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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1906 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

This clause, I am confident, incorporates all the work that the earlier proposals on this bill sought to cover, and we are pleased to support the change.

MS DUNDAS (11.03): The Australian Democrats will be supporting the bill in principle. We believe that the refining of the bill that has taken place was done in a positive way. Mr Stanhope's comments this morning run contrary to the positive spirit of discussion that has taken place over a huge problem in our society with regard to discrimination.

Discrimination and prejudice are a continuing problem in our society. Canberrans continue to be discriminated against every day-in their workplaces, in their homes and in public. Prejudicial attitudes held by some in our community are often deep rooted and very difficult to change. However, these are contemptible attitudes which need to be addressed by all sectors of the community, including business, community organisations, families and government. I believe we need to talk more about discrimination-not just here in the Assembly, but in our schools and workplaces, and with our families, friends and colleagues. This bill is one small step in that direction.

As Mrs Cross has previously mentioned, our current discrimination laws cover both pregnancy and breastfeeding but do not specifically mention potential pregnancy. The concept of potential pregnancy is an important one. It is based on the idea that discrimination can occur, based not only on a person's actual personal characteristics, but on the basis of a person's possible future or perceived attributes. I believe this is an important point to be made, as discrimination takes many forms. Our legislation should take into account this social reality.

In our social structure, women continue to miss out on opportunities. They are paid less, they control far less of the wealth and they do far more unpaid work. They are under-represented in business, media, academia, the judiciary and sport. They are under-represented in our parliaments, and even in this Assembly. Both the current Labor and the immediate former Liberal governments had cabinets composed entirely of men.

Much of this stems from the entrenched idea that women are somehow less able to handle responsibility than men. Women are constantly characterised by their reproductive functions and their responsibilities as carers and homemakers. Women's biological differences continue to be used as a weapon against them. So I support these changes in the law, to reflect our aspirations for an equal society and provide a means of redressing discrimination.

However, just writing law is not going to create social change. We need to educate ourselves and continue to push for the wider social changes necessary to prevent discrimination, and not use our legal system to punish the few cases that make it anywhere near court.

Inequity against women does exist in our world. It is something for which we all need to take responsibility. We must challenge discrimination in all its forms, wherever it is seen. We must stand up and fight.

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