MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND EMPLOYMENT, AND MINISTER FOR THE STATUS OF WOMEN
Consideration of Urgent Motion
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown) [3.19]: I move:
We heard only two weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition outline the defence by the Minister for the Status of Women of the member for Georges River. It is all there in Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition said during that particular debate:
That this House condemns the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, and Minister for the Status of Women for failing to protect the interests of working women particularly women working as ministerial staffs.
There is also evidence of her failure to protect female ministerial staff. I am going to talk about that a little later. It was confirmed in the days following the resignation of the honourable member for Georges River as Minister for Police. The Premier told us that the honourable member's behaviour was
unacceptable but refused to tell the public precisely what the Premier knew. Ten days later and three weeks before the Niland inquiry was announced the press gallery confronted the Minister for the Status of Women seeking her views of the Griffiths crisis. This was her response. She said that the circumstances surrounding Mr Griffiths' resignation had been "canvassed as much as needed to be". The Minister said the matter was "up to him [Griffiths] to live with". But what about the women, the alleged victims? Was it simply a matter of their having to live with the consequences as well?
The Minister went on to say that she was unaware of a loophole in the State's antidiscrimination laws as they related to ministerial staff. A spokesman later clarified her statement by advising that precedents set by the Anti-Discrimination Board and the equal opportunity tribunal were likely to cover staff of Ministers - likely, but not certain. Only last week during the estimates committees, when asked by a member of the Opposition whether the ministry was conducting courses for ministerial staff members on sexual harassment and sexual assault, the Minister prevaricated and said that she did not see it as the role of the ministry to conduct such programs. There was no announcement from the Minister that she would close the loophole in the State's antidiscrimination laws to make a likelihood a certainty. The fact is that the Minister did nothing to protect the women concerned. She is only a token woman herself. She is a 40-carat failure as the Minister for the Status of Women. She has that nervous glimmer in her eye as I speak, just as she had a couple of weeks ago when the Leader of the Opposition -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! During this debate, which seems primarily to be between two of our lady members of the House, I would like an outstanding example to be set for all members in the conduct of debate. I do not want interjections from either side of the Chamber.
Ms ALLAN: She is a 40-carat failure as the Minister for the Status of Women. I have said it once and I have said it twice. I know that the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women likes horse riding. I advise her that in her preparation for next week's Melbourne Cup activities she should get rid of that glimmer and that little nervousness in her eye because she will not be a success next Tuesday if she does not start to settle down, calm down and get on top of these very pressing issues that are concerning her at the moment. I can think of only two reasons why the Minister for the Status of Women would not perform to protect abused and humiliated women: one, she is prepared to leave the loophole in place to protect her colleagues; two, and most damning of all, she simply does not care.
The Minister cannot claim ignorance about the problems of harassment of ministerial staff. Five months ago, the day after the police Minister resigned, the Sydney Morning Herald detailed the problems in the former Minister's office. The newspaper reported that some of his female staff had resigned and some had complained but nothing had happened for more than a year. So allegations of sexual harassment by a Minister against his staff were ignored for more than a year. I would have thought that revelation would have been enough to get this Minister moving. But five months and the Niland report later she has still done nothing. On page 128 of the Niland report the Premier's senior media adviser, Martin Debelle, confirms that everyone in the Government knew there were problems in the former Minister's office. According to the report, Debelle said "everyone knew" of the high staff turnover in the Minister's office. And elsewhere in the Niland report it states that there was a gross staff turnover in the office - 143 per cent in just 12 months. But while everybody from the Premier to the Minister for the Status of Women knew that there were serious management problems at the former Minister's office, no-one chose to act. This lack of action continued for an entire month until the Premier was shamed into ordering an inquiry.
No press articles carry any mention of the Minister's expressed concern for the victims or a plan of action taken by her on their behalf. She made no mention of counselling for the women. There was no question of the Minister exploring the possibility of the Government taking legal proceedings. In fact, the Niland report indicates that the reverse was true as far as the alleged victims were concerned: they did not take action and they were not seeking to take action. Where were the counselling and the educative programs for the alleged victims who had been complaining of their problems for more than 12 months? There was no statement that the Minister would review procedures to ensure that the Griffiths affair would never be repeated. There was not one word, not one decision, from the Minister for the Status of Women. I remind the House that this was all well before the Premier, under Opposition and media pressure, announced the Niland inquiry.
From the resignation of the former Minister to the Premier's announcement of an inquiry - a whole month - there was not one initiative taken by the Minister, not one example of leadership or decisive action; just blind support of the Premier. If the Niland report had not been forced on this Government, where would female ministerial staff stand now? What justice would have been afforded the alleged victims of the Griffiths affair? The Niland report makes sweeping recommendations to overhaul administrative procedures to protect women working on ministerial staffs. It provides ample evidence of the breakdown in procedures and guidelines that had occurred prior to the resignation of the former police Minister. But we are still waiting for a response from the Minister for the Status of Women. No opinion was uttered as to the effectiveness of the Niland proposals. There were crazy statements from the Minister about alleged conspiracies going on out in the New South Wales trade union movement and the New South Wales labour force. On 24 August in a media release she alleged that the Labor Council, in
association with the Labor Party, has drawn up a plan to halve the number of public sector employees in this State.
Yesterday there was a brilliant performance from the Minister in which she alleged there would be a series of politically motivated industrial stoppages over the next 12 months. That is the sort of hysterical and half-baked action we see from a very poor-performing Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women. In the estimates committees, and since, the Minister defended the performance of her Ministry for the Status of Women. She has certainly been preoccupied by that. Even the allegations in the estimates committees about the management within her ministry should not have distracted her from the very serious allegations and concerns flowing from the Niland report. Yesterday in this House the Minister continued her stonewalling. In response to a question from me about what she intended to do about the issue she said, in effect: I will act if the Minister in charge of me, the Premier, allows me to act - I am more than happy to do that if the Premier allows that to occur. As a woman in this House I am appalled by the Minister's submissiveness on this issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order.
Ms ALLAN: In this Chamber we must be concerned about recommendations -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Davidson to order. I call the honourable member for Newcastle to order.
Ms ALLAN: If you accept the title of Minister for the Status of Women you work to earn it. [Time expired.]
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove - Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, and Minister for the Status of Women) [3.29]: Mr Speaker -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Smithfield to order.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I am absolutely appalled by the performance that we have just seen from the shadow minister, who is supposedly interested in women's affairs. We should start from the premise that I, as the Minister for the Status of Women, together with this Government, absolutely condemn sexual harassment, and I do not care whether it occurs in ministerial offices, backbencher offices, fruit shops or anywhere else in this State. Sexual harassment is entirely unacceptable. Women and men have the right to work in an environment of mutual support and mutual trust. They have a right to work in an environment in which they are supported by their employers. I reject any suggestion at all that I have somehow abrogated my responsibilities as both Minister for the Status of Women, and Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, in relation to looking after the interests of women in this State. I remind the shadow minister, who I must say has come to this debate very late, having only recently found an interest in women's issues - she has not spoken to me and she has not raised an issue in this House in relation to women's issues in almost the entire time that I have been here -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Port Jackson to order.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: She comes to this extremely late. I remind her that it is at my instigation that we have introduced flexible work practices, so that women can take opportunities in the workplace. It is at my initiative that we introduced the task force on occupational health and safety in relation to women in the clothing industry. I take my responsibilities as Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, and Minister for the Status of Women, extremely seriously and I reject any suggestion by the so-called shadow minister for women's affairs that somehow I have ignored these issues. I point out the hypocrisy of the honourable member for Blacktown bringing this motion to the House. This is the member who, in 18 months, has shown no interest in women's issues, has made no statements in relation to women's issues, and has not raised an issue of concern to the women in New South Wales in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: She was so interested in women's issues that she did not even bother turning up to the estimates committees. Where is her interest in women's issues that she does not even bother coming to the estimates committees to ask questions concerning the portfolio for which she had shadow responsibility? In the last few weeks she has attacked the ministry itself. I cannot believe that she is not ashamed about raising such an attack in this House. She has attacked the ministry, through her cohorts, the honourable member for Port Jackson and the honourable - though honourable is probably not a word I would use to describe her - Meredith Burgmann in the other place. They have attacked the integrity of the ministry of government established to work for the interests of women in this State.
The ministry was established by this Government to give a higher focus and a higher profile to the interests of women in this State. The honourable member for Blacktown has spent the last two weeks attacking the ministry, but that is nothing compared with the absolute and total harassment that she has shown in relation to the director of that ministry. She has attacked her personal integrity; she has called her a liar; she has attacked her family; and she does it in a way so that the director cannot respond. She is a public servant and she does not have the right to come into this House and argue in her own defence. You talk about harassment! What you have done to that woman in absolutely despicable.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the second time.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: The people of New South Wales, the women and the women's groups in New South Wales from whom I have received letters - including the Rape Crisis Centre, the Reclaim the Night women, and the National Council of Women - will judge the shadow minister for what she has done to the ministry and to Jane Bridge. The hypocrisy of the Labor Party goes further than that. In the Leader of the Opposition we have a man whose great contribution to women's issues in this State is to call the Minister for Consumer Affairs a silly bitch, and then refuse to apologise. That is what he thinks about women in this State.
Let us ask the honourable member for Blacktown: maybe she would like to ask the Leader of the Opposition what he did when questions of harassment by electoral staff were raised with him. What did he do to protect the interests of those women when questions of harassment were raised with him by electoral staff? What did he do? What did he do when staff complained to him about harassment by their Labor bosses? I would like to know. Perhaps she would like to tell us, because he is totally hypocritical. Perhaps the honourable member for Blacktown, or one of the other members of the sisterhood in the Labor Party, could tell us: which is the male member opposite that they had to speak to about his harassing one of their own? Which of the male members opposite has been harassing one of the members on that side to such an extent that you have had to go and tell him to back off? If you are going to be talking about harassment, I suggest you get your own house in order.
Mr Scully: Be careful.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: The honourable member for Smithfield tells me to be careful. I suggest that the honourable member for Smithfield look to his own behaviour. If the honourable member for Smithfield is going to make remarks about harassment, I suggest he think about remarks he has made to members of my staff and consider whether they are questions of harassment. Would he like on the record the sorts of things he has said to my staff - he knows they constitute harassment. If he is to speak in this debate, he needs to be very careful about what he says. I would like to move an amendment to this motion, which is totally outrageous in terms of the attack on me personally.
Before I do that I want to say something about my behaviour in relation to the women concerned in the Griffiths affair. I place on record that at no time did the women working in Mr Griffiths' ministerial office approach me. I put that on the record, and those members who have read the report will understand that when those allegations came to light they were dealt with entirely appropriately by the head of the Premier's Department. Dr Gellatly advised the women of the appropriate procedures that they were entitled to take in relation to the complaints that they were raising. That was an entirely appropriate approach. It was not appropriate for me, as the Minister for the Status of Women, to interfere in the procedure. That was a conclusion reached by Ms Niland who said:
Once again we see loyalty between Cabinet colleagues, past and present. She will not give him [the Member for Georges River] up.
Once the matter was brought to the Premier's attention he acted swiftly, and enforced his standards of behaviour on his Minister . . .
I confirm that Ms Niland stated that she received total support and substantial input to the inquiry from me in my capacity as Minister for the Status of Women. I wrote to Ms Niland about certain questions that she had asked and suggested that it would be appropriate that Ministers, given their high level of responsibility, should have an induction procedure and should be properly briefed to understand all of the implications and procedures.
Ms Allan: It was backdated.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I seek leave to table the letter, dated 14 September 1994.
Before I move my amendment I conclude by saying that it is entirely inaccurate - and I believe the honourable member for Blacktown has quoted selectively - to say that I approved in any way of the behaviour of the honourable member for Georges River. I am on the public record. I spoke to the press and I said that such behaviour was totally unacceptable. In the circumstances I said that it was particularly unacceptable in a ministerial office. Such behaviour would not be tolerated in my office. It is my view that the conduct of Ministers should be absolutely exemplary at all times. Ministers should exceed the requirements of law, particularly in relation to the area of sexual harassment of staff. I seek to amend the motion. I move:
The Premier acted appropriately in ensuring that the women involved were informed of their legal rights, helped to find alternative employment and offered appropriate counselling.
I am appalled that Labor members, women members, have taken the opportunity to try to oppress women in this State by trying to undermine the work of the ministry, and by trying to attack the integrity of the director. The honourable member for Blacktown is probably aware - and if she is not, she should be - that members from her own side have taken the trouble to ring me to tell me that they are appalled by the behaviour of certain Labor women in attacking and harassing the director of the ministry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the third time. I call the honourable member for Port Jackson to order for the second time.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I suggest you listen to the adjournment debate in the upper House in the next few days and you might understand who I am talking about. I acknowledge that there are some women of integrity in the Labor Party; they are not in the House at the moment. [Time expired.]
Mrs LO PO' (Penrith) [3.39]: It is with reluctance that I join in this debate. It was never my intention to censure a woman in this House. I am much more comfortable censuring men because they tend to fall into the traps. I never thought that I would be censuring a woman in this House. I am driven to participate in this debate because of the inaction of the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women. It should not be necessary for anybody to have a set of guidelines for ministerial behaviour. We have just seen someone who was an officer, but clearly not a gentleman, acting in the most inappropriate way. This Minister has done nothing. There are no guidelines.
The Minister for the Status of Women does not appear to have the clout that is necessary to implement any changes. When the Labor Party was in office the Minister with responsibility for the status of women was the Premier. The reason for that is that the Premier has the clout to implement anything, but this Minister does not have the clout to implement anything. When the Labor Party was in office it had a legislative program that has never been matched by the coalition Government. It has done nothing for women. The Premier's Department should be responsible for the status of women so that the Premier can pressure recalcitrant Ministers into compliance. This Minister cannot pressure anyone into anything.
The Minister for the Status of Women has said with great pride that no-one approached her. Why did they not approach the Minister? Why did they feel that this Minister, who is responsible for the status of women, is unapproachable and would not be on their side? She should hang her head in shame. The women who work for Ministers should see the Minister for the Status of Women as an ally and advocate for their issues. Instead, she has said with pride that she was not approached.
The Minister has naively talked about support in the workplace. That does not happen naturally. If the Minister had kept her ear to the ground, she would know that sexual harassment is part and parcel of many workplaces. The Minister has naively said that there should be support in the workplace - we also believe that, which is why we are raising this issue. But the Minister has to do something to orchestrate it. She is the Minister for the Status of Women. She has done nothing to orchestrate support for women in the workplace. Had she done so, we would not have the situation we have today.
The Minister is unapproachable; she is not involved in women's issues - otherwise these women would have approached her and asked her for help. The Minister has to redress what she is doing. She has no clout or effect. She should be putting things into effect to protect women in all offices. She has not done so. Women working in other offices do not see this Minister as a champion of their cause. They probably see the honourable member for Blacktown as more of a champion because at least she is doing something about this matter.
Labor does not own the women's movement, but it has done more for the women's movement than this Government has ever done - as honourable members will see if they refer to the legislative program of the previous Labor Government. Domestic violence was addressed and the Child Protection Council was established. This Minister did not invent that; the Labor Government did. The Minister needs to be more active and she needs to set down guidelines. She needs to protect women in the workplace. She has failed miserably.
Ms MACHIN (Port Macquarie - Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister Assisting the Minister for Roads, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport) [3.44]: Let us be clear about what this debate is about: it has nothing to do with any concern the Australian Labor Party might have about what happened to the staff in the office of the former Minister for Police. This is probably the most bitchy and catty debate I have seen in my nine years in this House. This debate is not about an issue; it is a personal attack on the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women, as evidenced by the remarks made by the last two speakers from the Labor Party. Those comments do not come to the core of the issue about which the Parliament is concerned this week, and about which it should rightly be concerned.
I am very disappointed that an issue such as this has been politicised in such a nasty way. We should be working together, as women and as members of Parliament, to ensure that such situations do not occur in any office in the future. The honourable member for Blacktown made a personal and nasty attack on the Minister. Such remarks show the politics of this debate, not the substance. Yesterday the honourable member asked her first question in this House with respect to women's affairs. Yet she stands in this place and tries to tell us that she has a mortgage on women's affairs. The honourable member for Penrith tried twice to be elected - she was not endorsed by the Australian Labor Party the first time around. She should look in her own backyard with respect to how women are treated before she makes personal attacks on my colleague.
The truth is that the Labor Party hates how much the Minister for the Status of Women has achieved. It is jealous that this Government set up the Office of the Status of Women. This Government, under this Minister, has increased the staff of the Women's Co-ordination Unit from 14 or 15 to 51. The Minister gets out into the community like no other Minister responsible for the status of women ever did. It is interesting to refer to the track record of the Australian Labor Party. As I have said, the shadow minister has asked only one question relating to women. I was called a silly bitch by the Leader of the Opposition because, as Deputy-Speaker, I would not let him stray beyond the bounds of a debate. He said at a press conference, "I had all these great lines, but that silly bitch would not let me use them". He then said that it was off the record, that he really did not say it.
Mr Scully: I don't believe it.
Ms MACHIN: It is on the record.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Newcastle to order for the second time.
Ms MACHIN: That is the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition to women. He was asked to apologise, but he refused. I am still waiting for that apology. I would be interested to hear from women opposite as to why he has not apologised. Do they think that is acceptable behaviour towards women? I refer to other examples of the attitude of the ALP to women. When I had a child the ALP candidate in Port Macquarie suggested that it was not my right to choose where I had my baby. I was personally attacked, as was my family. That is a terrific approach to women's affairs! Another issue that is extremely pertinent to this debate is the way the ALP reacted when these issues arose - issues of grave concern in regard to what happened in the former Minister's office. They were on the phone constantly, harassing the women involved. People from Bob Carr's staff were ringing up saying -
Mr Whelan: You condoned it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ashfield to order.
Ms MACHIN: I did not condone people from Bob Carr's office ringing those women who were under enough stress from the outrageous behaviour they had been the recipients of.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ashfield to order for the second time.
Ms MACHIN: The staff of the Leader of the Opposition got on the phone and said, "Bob Carr would love to help you. Just tell us the story". How do honourable members think those women felt about that? I know how they felt. How many Labor members have spoken to those women in a genuine way? ALP members just want to politicise this debate for their own ends. They believe it is a damaging issue. I think, frankly, they are doing a lot of damage to themselves. The real question relates to standards of behaviour in this place. Let us face it: there is an old saying about people who live in glass houses. They ought to be very careful.
The Minister alluded to a number of other concerns that members opposite may like to take on board. The real issue is this: is the Leader of the Opposition, Bob Carr, prepared to demonstrate standards of propriety similar to those of the Premier? The Premier found out about this situation on the Friday, and by the Monday the then Minister for Police was gone. The Premier acted over the weekend. Does the Leader of the Opposition stand by those standards in regard to the treatment of women? If so, we expect him to lift his game. I am very sorry about the tone this debate has taken. This issue relates to the rights of staff to ensure that they have a decent workplace; it is not about a thinly veiled excuse to attack the Minister for the Status of Women, just because she is achieving a lot for the women of New South Wales.
Ms MOORE (Bligh) [3.49]: I must say that I am feeling agitated today - and I probably will not be very coherent because I am terribly upset about what is in this report, the substance of which should concern the 11 female members out of the 99 members of this House.
Mr O'Doherty: What about the men? It concerns us too.
Ms MOORE: I am pleased to hear from the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai that this issue concerns the men too. This morning I opened the Sydney Morning Herald and saw a Moir cartoon which has a teacher sitting in the gallery of this House describing its members to her students. She is saying:
That the question be amended by deleting all words after the word "That", with a view to inserting instead, "this House condemns all acts of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in the workplace and supports the rights of any oppressed staff to report incidents to the appropriate authorities".
What must the people of New South Wales think about this Parliament when they witness a spectacle such as honourable members have witnessed in the last 20 minutes? The spectacle we have seen this afternoon has been disgraceful. What is in this report is disgraceful. This report is all about the powerful versus the powerless. That is what I believe the Office for the Status of Women is about. There is no doubt - and no-one would disagree in any debate about the role of women in the workplace, in the home, on the street - that in 1994, in relation to the men in our society, women are disadvantaged; there is no argument. This is what we listened to when we were launching the "Reclaim the Night" march in front of Parliament House earlier today.
I do not believe that the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women has been active enough in her portfolio in helping those women who most need it. I was interested to hear her outline her policy. She mentioned travelling around New South Wales and talking to women lawyers, for example. I would like to say on the record that I think that this Minister's role is to help those women who need our support. That is why I came out in support of the women in the Government Cleaning Service, and this Minister did not. It is not the educated, middle-class, Anglo-Saxon women - like Minister Chikarovski and me, and the other women sitting in this place - who need our help and support; it is the women from non-English speaking backgrounds, it is the young women, it is the women who were in former Minister Griffiths' office, those young, female members of staff who were dependent upon him for their employment.
They are the ones who suffered, they are the ones who have had to move house, they are the ones who have suffered economically; not former Minister Griffiths, who is able to defend himself, probably at taxpayers' expense. My understanding is that $100,000 of taxpayers' money has gone towards his legal aid and probably went towards his brilliant speech yesterday. The honourable member for Gladesville said it was the best speech he had heard in
the House. I was humiliated when I listened to his speech, and I am humiliated when I read this report, on behalf of those women who have suffered as they have suffered. I think we should start introducing into this debate a bit of statespersonship. I will not support what has been proposed by the Opposition spokeswoman on women's affairs today, because I think she is trivialising the very important issues that are before of us. I will support what has been moved by the Minister for the Status of Women, but I do not support what she has done as Minister. I would like to think that the Minister's role could have been more pro-active. What did she do? The women did not approach her. She made some media statements. I did, too.
Mr Hazzard: How on earth was she supposed to know?
Ms MOORE: She had input into the Niland report; as I did and as did those other members of Parliament who received letters from Carmel Niland. She said that such behaviour is unacceptable and would not be tolerated in her office. It goes without saying that it would not be tolerated in the office of any person who has even a minuscule understanding of human rights and the dignity of the human being, and what women in this State suffer from. It is for male members of society to recognise that human dignity is what women are all about. It is about time that women were able to work safely in the workplace; to be in their homes safely without being abused by relatives; and able to walk the street without being violently assaulted. That is what this debate should be about. There has not been enough debate in this Parliament.
Mrs Chikarovski: That is right. That is why I support Reclaim the Night. That is why I put the money in.
Ms MOORE: Yes, you did. You have received those requests from the Reclaim the Night organisation.
Mrs Chikarovski: I am giving them money, Clover.
Ms MOORE: You are giving them money to help the march, but let us make sure that the requests that were made by us this morning are implemented by you and that you take a much more active role on behalf of those women. Do not nod your head and smile. I am not referring to the middle-class, Anglo-Saxon women who are lawyers, who are in Parliament and who are educated. They are not the ones who need your help and support; it is women such as the ones working in Terry Griffiths' office who need your help and your support, in a very pro-active way, not in a reactive way.
Mr O'DOHERTY (Ku-ring-gai) [3.54]: As a man in this place, I cannot disagree with what the honourable member for Bligh has just said. It is important for me to be able to place on record - as a male member of this Chamber - that other male members in this Chamber also agree that it is on behalf of the women who are powerless, who do not have access to the same levels of action in our society as articulate, middle-class males like myself have, that we must have our strongest action in this place and elsewhere. We must stand up on behalf of those women and, as a man, I particularly want to -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the House for making the error of giving the call to the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai. I was looking at the provisions for debate. I regret that I have to ask the honourable member to resume his seat.
Mr Whelan: On a point of order: for the benefit of the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women, I seek leave to move suspension of standing orders to enable the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to complete his remarks and the honourable member for Port Jackson to speak for five minutes and conclude the debate.
Leave not granted.
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown) [3.56], in reply: I would like to return to the motion before the Chair, following the last contribution and part contribution. I am disappointed that the Minister for Consumer Affairs did not see fit to grant either her colleague the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai or my colleague the honourable member for Port Jackson an opportunity to conclude the debate with their measly five-minute contributions. In contrast to what the honourable member for Bligh said, I would like to re-emphasise that the motion condemns the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women for failing to protect the interests of working women, particularly women working as ministerial staff. The honourable member for Bligh ranged over a number of issues of concern to many women in our community, but she strayed from what is the essential theme of this debate, that is, the Niland inquiry and its outcome, and the circumstances around which that inquiry developed.
I want to emphasise that the Opposition was not particularly interested in scoring political points in this debate, but it was interested in reminding the Government and this Minister in particular that, as the Minister responsible for the status of women; she had a duty to ensure that women working on ministerial staffs did not get themselves into the situation that this quite lengthy report - this report that so alarmed the honourable member for Bligh - documents. Yesterday, when the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women responded to a question I asked about her reaction to the Niland recommendations, and her action, she said:
. . . these are the leaders of our community . . . that one allegedly made bomb threats, that one allegedly sexually harassed staff . . . that one allegedly received but didn't pass on a cheque . . . the grey one is awaiting tax charges . . . so is that one . . . the one in brown is said to have . . .
That is, to avoid a similar issue happening in the future. The Minister continued:
I have made it perfectly clear that it is appropriate for authorities within my control to be part of the process of developing those recommendations . . .
That statement shows an appalling lack of initiative by this Minister. As has already been outlined in debate by the honourable member for Penrith and by me, and also by the honourable member for Bligh, this Minister has shown a lack of initiative in other areas. But in the particular area of the care of people who work on ministerial staffs it is appalling that, despite the fact that, for more than 12 months, there were suggestions of problems with mismanagement of the staff of the former Minister for Police, this Minister - who was running around the State apparently talking about the needs of women in our community - failed to perform her duty of care in relation to these particular women.
The Minister has been joined in this debate by her honourable colleague the Minister for Consumer Affairs, who as a Minister has also been part of a Cabinet that has shown negligence in this regard, and who has come into this Chamber this afternoon completely unapologetic and taken no responsibility whatsoever for the Government's lack of action. In fact, she has attempted to defend the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment and Minister for the Status of Women. Of course, last week in the debate about the honourable member for Georges River, other Ministers, such as the Minister for the Environment, even alleged that the women that Carmel Niland interviewed and documented her concerns about are not victims. One Minister has failed in her duty of care. Another has defended the actions of the lacklustre Minister for the Status of Women. Others have shown how little they care. Obviously, I suppose, true leadership of a particular team comes from the Premier.
Mrs Chikarovski: That is right.
Ms ALLAN: That is right. The Minister for the Status of Women continues to maintain that she cannot take the initiative without the Premier's endorsement. What is she here for, as a woman in the Parliament, if she cannot look after the needs of her sisters who are employed by her colleagues, who, according to Carmel Niland, are abusing their opportunities? The Minister's colleagues are languishing in the Chamber, hoping for ministerial portfolios - perhaps under her leadership as the Leader of the Opposition or Deputy Leader of the Opposition after next March. That is why the honourable member for Davidson is here.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the second time.
Ms ALLAN: The Minister has failed in her duty of care to those women. [Time expired.]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Blacktown will resume her seat.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.
If it is appropriate for other agencies within my control to prepare and assist the development of guidelines, they will be absolutely entitled to do so. I will do so at the request of the Premier . . .