because they do not conform to a particular

norm or ideal. It needs to be recognised that, in every generation,

many fine Australians have grown up in households headed by

single parents.

It is also necessary to recognise the needs of families

in which women and men share the financial burdens of raising their children. For many this is a matter of economic survival;


for some it is a matter of choice, a conscious decision by both parents to share the burdens and rewards of family life more equitably. Where the two incomes are low, the working hours long, the child care costs high, such families are under great pressure.

Similarly, the family on one inadequate income faces.

many strains, affecting both the wage-earner and the parent who remains, often isolated, at home to care for children.

A Labor Government will base its family support system, including taxation, on the principle of meeting basic needs. Families on low incomes will receive income support through the Family Income Supplement. The Labor Party's policies will identify and help the families in greatest need, whether working or on social services.

The following table shows the earnings of low income families in relation to the poverty line:-


Otte Income Family (b) Earning $140 p.w. + 2 children

+ 3 children

+ 4 children

+ 5 children

Larrii^ $160 p.w.

+ 3 children

+ 4 children

+ 5 children

Earning $180 p.w.

+ 4 children

+ 5 children

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(Incorporating tax changes announced by the Treasurer, 6 March 1980, and pension increases in May 1980. Poverty lines are adjusted to June 1980.)

D19POSABLE INCOME(a) Relative to Poverty Line Dec. 1979 July 1980

$ $

138.34 143.80

(74C above pov. line) (on pov. line) 144.34 149.80

(12.96 below) (14.80 below)

150.34 155.80

(26.66 below) (29.20 below)

157.34 162.80

(38.46 below) (41.80 below)

157.73 163.40

(43C above) (1.20 below)

163.73 169.40

(13.27 below) (15.60 below)

170.73 176.40

(25.07 below) (28.20 below)

177.12 182.99

(12C above) (2.01 below)

184.12 189.99

(11.68 below) (14.61below)

2. Pensioners - Married

+ 2 children

+ 3 children

+ 4 children

+ 5 children

120.00 (3.70 below) 133.50 (9.90 below)

147.00 (16.40 below) 161.50 (20.60 below)


(4.60 below) 138.70 (12.20 below) 152.20 (18.60 below)


(11.90 below)

3. S e t Pensioners

On Maximum Pension

+ 1 child

+ 2 children

+ 3 children

+ 4 children

+ 5 children


(5.20 below) 87.40 (12.70 below) 100.90 (18.90 below)

114.40 (25.10 below) 128.90 (30.30 below)


(5.65 below) 90.55 (14.05 below) 104.05 (21.15 below)


(28.25 below) 132..05 (34.35 below)

4. Unc_mp1o1 ed (Married) 153.30 162.25 + 5 children (28.80 below) (26.35 below) (Single) 122.90 126.05 + 5 children (36.30 below) (40.35 below) (a)After-tax income plus family allowances - that ^is, income available for family support. (b) The Darned income figures given are all above the minimum income which was $129.50 in .January 1980.

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Women and the Family: A Healthy Concern - Not Unhealthy Fanaticism

Australian Labor Party philosophy is based on a belief that women and men can and should co-operate fully in social, economic, political and home life.

However, governments are now coming under pressure from.

articulate, highly organised groups with conservative political connections, who are deeply opposed to equality between the sexes and who are determined to frustrate progress towards this goal. In particular, they oppose

the equality of the sexes within home and . family --disguising their efforts to restrict and to confine women as 'pro-family' policies.

This opposition to the advancement and integration of women in society is merely one facet of a firmly entrenched national and international reactionary movement opposed to the sharing of knowledge and influence, and dedicated to preserving elitism, whether in the spheres of education, politics or the home. Such groups play on the insecurities, fears and tensions which accompany all changes, whether in the workforce, in schools or in homes. In Australia, these fears are • quite ruthlessly fanned by disreputable and irresponsible

sections of the media, especially in regard to women's changing roles. Women's issue are ignored or trivialised, undue prominence given to the views of extremist minorities. At the same time, the serious.: issues which

trouble and divide women politically are not;.explored.

Irrational Fears

While some of the fears associated with social change must be recognised, irrational superstitions and prejudices cannot be allowed to obstruct" effective policy development One sadly confused and ill-informed group, curiously called 'Women Who Want to be Women' preaches that equality is unnatural, and confuses equality of opportunity with sexual transformation. Women do not turn into men when they receive a broader education,

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higher wages or better conditions; they are more likely to become healthier, happier women. Moreover, these

extremist groups are often headed by women whose purpose is to deny to any other women many of the choices they have themselves exercised.

While it is tempting for the Australian Labor Party to ignore the activities of fanatical, conserva-tive groups from whom is is so unlikely ever to attract a single vote, this discussion paper does provide an opportunity to set out the Labor Party's rejection of

the impoverished and limited notions of equality they put forward. Take the constant bombardment of both Houses of. Federal Parliament asking that a national women's advisory body.should be abolished on the grounds that

"men do not have such a body". This objection ignores the fact that Australian women are not yet the equals of men in political representation, power and influence, and disguises an attempt •to preserve women's inferior political status. The view that the road to equality.

lies in treating everybody equally has long been discredited. 'True equality between groups that are different in any way can be attained only by providing

for the differences' (Margaret Mead)

Another ploy used by such groups in discussing the advancement of women is a separatist argument, which concentrates on equality among women themselves, rather than on their progress towards full equality in

the wider society. Thus, it is depicted as 'unfair' that women in the workforce receive a wage while full-time housewives do not. This sort of argument under-lies support for tax penalties against working women.

Similarly, maternity leave is opposed. It is argued that working women should not have maternity leave because it is not available to women in the home. In what precise way it is expected that women in the home will gain any advantage from a reduction in the industrial , entitlements of other women remains

unclear. It is worth noting that while the economic gains of women in paid employment compared to women in the home disturb these vociferous groups greatly, they

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higher wages or better conditions; they are more likely to become healthier, happier women. Moreover, these extremist groups are often headed by women whose purpose is to deny to any other women many of the choices they have themselves exercised.

While it is tempting for the Australian Labor Party to ignore the activities of fanatical, conserva-tive groups from whom is is so unlikely ever to attract a single vote, this discussion paper does provide an opportunity to set out the Labor Party's rejection of

the impoverished and limited notions of equality they put forward. Take the constant bombardment of both

Houses of Federal Parliament asking that a national women's advisory body should be abolished on the grounds that "men do not have such a body". This objection ignores the fact that Australian women are not yet the equals of men in political representation, power and influence,

and disguises an attempt to preserve women's inferior political status. The view that the road to equality lies in treating everybody equally has long been discredited. 'True equality between groups that are different in any way can be attained only by providing for the differences' (Margaret Mead)

Another ploy used by such groups in discussing the advancement of women is a separatist argument, which concentrates on equality among women themselves, rather than on their progress towards full equality in

the wider society. Thus, it is depicted as 'unfair' that women in the workforce receive a wage while full-time housewives do not. This sort of argument under-lies support for tax penalties against working women.

Similarly, maternity leave is opposed. It is argued that working women should not have maternity leave because it is not available to women in the home. In what precise way it is expected that women in the home will gain any advantage from a reduction in the industrial. entitlements of other women remains unclear. It is worth noting that while the economic gains of women in paid employment compared to women in

the home disturb these vociferous groups greatly, they


are never heard to protest at the vast disparities

between rich and poor. They will never suggest that • rich men with private incomes should leave the workforce

to create jobs for others - only married women are required to make this sacrifice.

The Australian Labor Party rejects the view that family life is in decay, or that equality for women poses a threat to the family. An unnecessary, illogical insistence on biological differences between women and men is socially impractical, divisive and backward-looking in today's society and wasteful of the many capacities of both. The family in which partners share a mutual respect for each other as individuals is likely to provide a richer life for all its members than one in which each partner is bound by a stereo-typed view of pre-determined roles. Through increased support to families, leading to a wider range of choices for all members, a Labor government would reduce many of the tensions now (causing hardship and distress.

New Approaches to Ol;d Problems

While there are many areas in which Labor has undertaken to act when elected to office, there are other areas in which the ALP recognises a need for realistic effective policy development, but on which more widespread discussion is needed before this can occur. These are matters which may require solutions' over time. The most pressing of the problems discussed here is the need to secure better conditions for women working in the home.

The Unpaid Work of Women in the Home

The Australian Labor Party is founded on a recognition of the need to improve the conditions of all workers, to prothct them from exploitation, and to secure their rights to leisure.

The most enduring disadvantage for women is their responsibilitylfor a disproportionate share of the unpaid work in the society. For workers in the home, mainly women, there is no relationship whatsoever

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between the amount/value of work done and the remuner-ation received. This unpaid work in the home is often done by those women who also have jobs outside the home, including full-time jobs.

Around 37% of Australian women are full-time housewives, that is not in the labour force and 'not interested in looking for a job in the next year because of home commitments' (ABS, September


The full-time homemaker depends on her

partner's capacity and willingness to pay, or to share his Wage. No public-evidence exists to show whether or not dependants do get an equitable share of household income.

Work in the home consists of two main elements. Firstly, there is the major, national contribution made to society by women in the home, through caring for their dependants, mainly young children but also those who are ill, disabled or

aged.. The..fact that this is often a labour of love, willingly performed, must not obscure the work involved, nor any unduly high personal costs to the woman involved.

Quite apart from the care of dependants, which has a value for the whole community, there is the routine domestic work. This is the .work generated in the course of normal, everyday living

by the need to stay clean, healthy and to live in pleasant surroundings. This is still widely considered to be women's work, but it ought to be the responsibility of all able-bodied members of

the household whether or not they have a job outside the home. The sharing of this work should be a private matter to be arranged between members of households, according to their particular require-ments. It cannot realistically be subsidised from

the public purse.


When work within the home involves unfair bur-dens on one group of ,people, however, it becomes a matter of public concern. There is an urgent need to raise public consciousness about the long, tiring hours worked by some women. These include women coping with

the heavy demands of caring for very small children; and for disabled, ill or aged relatives. Public attention must also be focused on the plight of the many women in the workforce who return home to unshared domestic responsibilities, and work the notorious 'double-day'.

The report of a health and social survey conducted in a region of Melbourne and published in 1979 found women in the full-time workforce were working 80 hours a week on work inside and outside the home - far more


than the hours worked by men in the full-time workforce.

There is a need for the development of a comprehensive scheme, based possibly on the Family Allowance Scheme, which gives appropriate recognition not only to the costs of the care and upkeep of children, but to the contribution made by all those who-forego or.

are precluded from paid work in order to provide care for their dependants; or who have to combine their caring role with paid work.

Many of these women receive no financial support, unless they qualify for the Handicapped Child's Allowance ($65 a month); the Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefits ($2 a day); or Special Benefits

($51.45 a week, the basic single pension rate).

The failure to recognise the rights of women to decent working hours and to leisure is a long-standing social evil which governments must address. One possib le way of highlighting the need

for housework to be equitably shared by all household members would be a national campaign aimed especially at households where women are in the workforce. A campaign was conducted some years ago in Sweden with the theme Stop Helping Mother with the Housework.



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Organised jointly by the government, union and industry authorities, this campaign drew attention to women's excessive working hours and pointed out the need for all members of the family to share the responsibility for housework rather than merely to 'help' mother, who remains primarily responsible.

Being Married Is Not •a Job

Marriage no longer creates an automatic dependency. for women. It is at parenthood and not marriage that women are now most likely to retire for some period from paid work. In a time of economic

stringency, it is necessary to compare the relative benefits of a universal dependent spouse rebate which gives tax relief to high as well as low income earners against a selective system of increased family

allowances to assist low-income families with dependent children.

The recent increase in the dependent spouse rebate brought the cost to the taxpayer of maintaining dependent spouses to $880m. (in revenue foregone). By comparison, the total cost of paying family allowances in 1979-80 was $978m. It must be asked whether or not the cost of wives to individual husbands should be subsidised by taxpayers to such a similar extent as the costs associated with the care and upkeep of dependent children.

However, for many women, marriage has created economic dependency. Not only was it customary for many women in an earlier generation to leave the main-stream workforce at marriage, but many were actually required to resign their jobs or to lose their permanent status and prospects of promotion. Therefore,

there is some argument for phasing out the dependent spouse rebate for younger women and re-allocating the funds through the family allowance scheme, retaining the tax rebate for dependant spouses only for women over a certain age, say 45.

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The real chc

whether to give financ resulting from either The overwhelming evide children and not marit income and creates the

ice which must now be made is ial recognition to the dependence marriage or parenthood.

rice is that it is the number of al status which affects family need for financial support.

The depende

as a choice for women home, since it is not wage. Nor is it poss grounds, a payment eq

Better Services for

spouse rebate cannot be seen etween working or staying at substitute for a women's le to consider, on economic valent to a worker's wage.

or Lower Taxes for All

Labor policy is to reform the taxation system so that individ als are taxed according to

their ability to pay and their need for adequate living standards. Revenue from taxation is a source of the many services needed by women, such as child care services, specialised health, welfare and educational services, which cannot simply be 'bought' by the individual. The demand expressed by women, in recent conferences for instance, appears to be for imprIved services rather than for generally

lower income tax. The incomes of the many women who work part-time or who receive pensions/benefits do not reach taxable level. Those women and their families in greatest need are not likely to be paying high tax, so have little to gain from tax cuts. What they need is extra disposable income. Some women's groups who opposed the recent proposals for income-splitting advanced by Liberal backbenchers pointed out that such schemes would not benefit those women/families in greatest need.

There has been some demand from women for child care costs to be tax deductible. Within the existing system, there is certainly a strong argument for accepting the costs of child care as a legitimate

cost incurred in earning income, especially in 'view


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of the deductions claimed by businessmen for fancy lunches and luxury cars.

On the other hand, it must be asked whether allowing child care costs to be deducted from tax would be an equitable response to the high costs of child care. Such a policy would benefit only those who actually for their child care arrangements, a minority of all working parents. For instance, only 16.4% of pre-school children who were the responsibility of parents in the labour force were cared for in a kindergarten, pre-school or child care centre according to the 1977 Child Care Survey (ABS).

Parents unable to pay in the first place and having to make other arrangements would not benefit from a tax rebate. The question arises of whether money returned to individuals through such a rebate would be better spent in expanding the provision of integrated child care services for the use of the whole community, including those whose needs are work-related.

Labor's proposed Family Income Supplement will take greater account of the costs of child care and will benefit. both parents who pay for this service or who provide it themselves. In addition, this scheme meets the need of low-income families for extra

disposable income.

Affirmative Action

A government firmly committed to equality of

opportunity between the sexes will pursue an active approach to eliminating discrimination, in contrast to the rather passive approaches used hitherto in Australia. Just as a government opposed to racism would not wish to fund programs, institutions or

agencies which flouted government policy, so a govern-ment committed to sex equality would expect all those activities it supports to reflect this goal. The concept of affirmative action developed during the

1960's in the USA and is one active approach to elimin-ating discrimination in employment. As with most •

effective management plans, objectives or goals are set;

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specific actions or'steps required to achieve these goals are stated; responsibilities for carrying out these steps are assigned; realistic timetables and target dates are drawn up; and procedures are

developed for evaluating progress towards objectives and for periodic review and revision. In this way, progress towards equality of employment opportunity becomes a day-to-dai part of management. The relevance of this approach in Australia merits public discussion.

Moving Forward: Expanding Opportunities for Women l ^

The Australian Labor Party believes that it is the task of a denocratic government to assist all' citizens to share i.n planning for change. Change is inevitable, and in respect to extending the role of women in Australian society, it cannot be argued that change has come too quickly, or moved too far ahead of popular

thinking. In many areas of social and industrial legislation affecting women, Australia drags behind her international. equals.

When maternity leave was introduced by the Whitlam government for Commonwealth employees it was characterised by some die-hards as an excursion into futuristic hedonism. Unpaid maternity leave extended into the private sector only last year. Yet paid maternity leave, generally funded through contributory schemes, is regarded as a routine industrial entitlement in many countries of the world. Unlike Australia, 89 countries provide maternity protection in accordance with I.L.O. standards. A number of countries, including Sweden, France and Nrway, have parental leave schemes.

Yet the five-day paternity leave entitlement, enjoyed so fleetingly by a few public servants in Australia, was removed in 1978 by the Fraser government on the ground

that it was unnecessary and 'ahead of community standards'.

The rights of parents to meet their children's needs without sacrificing their employment prospects are not seen as so avant-garde in many other communities.

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The provision of adequate child care services has lagged far behind both the upswing in women's workforce participation in Australia, and behind the public recognition of the needs of women and children

at home, living in isolated, nuclear families.

While progress is being made, it is slow.

Through the work of various women's units and the Equal Employment Opportunities Bureau, some progress is being made to increase the representation of women in decision-making areas of the Federal bureaucracy. But it has been estimated that by the end of the 1980's women will still occupy only 5% of the top managment positions.

•The ALP rejects any suggestion that, with such glacial changes, there is any risk that Australia is careering ahead too fast with social reforms.

A Broader Role for Women

The Australian Labor Party regards the growing diversity of women's lifestyles and their broader expectations, as a healthy sign for the future. Women are taxpayers, workers, housewives, parents, students, pensioners, employers, invalids, breadwinners, high and low wage earners (predominantly the latter).

They have a diversity of interests and viewpoints, and the Labor Party welcomes their more direct and active participation in political life and all legitimate expressions of their views. A Labor government would.

seek the involvement and co-operation of women, believing they need neither to be pacified nor feared.


Women, as a group, have suffered under the Fraser government. Attacks on their living standards have ranged from the savage to the petty and mean.

Women in the workforce have borne the brunt of the unemployment which has resulted from unsound and


- 21 -

and inhumane theories of economic management. Mothers have not only had their incomes eroded, but have even lost their long-standing baby bonus.


Unemploymet affects women directly as workers and as dependants of unemployed males.

The unemployment of parents and of teenage children places enormous strains on all aspects of family life.

• Unemployment Rates

Overall 6.1%

Women 8.0%

Men 5.0%

Females.- aged 15 - 19 21.0%

Males - aged 15 - 19 13.6%

Women born outside Australia 8.9% Men born outside Australia 5.5%

(Source: ABS, April 1980.)

• Decline in Employment Prospects for Women

1974-1979:. 24.5% decline in areas of female employment 12.6% decline in areas of male employment (Source: EmploymentjProspects by Industry and Occupation , Department of Employment & Youth Affairs, 1979.)

Attacks on the Family

In constrast to the rhetoric of the Fraser government, a bias has developed against the family as a combined result of its wage, tax and pension policies.

. Failure to Index Family Allowanes

Family allowances have not been indexed since they were introduced in 1976 and have now eroded seriously in value by around 40% - through inflation. This has especially disadvantaged large families, who tend to be poorer anyway. Due to non-indexation of family allowances:

- 22 -

• A family with 5 children is now losing approximately $40 a month or nearly $500 each year.

The Fraser government has saved around $350m. at the expense of families (around 1/5 of the amount Treasurer Howard claims is lost through tax avoidance


Failure to Increase Pensioner Allow ances for Children

The allowance of $7.50 a week for each child received by pensioners/beneficiaries was last increased in 1975.

• The guardian's allowance of $4 a week per family has remained at this amount since 1965. An extra $2 was granted for a pre-school, or invalid child needing full-time care in 1969.

. Abolition of the Maternity Allowance

In 1978 the maternity allowance (which amounted to $30 for mothers with no other children, up to $35 for those with three or more) was abolished.

Although it had eroded in value since 1912 when it was introduced (and amounted to j5) it was still significant for mothers on low incomes.

. Dismantling of Medibank

The progressive dismantling of Medibank under the Fraser government, despite promises that it would be retained, have resulted in reduced financial and health protection for women on low incomes and

their families.

. Reduced spending on Housing

The amount allocated for housing in the last Budget was less than 1/3 of that allocated in the 1974-75 Labor Budget. A shortage of low-cost housing


- 23 -

creates severe problems for women, who are over-represented among those on low incomes. Single • parents needing rental accomodation have been

particularly hit.

Personal Income Tax Re-structurin

Those who gained most in changes made since 1975-76 have been the highest earners on $30,000 and $40,000 per annum. Though women make up around 40% of the paid workforce, there are almost none at these income levels!

The position of a married taxpayer on $10,000 p.a. with dlpendent wife and two children, by contrast, degenerated, with a loss of over $300 p.a. in disposable income.

Attacks on Educa^ion

The Fraser government has undermined the independence of the Schools Co mmission, hampering its efforts to pursue equality of opportunity.

for girls, and to rise and broaden their aspirations. The numbers of 15-19 year old girls leaving school to become unemployed is now as great as the number going into full-time higher education in universities and CAE's.

- 24 -


The Australian Labor Party stands for the right of all Australians to an adequate and permanent source of income. This means the right to work, a fair taxation system, and a system of income support through social security for those in need. Other basic rights are:

• Adequate, permanent housing Access to health services • Access to education • Access to the law and to legal protection • The ability to provide for dependants,

especially those in need of care.

Labor's policies will bring these rights closer to reality for all Australians, and will remove obstacles to both women and men allocating their time more freely between family responsibilities and paid employment, to a broader economic and social base for families and a richer and more varied life for parents and children and economic stability in which all can enjoy decent and dignified living standards.

Labor will investigate the setting up, within the Commonwealth bureaucracy, of an Office for the Status of Women.

This could be a small unit, with a staff of highly qualified

specialists. Its function could be to produce assessments and

reports on the impact of all government policies on women,

with the object of removing all remaining barriers to equality.

The Office would be the responsibility of a senior Minister,

and operate along similar lines to the Canadian Department of

the Status of Women. Crucial aspects of the Canadian department

include its access to Cabinet documents; the fact that it is

always headed by a senior Minister with a high degree of

commitment; and the recruitment of staff with a record of

commitment to advancing women's status.


25 -


The Australian Labor Party pl tform states:

• that there should be ohs for all who want to work, regardless of I6 ex or marital status

• that governments should institute legislation

and administrative action to overcome discrimination

on grounds of colour; race, language, sex,

sexuality, age, statls, creed or politics

• that more sensitive terms of employment be

introduced to meet t1ie needs of workers, especially

disadvantaged groups such as Aborigines, women,

migrants and the handicapped; and to fit in with

the family responsibilities of both men and


• that all benefits and status of full-time work

should apply to permanent part-time work on a

pro-rata basis

. that pregnancy or childbirth not be grounds for

dismissal from employanent and that a woman has

the right to return to her job or a similar one

with the same employer within 12 months of


that the development of a comprehensive early

childhood services programme be continued with

the aims of:

a promoting the emotional, physical, intellectual

and social development of children;

b providing community support for mothers to i participate more fully in society;

c offering a variety of choice of services to

parents and children when parents are at work,

when parents of children are ill, or when

families have other special needs;


- 26 -

d fostering the most economic use of existing

facilities for children;

e encouraging maximum parent initiative,

involvement and responsibility in establishing

and running services, with full information

services and educational opportunities to be

provided for parents;

f developing integrated services to meet the

diversity of child care needs of families in

a geographic area, including work/community-based care; and

Providing services for the care -

a and education of pre-school aged children within

an integrated framework incorporating full-day

care, sessional pre-schooling, playgroups,

emergency care, occasional care, and other forms

of care in accordance with need; and

b of school-aged children including before- and

after-school care, sick day care and school

holiday care, effected in a variety of ways,

in accordance with demand.

that the greater participation of women and

migrants in trade unions be secured through, in

consultation with the unions, the provision of

services such as interpretation and translation

facilities and child care amenities.

Jobs for Women

It is not part of Labor philosophy to induce

women to join the paid workforce. Labor Party policies are based, rather, on the aim of securing economic independence for all people, including women. Some women are able to secure such independence without

seeking paid work. But for many women, access to employment continues to be the main avenue to an adequate and permanent source of income. Policies

- 27

must be developed to ensure that women can achieve economic independence without damage to their physical and mental health, or to their rights and responsibilities within their families.

The underlying problems of slow growth and structural problems in the labour market should not be masked by irrational and unsupported claims that any one group, usually married women, is displacing another -such as young people. In the sense that married women are among the 'competitors' for a limited number of jobs, they tend largely to be competing with other married women in the highly segregated Australian labour market.

With the wisdom of hindsight, it is now possible to see clearly that the major Western countries were given a unique opportunity during the 70's to sort out their economic and social problems. The climate of the 80's is not so balmy. A fresh surge of inflation, dwindling job opportunities, the onslaught of technology upon jobs,.the eroding of the public sector and increasing welfare problems confront Australians. In many of these

areas, Australian women are beIring the brunt. The female unemployment rate is habitually above the male • and now stands at 8% (5% for miles). Unemployment rates for teenagers are higher than for any other age group

but significantly worse for gills at 21% (boys 13.6%).

(Source: ABS, April 1980).

Public sector cutbacks and new technology have' reduced. women's jobs prospects. Between 1974 and 1979 female employment fell by 24.5% (cf. male by 12.6%), (Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation, Department Employment and Youth Affairs , AGPS, May 1979).

It is preferable to create jobs, than to go on expanding pensions and crisis services. The costs of joblessness are appallingly i igh. Labor's Job Opportunities Program willcr.eate jobs at a rate consistent with economic respon1sibility, and will benefit • women seeking to enter or to rejoin the workforce.

- 28 -

Equality of Employment Opportunity 'Equal employment opportunities' means nothing more nor less than a fair go for all employees, including women and members of minority groups. For instance, with such high unemployment rates among their daughters, parents have a right to know that these girls will get a fair chance, on their merits, in the contracted labour market.

Discrimination, both direct and indirect, leads to a waste of talent, which no nation can afford.

The Need to Overcome Segregation in the Workforce The segregation of women within the paid workforce both reflects and perpetuates their disadvantage as a group. A graphic description of

their situation is set out in Facts on Women at Work in Australia, 1978, produced by the Women's Bureau, Department of Employment and Youth Affairs.

• Since the early 1960's there has been a considerable increase in the number of females in the labour force, which has resulted largely from the increased participation of married women. However, although women now constitute over one third of the total labour force, they still suffer a number of disadvantages by comparison with male workers; it cannot be said that men and women have equal status in the workforce.

• Women's occupational choices remain circumscribed: there is still a high proportion of women concentrated within a relatively limited number of occupations

(mainly within the lesser skilled occupations). Furthermore, even within those areas in which women predominate, they tend to be employed at lower-status levels while men occupy the managerial and supervisory positions.





The concentration of females in certain

occupations has remained relatively unchanged.

These areas are mainly within the clerical, sales and service and th^ lesser skilled occupational groups.

• In May 1978 almost two-thirds of employed females were in clerical (34.0%), service (16.7%) and sales (13.2%) occupations.

At the same time 16.7% were in professional and technical occupations. It should be noted that 75.4% of employed females in this occupational group were engaged in the teaching and nursing fields (compared with only 25.9% of males in t o same occupational group who were engaged it these fields).

• In May.1979 employed males were mainly concentrated in the trade's (42.9%); professional and technical (11.5%); and farming (8.6%) occupational categories.

• Those occupations in which women are most heavily represented all have average weekly earning below the average for all occupations.

Women also tend to be concentrated in a narrower range of industries than are men.

• In May 1978, 26.3% of employed females were in community services, 24.1% in wholesale and retail trades and 15.1% in the manufacturing industries.

• The. majority of employed males were in the manufacturing (23.6%), wholesale and retail (18.4%) and construction (11.5%) industries.

• The practical obstacles which impede women^'.s progress towards equal status in the workforce are considerable. It is readily apparent that child-bearing and rearing

interrupt women's careers. Less obvious is the problem of the double burden of paid employment and domestic responsibilities which leaves many women at a disadvantage

- 30 -

by com it :i. sr^ fl Wi t.- h 111 0ti .111d 1mpc cos constraints upon their choice of

employment, their opportunities to pursue higher wages, responsibility and status.

Some Further Statistics on Women in the Workforce -1980 (ABS)

. Women make up 36% of the total workforce

• 42.9% of women are in the paid workforce 39.7% of married women are in the paid workforce

78.7% of men are in the paid workforce

• Labour Force Participation of Various Age Groups

% Participation Rate Women Men

15-19 63.9 68.9

20-24 69.2 92.8

25-34 48.5 95.3

35-44 54.7 95.0

45-54 45.5 90.9

55-64 27.0 81.9

60-64 .11.6 52.7

65+ 2.6 11.2

• 45.2% of married women born overseas are in the paid workforce

• 72.7% of women have no post-school qualification (cf. 59.3% of men)

2.6% of women have trade qualifications

(cf. 17% of men)

• Average earnings

Per Week

(full-time employment) Women Men $191.10 $236

Action is needed to secure equality in the workforce through (i) anti-discrimination legislation to combat direct and indirect discrimination; (ii) administrative measures to promote equality and to redress past discrimination; and (iii) changes in the education and training of women and girls.


- 30 -

by ,n wi t.-h mr..n .ind rn n n upon their choice of employment, their opportunities to pursue higher wages, responsibility and status.

Some Further Statistics on Women in the Workforce -1980 (ABS)

. Women make up 36% of the total workforce

• 42.9% of women are in the paid workforce 39.7% of married women are in the paid workforce

78.7% of men are in the paid workforce

• Labour Force Participation of Various Age Groups

% Participation Rate Women Men

15-19 63.9 68.9

20-24 69.2 92.8

25-34 48.5 95.3

35-44 54.7 95.0

45-54 45.5 90.9

55-64 27.0 81.9

60-64 11.6 52.7

65+ 2.6 11.2

• 45.2% of married women born overseas are in the paid workforce

• 72.7% of women have no post-school qualification (cf. 59.3% of men)

2.6% of women have trade qualifications

(cf. 17% of men)

• Average earnings

Per Week

(full-time employment) Women Men $191.10 $236

Action is needed to secure equality in the workforce through (i) anti-discrimination legislation to combat direct and indirect discrimination; (,ii) administrative measures to promote equality and to redress past discrimination; and (iii) changes in the education and training of women and girls. ..


- 31-

(i) Anti-Discriminati n Legislation Anti-discriminati on legislation is a necessary but far from sufficient strategy for achieving

equal job opportunities for women.

Two major inquLries - the Royal

Commission on Australian Government Administration (1976) and the Royal Co'. mission on Human

Relationships (1977) ha recommended that such legislation be enacted the Commonwealth to prohibit discrimination against women.

A national conference convened in 1979 by the National Women's Advisory Council overwhelmingly supported the immediate introduction of such legislation.

Conference r

contain special provis

mended that legislation to protect complainants



from victimisation. it supported compliance

provisions which included allocation of Government contracts so that tendering companies and corporations must follow non-discriminatory policies. The Conference also recommended that

legislation include effective enforcement machinery, and make provision for class or representative action to ensure that members of disadvantaged groups and those with few

resources could have their complaints resolved.

It was recommended also that financial sanctions, including the awarding of damages against discriminators be incorporated in the


(ii) Administrati Equality Action is ne

ie Measures to Promote

ed to overcome indirect

discrimination in the workforce arising from recruiting, hiring, promoting and training practices which entrench existing inequities.

Within the area of Commonwealth employment a number of specialist ulnits, largely resulting from Labor initiatives during the Whitlam years,


- 32 -

are responsible for developing policies and

programs for women. Consideration should be given to the present role of these units, to assess their effectiveness in improving the

status of women employees, as well as upgrading services provided to the public. •

Staffing quotas, the imposition of other duties and inadequate channels of communication have impeded their work in a number of areas.

There may be a need to establish units in additional areas, such as Defence, Treasury or the. Australian Bureau of Statistics, for example.

(iii) Education and Training Along with programs to eliminate direct and indirect discrimination, education programs are necessary to promote women's participation in society. The education and training of girls and women must ensure that they are prepared for their entry into the wider workforce. Much of their occupational segregation and consequent disadvantage flows from choices made in schooling, based on poor advice and on the persistence of outmoded social and occupational stereotyping.

Other Factors Affecting Women's Employment (a) Part-Time Work:

Permanent part-time work is valuable for a number of reasons:

to fit in with family responsibilities for both men and women;

• to create job oppurtunities for handicapped people

• to allow for recurrent education and leisure

• to help phase in retirement for older people



Oppertunites for part-time work have expanded despite recession. The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines part-time workers as those working less than 35 hours a week.

• Between 1972 and 1979, the number of people in part-time emnldyment rose by 71%

• Since 1972, 3 of every 5 new jobs created • have been part-time

Between 1970 and 1977, full-time employment fell by 41,000 part-time increased by over 176,000

This rapid rise in part-time employment has been due to expansion in tertilry sector employment, which grew from 60% of total employment in 1961, to 71% by 1977, and for which the supply of labour was drawn largely from . women previously not in the labour force.

• 22 of every 3 part-time jobs have been filled • by women • 34.9% of all women in the workforce work part-time

43.4% of married women in the workforce work part-time over 3/4 of the total part-time workforce are • women, and of these i/5 are married

77.5% of women woi king part-time are employed in the tertiary sector.

•However, the development of increased part-time work needs to be accompanied by the safeguards and conditions now generally secur^d for full-time workers.

In shops, universities and homes, women have had first-hand experience of part-time wdrk done on the cheap,

and without job security. Although women have appreciated the benefits of part-time work, they are growing cautious and even suspicious in the face of new dangers. There is a growing tendency for part-time work to be seen as a means of reducing unemployment) part-time work is no substitute for those wanting fill-time work. The growth in part-time work already indicates mounting • under-employment, especially among young people.

- 34 -

Another danger is that the growth in part-time work could create a secondary labour market of low-skill, low-paid work. Technological changes could have this effect, changing both the nature of work and the structure of the workforce. The de-skilling process which results from some technological innovations lends

itself to part-time work. This could contribute to a deep division between the part-time and full-time labour markets, with the part-time sector becoming a ghetto for women doing fragmented, repetitive, unsatisfying tasks - separated from fellow workers,

isolated from management, and facing an even harder road for promotion.

(b) Paid Parental Leave At present, working women in Australia do

not have equal access to paid maternity leave. Unpaid maternity leave with job security will allow many young couples to plan their families while they are still young, but fails to recognise the very high, costs involved in having children. It is these high costs which commit many parents to a long period in

the paid workforce. Several months off work on unapaid leave and the added expense of a new baby will still 9

impose severe financial strains on many low-income

families. The only allowance previously available on the birth of a child, the maternity allowance, was 0 removed by the Fraser Government in the 1977 Budget.

The Royal Commission on Human Relationships recommended that paid maternity leave, leave without pay and preservation of job seniority and salary are essential elements in establishing equality for women:

The burden of ensuring that young infant have their parents' care and that their mother does suffer in her work prospects because she is meeting child's needs should be borne by the community as a whole ...We consider that leave should be available

fathers at the time of birth and that in due.course parental leave should be shared."

s not the

to long


- 351 -

Working people should be able to care for their children without jeopardising their jobs or economic security. Leave should be available to either parent to care for children not only in arly infancy but in

subsequent years at times of illness.

(c) Child Care Child care services are basic services to all children, intim tely related tb meeting their varied needs. Child care services are also crucial to the achievement of equality between the sexes. While there must be priorities, child care services are not just a welfare service to disadvantaged families. Their absence, however, does create welfare needs.

Recognising this, Labor has a comprehensive policy commitment to child cari (see pages 25-26)..

As well as falling short on overall demand in Australia, child care services fall short on the basis of the range of care being offred. Childcare services were allocated $32.28m in the 1978/79 Federal Budget. An approximately equal amount was allocated to pre-school kindergartens, providing sessional education of a limited number bf hours each week.

Approximately 64% of children now have access to pre-school education on a sesslional basis in the year prior to school entry. However, the May 1977 Child

Care survey showed that of the 230,000 pre-school children who were the responsiibility of persons in the labour force only 16.4% were receiving care in a

kindergarten, pre-school or child care centre.

There is a need to provide more multi-purpose services through existing networks and facilities, to meet the diverse needs of the community.

A major recommendation of the Galbally Report was that priority be given to funding work-related child-care facilities jointly managed by employers and employees or unions, and the development of child • care services in areas with large numbers of working

mothers. One existing model if a centre developed to to meet work-related and community needs is Eden Park,

- 36 -

Sydney. Built as a part of an industrial estate by a

developer, it is leased to a co-operative which manages the centre, and includes representatives of all interests. It serves children of those working at the estate and those in the surrounding community through full day care, sessional pre-school and out-of-school care.

(d) Women in Trade Unions A government can take action to advance the

status of its own employees, but women in general will depend for improvements in their working conditions on the action of trade unions. The same factors which limit women's equal participation in the workforce operate to depress their activity within trade unions.

However, during the 1970's, women began to joing unions in greater numbers and by 1977 47% of women were unionised (cf. around 60% of men), although their level of representation has in no way been reflected in trade union hierarchies. The move of women into trade unions to press for the conditions they need must be encouraged and supported,

particularly through the education of girls and women about the role and 'function of trade unions.

A LABOR GOVERNMENT WILL : Create jobs, expanding employment opportunities for women through the Job Opportunities Program.

This program will create employment for

unemployed girls, assist the most disadvantaged

among women seeking work and provide greater

training opportunities for women in those areas

where skills are in demand.

Enact Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination Legislation To operate in relation to the Australian

Capital Territory, all areas of Commonwealth

government employment, including the defence

forces, statutory authorities and corporations,

in respect to discrimination on grounds of sex,

sexuality, pregnancy and marital status. This

legislation would cover both direct and indirect

discrimination, and would apply to all areas of Commonwealth jurisdiction over employment and •


37 -

• related matters such s education, superannuation, pension schemes.

• Work towards clearly-defined objectives related to

equality of opportunity, both within the area of Commonwealth employmet and in all services provided

by government to the public.

Ensure that permanent part-time work in the areas of Commonwealth employment has pro-rata entitlements to all conditions enjoye by full-time employees.

Examine the concept of more flexible forms of

parental leave

• Take steps to eliminate the persisting socio-economic and geogrpahical bias in the provision

of child care services, with emphasis on the provision of flexible, integrated community and

work-related services through existing networks and facilities

• Provide appropriate support to trade union initiatives to secure greater participation by



The aim of the Austral n Labor Party is to ens ure that

all Australians ha ve a disposable sufficient to maintain their ' health and well-bei ng. This involve ment, a fair taxatio n

system and the provision of social slecurit y oavments to theca ;n need. Labor philosophy emphasises that recipients of welfare programs are entitled to dignity, privacy and respect. Welfare programs should encourage rehabilitation and independence and a reduced emphasis on institutional care. Community and user participation in progra ms and services is another Labor objective

The Chairman of thecomm ission of Inquiry in Poverty, Professor Henderson,comm ented that the overa oicture.of the system of comm unity services was one of 'poor planning, lack of integration, frustrated,.ignor ind humiliated users and unmetneeds'. The Report of :he Senate Standing Committee Social Welfare on Ion ^ Australian health and welfare services sound a system 'out of control'. One of the problems





- 38 -

has been a longstanding failure to set goals, or to examine the assumptions on which many policies are based. It is not surprising, since women are the major group needing income support, to find that they are victims of this confusion (68% of all those,

apaprt from the unemployed, dependent on social security, are women).

Although one in every three women in Australia is not fully supported by a man, the idea persists that women are not capable of economic independence, and are in some undefined way, 'naturally' dependent on a male. This assumption damages women. Some women are almost forced into a negative situation of impotence and dependence; while others are cast adrift, their right to income support, compensation or rehabilitation denied on grounds of marital status.

Supporting Mothers For lack of child care services and housing they can afford, many women are forced to accept the supporting mothers' benefit. This offers to many no more than a secure poverty, sometimes achieved at the cost of bureaucratic intrustions into their private lives and sacrifice of their capacity to earn income.

Family Allowances

A family's disposable income is greatly affected by the number of children, and for those on low wages, whether low incomes or pensions, size of family is a key indicator of poverty. An increase in family allowances

is the most direct way of raising the disposable income of those mothers in need, since it is paid directly to them •and based on the number of dependent children.

Unemployment Benefits for Married Women

There is'a growing demand in the community for an end to discrimination on the grounds of marital status in the payment of unemployment benefits. It is argued that eligibility for unemployment benefit should be related to previous employment status rather than marital status and should take account of economic need.



The I.L.O. Declaration on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Women Workelrs, 1975, and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, now open for ratification and signature by Australia, are unequivocal in their support for the right of unemployed married women workers to receive unemployment benefits.

At present where one partner of a married working couple is unemployed his or her benefits reduce by $1 for every dollar over $ 16 earned by the other spouse. No benefit at all isl payable to any unemployed person whose spouse's income exceeds $107.70. This amount is less than half of average weekly earnings.

The ineligibility of one partner for unemployment benefits imposes serious hardship in low dual-income families and creates serious. anomalies.

Regardless of years!spent in the workforce, and regardless of the number of dependents a couple may have, they are not eligible for fulJl unemployment relief when one or the other is thrown out of work.

But an unemployed single person living at home with parents is means tested as an individual, the income of the parents is not taken into account.

Take for example a married women worker who has worked in the manufacturing industry for 20 years and is then sacked. Her wage was $119 a week. Her husband also works in the manufacturing industry and he earns $150 a week. They have four dependent children. After she is sacked their income drops about 80% and she is not entitled to unemployment benefit. She can register as unemployed but she is very, likely to be discouraged from doing so. And if she does not register she is no longer - for the purposes of measuring unemployment a part of the workforce. And there are at the moment no

job creation or re-training schemes aimed at women in this category.

- 40 -

Another example: an 18 year old boy leaves school and cannot find a job. His father is a public servant who earns $24,000 a.year and his mother, a teacher, earns $15,000 a year. He lives at home, registers for unemployment and is eligible for the single adult rate of $51.45 a week. The family income is not diminished by the boy's unemployment, it is supplemented by the unemployment benefit he receives.

Superannuation, Compensation and Rehabilitation

Since women have traditionally been employed in lower-paid, lower status occupations where career interruptions are common they are less likely to have been able to save for retirement.

Only a minority of all Australian workers belong to superannuation schemes, especially in the lower status areas of the workforce where women are mainly employed.

Only 15.1% of women workers (cf. 35..6% of • males)had superannuation at the time of an ABS Survey of Superannuation in 1974.

The aged pension commences at age 60 for women and 65 for men. This appears to advantage women, but often has the effect of women being forced by employers • to retire early. The majority of aged pensioners are women.

16% of female aged pensioners (cf. 5% of male aged pensioners) have no means at all apart from their pensions.

Single aged people tend to be worse off than couples, the Henderson Inquiry into Poverty revealed. Some single, aged women live in appalling poverty, often victims of high rents. The longer life expectancy enjoyed by women turns sour when it is blighted by poverty.


- 41 -

Compensation and rehabilitation are two more areas where women have failed to secure equal rights, because of the persistent, unexamined assumption that women have less of a stake in the workforce than men.


The taxation system should not be used to

preserve or enforce the social structures of the past. Nor should taxation measures be used to force social changes. They should be quite neutral in regard to such matters as, for instance, whether women choose to enter paid work or not, and should

direct their attention to needs and to an equitable distribution of wealth.

The assertion which was used by the Fraser government to justify its recent 34% rise in the dependent spouse tax rebate, namely that there is some tax injustice against the single-income family, is arguable. Such an assertion completely ignores the considerable costs involved when a second parent, usually the wife/mother, goes out to work. The family's domestic chores must still be done, in the lesser time available. Additional needs are created with corresponding costs, such is child care. These must be added to the normal costs of working such as clothing and transport which are met from after-tax income. Put simply, it can be argued that the family in which $18,000 p.a. can be comfortably earned by one partner is considerably better off than the family where the.full-time labour of two parents is required to bring in the same amount.

Taxation reform is needed to achieve a fairer distribution of the tax burden between high and low income earners and between individual and corporate taxpayers. Equity in taxation will not be achieved by penalising the second wage-earner in a marriage.

- 42 -

In order to improve the income security of Australian women, Labor will

• introduce a more equitable system of family allowances, through the additional payment of a

Family Income Supplement to families on less than $14,000 a year. An extra payment of $4 a week for each child will be paid to families on up to $8,000

a year, reducing to $1 a week for each child in families earning between $12,000 and $14,000. In

addition, there will be an increase in the mother's/ guardian's allowance from the present $4 or $6 to a common

$8 per week for all single pensioners with one or

more dependent children.

and will give priority to :

• extending the present options for single supporting parents by creating employment opportunities;

increasing the supply of low-cost housing; and more equitable provision of,

• developing a system of unemployment benefits related to previous employment status and the economic needs of the unemployed, including married women,

• developing of a no-fault compensation scheme with universal coverage for injury and work-related illness

for all workers, regardless of sex or marital status, •

• introducing a non-discriminatory national superannuation scheme, and

• reforming the tax system on the basis of principles of ability to pay and need for an adequate minimum living


- 143 -


The Australian Labor Party platform affirms

the positive value of education for personal and

national development, and the need for a system of

education which iL responsive to the needs of individuals and pkrticular groups in the community.

The Plat orm states the need for

full and equal educational opportunities for

both sexes to be developed through -

research-based programs to eliminate sex

and lifestyle bias in education

the removal of all social barriers to

post-secondary education and access to the

full range of post-secondary education for

such disadvantaged groups as women,

Aborigines, migrants and handicapped


• positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups

• maximising community participation in

schools and the use of educational


the development of an education system which will

promote the capacity to participate in

technological innovation and change.

Education f or Girls and Women

The growth of education has been one of

the most spectacular social changes in Australia

since World War II, with education having become

one of the largest 'industries' in the country, and a large are fa of female employment. In November 1975, the Schools Commission published

the report of a' study group on social change and the education of women - Girls School and Society . The report awakened the consciousness of the schooling community to the injustice,

- 44 -

the wastefulness, the unprofessionalism of a system which produced female students who were physically unfit, technologically incompetent, inappropriately prepared for the workforce, lacking in self-esteen and limited in their aspirations. Since 1975, every State education department has, with varying .degrees of commitment, taken steps to improve

the educational opportunities of girls.

The Current Situation

Slightly more girls than boys now complete secondary schooling. This is considered partly attributable to the higher unemployment rates for girls and the fact that. schooling is seen as a socially acceptable alternative for them - a cultural dowry. The representation of women in post-secondary education is also increasing.

But in schools and in Post-secondary institutions, participation varies widely between various fields and levels of study

• In schools, girls' achievements and participation in maths and science decline during adolescence. Simplistic theories which claim this to be related to some difference between male and female brains do nothing to explain why the brains of Australian girls seem to be even more deficient in the area of mathematical • achievement than their sisters in overseas


• In universities, women made up 43.5% of new enrolments in 1979. Women are concentrated in the humanities, social sciences and education and are grossly under-represented in engineering, economics/commerce/government, architecture, and agriculture. Predominant in non-degree courses, they are under-represented at higher-degree level.

• In CAE's women made up 51% of new enrolments in 1979. They are concentrated in teacher


education, and outnumber men in art, liberal

studies, music and paramedical studies,

while being vastly outnumbered in building

and related areas; engineering and technology;

commercial and bisiness studies.

Women made up 45% of TAFE students in 1977

(latest figures available). They predominate

in the areas of hobbies and home handicrafts,

while making up inly 6% of those in the area

of trades. Women are still concentrated in

areas preparing them for traditional occupations

such as secretaries, hairdressers and the

paramedical and welfare professions.

• In current workforce training schemes, girls' participation re1flects their present patterns

in the workforcei.e. in areas of low demand

for labour and high unemployment.

• In the Australian community, 72.7% of women (cf. 59.3% of men) have no qualifications beyond school le'el.

Education as an Area bf Employment for Women ,

Although teaciing is a predominantly female

profession, women are under-represented and at higher

levels unrepresented in positions of authority and

decision-making in the education system, in schools,

teacher education and tertiary institutions and

education departments: It is significant that

this imbalance occurs in a profession which, together

with nursing, has attracted the majority of Australia's

ablest and best quali^ied women and where formal

obstacles to the appointment of women to senior • positions have been removed.

Nearly 60% of all school teachers are women.

69% of all Australian primary teachers in

government schools are women, yet few are

principals e.g. 8% in N.S.W. 4% in Queensland.

- 46 -

• The percentage of female principals in government secondary schools is even lower, e.g. in the A.C.T. there is not one female principal although women make up over half the secondary teaching force.

• Only 15.78% of full-time positions in universities were held by women (1977).

60% of women (cf. 19% men) held teaching and research posts in universities, without tenure (1977).

Only 16% of members on Federal education-related Commissions, Committees and bodies were women (1976).

Where de-segregation is occurring, it is to the further disadvantage of women. While more men than formerly are entering the fields of primary and early childhood education and gaining advancement, women are not making similar progress in male-dominated teaching areas.

Not only do women employed in education have a right to equal opportunities themselves, but they also provide important role models for their students.

Rural Education

The task of educating their children has been especially difficult for families in rural and isolated areas of Australia. Women, especially, have often had to combine teaching or transporting their children with the arduous tasks of agricultural production. Geographical, cultural and social isolation is in itself a cause of educational disadvantage; and the retention rate to Form 12 in country schools is barely over half that in city schools. The ratio of unemployed youth to job vacancies in rural areas is far higher than in city areas.

- 47-

Education for Technolo4ical Change : An Urgent Need

Girls and women are ill-equipped to take

part in either the development or the planned,

regulated introduction of technology.

Girls are channelled into subject choices

which seriously limit their access to scientific,

industrial and technical education and training,

and employment in spheres directly concerned with

technology. As women they are grossly under-represented in the bureaucracies, the advisory

bodies, the parliaments, the community and professional

groups, the trade unions, the professions, occupations,

and areas of research where technological development and related decisions will occur.

Without radical educational changes women will not share equallyin :

• the development of new products and processes planning the pace and direction of change • monitoring the effects of new technological developments.

• The potential of technology to benefit or to harm

women is boundless.

• Technological innovation can -

• create new markets

improve public health and industrial safety

broaden public access to and control of

information, education and entertainment


• enhance the likelihood and danger of war increase physical,psychological disease.

destroy privacy

alienate workers

concentrate information and power in selfish, private hands

- 48 -

Technology can -• produce marvellous aids to assist the handicapped


• produce useless devices for which consumer demand had to be manufactured through excessive advertising.

Technology can develop processes which -• shorter working hours • break down harmful divisions between home and work, between public and private life, which

have damaged family life


• create a new generation of female outworkers, turning the home into an isolated workplace where women do unsatisfying, low-paid work in poor conditions.

• Both in the home, with its labour-saving devices and television and in the workplace women have already experienced the mixed blessings of new technology. The Telecom experience affected women both as workers and as consumers. Women workers, especially telephonists, were displaced; job opportunities were lost; remaining jobs were de-skilled. In country areas, the impact on jobs was most severe. While rural consumers gain some benefits from upgraded communications, the isolation of women in remote areas was further increased by the disappearance of the local 'hello' girls from rural exchanges.

Concentrated in the clerical, sales and service occupations where computerization is proceeding fastest, women are extremely vulnerable to such developments as shrinking job opportunities and industrial health problems. Twice the number of "women's" as "men's" jobs have disappeared in

the last five years to 1979. (Employment Prospects,

- 491-

Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, 1979.)

The reduction of employment opportunities

projected for banking, insurance, communications

and retailing may not result in massive retrenchments

as such, but will have catastrophic consequences

for female employment. In addition, women face

increased industrial health problems such as

stress caused by tedium, monotony, shiftwork;

diseases like tenosynivitis caused by repetitive

movements; or eye strain and damage, headaches, partial hearing loss.

Without broader education and training, the

low level of influence women enjoy now in shaping • social and economic change will decline further in the face of technological advance.

A LABOR GOVERNMENT WILL develop coherent social, economic

and educational policies, providing the framework in which

the cycle of self-perpetuating disadvantage w hich affects ris and women can be broken. Through the Job Opportunities P ogram, the enactment ofianti-discrimination legislation and administrative measures to promote equal opportunities, Labor

will work towards a situation in which the capacities of women

developed in the education system are recognised and used .

In addition, will .

. seek commitments all education-related bodies in receipt of Commonwealth funding to work towards equality

for girls and women in education;

• expand funds for rural education. Labor will double.

funding for the Disadvantaged Country Areas Program over

its first term in office, and will substantially. increase

funding for the Isolated Children's Allowance to restore

its value in real terms to the previous level which existed

under Labor;

ensure a free flow o, information about social, economic

and employment trends which have a direct bearing on

the education and training of women;


- 50 -

• support programs aimed at improving the access of women, especially disadvantaged women, to education through

community and work-based programs.


Labor's aims are to :

Promote a physical and social environment free of hazards to physical and mental health and encourage the

community to participate in restoration and maintenance of the health of its members.

Ensure access to basic health services for

all regardless of income.

Assist those with a disability to adapt as

well as, possible to their circumstances and, as far as

practicable, resume their place in society.


future Labor government would be committed to

promoting programs to increase understanding of the effects on .health of such lifestyle factors as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; diet; human sexuality; leisure; and social , cultural and employment influences on mental health.

Women and Health

As guardians of their own health, as members of the health professions, in their reproductive role, and through their major responsibility for the care and education of their children, women play an extremely important role in developing a healthy community.

An important effect of the feminist movement has been to raise women's consciousness of and responsibility for their own health. Women's health and counselling services, initiated and run by women have been set up. Women have been the motivating force in establishing refuges, rape crisis centres, Aboriginal health services, family planning services and other specific self-help and interest groups. The increase in the healthy practice of breast-feeding has been attributable mainly to efforts made by


women to educate each other. Australia enjoys

low infant and matern 1 mortality rates. As a result of effective f1mily planning, women have been able to plan their pregnancies to avoid excessive childlbearing and the risks associated with births to older mothers.


But many problems remain. Women are the principal users of melical care. They also make up a substantial number of those living below the poverty line. Progressive dismantling of Medibank under the Fraser government has now reduced women on low incomes to a dependence on doctors' determination of whether or not they are 'socially disadvantaged'.

The new role of women and the changing nature and status of the family raises health issues which remain unsolved. Anxiety and fatigue resulting from conflicting social expectations of women in society are affecting women both in the home

and in the workforce. The treatment of this problem with tranquilisers an analgesics leads to further problems. Physical and sexual violence towards women and their children arl other symptoms of underlying

social disease in society. Far more attention is needed to the health ffects of chemical and physical processes to which women and all workers are being increasingly exposed by the introduction of new technologies in the workplace.

Social and legal obstacles remain to the effective and responsible use of contraception by all women. Current contraception technology fails to provide a totally reliable method for all women and governments must sponsor more research in this area.

Young women are especially at risk of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. A wider range of multi-cultural work and community-based services are needed to promote healthy and responsible parenthood.

- 52 -

Similarly, there are social restraints on the full and active participation by women in leisure and sporting pursuits which are vital to health. The cult of "femininity" which emphasised passivity and even weakness has contributed to unfitness among women no less than the discriminatory practices within sporting clubs and facilities.

Recent reports of an alarming rise in the incidence of smoking among teenage girls demands prompt action to reduce this serious and preventable threat to health.

Within the health workforce, where women make up 80% of those employed, they are under-represented at decision-making levels.


introduce the Family Health Care Plan, the first step in the restoration of a universal health

insurance scheme. This scheme is aimed at meeting

the needs of low income families who are at

present carrying a crippling burden in health

insurance costs, or living in fear of costs from

serious illness. 2/3 of those to benefit directly


are children;

improve women's access to health information and

advice by taking appropriate measures to ensure that

women are informed of all available services and

that special efforts are made to supply information

and services to women isolated by distance, culture

or language;

• repeal laws forbidding the advertising of

contraceptives in the A.C.T., and investigate the

improvement of existing arrangements for providing

.legal, safe pregnancy termination in the A.C.T., following a public inquiry to determine the

community's wishes in this matter;



- 53 -

support women's own initiatives through funding g ding refuges, health and counselling centres, and rape crisis centres

set up and run by women for women.


The Labor Party believes that every Australian

resident has the right to ad

at a price within his or her

development should be direct

types commensurate with the

different ages, family circu

Housing acco mmodal

with security of tenure, real

privacy. This should apply

and tenanted housing whether]

Labor's housing p^

assistance is provided to f^.

quate and appropriate accommodation

means. Conversely, residential

towards a variety of housin

ffering needs of people of

tances and cultural values.

ion should provide the occupants

onable autonomy of action and

qually to owner-occupied houses

publicly or privately owned .

licy is designed to ensure that

ilies on low and moderate incomes


in achieving home ownership and meeting costs of rental accommodation. It also maxilmises the degree of choice offered

to the individual regarding t ypes of housing, tenure and location.

Housinq for Women

The shortage of low-cost accommodation is a major factor in creating welfare needs, especially

among women, who predominate among pensioners and low

income earners. Women' I refuges are now providing temporary shelter to women and children fleeing not

only from violence in their homes, but from vicious


Single female parents, in particular, face

acute housing problems., Such families are twice as

likely to be renting accommodation as two-parent

families, or families headed by a single male. In

private rental arrangements, families headed by a

woman face

• prejudice against females without male

breadwinners (owners/agents feel they will be

unable to cope with maintenance, etc.)

• prejudice against children as tenants • prejudice against those whose income derives from pensions

- 54 -

• the requirement to provide a bond (a problem for all low-income earners seeking housing)

As public tenants, such families are often confined to the 'left-overs', the stock remaining after the needs of more favoured two-parent families have been met. In this way, much public housing has been sold off, leaving ghettos for the less fortunate.

This concentration of single-parent families in unsuitable accommodation is often the cause rather than the result of individual family problems.

Tenants in rented public housing are also often victims of inequitable rebate qualifications, based only on income and failing to take into account the numbers of children, which is a

crucial factor in a family's capacity to pay rent.

Single women still face discrimination in their attempts to secure housing credit.

Homeless People

The Federal Government has recently admitted that the numbers of young people needing accommodation are high and increasing. Here again, the inability of many young girls, especially those on the dole, to find accommodation at prices they can afford, is the cause rather than the result of other social problems.

Forced to sleep in cars, parks or other buildings, the homeless young are susceptible to predatory adults. Without either a job or a home, prostitution and drug-dealing are becoming ways of paying rent.

The Great Australian Dream of Home Ownershi

The sky-rocketing prices of land and houses are turning the dream of home ownership into a mirage or a nightmare for many young couples. About 9 of every 10 single income first-home-buyers and 2 out of every 5 dual



income first-home-bu^ers have virtually no chance of buying a home in Sydney or Melbourne, unless they are assisted with a deposit or given exceptional treatment. Present government housing policies fail to take account of the widespread

reality of the dual-income family in setting qualifications for both home ownership and improvement loans, thus leading to many anomalies.

The guilts and anxieties generated today by the dream of home ownership are too intense for many young families. Young women are still made to feel guilty at going out to work and postponing the birth of children; or about staying at home and making no contribution to relieving financial pressures on their families. There are still young men who feel guilty if they are unable to

'provide' a home for wife and family. The strain of keeping up with mortgage repayments on 'the house' has become a factor in marital breakdown.

In 1970 it was possible for the single-income family on average weekly earnings to put a deposit on a new Melourne house after 3.4 years savings. Now the time required is more like 10 years. In some cases, the 'family' for whom the house was intended may have to be postponed forever. In other cases, parents chase their dream out to the edges of suburbia, where they face crippling transport costs and are isolated from.

many of the facilities, such as child care services, they need.

Not only does the lack of access to housing they can afford strain some families to breaking point; it makes it impossible for others to escape their wretched cycle of domestic violence. It is the impossibility of finding suitable alternative

- 56 -

accommodation for their families which drives many women who have found temporary shelter in women's refuges, back with their children into the homes and the conditions they fled.


• introduce Family Home Ownership Plan to assist first-home buyers, and Home Improvement Program : both of these schemes recognising the reality of the dual-income as well as the single-income family;

• increase funds for public housing by $80 m. per annum to allow for

(a) new housing

(b) selective purchase of existing dwellings in favourable locations

(c) abolition of market-related rents (d) provision of subsidies for tenants in need, so that no public housing rent exceeds 20% of

household income;

• legislate to eliminate discrimination in all areas of Commonwealth jurisdiction, including accommodation , services and facilities, and credit.


The Australian Labor. Party is committed to the

development of social standards in relation to broadcasting

programmes, particularly the elimination of sexist and

racist attitudes .

The mass media have the power to exploit

consumers by obscuring real social needs and distorting social values.

Extremely biased and limited views of women, including forms of advertising which are insulting and exploitative, are frequently portrayed in the media. Censorship is not the answer to this problem- which lies rather in developing procedures




- 7 -

to assist consumers themselves to press their

demands for higher. standards. In the print.

media, there is little scope for direct government

action to eliminate (sexist practices. However,

higher standards of general and consumer education,

and such measures as enlightened administration

and legislation to promote equal opportunities will

lead to consumer awareness and demand for higher

standards from newspapers, magazines and, in particular, advertisers.

In the broadcasting field, there is scope

for the development of procedures to strengthen

the direct influence of women as consumers, such as government-approved consumer codes for radio and TV stations whic1h are a condition of the granting of commercial licences and are enforceable by the Broadcasting Tribunal. Measures are also needed to increase women's participation in all aspects of radio and television industries, including equitable representation at all levels of decision-making.

LABOR WILL examine the possibility of amending the Broadcasting and Television Act to prevent practices which

exploit or discriminate against women.


There are a number of areas in which a Labor government will take steps to improve women's access to the law and to the protection of the law.

Anti-discrimination islation A Labor government will enact Anti-d iscrimination legislation (as discussed on p.36). to o to not on1. to all areas of Commonweal t, but to all areas of

Commonwealth jurisdicti over education, accommodation provision of goods, ser ces and facilities, access to I is places, superannuation, credit and insurance r.


schemes, sport and recre tion, clubs, advertising and publications.



- 58 -

Legal Aid

In November 1977, the Fraser government •

withdrew legal aid from dissolution of marriage except in cases of special hardship. The very restrictive means test on legal aid now means that many women are ineligible but are still unable to pay legal costs, which are particularly high where custody and maintenance are being contested.

Many women, with their lesser earning capacity, cannot undertake protracted proceedings and are disadvantaged.

A Labor government will restore and expand legal aid to ensure that no person is deprived of access to the Family Court and will abolish all fees imposed by the

Commonwealth government.

Rape and Sexual Offences Against Women

Existing rape laws in Australia are inadequate in deterring the commission of such crimes and in enabling successful prosecution of them. The law is particularly inadequate in the treatment and protection of the victim.

A large-scale survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the incidence of rape in Australia to be just as high as in the United States. However, American women are twice as likely to report this crime as Australian women - a statistic which reflects the extent to which victims are seen as somehow

'guilty' in regard to this offence.

Legislation is needed which will emphasise the violent rather than the sexual nature of rape and related offences and bring sexual offences law into line with other areas of criminal law. In addition to changing the outmoded and prejudicial assumptions on which



present laws are based, there is a need for the development of supportive services for victims and preventive education programs. Services should include government-funded rape crisis centres and women's refuges which are planned, controlled and staffed by women. The need to develop better training and procedures for court, police and medical officers is paramount, along with the setting up of sexual offences referral centres in public hospitals.

A Labor government will act immediately to reform rape legislation in the A.C.T. This will act as a model legislation for other Sta some of whom have alr acted to reformsubstanti

law (S.A.) or to change the rules

of evidence (W.A., Tas., c. and Qld.) .


The measures outlined in this discussion

paper do not imply heavy increases in expenditure, but rather a re-ordering of priorities. Reforms in law and administrative procedures to advance the welfare of women cost very little. It is certainly A

in the long-term interests of the community, on both

social and economic grounds, to pursue policies. which result in women being healthy, self-supporting and productive, whether in the workforce, community or

the home. Women's contribution in the workforce is now essential to national economic life; just as their continued joint responsibility for children is crucial to general well-being.

The costs of inequalities are extremely high. Poverty, dependence, and ill-health are costly not only to the individual victims, but to the whole society. The economic strategies pursued by

the Fraser government have led directly to high rates of unemployment, especially among women. Unemployment

- 60 -

leads directly to poverty and the waste of human talent and potential, and fosters anxiety, powerlessness, divisiveness and dependency.

It is now being established that women suffer exactly the same devastating personal consequences of unemployment as men - the loss of income, security, skills, self-esteem and companionship.

The present rate of female unemployment is 8.0% compared to 5.0% for males. But this figure does not take into account the fact that 80.3% of persons who 'would have liked a job' or 'who sought a job in the past 4 weeks' but were not classified as unemployed, were women.

This figure totals 414,200 women. Taking this into account brings the true unemployment figure for women to 22.2% of the potential workforce .

. Among teenagers, the unemployment rate for girls of 23.2% is scandalous. Australia's youth unemployment is the third worst among OECD countries (15-24 year olds), with only Finland and Spain recording higher rates during 1979. In this period the average duration of unemployment between jobs for those aged under

20 was 20.9 weeks in Australia, compared to U.S. (7.9); U.K. 5.5; Sweden (10.1); Belgium (6.2) and Finland (18).

The enormous personal costs to such young people cannot be exaggerated - the interruption to personal growth, experience and fulfilment, to education in the workforce, to fragile confidence and the development of economic independence. Moreover, the economic and social costs to the Australian community will be high. The report by R.T. Fitzgerald,

a 3

- 61 -

Poverty and Education in Australia 1977 , explored the experience and prospects of the girls who leave school early and who face unemployment.

'It would be a fair hypothesis to assert that many of them become locked in to a life-cycle of poverty - they marry earlier, have children at earlier ages and some perhaps subsequently need to support their children as sole breadwinners.'

One Four Corners report on youth unemployment found many jobless girls looking to motherhood for a fulfilling role in life, without any real understanding of what they were undertaking or how it would affect their future lives.

Quite apart from any humane, social considerations, the present rate of high unemployment among girls and young women is intolerable on grounds of sound economic management. The costs to taxpayers will be enormous. 68% of all social security beneficiaries

(excluding unemployient) are women. Already unemployment and supporting parents' pensions are the fastest growing welfare outlays. Though costly to the community, these benefits are pathetically inadequate for the recipients, most of whom would prefer to be earning decent wages.

Inequalities in the wider society waste much of the potential being developed in the education system, where women and girls now participate equally with males in many areas. Given their under-representation in so many of the areas of public life beyond the school for which education is a preparation, their schooling can only be described as an expensive cultural dowry.

The costs of providing educational and preventive services are generally far lower than those of providing remedial services after 4


- 62 -

problems have occurred. For instance, the Commonwealth currently spends $750,000annually on its Family Planning Program. The primary purpose of this program is not population control but the promotion of responsible parenthood. Considering the tremendous and enduring costs of irresponsible unwanted parenthood, services such as this should be expanded.

The services developed and run by women themselves have generally proved to cost the community less than existing, conventional alternatives. Last year $3 m. was provided

for women's refuges by the Commonwealth government. Without refuges, homeless women and their children have to be cared for in varied institutions - including psychiatric hospitals - which are more disruptive to them and far more costly to the community.

It is worth noting that while women's health centres and refuges were regarded with suspicion and even some hostility they are now generally accepted as having helped to change women's attitudes towards themselves, having

contributed to public awareness and understanding of the problems faced by women.

Such services are able to target the real needs they exist to meet more accurately and therefore, economically than more conventional services. In this sense, governments interested in cost-effectiveness should provide women with opportunities to develop their own capacity to articulate needs and should support their efforts to meet them.




63 -

The costs of providing equality of opportunity for women may seem high - measured in terms of education, training or child-care services. The costs of failing to do so, especially given women's contemporary. attitudes and expectations, iL far higher.