INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD
[11.21 a.m.]: I move
1. That this House notes that:
2. That this House notes that:
(a) 8 March of each year is International Women's Day,
(b) International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate the vital role women play in the economic prosperity of their families, communities and countries and recognise women's crucial role in ending poverty, and
(c) International Women's Day is a time to highlight the need to remove the significant barriers women still face in achieving economic and social equality.
(a) 70 per cent of the world's poor are women,
(b) women earn less than 10 per cent of the world's wages, but do more than two-thirds of the world's work,
(c) women reinvest 90 per cent of their income into their families whilst men invest only 30 to 40 per cent, and
(d) in New South Wales:
(i) 3.68 million reside in the State,
(ii) in dollar terms, New South Wales women working full-time earn around $10,710 less than men annually,
(iii) women receive 85¢ for every dollar earned by men on a weekly basis,
(iv) women in the New South Wales public service earn 6.7 per cent less than men annually,
(v) in 2007, women's average superannuation balance was over $33,000 less than men's and women in New South Wales need to be able to participate meaningfully in respected roles commensurate with their skills and abilities,
(vi) women are disproportionately represented in low paid casual and part-time work, making up 70 per cent of part-time workers in New South Wales,
(vii) women form less than 2 per cent of all people completing construction, automotive and engineering, and electro-technology and telecommunications apprenticeships,
(viii) women have 13.7 per cent of board positions nationally in ASX 200 companies,
(ix) 38 per cent of members of Government boards or committees are women,
(x) over 80 per cent of victims of domestic violence are women.
3. That this House calls on all levels of government and the corporate sector to develop and implement policies and strategies to remove the barriers to women achieving economic and social equality.
I begin by wishing you, Madam Deputy-President, and all of my colleagues and the women of New South Wales a happy International Women's Day. International Women's Day has always been an occasion for asserting women's political and social rights, for celebrating women's cultural activities, and for recognising the diversity of women and their interests. Whilst the celebration is important, we should not forget the history of International Women's Day. Its origins are firmly in the union movement. In fact, trade union and socialist women in the United States of America initiated International Women's Day on 8 March 1908 with demonstrations calling for the vote and other rights for women. The following year women garment workers went on strike for better pay and conditions. The decision to inaugurate International Women's Day was taken in 1910 at women's conferences in Copenhagen. The day was celebrated on 19 March 1911 with meetings and demonstrations.
In Australia the first rally purportedly was held just outside this place, in The Domain, in March 1928. That rally called for equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour day for shop girls, abolition of piece work, a basic wage for the unemployed, and annual holidays on full pay. Last year, in the centenary of International Women's Day, I hosted an exhibition in the Fountain Court of the New South Wales Parliament to mark that significant anniversary. The exhibition chronicled the themes of International Women's Day activities and campaigns that have featured year after year. Those are still very relevant today. That is because, despite advances, there is still much to do before we have true equality for women. One of the standouts is equal pay. Here we are in New South Wales 84 years after our first rally advocating for equal pay and we still do not have equal pay for women. That is a national disgrace. I quote the first female Justice of the High Court of Australia, Mary Gaudron:
We got equal pay once, then we got it again, and then we got it again, and now we still don't have it.
In 1984 Edna Ryan, the great labour feminist activist, wrote her book Two-thirds of a Man
in which she described and analysed the first four arbitration cases involving women. In accounting for the lack of women's trade unions at the turn of the twentieth century she wrote:
It had been easier for men to unite and organise. They worked in larger enterprises. They congregated not only at work but after work in sheds, camps or pubs. Whatever their work, when the working day ended, men were free. This freedom was never available to women, who whether or not they earned a living, were expected to perform domestic work, help care for the sick, the young and the disabled.
The political and social conditions of the time Edna wrote about in Two-thirds of a Man
were vastly different from those that exist today. To quote Edna, this was a time when:
The law forbade the advertising of birth control aids and the church banned their use: pregnancy termination was a heinous crime, especially for women in the working class.
It was a time when, to quote her again:
women working in factories were labelled as brazen, cheeky and immoral. They were conscious of the stigma that took away their self-esteem, leaving them even more vulnerable in the labour force. If society regarded them with contempt, employers need show them no respect.
There was very little that was fair for women in the time that Edna Ryan was writing about. Clearly, much has improved for women since that time. Those improvements were hard fought for. They were realised because women like Edna Ryan passionately advocated for reforms to address the political, economic and social inequities that disadvantaged women. I believe there is evidence that remnants of that culture that disadvantaged women over a century ago still exist in Australia today, and that is why in 2012 women in Australia still face gender-based inequities.
The theme for this year's International Women's Day is "Women's Economic Empowerment". It is a fitting theme in the aftermath of the GFC—not the GFC that has been in the news for the last few years but, as Anne Summers terms it, the gender fairness crisis. Here we are in 2012, 101 years since the first International Women's Day, and women in Australia and globally still faced gender-based inequities. One of those, as I have said, is equal pay. On 1 September last year we had Equal Pay Day—an important day, highlighting that women have to work an extra 63 days after the end of the financial year to match the earnings of men. Despite the fact that women in Australia won the right to equal pay in the early 1970s, to date we have not succeeded in turning that right into a reality. In fact, in recent years Australian women have gone backwards relative to women in other countries. Here in New South Wales there are 3.68 million women. In dollar terms, New South Wales women working full time earn around $10,710 less than mean annually. That means that for every dollar a man earns a women in the same job receives only 85¢—for work of equal value.
Women in the New South Wales public service earn 6.7 per cent less than men annually. In 2007 women's average superannuation balance was more than $33,000 less than men's. For this to change women in New South Wales need to be able to participate meaningfully in respected roles commensurate with their skills and abilities. Women are disproportionately represented in low-paid casual and part-time work, making up 70 per cent of part-time workers in New South Wales. Women form less than 2 per cent of all people completing apprenticeships in construction, automotive and engineering, and electro-technology and telecommunications.
In a matter of 12 months we have seen, regretfully, the appalling record of this Government's treatment of women. Name-calling of women parliamentarians, whether in or out of the Chamber, is despicable and tantamount to bullying. We need to call this behaviour for what it is, irrespective of political party. Anyone who idly witnesses and chooses to do nothing about such bullying is no better than the perpetrators. The job we women parliamentarians do here is a hard one, without being subjected to personal attacks. It is extremely distressing that the progressive programs and initiatives of the previous Labor Government have been largely torn down in less than a year.
This Government has effectively thumbed its nose at over 50 per cent of the New South Wales population. Neither the Premier nor the Minister for Women, Pru Goward, convened a single meeting of the Premier's Expert Advisory Council for Women, thereby blocking out vital expertise to the Government on important issues such as domestic violence, work-life balance issues, and high work casualisation rates of women. In fact, when the Government was copping some heat on this action its solution was to sack them. Given this Government's record, I know I should not be surprised; however, I was. I feel the need to offer this Government some important advice: It is imperative that the government of the day listens to experts in the area of women's policy or that government will risk losing touch altogether. That is evidenced by the retrograde steps I will now outline.
Barry O'Farrell moved the Office for Women's Policy from his own central agency, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, to the Department of Family and Communities. That undermines the role of the Office for Women's Policy in coordinating policy issues across government and sends a loud message to the women of New South Wales that their issues are not on the Government's agenda. There are further examples. Before the State election the Coalition promised to establish a Bureau of Women's Statistics. That has not happened. The Coalition promised to produce the first ever annual report on the status of women in New South Wales. After almost one year in office that has not happened. Also, $52,000 has been cut from the funding available for local International Women's Day events. Despite promising to do so before the State election, the O'Farrell Government has refused to commit funding for equal pay for social and community service workers, the majority of who are women and are grossly underpaid. As part of the Government's draconian wages policy for public sector workers women will be forced to trade off lactation breaks for a pay rise. The O'Farrell Government has also excluded public sector workers who are surrogate parents and foster carers from receiving paid parental leave.
Since coming to office Barry O'Farrell has forced out seven senior women in the New South Wales public service. He also sacked Mr Roger Corbett, chairman of the Sydney Children's Hospital Network, out of revenge because he publicly criticised the way in which the Minister for Health removed one of those senior public servants. The Liberal-Nationals Government is now forcing nurses to pay $10,000 for a course to re-enter the health system in order to ease the nurse vacancy epidemic currently crippling our public hospitals. Just how out of touch are Government members that they do not understand the impediment this cost presents to nurses re-entering the jobs that our public hospitals are crying out to have filled?
In what I may term as a final slap in the face—although I fear there probably is more to come—the New South Wales Woman of the Year awards have been cancelled. Not only were these prestigious awards cancelled, they were then denigrated in the media by the Minister saying on radio station 2UE that the awards were only for Labor's friends. It was further stated that the community should have the opportunity to nominate the person of their choice. These statements are false and at best are insulting to the women who were nominated or who received awards over the past 10 years. I know that everyone in this House realises that anyone can nominate a worthy woman for the award and, in fact, members did.
I will mention some of the fabulous female nominees from the past few years and the persons who nominated them. Helen McCue, AM, was nominated by Ms Pru Goward, MP. Fiona Zhou was nominated by Mrs Judy Hopwood, MP. Tara Cameron was nominated by the Hon. Catherine Cusack, MLC. Patricia Glasby was nominated by the Hon. Shelley Hancock, MP and Sharon Grocott was nominated by the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, MP. There is a long list of superb women who have been nominated by Liberal and National Party members of Parliament. Of course last year's winner was Barbra Asplet, nominated by Ms Shirley Lomas. Her biography reads:
Barbra Asplet is an inspirational woman who has helped to support 5,000 women and girls through Healing House. She has also been involved in reconciliation activities, and contributed to community efforts to establish aged care services for Aboriginal people.
Her nominator said that Ms Asplet has instilled in other Aboriginal women and girls a self-belief that they can strive for and achieve their dreams. I do not see too many Labor friends in this list. Perhaps Ms Goward should have checked that before she made such an outrageous allegation. This list demonstrates that to say that it is only Labor's friends who are nominated is a poor excuse for dumping the awards. That is a slur on the fine women who have been previous nominees and winners of the award.
I move on to another appalling statistic of this Government: the Coalition's choice of candidates for the 2011 State election. For the first time women's representation in the Legislative Assembly has gone backwards. Women's representation in the Legislative Assembly has fallen from 28 per cent before the 2011 election to 20 per cent after Mr O'Farrell's win. Only nine of the 51 Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly are women, representing just 18 per cent of those members. Only two of the 18 National Party members of the Legislative Assembly are women, representing just 11 per cent of those members. Only 11 of the 69 members of the Liberal-Nationals Government in the Legislative Assembly are women, representing just 16 per cent of the Government members in the Legislative Assembly. Nine of the 20 Labor members of the Legislative Assembly are women, which represents 45 per cent of the Labor Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. Currently 38 per cent of members of New South Wales government boards or committees are women. However, this has also come under attack as this Coalition Government has removed the requirement that 50 per cent of all new appointments to government boards and committees be women.
I commend the great work and programs initiated by United Nations Women but despite that work we are not that well placed globally. In 2006 Australia was number 15 in the world economic forum's global gender gap index. By 2010 we had slipped to number 23. Australian women now face bigger wage gaps than women in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Mozambique. On average, Australian women today still earn 17.5 per cent less than our male counterparts—the largest gap in 23 years. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling estimates that on average a woman will earn almost $1 million less over her lifetime than the average Australian man. She will retire with less than half the superannuation benefits simply because of her gender.
Six years ago the World Economic Forum created the global gender gap index. This index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, educational and health-based criteria. Its rankings allow effective comparisons across regions and income groups over time. In the first global gender gap index report in 2006 Australia ranked 15th overall. As I have said, it has now gone backwards and we are, appallingly, ranked twenty-third. It is interesting to see where Australia is ranked in the indexes measured in the report. In economic participation opportunity Australia is ranked at 24. In educational attainment Australia is ranked at one, along with a number of other countries. In health and survival our ranking is 73 and in political empowerment Australia is ranked at 39. Of course, the political empowerment ranking measures the gap between men and women in political decision-making at the highest levels. Obviously, members will not be interested to hear that this is the ranking that most interests me. The preface of the global gender gap report states:
We are at a unique turning point in history. Never before has there been such momentum around gender parity on the global stage
Quite frankly, I doubted that such a lofty claim could be made about Australia's interest in the issue of gender parity. However, during the week of Equal Pay Day when the Sydney Morning Herald
led with front page articles and featured the issue of the gender gap in the Australian workforce for three days I had a little glow of hope in my feminist heart. The Goldman Sachs report entitled "Australia's Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation" was outlined in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald
that addressed the economic basis for closing the gender gap in workforce participation.
The authors argue that Australia needs to implement economic reforms in industry policies to encourage women into the higher paying and more productive sectors of the workforce such as mining construction and utilities. They make it clear that women are largely absent in the best performing sectors of our economy. In finding answers to the issue of pay equity in Australia I believe it is valuable to look at those countries that have reduced the gender gap. The global gender gap report states that in the countries holding the top 10 rankings it is the Nordic countries that have consistently held the highest positions in the index. Iceland still holds the top overall ranking and the report outlines the reasons for that as follows:
Iceland shows further gains in the area of political empowerment because of an increase in the number of women ministers, a near gender-balanced parliament and the continued tenure of a female prime minister. Iceland continues to hold 1st position on both educational attainment and political empowerment, and women's labour force participation in Iceland is among the highest in the world. However, there is still a significant difference between men's and women's salaries.
In March 2010 the Icelandic parliament adopted a legislative reform to promote gender equality on the boards of publicly owned companies and public limited companies having at least 50 employees; these companies must have at least 40% of both genders represented on their boards by September 2013. Moreover, companies with 25 or more employees are required to disclose the number of men and women employed as well as the number of men and women in management positions.
We have much to learn from Iceland, particularly in New South Wales, where women's political representation is at its lowest point for nearly two decades. That is clearly reflected in the Liberal-Nationals Government's appalling record on gender equity. Some interesting statistics are emerging on gender equity in our nation. A national report from the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry outlines the number of women starting their own business and states that that has doubled in the past few years. The report estimates that 900,000 women are very successfully running their own businesses in Australia and that 27 per cent of women business owners have an annual turnover of more than $250,000. According to the chamber's chief, Yolanda Vega, equal opportunity from the perspective of entrepreneurship is still not a reality, despite the fact that women tend to be more successful in starting up their own businesses as their return on investment is far higher than men's. In short, investing in women makes good business sense. I challenge the Coalition Government to do just that and I commend my motion to the House.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER
[11.42 a.m.]: It is appropriate that all members of the House acknowledge that 8 March each year marks International Women's Day. The Liberal and Nationals parties are very happy to support this motion. It is also appropriate to acknowledge that in the New South Wales Parliament up until 1926 there were no women and only men debated and voted on legislation that directly impacted upon women's choices and freedoms and those of their families. International Women's Day is an opportunity to thank the women who campaigned for change in the status of women in our society and to honour their achievements. The best way we can honour those achievements is to continue to build on them.
The Liberal-Nationals Government aims to support women in accessing the prosperity that some parts of our economy are experiencing, and to do that we have outlined four key policy priorities. Before I run through those priority areas I will list some of the women who have been appointed to important offices by the O'Farrell-Stoner Government in its first year in office. I do that to counterbalance some of the mean-minded comments in this debate by the mover of the motion. First, the Premier was pleased to extend the term of the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Marie Bashir—an outstanding woman appointed as the first woman Governor of New South Wales by a Labor Government. Her appointment has been extended by the incoming Government and I believe that has been to wide acclaim. We thank the Governor for her extraordinary work.
Dr Kerry Schott has been appointed to the Audit Commission. The new Director General of the Department of Education and Communities, Dr Michelle Bruniges, has been appointed by this Government. Maree O'Halloran and Katie Page have been appointed to the Public Service Commission Advisory Board. The Ministry of Health formerly had a woman as its Director General and her replacement is Dr Mary Foley. The chief executive officer of the new Destination NSW body that has been set up by the incoming Government is Sandra Chipchase. Two women have been appointed to the Audit Commission: Belinda Hutchinson and Dr Sue Page. Carolyn Kay has been appointed to the Infrastructure NSW board. Dr Elizabeth Coombes has been appointed Privacy Commissioner.
The incoming Government has set up a Small Business Commission and Yasmin King has been appointed as the Commissioner. Kristen Kegan has been appointed to the Hunter Infrastructure Fund. Carolyn Fletcher has been appointed to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority board. Naseema Sparks has been appointed to Racing NSW. Trisha Dixon has been appointed to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Patricia Heaton has been appointed to the New South Wales Film and Television Office. To the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Board the Government has appointed Tanya Gadiel.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps:
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER:
Yes, Tanya Gadiel. You would think that would be welcomed by those opposite. To the board of Destination NSW, which I mentioned has a woman chief executive officer, the incoming Government has appointed the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, a former distinguished member of this House, and my former Nationals colleague the Hon. Wendy Machin. Ita Buttrose has been appointed to the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust and also to the Bravery Awards Panel. Professor Veena Sahajwall has been appointed to the New South Wales Australia Day Council. Catherine Livingstone has been appointed chair of the Australian Museum. Former Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan has been appointed as chair of the Sydney Opera House Trust, and a great chair she will be.
The O'Farrell Government has appointed Kerry Clare to the Barangaroo board. Susan Lee and Victoria Qui have been appointed to the Multicultural Business Advisory Panel. Katie Lahey has been appointed to the New South Wales Export and Investment Advisory Board and Dr Diana Day has been appointed to the Sydney Water Board. There has obviously been a conscientious attempt by the Liberal-Nationals Government to ensure that we continue to improve the representation of women on various bodies to which the Government makes appointments. I am sure that will continue into the future.
The first priority the Government is working on in relation to its four key policy areas to support women in accessing the prosperity of the various parts of our economy is to increase the representation of women in the better-paying non-traditional roles, particularly women from lower socio-economic groups. That is particularly so for women in the lower socio-economic groups. The construction, automotive and engineering sectors that were mentioned by the Hon. Helen Westwood, who moved the motion, have almost no women participating in them, but they are high-paying, high-productivity industries characterised by jobs growth and skills shortages.
The Labor Government focused on some boards and on improving the lot of women lawyers, but the current Government wants to increase policy for the majority. For example, we are aiming to address the 70 per cent of generation Y women who do not go to university. We need to improve their choices and opportunities in the future. The Minister for Women, Ms Goward, recently announced the establishment of the New South Wales Council of Women's Economic Opportunity, comprising industry leaders who will provide advice and develop strategies to reduce the barriers for women entering non-traditional trades. The second priority is to support a strategic approach to reducing domestic violence. A key element of that will be development of a new framework that addresses domestic, family and sexual violence against women in this State.
I am sure that all members would be aware that the New South Wales performance audit of domestic and family violence was damning and that New South Wales as a State needs to do a whole lot better for women in regard to domestic and family violence. The same themes—poorly integrated service, challenges with information sharing, fragmented referral networks and limited focus on prevention and early intervention—are emerging as part of the inquiry on trends and issues in domestic violence, and we need to take heed of those trends. The new strategic framework also will address those issues. It will be developed in close consultation with the non-government sector, because that sector contributes very valuable insights and innovative ways in which to address the problems we face.
The third priority of the Liberal and Nationals Government is to build up its knowledge base on the status of women in New South Wales so that the debate about the role of women is informed by concrete data rather than just opinion. The Government will produce an annual report on the status of women in New South Wales, as well as more in-depth information, to inform government, non-government, business sectors and the community on these issues. As well the Liberal and Nationals parties are increasing representation of women on government boards and committees, which I referred to earlier, so that the Government is advised as best it can be, and to demonstrate to the commercial and business sectors that a significant presence of women is essential for sound decision-making and governance. The Office for Women's Policy is working closely with the Public Service Commission and the Department of Premier and Cabinet to achieve that outcome.
In contrast, Labor's strategies to encourage the appointment of women to government boards and committees were a bit shoddy. That is reflected by the fact that the former Premier, a woman, only announced the 50 per cent target on 2 February 2011—a matter of weeks before the election. The blokes who had been the Premier of New South Wales under Labor governments, the former Premier's predecessors, never got around to it. Women's economic independence, their freedom of choice regarding work and their right to live free from violence are issues that are of primary concern to the Government as a whole.
The Nationals, as a political party, acknowledge that we need to improve our performance in the number of women who are elected to four houses of two parliaments—the Senate, House of Representatives, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly—and we are taking steps in that direction. The issue is a high priority one for our political party organisation and for the parliamentary party. As the Hon. Sarah Mitchell reminds me, The Nationals were the first party to have 50 per cent of our party room in the upper House comprising women, but proportionately we must do better than that, and we are working towards achieving that end. In relation to the overall topic of gender equality, I refer to the remarks made on 11 February 2012 by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, in the Sydney Morning Herald
The research is clear that it's men taking the issue of gender equality to other men that will change the situation for women in Australia, particularly in the workplace. Because men make the rules at work—
and, if we want those rules changed, we need men to change them. It's not about asking men to save us – we can save ourselves, thank you very much – but it's about engaging them to help create change. And recognising that men's and women's lives are totally intertwined, and that when women benefit, men benefit as well.
They are wise words and, as the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner said, they are based on research and studying best practice on how we might improve the cause of women as equal participants in our society across the board. Those words are probably being echoed by others during various events that mark International Women's Day, and they are very wise words indeed. On behalf of the Liberal and Nationals Government I have much pleasure in supporting the intent of the motion that recognises that today is International Women's Day, by which we honour the work, the efforts and campaigns of women who have preceded us, including members of this House and this Parliament, in their efforts to improve gender equality and gender equity in New South Wales.
The Hon. MARIE FICARRA
(Parliamentary Secretary) [11.56 a.m.]: I do not wish to politicise this very important motion because it is too important to play politics with it. It gives me great pleasure to support the motion on International Women's Day, and even greater pleasure to take this opportunity to honour women and their achievements in society. On previous occasions in his House I have said, and wish to reiterate what the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner has said, that men and women need to work together to strive to eliminate ignorance, prejudice and exclusion that create tensions, violence and unhappiness in our communities on a local, State, national and global basis. That is why I and others have been honoured in past years—in my case, it has been for the past four years—to host the annual White Ribbon events in Parliament that have brought together men and women from a wide cross-section of society to raise awareness of violence against women and inequality issues.
I have a great deal of respect for the White Ribbon Foundation, which has been striving to eliminate ignorance, prejudice and violence. Through the efforts of people such as Professor Rosemary Calder, who is a White Ribbon Foundation board member, Libby Davies, who is White Ribbon's chief executive officer, Andrew O'Keefe, the chair of the White Ribbon Foundation, his fellow director, Charles Curran, and the many outstanding White Ribbon ambassadors who regularly go out to communities across New South Wales and work to prevent violence against women, White Ribbon is attempting to combat the shocking existence of violence against women in Australia, where one in three women report having experienced violence since the age of 15. Almost each week in Australia a woman is killed by a male partner or a former male partner, and that often occurs post-separation.
White Ribbon is making a difference. Supporters throughout the country have hosted 200 events. The campaign resulted in more than 2,000 media mentions, 4,000 My Oath swearings, 10,000 fans on Facebook, and 1,000 followers on Twitter. Importantly, that increased activity resulted in improved awareness and understanding of the issue of men's violence against women across all Australian communities. White Ribbon's social marketing campaign was so successful that it was awarded the Public Relations Institute of Australia [PRIA] New South Wales State Awards for Excellence 2011. Women have a natural instinct to nurture and care, and on International Women's Day we celebrate the presence of women and their voices, which are needed in so many aspects of life—our businesses, our democratic institutions, our judiciary, our international affairs, our diplomatic corps and our peacemaking processes—to ensure that the values women hold so dear in their dealings with others are kept at the forefront of decision-making.
As members would be aware, International Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s—a time of great expansion and upheaval in the industrialised world, with booming population growth and the rise of the suffragette movement. From that time critical debate amongst women started to gain momentum, and oppression and inequality were resisted vocally and physically. Many men joined the movement in campaigning for change, and indeed they still do. We cannot achieve equality without men's support. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York city demanding better pay, shorter hours and voting rights.
In 1910 an International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen where a woman named Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women's Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, came up with the idea of an International Women's Day. Now, on 8 March every year we not only celebrate women's contributions to society but also use the day—indeed, almost the week—as a vehicle to press for more legislative, judicial and social changes at local, State, national and international levels. Premier Barry O'Farrell is a great supporter of female representation. On 22 February in the other place in respect of women's representation on public sector boards he was asked why it was necessary to remove the requirement that 50 per cent of new appointments be women. His response was:
There was no additional weighting in their pre-selections—
that is, for women—
The Hon. Sophie Cotsis:
which applies to female members opposite when there are special quotas as part of the process, and that is in part because our party does not affiliate with unions. Our party does not have a union affiliation, which is what ensures that the Labor Party and its members are so heavily male oriented.
I thought you said you were not going to play politics.
The Hon. MARIE FICARRA:
I am quoting the Premier. He continued:
There is a far better chance for women in the Liberal Party and The Nationals—whether you are the member for Maitland or the member for Nowra—to get into Parliament than it is for a woman in the Labor Party. Each of the women on this side of the House knows that she is here on merit, just as those who enter the Cabinet know that they are there on merit. Philosophically we have always been about merit.
Women can achieve this if men and women support them. On Wednesday I was delighted to attend the United Nation's Women's Committee breakfast at the Sydney Convention Centre. The Hon. Prue Goward, Minister for Women, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, Minister for Health, the Hon. Robyn Parker, Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Sophie Cotsis, shadow Minister for Women, Melanie Gibbons, the member for Menai, Leslie Williams, the member for Port Macquarie, and the Hon. Melinda Pavey also attended. I was proud to see so many outstanding women and hear about their life experiences and their thoughts, particularly those of the inspirational guest speaker, Sally Sara. After a year spent covering the war in Afghanistan, Sally has returned to Australia to become the ABC's regional and rural affairs correspondent. She has reported from the front line, embedded with coalition forces, covered terrorist attacks and political unrest, and followed the rebuilding of the country. Sally is a remarkable woman with a salient message about women's strength in the face of war and adversity.
Mona Baddah of Bankstown Girls High School and Sasha Khan from Redlands High School, who were representing young women, gave inspirational speeches. I am sure they are female leaders of the future. The Minister for Women, Pru Goward, a former Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Commissioner, was adamant in stressing that under NSW 2021—the State Plan—action to increase the number of women completing apprenticeships in non-traditional trades is a priority. Together with the Minister for Education and the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Minister Goward is working on strategies to ensure that girls have a broader range of career choices. These outstanding and dedicated Ministers are working together to ensure that education and skills development pathways are available and working so that mentoring and supports are established to deliver quality job opportunities.
Last week Minister Goward announced the new Council for Women's Economic Opportunity to provide specialist advice to the O'Farrell Government. Council members have strong backgrounds in engineering, manufacturing, construction, training and mentoring. As I said earlier, it is essential for men and women to work together for the greater good and to advance the cause of women. For the first time, men have been included on the New South Wales Women's Advisory Council, reflecting the Government's belief that gender equality is an issue for the whole community, not just for women.
I agree wholeheartedly with Minister Goward that the reasons women continue to be underrepresented in large sectors of society need to be examined thoroughly. It is paramount that industry leaders champion solutions that increase the participation of women in non-traditional jobs. I am delighted also that the new Council for Women's Economic Opportunity will identify strategies to make it possible for girls and women to consider non-traditional occupations, to access and succeed in training for those jobs and to remain in those fields. The O'Farrell Government also has three other priority areas. First, women's right to live free from violence, which means making a real change in the areas of domestic and family violence, and of sexual violence against women; secondly, getting more women into leadership positions, including on government boards; and, thirdly, building a stronger evidence base for policy and program decisions in New South Wales by collating data and hard evidence to drive change. We will report regularly on our success with those three priorities.
The Hon. Sophie Cotsis:
When? The Minister said at the end of last year that all this would be revealed. There has been nothing.
The Hon. MARIE FICARRA:
We are not scared; we will report. The process will be transparent and accountable. Reducing all forms of violence against women, particularly domestic and family violence, is a priority for the O'Farrell Government and a key priority in the State Plan. In order to meet this target, Minister Goward has initiated the development of a new framework addressing domestic, family and sexual violence against women in New South Wales. Minister Goward's initiative follows the New South Wales Performance Audit into Domestic and Family Violence, which revealed an appalling situation. Increasing the number of women on boards and in senior management positions is a passion of mine. I brought to the attention of this House previously that in 2009 the National Remuneration Survey of Local Government revealed that only 11 per cent of chief executive officer and general manager positions in local government were held by women and that at the second level—that is, senior managers and directors—only 20 per cent of positions were held by women.
Lower managerial levels showed increased participation by women, but close evaluation found that males in the corporate services areas generally are paid up to 15 per cent more than women. The data also revealed significant disparities in the number of females filling specialist positions. Sadly, not much had changed from the many preceding years. Much more needs to be done at all levels of government as well as in private enterprise. In 2010 in this place I noted that Associate Professor Peter McGraw of Macquarie University's Labour Studies Foundation identified in his study that very few women reach senior levels, and that the numbers are declining. Of the Australian Securities Exchange's top 200 companies for that year, only 9 per cent of directors were female. Although women make up half the population, this is not represented in the boardrooms of Australia. Indeed, more than half the top 200 Australian Securities Exchange companies have no women on their boards. In 2012 women make up a mere 38 per cent of New South Wales government board and committee members. This number has not shifted significantly in the past decade. Minister Goward has made it clear that her initiative is to increase the inclusion of women on boards. She said:
This is not about aiming for a target or simply promoting equal opportunities. It is about getting women on to all boards, especially those which are well remunerated and high profile.
It is about convincing leaders in both the public and private sectors of the benefits of women in leadership.
Inclusive and diverse boards benefit from wholistic perspectives, new ideas and broad experience.
We aim to break down barriers that prevent women from joining government boards and committees—and we are examining how we can build better networks and opportunities.
Minister Goward also stated that to convince those outside the women's sector of the need for continued efforts to bring about equality, there must be hard evidence to back this up. In particular, objective evidence and clear-sighted analysis provide the solid basis on which policy and interventions can be built. It also jolts people out of business-as-usual thinking. Later this year, Minister Goward will launch the O'Farrell Government's first annual report on the status of women in New South Wales. This report will provide baseline data on New South Wales women. It will focus on indicators that are worth measuring and where information can galvanise action. Above all, it will be a report for the women of New South Wales to consider, use, challenge and build on. Nominations open today for the New South Wales Women of the Year Awards, announced as part of our celebration.
The Hon. Sophie Cotsis:
It's a bit late.
The Hon. MARIE FICARRA:
It is not late. Pipe down. These new awards will properly acknowledge and recognise the contributions of women across the State. The Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women said the awards gave the community an opportunity to recognise the important role and achievements of women in New South Wales. Nominations can be submitted to www.womenoftheyear.nsw.gov.au
from today. The community will be able to vote online at that site from Thursday 19 April after a short list is selected. The selection panel will be led by the Minister and will include other high-profile men and women who support the awards, including Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey; David Gallop, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Rugby League; and Major Paul Moulds, AM. I congratulate and thank all women and men associated with the recognition of International Women's Day locally, statewide, nationally and globally. I commend the motion to the House and hope that we can depoliticise this debate.
The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES
[12.15 p.m.]: Like my colleague, I do not intend to politicise this debate or talk about glass ceilings, sticky steps or gluey chairs. I want to focus on the positive contribution that women have made but also acknowledge that there are challenges and barriers still to be overcome. Australia was a pioneer in the advancement of women in society and we have much to celebrate. Some 110 years ago Australia led the way by giving women the right to vote and to run for Australian Parliament. Today marks the 101st celebration of International Women's Day and this year's theme is supporting women's economic empowerment. Australian women have greater economic independence today than ever before. However, challenges for women in business and politics remain. Despite representing over half the population, women are a massively underutilised resource in the workforce, particularly in leadership roles.
The 2010 Australian Census of Women in Leadership reported that women represent only 3 per cent of chief executive officers. They hold just 8.4 per cent of board directorships and 8 per cent of executive management positions. In the Australian public service women are doing better, with over 33.4 per cent of women holding positions on Federal government boards and 38 per cent of women holding positions on government boards in New South Wales. It is unfortunate that the percentage of companies with no women board directors has increased from 51 per cent in 2008 to 54 per cent in 2010. But, as was mentioned previously, there is some good news. In the area of small business women are leading the way, with 33 per cent of small businesses operated by women. Unsurprisingly, women are choosing to work in small business because it provides flexibility to meet their needs and the needs of their families.
Women represent 45.3 per cent of the labour force and make up 55 per cent of university graduates. Our participation in the labour force is increasing, but ever so slowly, with trend data revealing little change in rates since 2002. Australian women still work on average six hours less than men per week and this is often by choice. Women earn 17 per cent less than their male counterparts, which is about $1.2 million less over their working life. In 2006 the Productivity Commission released a report entitled "Role of Non-Traditional Work in the Australian Labour Market". It found that 38.9 per cent of women were engaged in non-traditional work.
When the first International Women's Day was recognised in 1911 more than one million women and men attended rallies, campaigning for the right of women to work, vote, be trained, hold public office and end discrimination. Women in Australia have more choices now than ever before. They can choose what subjects to study and whether to go to university; and they have the choice of working after they marry and returning to work after they have had children. The productivity report also found that women aged between the ages of 25 and 54 who choose to work casually were more satisfied with their life-work balance because they had more time for education and family.
To be truly competitive we need to make the most of our potential workforce. For this reason I welcomed the announcement last week by the Minister for Women, the Hon. Pru Goward, to establish the New South Wales Council for Women's Economic Opportunity. The council will provide specialist advice to the Government to identify strategies that make it possible for girls and women to consider non-traditional occupations. The term "non-traditional occupation" refers to jobs that have been traditionally filled by one gender. Although few jobs limit employment to only men or women, too often people will be overlooked—or will themselves overlook certain jobs—due to preconceived ideas of what is women's work and what is men's work.
The Government's NSW 2021 plan has made increasing the number of women completing apprenticeships in non-traditional trades a priority to ensure that girls have a broader range of career choices. Women currently make up less than 2 per cent of the workforce in the automotive, engineering, construction and electro-technology trades in New South Wales. Compared with other industries where women have been making significant inroads, these figures are concerning. The New South Wales Government is serious about bringing change and ensuring gender equality, which is why the new council members will have strong backgrounds in engineering, manufacturing, construction, training and mentoring. The council will examine why women continue to be underrepresented in the workforce. These types of non-traditional roles might appear to be challenges but they need to be presented to more women.
The Government is committed to rebuilding the economy and is working with industry to secure a competitive labour market. In addition, men will be included on the advisory council to reflect the Government's belief that gender equality is an issue for the whole community, not just for women. I am confident the Government will develop further policies to help women reach their full potential and manage the pressure of balancing work and family. As International Women's Day is a global day, celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past and present, I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Women of the NSW Women of the Year Awards. These awards will honour women who have made a significant contribution to the community.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of one Liberal woman who was a pioneer for women in politics and a champion of policies for women. She was a mother of 12, the wife of a Prime Minister, the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and the first woman to hold a Cabinet position. She was Dame Enid Lyons, a trailblazer for her time, who in her maiden speech in 1943 said:
… any woman entering the public arena must be prepared to work as men work; she must justify herself not as a woman but as a citizen.
As I have said in this Chamber before, I do not support quota systems or affirmative action. I believe women need to use their energy not to complain that things are tough, but to work harder and smarter. We must identify the barriers that are preventing women from participating and develop practical solutions to encourage more women to take up positions. As Joan Rivers once said:
… If I can't make it through one door, I will go through another door—or I will make a door.
I commend the motion to the House.
The Hon. SARAH MITCHELL
[12.19 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak also in support of the motion, which has caused quite a lot of spirited and lively debate thus far—and I am sure there will be more to come. I congratulate, or acknowledge in her absence, the Hon. Helen Westwood on moving this motion today, because I think it is important that we discuss these issues on International Women's Day. I will refer to a couple of comments she made in her opening remarks in relation to the number of female members in this Chamber and in the other place. In her contribution the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner talked about how The Nationals have quite a good history in that regard, particularly in this Chamber. We were the first party to achieve gender equality, back in 2002 when we had a 50:50 split, and even now we are pretty close to that, with three women and four men. But it is something that we need to work on as a party, and I hope that during my time in this place we see more women come to this Chamber and the other place, representing all political parties.
The Hon. Helen Westwood mentioned the retraining of nurses. I acknowledge that the Hon. Paul Green, who is in the Chamber, was a nurse. However, I think he will agree that it is a predominantly female workforce and, in the spirit of International Women's Day, I think it is important to get some facts on the record in relation to the re-entry program. The facts are that this Government has delivered 1,011 more nurses since the State election. We have a record number of graduate nurses and midwives coming through in 102 hospitals statewide and we have introduced $10,000 scholarships to cover the full cost of the re-entry program after a break of five to 10 years. National registration for the nurse re-entry program came into effect on 1 July 2010 and former Minister Tebbutt signed up to it. It is governed by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and implemented by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. It is pleasing to know that there will be more support for nurses facing hardship. Those who are eligible to re-enter the workforce will be able to access the full $10,000 scholarship to cover their costs. In the spirit of women and girl power, I am happy to put that on the record today.
I will not go too much into the history of International Women's Day as I think previous speakers have covered that quite well. But it is nice to have a global day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, the present and hopefully the future. Obviously literally hundreds of events have been taking place this week and in the months prior to International Women's Day across the world. I am very pleased to have been a part of a couple of such events. On Monday I attended a luncheon at Parliament House. It was hosted by the Smith Family Voice, Interests and Education of Women [VIEW] Club, and more than 300 women were in attendance. I sat at a great table with some ladies from VIEW clubs on the Central Coast and in Cooma. My colleagues and other wonderful female members of Parliament were also present. We heard from the Minister for Women, Pru Goward, and the Hon. Shelley Hancock, the first female Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The Hon. Sophie Cotsis, the shadow Minister for Women, was also there. I think she will agree that it was a great event and it was really good to be in a room full of ladies who are very passionate about giving women a voice.
The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps:
Two out of three ain't bad.
The Hon. SARAH MITCHELL:
Now, now, girl power—that is what we are on about today. The theme of the luncheon was "Connecting girls, Inspiring futures." That made me think about some of the things that I have tried to do as a young woman in Parliament. Since coming to this place I have been fortunate to be asked to be involved in many events in my community through The Young Nationals, the Young Farmers and also a Tamworth women in business group that helps young women in my local area who are entering the workforce and trying to do their bit for regional communities. It was great for me to talk to those women. If I can inspire them and educate them about the political process and about politics then my time in this place will be worthwhile.
I will conclude by talking about a few women who have made a difference to my life. To use the words of the Hon. Helen Westwood's motion, we should "celebrate the vital role women play in the economic prosperity of their families, communities and countries". There are certainly three women in my life who fit that description. The first is my mum, Marg Johnston, who is watching online in Gunnedah. So I give a shout out to her. She is a wonderful lady. She was a small business owner when we were growing up, a working mum. She was certainly the centre of our family and raised three children. I think we have all turned out all right, so she did a good job—along with my dad, whom I love, but it is International Women's Day. She has shown me that it is possible to challenge oneself and to find a healthy work-life balance. I certainly keep her in mind while I am in this job.
The second person is my sister, Amber Donoghue, who is a wife, a mother and a teacher. She is about to re-enter the workforce to teach literacy and numeracy at our local TAFE. Despite doing all that, she also finds time to dedicate to the local community. She has founded a local charity called PaediatRic And Maternal Support [PRAMS]—which, coincidentally, I will speak about during the adjournment debate this afternoon. She has won a Gunnedah Australia Day award and she inspires me to remember that, no matter how busy one is, one needs to do something that gives back to one's local community and do what one can to help other women.
The third woman is actually a girl—my niece, Scarlett Donoghue. She is two and full of personality, joy and vigour—as most two-year-olds are. In a way, she is the most important person on a day like today because she reminds me why we are pushing this agenda for women and why we need to talk in this place about what we can do to make our society a better place for girls who are growing up now. It is my hope that she can grow up in a world where the barriers to equality no longer exist. They are women who inspire me on International Women's Day. I have enjoyed hearing from previous speakers about other women who have done great things, and I look forward to listening to the rest of the debate. I wish all my colleagues a very happy International Women's Day.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ
[12.25 p.m.]: The Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra might want to keep his field marshal's baton close to him because I think the Hon. Sarah Mitchell might be the sleeper on his side of the Chamber. She is vying for a place on the front bench.
The Hon. Greg Pearce:
I tend to agree.
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
I will not redo the history of International Women's Day as its origins are well known to every member in this Chamber. This information is for the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps. Despite the declaration by Margaret Thatcher that the battle for women's rights has been largely won, I think the jury is still out. Perhaps she meant the battle for her rights had been won, but I suspect she may have rethought the issue when Jacques Chirac said of her, "What does she want, this housewife? My balls on a tray?" Or perhaps when novelist Angela Carter said, "She coos like a dove, hisses like a serpent, bays like a hound [in a contrived upper-class accent] reminiscent not of real toffs but of Wodehouse aunts." Only Sinn Fein's Danny Morrison appears to have given any equal treatment to Margaret Thatcher stating, "She's the biggest bastard we have ever known."
Then, as now, female Prime Ministers attract a lot of unnecessary comment. Despite Margaret Thatcher's protestations, there is little doubt we still have a long way to go. Certainly the decision to open up all field force positions to women in the defence forces is an indication of the milestones that are reached every day, making our society more equitable and opening up more opportunities to women in non-traditional trades. These decisions do not mean there will still not be hurdles for those women who want to take up those opportunities. I was most amused by Australia Defence Association Neil James' assertion at the time that women could not have front-line roles as they may be required to fight with their bare hands. I relished pointing out to him that Nancy Wake had certainly killed soldiers with her bare hands, so it was hardly a point that would exclude their service.
The release yesterday of extracts from the "Report of the Review of Allegations of Sexual and Other Abuse in Defence" is an indication of how hard it can sometimes be to work in non-traditional areas, often for men as well as women. The report received allegations from 847 different people. I have written previously of the types of offences—the 17-year-old soldier whose breasts were fondled while she slept, with no action taken; the infantry soldier whose Regimental Aid Post doctor was so sick of seeing him turn up every day beaten by his barrack "mates" that the doctor wanted to put him in jail for his own protection; and the notorious stories of abuse of apprentices during the 1970s and 1980s. I am not surprised that the report identifies a complaint going back to 1951 from a then 13-year-old boy. But the report also contains complaints about events during 2011—stories of female sailors self-harming by breaking their legs to escape the conditions on one ship are well known.
It is extremely disappointing that plenty of commentators, particularly ex-service, are willing to comment on the Kafer report about the decision to conclude unrelated disciplinary proceedings against a young woman who was filmed having sex with a male colleague while four other cadets watched in another room, but they were fairly silent on the DLA Piper report into abuses. I note the comments by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, who said, "It is about men changing the attitudes of men."
For women moving into non-traditional areas of employment it can often be a tough road on the way to getting some, not all, men in these environments to act in a more professional manner. While some may run this as a politically correct and nanny state argument, I would suggest it is just good manners not to denigrate and bully one's workmates, particularly when the so-called justification is that they are women and somehow their worth is less than one's own. In May 2007 I raised in this Chamber the issue of women moving into non-traditional jobs. I pointed to the highly successful Girls Can Do Anything campaign run in New South Wales schools in the 1970s. This, taken alongside role models such as "Charlene" the motor mechanic in Neighbours
, saw women moving into non-traditional areas. How many young girls these days have a role model like Kylie Minogue in a non-traditional job as part of their mainstream television?
At the time I pointed out that trade unions such as the Transport Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union had continued to work in the area of non-traditional trades for women. Yet even at that time the only significant contribution to apprentice numbers for women were as hairdressers. The New South Wales Office for Women, at the behest of the then Minister for Women, Sandra Nori, had indeed begun mentoring programs to increase the number of women chefs. This is an employment area in which one would expect women to have greater representation. Sadly, they do not.
I would be interested to know whether any member of this Chamber can name a television reality chef program that has a female presenter. My motivation at the time was the astonishing statement by the member for Goulburn, a former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, that the New South Wales Parliament was the most sexist workplace she had ever experienced. While I can assume that that the Hon. Catherine Cusack and the Hon. Melinda Pavey could have significant justification for feeling this way, given their dumping from the front bench despite their significant contributions in opposition, and the promises of Barry O'Farrell, today in this Chamber we are faced with a front bench of only men.
But it defies belief that the Minister, who held the office of Sex Discrimination Commissioner at a time of ongoing reports of abuse in the Defence Force, and who must surely have received significant complaints from women attempting to enter non-traditional areas, could believe that the New South Wales Parliament is the most sexist workplace that she has ever experienced. It must speak to her cloistered view of the world. A quick scan of her contributions in this place reveals she has rarely touched on non-traditional areas of employment. Indeed her first contribution in the other House following her inaugural speech was to attack me over an alleged incident that I could have no knowledge of and which indeed occurred while I was a member of the Australian Regular Army posted at Singleton. This was part of her contribution on behalf of the sisterhood to reducing the sexist workplace she believes the New South Wales Parliament to be.
I note the Minister has decided to sack half the Premier's Advisory Council on Women, replace some of those people with men and task them to look into women moving into non-traditional trades where other members have argued in this Chamber the economic opportunities for women lie. I welcome the Minister for Women to the campaign. But I am greatly surprised that there appears to be a significant representation of businesspeople and little representation of those with actual experience in delivering and fighting for these programs. One might have thought that Rita Malia, President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, and a bloody clever woman with significant knowledge of conditions in non-traditional trades, would be included. But one would be wrong.
The exception is perhaps Peter Brett from Lend Lease, which has had women successfully come through as blue collar workers and move on to management positions. But I would ask the Minister how many new apprentices Lend Lease has now and what the current state of the construction industry is. The reality is that construction has stalled. The collapse of Kell and Rigby and the problems with Reed Constructions point to the state of the industry. With the only project on the horizon being Barangaroo and the contractor for this site being none other than Lend Lease—although I am not sure who is building James Packer's new casino—it would be hoped that the Minister's newfound interest in this area is not just a bit of window-dressing. Perhaps she could fill us in on how the Tasting Success program is going.
I raise one other point. I was astounded to hear that one of the panel who will decide who will win New South Wales Woman of the Year awards is David Gallop, Chief Executive of the Australian Rugby League Commission. Now, David is a nice bloke, but quite frankly rugby league is not an area with a huge representation of women. New South Wales has a significant number of women in sporting fields, such as Tracey Menzies, Dawn Fraser, Layne Beachley and Ann Sargent. There is an endless list of women such as those who have a great knowledge of women's involvement in those areas. What possible justification can there be for putting someone involved in rugby league on the selection panel? I look forward to hearing an explanation from members on the other side.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Sarah Mitchell):
Order! I welcome to the public gallery year 11 students from schools across Sydney attending a Young Women's Leadership seminar organised by the Parliament's Education and Community Relations Unit. Welcome to you all. It is quite appropriate that you are present to hear the debate on International Women's Day. I hope you enjoy your time with us today.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN
[12.35 p.m.]: I too welcome young women leaders, indeed everyone in the gallery. A happy International Women's Day to everyone in the gallery and in the Chamber. I rise on behalf of The Greens to speak in support of the motion moved by the Hon. Helen Westwood. I hold The Greens portfolio of Status of Women. I speak also on behalf of my colleague the Hon. Jan Barham, who I think will be making an International Women's Day speech on the adjournment later today.
The Hon. Melinda Pavey:
I note you are dressed in purple.
The Hon. CATE FAEHRMANN:
I acknowledge the interjection. I am dressed in purple. This morning I had the pleasure of attending an International Women's Day event—a breakfast here at Parliament House addressed by three fabulous and inspiring young women speakers. They spoke about the importance of acknowledging feminism, and that feminism is still very strong in women's lives, because women are still facing discrimination and sometimes find it tough to find their voice. Interestingly, it is more difficult for women to find their voice and feel empowered to speak out and take public roles; they must first go through something of a personal journey, as we heard this morning.
The young women who spoke were Samar Hadid, an incredible young Muslim Australian, who has been United Nations Youth Ambassador and held various other positions; Anna Rose, one of the founders of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, who is very active in young people's campaigning on climate change; and Larissa Behrendt, a very inspiring Aboriginal academic and lawyer. Those three women acknowledged that celebrations of International Women's Day are very important, but that it is also important to remind ourselves that we have a long way to go, not just in Australia but internationally, regarding women's rights. I will touch on that towards the end of this speech.
International Women's Day has been born out of the ongoing campaign for women's full equality that has been waged here in Australia since the early nineteenth century. I think it is important to touch on some of the history of International Women's Day. We need to not just celebrate where we are as women, but refer to history to demonstrate how difficult it was for women in the early 1900s to be so "radical" at that time. I doubt whether many in this Chamber, if they were around in 1919 or 1932 and saw women protesting, would have supported what those women were doing. So, yes, indeed we have come a long way and it is appropriate to celebrate International Women's Day. International Women's Day historian and feminist Joyce Stevens writes that the first Australian International Women's Day rally took place in the Sydney Domain on 25 March 1928. I quote from some of her writings on the history of International Women's Day in parts of Australia:
This rally was organised by the Militant Women's Movement—
Some even react to the word "militant". I expect the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps would not like the word "militant" in the Militant Women's Movement—
and called for equal pay for equal work; an 8 hour day for shop girls; no piece work; the basic wage for the unemployed and annual holidays on full pay.
Against a background of increasing unemployment, which reached a peak of over half a million in 1932, and a number of intense industrial disputes sparked off by wage cuts and reduced working conditions, the Militant Women saw their International Women's Day activity as part of the small but militant socialist movement.
In 1929, in addition to a social and dance in Brisbane and a Sydney Domain rally, the militant women also organised an IWD rally in Sydney's Belmore Park in support of the wives and families of striking timber workers, where men were far more prominent than women in the audience.
1931 saw the first IWD marches in Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney about 60 women headed a march of 3,400 people with many slogans and banners demanding equal pay for equal work—
that sounds familiar; I am sure that this International Women's Day we will be demanding the same thing—
and other special women's demands, as well as more general issues such as resistance to wage cuts, opposition to the Arbitration courts and solidarity with the Soviet Union. In Melbourne, 50 women led a march of 150 from the corner of Victoria and Russell Streets, with a lead banner declaring "Long Live International Women's Day", and others similar to the Sydney march.
The international history of International Women's Day is also inspiring for women everywhere and worth placing on the record. In 1960, on the fiftieth anniversary of International Women's Day, 729 delegates from 73 countries, including Queenslander Doris Webb from the Union of Australian Women, met at a conference in Copenhagen. The conference adopted a general declaration of support for the political, economic and social rights of women. From 31 August to 6 September 1975—not that long ago—the Australian Government held the first national conference on the status of women, Women and Politics, committing Australia to celebrating International Women's Day with other member nations of the United Nations. That is quite late in the history of International Women's Day considering that the day was first celebrated in 1911. The concept was proposed in 1910 at an international conference of working women in Copenhagen. Then on 19 March 1911 more than one million women and men attended International Women's Day events across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. They were campaigning for women's rights, including the right to vote, work and hold public office.
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Since then, the organisation has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programs and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. Today a central organising principle of the work of the United Nations is that no enduring solution to society's most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment, of the world's women. So let us remember our Aboriginal sisters this International Women's Day when the gap between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal life expectancy for women in Australia is 10 years.
I note that in her adjournment speech last night the Hon. Penny Sharpe mentioned the following report but I wish to place the details of it on the record during my contribution to this motion. The Sydney Women's Fund has just released the Two Ways Together report which found that Aboriginal mothers are more likely to be teenagers. A total of 18 per cent of Aboriginal mothers in west and south-west Sydney are teenagers, and 15 per cent in coastal Sydney compared to 3 per cent of non-Aboriginal mothers. They were also less likely than non-Aboriginal mothers to attend a first antenatal visit before 20 weeks gestation, more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, less likely to breastfeed their babies and more likely to experience postnatal depression.
The report also states that hospitalisation rates of Aboriginal women for self-harm increased by 15 per cent in the period 2002-2003 to 2007-2008. This was 1.4 times the rate of hospitalisation of Aboriginal men throughout the period. By contrast, the rate for all New South Wales women decreased by 2.3 per cent. In New South Wales, Aboriginal women are 4.6 times more likely to be victims of personal crimes than non-Aboriginal women and 3.6 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women in New South Wales are six times more likely to be a victim of family violence-related assault than non-Aboriginal women, and eight times more likely in coastal Sydney. In 2008 a total of 2,382 Aboriginal women in New South Wales were victims of family violence. Aboriginal girls had a family violence victimisation rate more than twice that of Aboriginal boys. Both rates have declined since 2003 by 10 per cent for Aboriginal boys and by 12 per cent for Aboriginal girls.
It could be said that these statistics are just not good enough, but they are much worse than that. They are disgraceful. As women in this place we must do more to ensure Aboriginal women reach their full potential and that we close the gap. The motion before the House calls on all levels of government and the corporate sector to develop and implement policies and strategies to remove the barriers to women achieving economic and social equality. The Greens support this and believe that as women we need to ensure that these barriers are removed for Aboriginal women and women of all cultures living in Australia. Naomi Wolf was recently in Australia as part of The F-Word Feminist Forum. Her opinion on the progress of Western woman is as follows:
Western women are stuck in a new social role which is scarcely evolving, populating middle management and pink-coloured ghettoes. A small fraction of elite women have fabulous careers supported by low wage child-care and domestic work and other women. Women remain 15% of bylines in major media, they own 5% of Fortune 500 companies and so on.
Meanwhile, of course, women around the world continue to get beaten and raped and tortured for being women, and many for speaking out as women and many are in areas of conflict. This is the challenge for twenty-first century feminism. To illustrate this I turn to our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea. At the end of last year there was good news for the women of Papua New Guinea. On 24 November 2011 a bill was passed to amend the constitution to allow seats in the national Parliament to be reserved for women. It was called the Equality and Participation Bill. However, it could be implemented only if an amendment to the organic law on elections was passed by at least 75 per cent of parliamentarians. Unfortunately, this did not happen. About two weeks ago Business Spectator
reported that that bill failed to pass Parliament 58 votes to one after 21 members of Parliament who were opposed to the historic law quit the Chamber.
A failed third attempt to pass the bill means it has to be reintroduced to Parliament. With campaigning for the June 2012 election soon to begin in Papua New Guinea women may not have a strong voice in Parliament at least until the 2017 election. Advocates of the bill say they will contest electorates despite the absence of the enabling laws. Dorothy Tekwie is the founder of PNG Women in Politics and a member of the Papua New Guinea Greens Party. She spoke at a parliamentary breakfast in Sydney early last year. She is an incredibly inspiring woman. When one considers what she and other women are fighting against in Papua New Guinea it is clear how far Australia has come. Regarding the Equality and Participation Bill Dorothy Tekwie said:
We have waited 36 years. Are we going to wait another five? We need to mobilise and we need to take the coming election on as our challenge. Absence of women has been part of the problem of why this country has been going down the drain and sold to the dogs, where no-one cares about our children, about social services, about human rights issues, and environmental destruction.
Dame Carol Kidu is a 15-year veteran of the Papua New Guinean Parliament. She is a white woman, the sole female member of that Parliament, and is fighting for more female parliamentarians. She said:
We're not asking to take away space from anybody. We are asking to provide extra space in a playing field that is completely uneven, completely uneven.
It is a stark reminder that our job is not done when inequality is so rife and women still do not have a voice in Parliament in Papua New Guinea. To ensure that our fight for women's rights is truly global and equal we must ensure that we are fighting for equal rights for women everywhere. Our fight for equal pay here must be matched with our fight to ensure that all women are able to vote and participate in their Parliaments. Our fight for equal pay and for equal access to the boardrooms must be matched with our fight to ensure women and children can live lives free from sexual violence, domestic violence and oppression. History shows that we have come a long way in Australia. That is to be celebrated. However, The Greens look forward to seeing progress in the rights of women around the world in the coming years and decades so that International Women's Day can truly become a day of celebration for all women achieving their full rights. The Greens commend the Hon. Helen Westwood for moving this motion. We support the motion.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Sarah Mitchell):
I welcome to the public gallery a second group of year 11 students from schools across Sydney who are attending the Young Women's Leadership Seminar, organised by the Parliament's Education and Community Relations Unit.
The Hon. SOPHIE COTSIS
[12.49 p.m.]: Happy International Women's Day to all the women around the world. To our young women in the gallery: Good luck on your studies. It is great to see you here today. I congratulate my colleague the Hon. Helen Westwood on bringing this motion to the House. I am inspired by the fantastic speeches made by members. Today is a very important day for women in Australia, New South Wales and across the world. This morning I had the great privilege to address a group of working women in Parramatta—women who work in logistics, in distribution, in pharmaceuticals and in stores, and women who work as packers. They are women who work in some of the non-traditional areas of work and they are a fantastic group of people. They are not only very good workers but they are also delegates who represent thousands of workers at the workplace and advocate on their behalf in relation to work conditions. They work in extremely difficult conditions and I congratulate them on their hard work. It was fascinating to hear some of their stories about what they go through at the coalface.
Today we celebrate the 101st anniversary of International Women's Day. This week I had the pleasure of attending a number of very important events. Events are being held around Australia and in New South Wales by community groups, local councils, unions, schools and other governments. Unfortunately, the New South Wales Government forgot to organise an event for today and is going to hold belated Women of the Year awards in a couple of weeks' time, according to the Government's website. It is a shame that the O'Farrell Government has been in office for close to a year and it forgot today is International Women's Day. The Government is not commemorating this important day—
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox:
Why are we having this motion?
The Hon. SOPHIE COTSIS:
The Government should commemorate this very important day to acknowledge the achievements of the unsung heroes in our community: the women who work in domestic violence, the women who work in our sexual assault services, the women volunteers at our hospitals selling raffle tickets to raise money for a cancer unit or the children's hospital. The majority of volunteers across New South Wales are women who are in paid employment, who are managing their families and who are the economic managers of their households. These women should have been acknowledged today. These women should have had their names in lights because the unsung heroes, the achievers in our communities, have very little opportunities in their life to be acknowledged by their Government.
It is shameful. The Minister for Women has not bothered to organise an event or a ceremony. Last year Premier O'Farrell was pleased to have happy-snaps taken here at Parliament House, but today the Government forgot it was International Women's Day and it is going to hold a belated event. I acknowledge that the Minister for Local Government and the Division of Local Government organised an awards event for Women in Local Government. I commend the recipients of those awards and all the people in the local government sector who acknowledged the hard workers in local government and the councillors in rural and regional communities.
Local government elections will be held on 8 September this year and in my role as shadow Minister for Local Government I encourage all women across New South Wales—women from non-English-speaking backgrounds, women with disabilities, women who volunteer—to put their hand up to run for their local council. I acknowledge the seven award recipients of Women in Local Government: Darriea Turley, Colleen Fuller, Alison Dench, Veronica Bird, Vicki Scott, Sue Weatherley and Vanessa Creighton. Those are seven fantastic women who received awards yesterday and I congratulate them on their contributions.
A major challenge will confront us over the next few years: The baby boomer generation is retiring, and many of them will retire with little or no superannuation. Women continue to live longer than men but are doing so with much less money to get by on. All levels of government need to work to support women of the baby boomer generation. I believe these women have a lot to contribute and it is important for governments across Australia and local communities to do what we can. We need to raise awareness of this issue. It is a passion of mine that we do not leave our women pioneers, who fought very hard for the rights of women in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, with only $10,000 or $12,000 in superannuation when they retire. It may mean that they will not be able to stay in Sydney and they will have to live in remote and isolated communities. I have had a number of discussions with key stakeholders about the seriousness of this challenge ahead of us.
I also want to raise the issue of casual workers, who make up almost a quarter of our workforce, and other workers who are facing the limitation of fixed-term contracts due to independent contracting labour hire. Many of these workers in casual employment are women and they are denied a reliable income or permanency in their employment. It is important that casual employment is available, but for a very long time we have seen many of these workers continue to be on long-term casual contracts, which means if they want to buy a home or get a loan they do not have the security of permanency of work.
An insecure work inquiry is taking place currently and the inquiry recently visited Bathurst to hear from casual workers in the Central West about their experiences. Many of those workers claim to have been bullied, denied resources and have struggled to pay their bills. On Monday I had the opportunity to attend a hearing at the State Library and I met with a number of clothing outworkers who talked about their very bad working conditions and their very low pay. One worker told me that they are working non-stop for 14 hours at $7.00 an hour. That situation has to be addressed.
Dr John Kaye:
Did you say $14 an hour?
The Hon. SOPHIE COTSIS:
No, $7 an hour. The other issue that has concerned me this week is that the Government has abandoned the Premier's Expert Advisory Council for Women. The council, by whatever name it has been called—the Women's Advisory Board or the Premier's Council for Women—was a body established by the Coalition Government in 1975 and for the past 40 years it has provided expert advice to governments of all persuasions. It was a body made up of independent experts and it sat at the centre of government—it sat in the Department of Premier and Cabinet—and it was the central agency that works across all policy areas to bring those areas together. The council reported to the Premier, it provided advice to the Government and it was essential in ensuring that women in housing, health and education have a voice to the central agency. It is astounding that the Minister for Women has abolished that council.
I have heard the Minister for Women talk about getting women into non-traditional trades. We have been doing that for a long time—the campaign has been going on since the 1970s and we are happy to support it. The former Minister for Women, Sandra Nori, set up a number of programs and we are happy to support them. However, it is only one piece of the puzzle. We must examine the constraints that militate against women obtaining employment in the mining and construction industries. We should talk to people on the ground about why the constraints and barriers exist. Is it because women do not have access to childcare services? Is it that they are hampered by discrimination because they are female? This is the type of information we need.
I would like to know the process of eliciting expressions of interest leading to appointment of people to this new body. One person that the Minister for Women did not consult is Rita Mallia, the President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union [CFMEU], who was referred to by my colleague the Hon. Lynda Voltz. Rita Mallia is the first female president of the union. She has been working in the industry for approximately 17 years. She has been working at the coalface, with management and with the industry. Her union and the industry currently are examining ways of introducing more women to working in the construction and mining industries. As Ms Mallia informed me, and as is stated on the union's website, this is about getting women into the construction and mining industries, which have decent pay and conditions. But the issue is how we get women into those industries.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Sophie Cotsis and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
[The Deputy-President (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones) left the chair at 1.01 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.
The President (The Hon. Donald Thomas Harwin)
took the chair at 2.30 p.m.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted at 2.30 p.m for questions.