Page 183 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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no-one has actually been foolish enough to claim—that the scientific arguments are the only arguments to be considered in this debate

Finally, I note that a number of my female federal colleagues on both sides of politics have been running the argument that men do not have a right to have a view on this question. Apart from the fact that this is the only area of public policy where we hear this argument—do we ever hear the argument that adults cannot make laws affecting children, that white Australians cannot make laws affecting Aborigines or that white-collar types cannot regulate plumbers?—there are other strong objections.

First, this of course assumes that it is only the woman who has an interest in such issues. Again, this is a claim that is easier to assume than assert. The question of whether there is another party to consider is as central as it is contested in this debate, and begging this question is inexcusable. Second, on this question of standing, it occurs to me that men are not the only group who will not have recourse to RU486. In the Australian yesterday, Reverend Dr John Fleming reported on recent research and noted that, when presented with arguments for and against RU486, women in the child-bearing years were much more likely to favour delaying its introduction, compared with women in my age group. He said in his article that the study showed that, before arguments for or against were rehearsed, young women aged 18 to 34 were most in favour of making RU486 available, but that, after exposure to the for and against arguments, younger women changed their mind and became the group most supportive of delaying the introduction of RU486 or not introducing it at all.

Dr Fleming also noted in his article that 23 of the 26 female senators voted for the bill. He did not join the dots—he was probably too polite to do so—but I am not that polite. Women are under-represented in most legislatures, and women of childbearing age, let alone those with young children—with a few exceptions, such as our own Ms Gallagher—are very rare, and this is for understandable reasons. Most women legislators are of my generation or older, and many of them still approach this issue on the basis of the fashionable slogans of their impressionable years. I wonder if it has ever struck my female fellow legislators that the charge of making an ideological decision on issues that will affect the health of others, not their own, applies just as strongly to them as it does to their male colleagues.

Industrial relations

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.17): Yesterday in this Assembly I raised my concerns about the industrial relations practices of the opposition. Just in the way of an update, Mrs Dunne has not yet approached me regarding the CPSU membership—and, to my surprise, nor has Mr Mulcahy. I would have thought the title of “workplace leader”, as it is the title of some union delegates, would have had him running at the opportunity. Maybe he is just waiting for the right time. But I must admit that I found the workplace disputes of the opposition somewhat amusing. Maybe it is my belief in poetic justice.

What I have found unamusing, though, is the treatment of a constituent of mine, Ms Astrid Bloxham. Astrid and her husband, Bill, have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and she has worked for her employer, the security company Group 4, for 10 years. Last year, on Christmas Day, Astrid was working out at the Canberra International

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