The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Industry and Trade, representing the Premier, a question about family friendly workplaces.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The Office for the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) found in its workplace perspective survey of 2003 that, although 79 per cent of public sector workers know of their right to flexitime, only between 1 and 9 per cent know of their right to items such as purchased leave, compressed weeks, part-time work, job sharing and working from home.
Doctor Barbara Pocock, in making some comments in The Advertiser of 8 March in relation to the government’s refusal to provide its employees with the same level of paid maternity leave as its New South Wales and Victorian counterparts (14 weeks), has argued that, as 63 per cent of state Public Service employees are women, the government is pretty dependent upon female employees. She said:
The state government can either send a signal of support for working women and their families by matching the increasingly common level of 14 weeks paid maternity leave for its own workers or hang on to its status as national delinquent and the family unfriendly government.
John McFarlane, the CEO of the ANZ Bank, has said in a recently published book:
Chief executives unplugged. I am not a champion of women; I am a champion of people, but having said that I do believe you have to intervene on behalf of women. Why? Because if you do nothing, nothing changes.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The authors argue that the key to improving the number of women in management positions is for the CEO and, in this case in our state, the Premier, to be the champion. My question is: what tangible measures is this government taking to ensure that women in the public service are not left behind and are able to manage the work/life balance?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Industry and Trade): I think it is extraordinary that any member of the opposition would raise issues in relation to improving conditions of families in the workplace given their attitude towards industrial relations generally. In the very near future, we will see in this country what the honourable member’s federal colleagues think about family friendly workplaces.
The honourable member would be well aware that my colleague the Minister for Industrial Relations is currently negotiating matters in relation to the working conditions of public servants, including the subject of maternity leave. This government has been negotiating to improve the conditions of all workers, particularly those with families. What we would like to see is some support from members opposite for those measures.We have not seen an awful lot of support to date and, from what we hear from the federal government, that is likely to be commonplace.
I think it has become clear that one of the best things that can be done to assist families is the provision of stable employment. Over the last few decades at least, we have seen a casualisation of the work force and the removal of conditions.
That is certainly the rhetoric that is coming out of the federal government at this moment. What they are on about is further casualisation and a further reduction in security in relation to the work force. Any objective observer would say that during the past three years in which this government has been in office we have stopped the drift towards that and started to reverse it to provide more stable conditions, because that is the best thing that we can do to improve the position of families in this state.