Page 2276 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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According to the 2001 census, Canberra still has over 4,000 residents of Croatian origin. These are hardworking, law-abiding people who have helped make Canberra a better place to live. On Croatian national day, all of us should celebrate the birth of a democracy in the face of oppression. We, as ACT residents, should also take the opportunity to recognise the significant and ongoing contribution of the Croatian community in Canberra.

Household work

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.37): I am interested to know how many people here leave this place after a hard day and have to go home and cook dinner. How many people clean the toilet every week? Okay, you get the gist.

Members interjecting—

DR FOSKEY: I am not having my five minutes wasted by other people’s hilarity. Today I want to talk about a report that was released yesterday, Striking the balance: women, men, work and family, discussion paper 2005, which was prepared by the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Pru Goward—a paper which I hope will have some resonance with the federal government because, sadly, the statistics that it produces are pretty much the same as the ones Michael Bittman released in the 1970s about the division of labour within the family. What has happened, now we are in what is called the noughties, is that we put everything in economic terms. Now, instead of talking about the wellbeing of the family and so on, we talk about the impact of this imbalance of labour on the economy, because that is the language of the times.

I have the report here. I am reading it with great interest, and I suggest you all have a look at it and download it. Submissions have to be in by 30 September. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald. Probably this journalist managed to read the whole paper:

A discussion paper … says that population growth, workforce participation, and productivity—the three Ps the Treasurer says are essential for economic growth—would be enhanced if men and women spread the responsibility for paid work and housework and caring for children and the elderly.

But to do this there need to be changes in the law, society, and workplace culture … The current arrangement, where women do most of the housework and child care, and men are primary bread winners, works against “the principles of a democratic and just society”, the paper says. And even though the arrangement appears to be the result of private choices—

like “she won’t let me clean the toilet”—

freely made, the level of disquiet and exhaustion in Australian families showed the opposite is true.

“Choices are never made in a vacuum,” it says. They are influenced by government laws and policies, employer practices, and community attitudes. Under current tax policies, for example, there is “no incentive for both parents to work part time and to share the care of their children more equally”.

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