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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 4 March 2004) . . Page.. 773 ..

I applaud the minor parties for attempting to do something about it but, unless the major parties get behind it, nothing will occur. It is remarkable that most of the decision makers involved in this are men. It is not up to business in Australia to fund paid maternity leave, for it is businesswomen in this country, among many other people, who have continued to fund Commonwealth funded maternity leave. We are pleased that public servants have this benefit. Having come from business, I was one of those that helped to fund it.

It always strikes me as rather intriguing when I hear federal ministers using the red herring of, “Well, really, I don’t think business can afford it.” Nor should they—it is not up to them to fund it—it should be funded by the taxpayer. The taxpayer funds the Commonwealth public service paid maternity leave scheme. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and the first major federal party that does it will secure many votes at the election—rest assured of that.

Inequity continues to spread. The concern I have is that, despite the fact that there are more women than ever before in paid work in Australia and that women’s unemployment is at its lowest level in a decade, we still have a gender gap in wages which totals approximately 15 per cent. That is a record low, but it still exists and it should not.

While Australian women have made great gains in society we have done so in a conducive environment. Women in some other nations have not been so fortunate. I am encouraged when I speak with young women in Canberra who cannot comprehend living at a time when there were no women doctors or lawyers, or when women were prevented from attending university or were unable even to have a job, let alone be paid equally.

While such conditions largely no longer exist in this nation, tragically they still exist in other nations. International Women’s Day is a clear statement that such attitudes and behaviour need to change and will hopefully provide a point of irritation for change to begin.

MR SPEAKER: The time for this discussion has expired.

Dangerous Substances Bill 2003

Detail stage

Debate resumed from 12 February 2004.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 9, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 10.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.37): I seek leave to move amendments 1 and 2 circulated in my name together.

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