It was 1984 when my mother excitedly announced to her young, naive daughter that she no longer has to tolerate her boss hovering way too close behind her at the filing cabinet, in the lift or at her desk. It seemed my mother and many women like her were very pleased that legislation was finally in place that protected her from unwanted sexual attention.
That decision created a major shift in the way in which women in particular, have been protected from sexual harassment in the workplace. The legislation also provided for Ms Pam O’Neill to be appointed the first Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner (FSDC). The FDSC utilises the The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 which gives effect to Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and certain aspects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 156.
“Its [the FSDC] major objectives are to promote equality between men and women, eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or pregnancy and, with respect to dismissals, family responsibilities, and eliminate sexual harassment at work, in educational institutions, in the provision of goods and services, in the provision of accommodation and the delivery of Commonwealth programs.” HREOC
Pru Goward is the sixth FSDC. She has a secondary role of Commissioner Responsible for Age Discrimination (CRAD) following the introduction of the Age Discrimination Act in 2004. In this role Pru undertakes educational activities to promote the law which aims to reduce barriers faced by younger and mature age people in public areas of life including employment.
Our current FSDC/CRAD is now the Liberal candidate for Goulburn, NSW. Since that time her previous statements that showed her to be critical of WorkChoices legislation for the group of people she used to represent have been toned down to be significantly less critical and I can’t believe that we put up with this. How do we tolerate this when women of all ages (who represent a large proportion of casual and part-time workers) and the younger and older workers are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged under the WorkChoices legislation.
Pru’s position has moved from this–
“the spread of AWAs will inevitably mean that the present system of employer funded paid maternity leave will disappear. This is because employer provided paid maternity leave, in the absence of a national government funded scheme, has been provided by Australian employers as part of negotiated enterprise agreements or, less often, as part of awards. This will not be possible where there are not collective agreements, which explains why so few AWAs have paid maternity leave. Either the government will need to replace employer funded paid leave with a national government funded scheme or we will be back in the nightmare of low fertility and or of women dropping out of the work force at a time when the country needs them most. HREOC’s chief concerns about the [WorkChoices] bill relate to its impact on the protection of workers with family responsibilities, on pay equity between men and women and on the protection of employees in vulnerable and lower skilled positions in the Australian labour market.”
“My concerns had not been supported by any evidence. I did have concerns, but I also have always argued that greater flexibility in working arrangements is what has enabled more women to work. The big take-off in female participation rates in Australia was the early 1990s, when part-time work became widely available. In other words, workplace flexibilities are good for job creation and women particularly have taken advantage of them.”
Pru has offered to quit her role as FSDC/CRAD, however it seems that she is not required to. I disagree. I don’t believe she can rebuild her credibility to any point of relevance after what can only be seen as a shameless, unprincipled, mercenary bid for the advancement of her own political career.