Monday, 27 February 2017
Private Members' Business
Queensland Working Women's Service
I second the motion. I support the member for Griffith's motion condemning the government's refusal to fund the work of the Queensland Working Women's Service. I am disgusted that the current government continues its attack on working women. Quite frankly, I am sick of just expecting it now. But what really could you expect from a government whose Minister for Women thinks that feminism is done and dusted?
What more could you expect from a government that does not understand that not everyone just happens to find their way into parliament; who does not understand that there are countless hardworking women who have been let down by the system time and time again; and that there are women who are abused, bullied, harassed and discriminated against in their workplaces? What more could you expect from a government that welcomes cutting the take-home pay of working women, working in retail and hospitality? What more could you expect from a government that has just lost touch?
This government's refusal to fund the Queensland Working Women's Service, whose more than 22 years of extraordinary work in providing free specialist information, advice and representation to vulnerable women, means their doors will be forced to close in just a few weeks time.
The Queensland Working Women's Service have already cut back from their original 15 centres across Queensland to just one phone and one email hotline run by seven staff, despite receiving somewhere between 12 and 20 concerns a day. In the 2016 financial year alone, as the member for Griffith said, the Queensland Working Women's Service secured over $770,000 in unpaid entitlements and compensation. Just imagine the good we could do with support from a government that actually does care, if that is what we can achieve with a government who has lost touch.
Let's remember this is a government who refuses to support victims of abuse with paid domestic violence leave—refuses to support them. Not only have they refused to help these victims but Senator Cash recently was so bold, so callous, as to say that helping these women would actually stop employers from hiring women—absolutely atrocious. This reasoning defies all logic. If supporting people through some of the most difficult times in their lives causes workplace discrimination, then is that not just yet another reason for services like Queensland Working Women's Service to actually exist?
Just this week, I spoke with the Queensland Working Women's Service director Kerriann Dear. Kerrieann really opened my eyes to the types of complex issues and cases that the service has worked upon—and I am sure the member for Griffith would be able to add to some of these stories that Kerriann spoke to me about.
One story in particular was about a migrant worker—a lady from Korea—who came to Australia to work as a chef. In her workplace, she suffered insidious abuse. She was sexually harassed on multiple occasions, not just once, was told repeatedly that, if she left or spoke out about her abusers, her visa would not be sponsored. This woman's entire life was held to ransom and, because of it, she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. This is not a stand-alone case, as Kerriann Dear told me; there are women all over Australia who suffer at the hands of their employers, and it is these women who need help from services like the Queensland Working Women's Service.
Ms Dear went on to tell me that, despite our population predominantly living in metropolitan centres, over 65 per cent of the cases in Queensland come from regional areas—regional areas like my seat of Longman, just north of Brisbane, seats like Herbert in North Queensland, and women calling home places like Redcliffe and Deception Bay in the electorates of Dickson and Petrie.
Who does this government think that these women can turn to, if they cut these critical services? It is not like these services can be resolved in a matter of days. They are quite complex. Sometimes it takes weeks. Many of these cases can actually take months. Right now there are women who have started the process of getting support, getting help and having advocacy work done for them who are now going to have their hopes dashed by a government who has let the funding expire before these women get a resolution.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten recently said:
There is no such thing as trickle-down feminism—
and I absolutely agree. Just talking about inequality does not fix anything. We have to build equality from the ground up. We have to fight for the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged. We need services like Ms Dear and Queensland Working Women's Service to stand beside us and to fight with us. Thank you.