Academic journal article Hecate

Women and the Current Queensland State Government

Academic journal article Hecate

Women and the Current Queensland State Government

Article excerpt

In November 1989 a Labor Government came to power in Queensland for the first time in thirty two years. During the election campaign Labor leader, Wayne Goss, publicly committed himself and his party to a range of legal and policy reforms stated to be designed to achieve social justice for women in Queensland. These were detailed in the ALP platform Opening New Doors for Queensland Women. Women's Policy Under a Goss Labor Government(1), launched in September 1989. As Carolyn Ovens has argued, this document owed more to the policies and experiences of other State and Commonwealth labor Governments than to the deliberations of Queensland women.(2) Nevertheless, it was the most sustained account ever produced in Queensland of what a Labor Government planned to do for women. Queensland women were promised a range of new measures in relation to education, employment, child care, health, housing, personal safety, and sport and recreation. They were also promised equal opportunity legislation and a set of new consultative processes designed to |listen to women'. All of these measures aimed to reduce the social, political and economic inequalities faced by women. Action on this front was arguably well overdue in Queensland; similar measures (for example, equal opportunity legislation) had been in place in other States since the mid to late 1970s and at Commonwealth level since the early 1980s. While such legal and policy initiatives are inherently limited and cannot alone produce all of the changes needed to ensure equality and social justice for women, they are an interim step.(3)

This paper is an evaluation of the Goss Goverrlment's progress in law reform and in the development of consultative processes and new public policy addressed to women. From the perspective of 1993 it is clear that the Goss Government has made good initial progress in most of the areas outlined in its 1989 platform. It has introduced many measures which, both directly and indirectly, improve the situation and prospects of Queensland women. These measures include new laws, such as the Anti-discrimination Act and the Equal Opportunity in Public Employment Act, and amendments to existing laws, for example, in the area of domestic violence. The Goss Govermnent has also established a network of new consultative and policy mechanisms. As a result, a wide range of women's policies and programs have been proposed, developed and implemented over the last three years.

It is clear, however, that significant problems remain relatively unaddressed particularly in relation to Aboriginal women(4) and in policy areas that directly impact upon women's economic situation. Moreover, in two important areas - abortion and prostitution - the Goss Government has severely compromised its overall stated commitment to social justice for women. In relation to both abortion and prostitution the Government has demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding, indeed disrespect, for the needs and concerns of women.

In the first part of this paper I address some recent changes to law and public policy which, directly or indirectly, impact on the situation of Queensland women. I then examine the issues of abortion and prostitution in the Queensland context and show why these areas represent Goss Government failures.

New Legislation

The Queensland Anti-discrimination Act (proclaimed in 1992) is probably the single most important item of new legislation designed generally to address the situation of Queensland women. The Queensland Act institutes a formal equality for all citizens by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, parental status, breastfeeding, age, race, (physical or mental) impairment, religion, political belief or activity, trade union activity, lawful sexual activity or association with or relation to a person identified on the basis of any of these attributes. Discrimination on these grounds is prohibited in relation to work, the provision of goods and services (including accommodation, insurance and superannuation) and in the administration of State laws and programs. …

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