Women In Politics
WOMEN IN POLITICS
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [6.46]: This evening I want to deal with a topical issue: what discourages women to enter politics. I am prompted to speak following the publication of an article by Joan Bielski in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week. Many people would be familiar with Joan Bielski. She is a woman of sharp wit, a formidable debater and in view of her contributions to public life over many years, I am sure she would succeed as a member of this place. In her analysis she accurately raised a number of interesting issues. Her article referred to the recent debate about the degree to which the language that members of Parliament use alienates women from politics, and the statement by the Premier last week in an apparent attack on the honourable member for Lane Cove.
Some of the arguments raised by Joan Bielski about the offensiveness of such language and the alienation it causes women are probably reasonably substantial. When reading the article it occurred to me to what extent women in parliamentary forums excel in debate. Women such as the honourable member for Lane Cove, the Hon. Patricia Forsythe from the upper House, women from my side of politics and the honourable member for Bligh and other Independent women have been outstanding debaters. They have shown no uneasiness in using parliamentary procedures. Some of the issues raised in the article are valid. It said that infrastructure in parliamentary forums throughout the country is lacking. It referred particularly to the absence of child care and pointed out that not one of the Australian Parliaments, including the Federal Parliament, has child-care facilities. That should be remedied urgently, not only for my motivation but to encourage more women with young children to use this place.
The article raises other issues such as working hours. I do not think Joan Bielski gives credit to the movement in the last few years - not only from women in politics but also from men - to extend family-friendly hours. She also referred to what I would describe as the cultural alienation in the Australian political system and other political systems around the world. Many women are not motivated, by themselves or others, to enter the culture of politics. Responses are needed in the longer term. Joan Bielski is critical of the responses of the established political parties to this issue. I must admit that some responses have been fairly pessimistic. I have recently detected opportunism creeping into the Opposition. We saw an example of that opportunism during question time today. The Leader of the National Party attacked the honourable member for Broken Hill over what I considered to be an idle comment.
The Labor Party has set quotas for female parliamentarians, and Joan Bielski must acknowledge that the Labor Party will achieve those quotas. A lot of the momentum for those quotas has come from the women's movement. Joan Bielski referred to the need for a separate women's party, although such a proposal has not been the solution this century, and I do not consider that the establishment of a new Australian Women's Party is an appropriate solution to the problem. It will raise the awareness of the community for the need for more women in politics. I think everyone in this place is aware of that need, as are many people in the community. The creation of such a party is not the solution to the problem Joan Bielski very carefully and well defined. She did not follow through the argument to its natural conclusion. [Time expired.]
Mr E. T. PAGE (Coogee - Minister for Local Government) [6.51]: I congratulate the Minister for the Environment on raising a number of concerns that have been discussed in the community. It is an indictment on our society and our cultural history that major impediments discourage 50 per cent of our population from becoming parliamentarians. It is good to know that the Labor Party is doing something positive about getting women into Parliament. This initiative will have a great effect on the make-up of the Parliament in the years to come. It will be an ideal situation when there is 50:50 representation of males and females in this House.
The honourable member for Cronulla mentioned that I kept a woman out of this place. The Liberal Party put up an inappropriate candidate against me. The Liberal Party was so concerned about women in politics that it put out a brochure telling women what to do. Women were told to ensure that their hair was done and that they wore bright clothes. That is what my female opponent did. What baloney! Nothing in the Liberal Party document indicated that a woman should use her brain; she just had to show off parts of her body. That was a crazy thing for the Liberal Party to do. It needs to get its act together. The Labor Party has its act together. Because of the Labor Party quotas the day will come when 50 per cent of the members of this House are female.