Bill's Speeches

2017 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY PARLIAMENTARY BREAKFAST - CANBERRA - THURSDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2017

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, I pay my respects to elders past and present. 

I might do something which might surprise some of you, I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for some of the very progressive messages in the speech he just gave. 

And I congratulate too the organisers, because this breakfast is actually becoming more than a breakfast, but a showcase of particular ideas or an issue. 

It's becoming an opportunity in the parliamentary year to make the political parties think about what is it they're doing to achieve a better deal for women in Australia and elsewhere. 

So I acknowledge members of parliament from all political parties. 

My own parliamentary colleagues, my wonderful deputy leader and our Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Pliberserk. 

Our very remarkable Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Penny Wong and the whole team. 

My wife wanted to be here today but she has a sports injury. But she did check this bit of the speech with me...that means she said: 'Say this'. 

Chloe and I, like all parents, tell our daughters they have the same rights and the same opportunities as our son. 

It's an expectation we have, it’s the self-belief that we want our kids to have. 

But it has to be more than something two individual parents want for their child.  

We need to make this a reality for every Australian child. 

This requires a bit more from us than choosing the right words at a breakfast such as this. 

If good intent about the equal treatment of women was all that was required – we’d be there already. 

Equality for women is a test of what we do: as parents, as public figures – and as a parliament. 

If we truly want women to be equal – it just can't be a theory, it just can't be on paper. Not as a question of principle, but as a matter of fact. 

Then we can’t trust to luck, or wait-and-see. We need a concrete plan for real action. 

That’s why I’ve asked Tanya Plibersek and the Status of Women Caucus Committee, led by Sharon Claydon, to lead a national conversation with Australian women: Setting the Agenda. 

They’ll be consulting, amongst others with the people on the frontline– in shelters and refuges, in legal services, and in workplaces; with business and unions - developing Labor’s comprehensive blueprint for equality. 

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done - that's what I want to talk about. 

The gender pay gap is around 17.5 per cent – and despite the best efforts, it's stuck there. It's annoying that we just can't move that dial closer. 

What that effectively means is from the beginning of the year to this week, the gender pay gap means Australian women have been working for nothing. 

That's what I don't want my girls to grow up and put up with. 

For 120 years and more, our workplaces have insufficiently valued the contribution of women. 

We've been good at valuing people's intellectual labour, quite good at valuing their physical labour. 

But we have never been so good at valuing people's emotional labour. 

That's not PC term, it's just a fact of life. 

If you look at a lot of the professions where, predominately women work, they don't get paid the same value as other occupations. 

When I think about these professions, I think about child care. 

Why is it that our early years' educators, disproportionately as an industry are paid less? 

There's a challenge here to start valuing the emotional labour in people. 

I looked after shearers - they did not have to have any great affection for their sheep. 

I looked after gold miners and offshore oil rig workers - they didn't have to feel anything for the product. 

Scientists go to work and have a passion, but if you are a teacher or a nurse or a child care worker, not only do we trust the vulnerable and the young to them - but these workers are not allowed to have a bad day. Because it’s resonates to the people they are in charge of. 

That is what I mean about valuing the work of women differently. 

And this inequality stretches into retirement. 

Women may indeed ‘hold up half they sky’ but they are finishing work with half as much superannuation. 

And the growing crisis in women’s homelessness – particularly among women over the age of 55, who through divorce or estrangement from family, find themselves with nowhere to go – and no economic security. 

Here in Canberra, in Newcastle, in the big cities and the small towns of this country – women in their 70s are sleeping in cars, and sleeping rough.   

And of course, we know the ongoing evil of family violence that drives women of all ages from their homes. 

That’s why Family Violence Leave belongs in the National Employment Standards. 

It’s why Labor is committed to ending the ordeal of women being cross-examined in court by the violent perpetrator – a new injury on top of the old. 

I have to say, and I am sure we can do this in the budget coming up, it's probably time to restore the money cut from Community Legal services. 

It wasn't this Prime Minister, who put those cuts in the budget. And Labor has made decisions in its time which we have had time to pause and reflect on, and wish we could change. 

But I think in this budget, we could take that out. 

We can't protect the victims of family violence if they're not represented in the legal system. 

Life’s too short, it doesn't matter which party did what. What matters is we have an opportunity in this parliament to protect people and that's what we should do. 

Friends 

If we want equality to be a priority for the parliament – not just at events like these – but in every decision we make, we need more women in politics. 

And again – that won’t happen by accident. 

There is no such thing as trickle-down feminism. 

We have to build equality from the ground up. 

And I congratulate the Prime Minister's commitment to the appointment of women on government boards. 

I agree with the Prime Minister that setting targets is legitimate tool to improve the representation of women. 

Ten years ago, when I was first elected to this place, there were 41 women on the Labor side. 

The bad news, depending on your view – Labor has fewer members in the house now than there was then. 

The good news is we have set a 116 year record for the Labor Party that we have more women in parliament on the Labor side. 

To my mind, that’s the most simple and most powerful argument for targets - they work. 

As the Government is doing with public positions, I believe political parties are not engaging in ‘political correctness’ when we say we need to do more - and setting targets is legitimate tool to be discussed in politics. 

If women are denied a seat at the table, if their voices are not heard in the corridors of power.Then we see things like the re-imposition of the ‘Global Gag Rule’. 

There's that remarkable photograph of eight old men breezily signing-off on changes that will drastically reduce:

-          Family planning services

-          HIV programs

-          And midwifery services 

In some of the world’s poorest countries. Not what this country is doing by the way. 

Those changes will lead to more unplanned pregnancies and more deaths from unsafe abortions. 

I think when you deny women  a meaningful say in policy-making, the consequences of it spread far wider. 

It’s important, and I congratulate the Government, that Australia shows leadership and continues to provide resources to organisations that invest in maternal and child health. 

In conclusion, I think there’s an understandable temptation for all of us in public life and the media, to look back to a vanished age. 

To long for the old days, when great battles were fought, when the big things got done. As if now it’s all just incrementalism and fiddling around the edges. 

But I can think of no challenge more worthy in our political process, than equality for women. 

If all of the MPs here, with all of their good intent and all their desire to make a difference - if we accomplish nothing else in our time in Parliament but ensure women were treated equally, this would be a richer, happier, healthier and a better country for the next generation.

ENDS


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