Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Carmen doesn’t understand ABS statistics and gets it wrong again

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today expressed her astonishment at Carmen Lawrence’s ineptitude. In Dr Lawrence’s attempt to rush out a negative release she has both failed to check with the ABS and read the express warnings on the ABS publication.

“Not only does Dr Lawrence have a problem with recalling facts, she has deliberately ignored or misunderstood clear advice from a government agency in her haste to put out a nasty piece of political misinformation”, said Senator Vanstone.

“This is vintage Labor. Quick to be maliciously negative and having no regard to the real facts.”

The publication Employee Earnings and Hours, released today by the ABS provides estimates on “the composition and distribution of earnings and hours of employees”. However, it is not supposed to be used for time series comparisons. In fact, the ABS expressly says in the publication that “caution should be taken if using the estimates as a time series”. A simple phone call to the ABS would have alerted Dr Lawrence to the possibility of serious errors when using her flawed comparison.

“If Dr Lawrence had used Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings (a much more robust measure for the comparison of gender earnings) she would have found that for full-time non-managerial employees, the ratio of female to male earnings has increased from 89.1% in May 1998 to 89.9% in May 2000.

“On top of her statistical ineptitude, Dr Lawrence has also made a number of other serious mistakes by slavishly spouting Labor Party rhetoric about women.

“Contrary to what Labor would have Australian women believe, the Howard Government has responded to needs of women. The facts are that more women are now in paid work than ever before. Female employment grew by 424,000 (11.8 per cent) between March 1996 and February 2001. The Howard Government has also allocated a record $5.6 billion over 4 years to childcare. September 2000 ABS figures also show that child care costs for families had dropped by 15% since 1 July 2000.”

“Dr Lawrence should stop being a Labor Party pawn and concentrate on getting her facts right”, said Senator Vanstone.