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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2542 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

informed by understanding. It would be very good to see that happen. In fact, it does not happen nearly enough.

It has been a constant surprise to me how much public policy is not founded on any real information. The ABS measures many aspects of life and these statistics are very useful and important foundations for government policies and programs and for everyone to understand what is going on in society. For example, there is a census question on our journey to work which is useful in planning bicycle paths, bus routes and so on, but the information available to policy makers, in which group I am including parliaments, government departments, academic researchers, community bodies, community services and peak bodies, is determined by the questions asked.

Mr Wood's motion asks us to make a strong statement about our needs for information on voluntary and unpaid work, the work done in the community and in the home, shops, and family. How important is unpaid work in our community? To answer this question, we need statistics. We need to have case studies and anecdotal evidence brought into a form that we can understand. There has been a lot of talk today about the fact that it is mostly women who undertake unpaid work in our society, although I understand that there was a case recently where a widow was awarded some compensation because of the unpaid work her husband would have carried out; so it is not just about women, but it is certainly more about women than about men at this point in our society.

The ABS says, apparently, that there is a problem with collecting information about what people do that is not paid for. In Canada the experience has been that people underestimate their voluntary work when they answer the simple questions appropriate to a census question on usual major activity. When there was a more open question, the answers were not standard, so the ABS relies on time use surveys to gather the information. I understand that that has occurred twice, in 1992 and 1997, and the proposal now is to turn such a survey into a 12-yearly collection, which we are opposing today through this motion.

The problem with increasing the time between surveys is that it is much harder to see when changes occur in the level and type of unpaid work being done and who is carrying it out. With the current moves to make fundamental changes to our welfare system, I believe that this probably will mean quite a lot for people who are in unpaid work. It will mean quite a lot to the number of people who end up in unpaid work as well. There could be an increase in carer time. It is very important that we have an understanding of what is going on.

I want to refer to some of the objectives of the Office of the Status of Women, because they paint a pretty clear picture of why we need to have such information. If we accept that the Office of the Status of Women has as its objective to ensure that women are not discriminated against in our society, we will take seriously what it sees as necessary towards achieving a situation in this country where there are equal rights and entitlements for women and for men. The office says that really important work has to be done on developing a strategy on savings across lifestyles to promote adequate retirement incomes for women. That is clearly very significant.

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