Bill's Speeches

LAUNCH OF LABOR'S GENDER EQUALITY POLICY - SYDNEY - SATURDAY, 11 JUNE 2016

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Can we have another round of applause for Tanya Plibersek, she is a champion.

In politics, it is always a journey. The journey of change, the journey of progress. 

But along the way, you actually make some friends and I've got to say, one thing I couldn't have predicted but now wouldn't swap for all the proverbial tea in China is the friendship of Tanya Plibersek.  She is outstanding.

I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past and present.

And today in particular we acknowledge the inequality faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women – and rededicate ourselves to closing the gap.

It is also great to be here with my fabulous and inspirational wife Chloe and my incredible kids. And I say to them, only 3 more weeks to go.

It is also great to be here with so many remarkable and talented members of my caucus. 

With so many members of my united team. Our Shadow Minister for Women, Claire Moore -consistency is her watchword. Our Spokesperson for Housing, Katy Gallagher. Two fine representatives from New South Wales, Jenny McAllister and Sharon Claydon. 

And of course, the next member for Barton, Linda Burney. 

Friends

In three days' time, on June the 14th, polls will open. 

In three weeks' time, they will close. 

I can assure you no-one is more conscience than me that every day between now and July 2 counts. 

Every hour, every minute matters. 

That is why I'm here. 

For me, for our party, for the Labor Government I seek to lead, equality for the women of Australia is a national priority.

A mainstream priority in this election.

You have scarce time in an election campaign, and what you talk about shows your priorities. 

The march of women through the institutions of power will define the future of our economy and the future of our society.

It is a story that I have watched unfold my whole working life. 

It is a cause that I have championed my whole working life. 

It is our responsibility as leaders, as legislators, to do everything in our power to speed the advancement of women. 

To break down the barriers, the stereotypes and the stigma, which hold our daughters and our nation back. 

This is a test of leadership. 

A test of integrity. 

And above all, of backing words with actions. 

It is a test that my Labor Government is determined to pass. 

The policy we are launching today is much more than a collection of good intentions and worthy notions.

These are real resources. These are practical measures. Driving meaningful change in the way we design and deliver our plans across government. 

These are plans to support people on the front line. 

The advocacy groups, the service providers, the counsellors and the community legal centres. 

And there is more to come. 

At this election, Labor offers Australia a comprehensive program for women;

- Empowering women at work and making it easier for them to save for their retirement and grow older with security. 

 - Extending opportunity to women in education, particularly in coding and computational thinking in the schools and science, engineering, technology and mathematics at university to create more companies like Posse and Canva.

- Mentoring for Indigenous girls to stay engaged in their education. 

- Doing more in our region to help women who live in poverty and at the risk of disease. 

- Elevating women in leadership, in the board room and in the Parliament. 

- Supporting survivors of family violence, both in seeking justice and in finding safe housing. 

- Offering better, fairer assistance for women doing the underpaid, rewarding, demanding, incredibly important work raising children. 

- And celebrating the success of our female athletes with more women sport on our ABC. 

It is about setting the example. 

Merely stating that women hold half the sky up is not good enough. 

So first and foremost, as an employer, a Labor government would set the example. 

Under Labor, the office for women will ensure 50 per cent of places on Australian Government boards are filled by women in our first term.

Achieving this target will give us the credibility and the moral authority to demand that more ASX 500 companies follow suit.

The Commonwealth public service, which employs more than 150,000 talented Australians, will adopt a new anonymous CV process for all graduate and entry-level positions - to eliminate unconscious bias and to ensure that candidates are truly judged on their merits and not by their gender.

We will reform the National Employment Standards to include up to five days' leave for survivors of family violence. 

Women who have endured pain and fear are entitled to understanding and support from their employer - not another layer of upheaval and insecurity. 

If we can help people cope, and they are able to maintain a continuous link with employment, it will aid their recovery and development and moving on. 

And for every budget that Labor delivers in the future, we will issue a separate, specific statement detailing the effects of our policies on women.

Because Australia cannot afford six Liberal years of 'budgets for blokes'.

Those budgets with the cuts to paid parental leave and childcare dishonestly presented as courageous savings and the end of a rort. 

Those budgets, with cuts to working women's centres, specialist family violence services, cuts to community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and children centres buried in the fine print. 

Those budgets, with so-called reforms to higher education that inflict the harshest punishment on women who take time out of work to raise a family, by massively increasing student debt with $100,000 degrees. 

We will be honest, open and accountable for the decisions we make. We will draw attention to the impact upon women in all of our budgets.

I believe our government should be held to a higher standard by strong and representative voices, which means proper funding for the National Women's Alliances. 

$5.2 million in funding so that the voices are heard and the promises are kept. 

Providing a fair go for women at work reaches beyond a government's duty as a good employer. 

Australians must make it easier for women juggling career and family, especially in the years before their children go to school. 

If we do not have proper paid parental leave in this country, we will never redefine caring responsibilities. 

Paid parental leave allows new mums to spend precious time with a new baby. 

The national scheme introduced in 2011 has already helped 700,000 mothers. 

Our paid parental leave policy serves as a national minimum standard. 

A foundation for employers and employees to build upon. 

The Liberals either don't understand that or they just don't care. 

There is no other possible explanation for the extraordinary vendetta they have pursued against 80,000 nurses, police, retail workers and defence force personnel who have traded off wages to negotiate additional leave as part of their employment. 

A contract negotiated between these groups of workers and their employer, forgoing wages for the additional benefit of leave. 

To describe this as 'double dipping', and those words are actually the title of the legislation still on the Liberal books, is as idiotic as it is insulting. 

Australian employers should be competing to offer the best package for working parents. 

Employers should be competing for who can show the best understanding of how valuable a few extra weeks can be when you are caring for a baby who is growing and changing every day. 

This is why a Labor Government will guarantee working mothers will continue to have a minimum of 18 weeks paid parental leave at the minimum wage. 

A strong foundation, not a glass ceiling.

As babies become toddlers, the growing costs and shrinking availability of quality childcare has become one of the biggest single pressures on Australian families. 

Every day I meet parents who are either watching the costs of childcare gobble up their pay packet or have simply given up waiting for a childcare place to become free altogether. 

Now, I copped some criticism a week or two ago for saying men rely on women for childcare. 

But I wasn't saying this was right. I wasn't saying this was fair. I wasn't saying things shouldn't change and aren't changing. 

But overwhelmingly, let's tell the truth. Childcare remains a responsibility that Australian men too often unfairly leave to Australian women.

Women still do more than twice as many hours of unpaid work at home. I am just looking over to my right...

Our nation needs to be better at recognising the contribution and the value of unpaid caring work in our economy.

25 per cent of women nominate a lack of childcare as their reason for leaving the workforce.

In the case of men, it is 3 per cent. 

3 per cent. 

Affordable, available childcare is vital to closing the gender pay gap in this country. 

At this election, there is a very clear choice in child care policies. 

For a start, we have a child-care policy. 

The Liberals' plan, such as it is, doesn't take effect until July 2018, almost in the shadow of the next election. 

Think about it this way, if you really care about child care: you don't cut it, you don't change it, dump it and delay it in every single budget you deliver. 

Labor's policy contains two fundamental benefits. 

First, with the childcare rebate at its current level, most parents actually lose assistance if they work more than three days per week. 

This means they have to choose between double fees or dropping out of the workforce. 

Our plan to increase the rebate to $10,000 eliminates that impossible choice. 

Secondly, our policy will also mean that every one of the 813,000 families who rely on the child care benefit will be up to $31 per week better off, compared to one in three families, who will be worse off if the Liberals are re-elected. 

Our policy will boost participation, will help with the cost of living and give every child the access to important early learning opportunities. 

Most importantly, it will give a fair go to working women. 

We are determined to uplift the horizons and liberate the talents of Australian women at work. 

Equal opportunity, equal pay, full participation - that is our Labor vision. 

For the past week, we have been having a debate in this country about whether or not we should be planning for the next 10 years or just the next four years. 

As if we can't and shouldn't do both. 

There is a lot I want to achieve for the Australia of 2025. 

For example, I want to lift the participation rate of Australian women in the workforce by 25 per cent, 300,000 more women at work. 

And I want 50 per cent of Labor's members of Parliament to be women by 2025. 

I want us to reduce the rate of ovarian cancer in this country by 25 per cent and increase the survival rate by 25 per cent. 

A couple of weeks ago, Catherine King and I shared a morning tea with a group of Australians whose lives have been touched by it ovarian cancer. 

Tragically, most of the stories we hear of ovarian cancer are told by grieving family members who are left behind. 

There are far too many sisters and mothers and partners and daughters and grandmothers and friends who do not survive this devastating disease. 

A Labor government will commit new money to find a cure for ovarian cancer, and reduce the number of brilliant and precious and much-loved women whose lives are so brutally cut short. 

It is not the cost of finding the cure that matters, it is the cost of what we lose if we don't. 

So I am very pleased to announce that as part of our commitment to develop a national women's health policy, a Labor government will endorse the Australian Women's Health Charter and fund the Australian Women's Health Network.

We are here today because we believe in a better Australia, and a more equal Australia.

There is no more damning measure, no more damaging manifestation of gender inequality in our society than family violence. 

It’s become almost a reflex for media articles and political figures to refer to the number of women killed by family violence so far in the year.

This awareness is important. Acknowledging the problem does matter.

But the very clear statement we need to make, and the approach we need to take is that there is no acceptable rate of family violence.

One death, one injury, one childhood scarred is one too many.

When I was a candidate for the Labor leadership, I said we had to make family violence a national issue.To give voice to the powerless.

Thanks to people here, thanks to people like Rosie Batty, former Police Commissioner, Ken Lay, a growing media campaign and greater political pressure from all sides, our awareness of the problem has improved.

Most Australians no longer pull down the blinds and turn up the television to drown out the noise next door – we no longer say ‘oh, that’s a family matter’ and shrug our shoulders. 

But better understanding only takes us so far.

People on the front line need more than our praise and our thanks.

That’s why the very first funding commitment I gave as Opposition Leader, was greater resources for community legal centres, as a signal of our priorities.

But there is more we need to do, to tackle the structural flaws in every part of our system, including family law - and we will have more to say.

Family law is one of those very hard areas of politics. 

Sage people will knowingly tap their finger on their nose and say: 'You can't talk about that.'

But what is the point of having a family law system which re-injures the survivors of family violence? 

We need to speak up about that. 

It is wrong, it is primitive that our court process allows the perpetrator of violence to directly cross-examine an unrepresented survivor in family law disputes.

It is primitive and wrong that women are paying the mortgage on houses occupied by men who have harmed them and their children.  

It is wrong that the abuse of women with disability, or in aged care, goes shamefully under and unreported.

And it is wrong that even though family violence accounts for around one third of all homelessness, there are many more women who want to leave, but can't.

Or leave, only to return, because they have nowhere else to go.

This cannot just be dismissed as just about ‘attitudes’ or ‘culture’.

It is a question of resources and front-line help.

Labor will fund the 1800 RESPECT counselling line over the life of the National Plan, as well as securing funding for OurWatch and ANROWS.

And this morning, I announced with Tanya Plibersek and Katy Gallagher that the Labor Government if elected will provide $88 million for a new Safe Housing program for women.

There is an accommodation crisis for women and children fleeing family violence. This funding for more housing and more refuges will go some way to addressing that.

This new money will stand alongside our existing commitment for more resources to help a woman stay safe in her home.

New security systems and new locks - so it’s the perpetrator who has to find somewhere  to go.

And I want to say a special thank you to Katy Gallagher and Terri Butler for the work they have put in to this crucial policy area.

It speaks volumes for the Labor values in my caucus, and their determination.

Friends

There was an article today in the Herald and it was an interview with our Prime Minister.

And he was saying that the problem is that everyone else had too-high expectations of him.

Let us be clear, I offer myself for the highest elected position in the land on the basis that we should set high expectations of a Prime Minister.

I will not simply talk about general commitments, we will be specific and practical. 

I will not be so out-of-touch to blame everyone else if they don't fall for my particular speeches.

But rather, if you are not prepared to measure up to the expectations that all of Australia has in you, that women of Australia have in their government, perhaps you should not be offering yourself for the position of Prime Minister.

I have said this election is about choices and priorities. 

I have said that from the first day of this election, the equal treatment of women in Australian society is not a marginal issue. It was not a portfolio issue.

The equal treatment of women in our society is a mainstream national issue.

And if we accomplish nothing else if we are elected; if we accomplish nothing else but securing the equal treatment of women in Australian society, we will be a splendid destination for our daughters and granddaughters to grow up in.

It is not beyond the wit and wisdom of the Australian people to actually set a positive vision which puts women at the centre of all of our decision making.

It is not beyond the capacity of Australian politics to have half of our parliamentarians women.

It is not beyond the capacity of Australian business to have half of their leaders as women.

It is not beyond the capacity of the Australian people to ensure that women are safe at home.

It is not beyond the capacity of this great nation, this marvellous society to make sure women are paid the same as men.

It is not beyond our capacity as a nation to ensure that child care is affordable, accessible and quality.

It is not beyond our nation's wit and wisdom to ensure that 50,000 of 100,000 graduates of science & engineering are women.

It is not beyond the capacities of this nation to provide a prosperous future for all of us by the equal treatment of women.

Thank you - and let's run forward to July 2nd.

ENDS


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