International Women's Day

Federation Chamber, 26 March 2018
Watch Matt's Speech
Transcript

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (11:31): I commend the member for Newcastle for proposing this motion in support of International Women's Day, which was celebrated on 8 March this year. The theme for 2018 is 'Press for Progress', recognising the strong and growing global momentum striving for gender equality. Now, more than ever, governments must recommit to addressing entrenched gender inequality.

An important issue that must be addressed is paid domestic violence leave. Domestic violence leave will cost only about 5c per day per employee, but the real point is that the human cost of a type of leave that is used only in the most critical of circumstances must come before profit. The statistics in this area are shocking. One in five women experience harassment within the workplace; on average, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner; Indigenous women and girls are 35 times more likely than the wider female population to be hospitalised due to family violence. A lack of domestic violence leave means further trauma for domestic violence victims, rather than the assistance a compassionate society should provide.

The Western Australian, Queensland and Victorian state governments have now introduced 10 days paid domestic violence leave for public servants. That is a terrific decision. Here, the minister for employment, who is also the former Minister for Women, instructed this government's departments and agencies to oppose paid domestic violence leave in their enterprise agreements. Frankly, this is disgraceful. Those who oppose this policy due to cost need to think about the human cost of not acting. If you believe the issue is too prevalent and, therefore, too costly, focus on reducing the scourge of domestic violence; don't stop the protection of the victims.

Penalty rates, also, are a fundamental part of the Australian way of life. They protect our weekends, seek to compensate for a loss of time with family and provide a way for low-paid workers to get a bit more in their wallets each week, making it easier—though not easy—to make ends meet. Many Australians earn an annualised salary where they trade off those penalty rates for greater flexibility for both their employers and themselves. The quid pro quo here is that these salaries should compensate for that reasonable overtime and weekend work penalty rates that they forgo. But analysis shows that women earn 33 per cent less than men in Australia when rates of part-time work are taken into account. The cut in penalty rates will exacerbate the gender pay gap, with women making up the majority of workers in these lower paid jobs that are affected by these cuts. Juggling family life and work is a tough gig. I know that, and my wife, Annabel, especially knows that. Everyone in this place should know that. So, with this government cutting penalty rates for the people who need them the most, the result is another hurdle for equality for women in the workplace.

But gender equality is not just about those individuals. It is an issue of international economic and social importance. For too long, it has largely been women who have been advocating at the front, achieving hard-won improvements, while so many men hold the power and influence to help advance this work.

The Male Champions of Change movement and approach is a growing part of removing entrenched gender inequalities. The Male Champions of Change coalition now encompasses eight action groups, with over 130 leaders from across Australian industry, but, of course, this needs to grow, and it needs to grow much more. Currently there are, frankly, unacceptably low levels of women in leadership in politics, especially in this government, and business, with the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards now at a whopping 26.7 per cent! That's half the proportion of the actual population. It's also less than the number of men named John, Peter or David on those boards. In the legal profession, which I hail from, it is clear that the pace of change has been especially slow, with over 63 per cent of graduates now being women, yet women only occupying 10 per cent of high-level positions in the profession.

With the election of Ged Kearney to the Labor Party, we now have a magnificent gender balance in our caucus of 48 per cent, demonstrating that gender quotas do actually work and are needed. Of course, there's still more work to do. The Prime Minister, though, likes to talk a big game about his support for women, yet, as evidenced by the proportion of women in his party room and ministry, the Prime Minister is all talk and no action. Unfortunately, the results for women's policy under this government are also woefully inadequate. I commend this motion to the House, and I stand here as a proud feminist in support of it.