Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS: United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:48): by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

We acknowledge the report that the minister has provided on the Commission on the Status of Women. We did have a strong representation at this meeting. We are very, very supportive of the minister's position on the strong support for a sustainable development goal that looks particularly at issues of women. This is something we have been working towards for a long time. We acknowledge that report, and the statement issued by the minister; however, I want to make short comment today about the process of how we have made this report.

We have had a focus on the Beijing platform. As we all know, this year is the anniversary of the Beijing conference on women. I have made a couple of speeches in this place about that platform, and this year the CSW is focusing on that. In particular, the Beijing platform looked at empowering women across the world. One of the key aspects of that was to provide effective support for women across the world through education, health and also in child rearing and childbearing. That is something which Australia has been very strong in our aid program over many years.

I am troubled by the fact that we get a report from the CSW at the same time as our international aid program has been slashed, particularly in the areas across African nations and in the Middle East. In each of those regions, particular programs of aid support have been focused on women-on education, on health and also on the safety and the health of women, newly-born children and also women who are pregnant and on their health at that time. I am deeply concerned that currently, as a result of decisions made in the budget focus, those programs have been slashed. That puts us in a questionable position when we go to international fora and talk about commitments Australia has made to ensure that women are empowered and safe, using the Beijing platform as the basis for that. Now that we are not going to be, I believe, taking up our international responsibilities effectively is something which I do not think we should be proud of.

I am using the opportunity of a report on CSW because it was an immediate link. The timing of the report on the CSW at the same time we have had these cuts is disturbing and upsetting. I know that in New York there was no consideration or mention of the fact that the Australian government was going to be pulling back in these areas. We have been applauded and there has been respect for the work we have done. In fact, the role of Australia internationally and how we have been strong in these areas has been one of the issues that has been spoken about most. We are no longer strong in these areas.

I also wish to note my concern about changes to things like paid parental leave. I know that at the G20 recently, which was reported on at the CSW, there was a commitment led by Australia to ensure that we would increase the engagement of women in the workplace. This is something of which we can duly be proud. However, now in post-budget, which is just after our statement in New York, we are pulling back in these areas. Whilst I admire the statement that we made, whilst I admire the contributions that were made and the strength that was put by the Australian delegation in New York, I believe that subsequently our position-not just in Australia, but internationally-has been significantly weakened. I believe there will be more speakers on this point.