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Motion: Support of Beyond COVID

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. M.C. Parnell:

That this council—

1. Notes the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the people of Australia, our society and our economy;

2. Acknowledges the substantial policy shifts by the Australian and the South Australian governments in response to the current crisis, towards a fairer, more compassionate and cooperative approach;

3. Recognises that we are now at a crossroad, giving us the choice to either go back to business as usual or take this opportunity to forge a new path for our collective future and Build Back Better;

4. Notes that, as South Australian legislators as well as leaders, we have the ability as well as the responsibility to put people, communities and the planet at the centre of all decisions, giving everyone a fair go; and

5. Calls on the Marshall Liberal government to continue to show South Australians that they matter by making choices and decisions that reflect care for each other, communities and the planet and investing in a renewed economy that works for people so that every one of us can thrive.

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: It is no surprise that I rise to support the motion of my honourable Greens colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell. Indeed, it is quite right to observe that the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on our society actually also opens a great opportunity to see things differently, to recognise the structural inequities that were previously invisible in our community. We had a gender equality crisis before the pandemic, and unless we change our ways the pandemic will only widen that crisis.

Before the crisis of the pandemic started, women in Australia were already experiencing greater job insecurity than men. They were already more likely to be in low paid or highly precarious jobs than men. They were already more likely to be in poverty than men, to retire with less superannuation and to take on more of the unpaid care roles and the domestic and often invisible labour of the home.

Since the pandemic hit, little has changed; it has simply gotten worse. Women have lost their jobs at a higher rate than men under the pandemic. They are experiencing greater levels of underemployment than men and they have taken on the lion's share of the burden of household and caring work during the COVID restrictions and lockdowns.

Women such as nurses have been the heroes on the frontline. Those in our retail stores, more often than not women, have been seen as the essential workers that they are as a result of this pandemic. Teachers, told that their workplaces were somehow magically free of the threat of COVID, were indeed at the very forefront of the fight against this pandemic.

Indeed, teachers, I think, for many parents who had to take on home-schooling duties, have found a new value to their roles with that greater understanding of what it is they contribute. Yet, teachers, nurses and early childhood educators continue to be some of the lowest paid of those professions. The pink-colour recession of the pandemic is indeed ahead of us, unless we change our ways.

That is why I urge the government in both the state budget but also at a federal level to ensure that as we talk about rebuilding we do build back better and that we build back fairer. When we talk about construction jobs and when we talk about industries that are largely men we are leaving many of these women behind, yet under the COVID pandemic we saw, front and centre, their worth, the importance of this usually invisible area of employment and indeed unpaid labour in our society. The very social fabric that we need to build back our communities is within these feminised industries and is with particularly the unpaid labour of women.

So as we talk about construction jobs, I do hope that there will be a gender parity here: that we will also look at the construction and the care of those caring industries, typically underpaid, already structurally more precarious, already very vulnerable to poverty, and that we do build back better and build back fairer by ensuring that there is a gender lens on our COVID recovery spending and on our investment in a better future.

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