Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1910 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
However, we believe that the capacity of women to discharge obligations is no less than that of men, even in these circumstances. We therefore feel that there is no basis for allowing a business proprietor-or anybody else for that matter-to say that a woman should have less entitlement to make those contractual arrangements than anybody else. We say that kind of discrimination should be illegal-hence the amendment before the house today. I commend the amendment to the house.
I think it is important that we consider, on a continuous basis, how the rights of our citizens might be expanded and improved. We consider how we can make sure the status of women in this territory is improved, by virtue of the things we do in here. Despite the great progress made in recent years to expand the status of women, it is important that we not allow any chinks in that armour to remain for long on the statute book.
I therefore commend Mrs Cross for the very judicious and careful way in which she has gone about making sure this legislation has been brought to the house. I hope it will be passed with alacrity by the house, as a way of improving that status.
MS MacDONALD (11.15): I rise to speak in support of the spirit of this amendment. Many people know that, for five years, I worked for the Australian Services Union-the clerical branch. A lot of people do not know much about that union, but its membership is predominantly female. I would say that over 90 per cent of its membership would be female. Within the ACT, it has membership in areas such as ACTTAB; it used to have membership at Ansett, and we have lots of predominantly female clerical workers around the country.
In my time with the union, I came across many women who suffered discrimination on the basis that they may become pregnant, or were already pregnant. That may have been with a pay differential or failing to get a pay increase, or it may have meant that they were overlooked for a position because they were a woman and therefore were considered to be not necessarily up to the task, in comparison to a male.
Sometimes it was because women were unable to stay back late because of family responsibilities. Their employers would say, "Even though I do not pay them overtime, I would rather have somebody who can stay back until six, seven or eight o'clock at night. I need the person to be here to get the job done"-without looking at the fact that many women are much more efficient in their work and take less time to do the job than men do.
Mr Speaker, I have a card in my possession. I am a hoarder, and this card is one thing I value. It belonged to a member of mine when I was working for the union. She was not in the ACT, from memory. She lived in Albury-an area I covered. This card came from a lady with whom, although I never met her face to face, I had many conversations over the phone. Basically, I was giving her a lot of support because she was receiving discrimination from her employer on the basis that she was pregnant, and she was not prepared to stay back until six, seven or eight o'clock at night because she wanted to go home to her husband.