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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3879 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

force. This should be done through legislation, certified agreements and conditions within these agreements, such as part-time arrangements, return-to-work programs and the monitoring of promotion and merit selection exercises.

Paid maternity leave has been around for years in the public service. It is well documented that this employment condition recognises the valuable contribution of women in the workplace, as well as valuing the need for family-friendly work practices. The committee notes that paid maternity leave is a strong contributor to keeping women in the work force and encouraging women to return after having children. Along the lines of best practice, the committee recommends increasing paid maternity leave in the ACT public service from 12 to 14 weeks in line with the 2001 International Labour Organisation's resolution No 183. The committee notes the recent decision of the Northern Territory government to introduce 14 weeks paid maternity leave in its own public service.

Finally, I turn to some recommendations relating to strategic direction for government, and particularly for the Office for Women. The committee was appreciative of the assistance of the office to the committee throughout this inquiry. The committee has given extensive consideration to ideas to assist guiding women's policy within government. The committee acknowledges that the government, through the Office for Women and through the Ministerial Advisory Council on Women, has already undertaken significant work in the area of women's policy and current issues for women. We also acknowledge the Women's Action Plan and recognise what a valuable document this is. This committee's report should not be seen to replace this work, but I hope it is viewed in conjunction with and as complementary to the work already undertaken and currently under way.

In the area of strategic directions, the committee recommends:

the Office for Women be given a small budget to fund one-off programs for women-for example, administrative support for seminars and programs such as the Women's Constitutional Convention

work on another Women's Action Plan be commenced

an annual report card for women be produced, using statistical indicators on the status of women in the community-this is dealt with at page 106 of the report and is an idea that we have borrowed from Western Australia

government produce a budget document which clearly outlines the dollars for women in the budget each year.

The committee noted and supported the government's initiative to have all cabinet submissions go to the Office for Women and that the Office for Women report directly to the Minister for Women. However, the committee was concerned that seeing cabinet submissions at the end of the process may not be as effective as the idea of involving the Office for Women earlier in the policy discussion and cabinet submission process, and the committee comments on this in the report.

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