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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2540 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Today, women still dominate within that profession and we still find in relation to both nursing and that other so-called women's work of teaching our children that amongst the professions theirs are the two professions that continue to be so poorly remunerated and put at the bottom of the pecking order in relation to fair rates of pay, with a whole range of consequences, and continuing consequences, for women and, certainly, for society and the community.

The crisis that the Canberra Hospital finds itself in today, with the alarming headline of today's Canberra Times that there is an emergency action plan at the point of being instituted which requires the calling in of the defence forces to staff the hospital, is a reflection of the fact that we can no longer attract people to the profession of nursing. In other words, the issue about the extent to which we value women and the work women traditionally did has now reached the circumstance where we cannot staff our hospitals because we continue to perpetuate the myths that actually beset the nursing profession at the point of its establishment.

That is why it is so important that we have this debate. That is why it is so important for the government to properly understand issues around the level and extent of unpaid work. It goes back to the definitions of work, the understandings of work and the extent to which definitions of work have impinged and impacted on women, in particular. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, in all of the work that has been done in relation to the value of unpaid work, shows that to be the case. On any of the accepted measures of the value of unpaid work, and a whole range of measurements can be used, such as a market replacement cost method, a gross opportunity cost method and a net opportunity cost method, we find that most of the unpaid work, over 65 per cent, across all of these methodologies is carried out by women.

It is important to put that in some context. The Chief Minister spoke at length on the value of volunteering to community work. I do not discount that, it is incredibly important, and I endorse everything he said. But the major aspect of this debate is not about volunteer and community work, which comprises, I think, less than 10 per cent. Ten per cent of the total value or contribution of unpaid work or workers in the community is actually coming from doing voluntary community work. The other 80 per cent is coming from women at home. That is what we are talking about here. The debate here is about the value of that contribution that is made voluntarily. This is essentially not a debate about the value of volunteer and community work. That is another debate. This is essentially a debate about the need to recognise the enormous contribution in terms of the national economy which women make to the unpaid domestic work that is done in the nation. (Extension of time granted.)

On each of the costings that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has supplied, the level of work that women do in the unpaid work force is almost equal to the national GDP. That should be measured, because not measuring it perpetuates myths about whether what is not remunerated is, in fact, work. Once you begin to assume that, if it is not remunerated, then it is not work, then the majority of the work that is done outside the paid work force, work which is done by women, is not recognised really as work. It is not valued, because culturally we value what we pay for. If it is not paid for, there is a cultural assumption that is it not really work, it is not valuable, the corollary being that those who undertake the work are not to be valued for their contributions.

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