WEDNESDAY, 8 MARCH 2017
SUBJECT/S: International Women’s Day; Penalty rates; gender pay gap; early childhood educators; national security; housing affordability; Victorian Government.
ANNE SUMMERS: Good morning, my name is Anne Summers and I was speaking at this morning’s breakfast held by the ACTU and the Victorian Trades Hall Council. And I was here to launch my Women's Manifesto and what that is is a very specific plan to bring equality to women in Australia. I outlined four points, the four basic pillars of equality. Firstly, reproductive freedom, secondly freedom from violence, thirdly, financial self-sufficiency, economic self-sufficiency and fourthly equal representation of women at all levels of government and in the private sector and non-government sectors.
And from that I've also identified four immediate goals that have to be implemented within five years and we're calling this program EQ2022; Equality by 2022, and 2022 marks 50 years since the election of the Whitlam Government, the first Government that promised equality for all women in Australia. And the four goals for EQ2022 are number one, legislated equal pay by the Federal Government, number two, decimalisation of abortion in New South Wales and Queensland, number three, 50 per cent gender quotas for all federal, state and local Government parties, all government boards, all corporate boards and all other institutions by 2022. And the fourth and final one is the establishment of specialist domestic violence courts as there already exists in Queensland in order to deal with the rising toll of domestic violence in Australia. I explained this to the breakfast this morning and [inaudible].
GED KEARNEY, ACTU PRESIDENT: Thanks Anne, good morning everybody, I'm Ged Kearney, I'm the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and I was very honoured today to share a platform with Anne Summers whose agenda we wholeheartedly support. Because International Women's Day is the day for working women to really reflect on their lives and I've got to say that what I heard from the 250 or so women that came this morning that they feel that there is a war being waged on them right now by the Turnbull Government.
There is a tax on paid parental leave, a tax on important community services that women rely on, like community legal centres and the 1800 RESPECT rape crisis line that women rely on. There is a tax on pensions that of course we know that women live longer and predominantly rely on the pension. There has been a tax on workers’ rights, we've seen recently the decision on penalty rates and of course women are predominantly over represented in those areas of retail and hospitality where these harsh and unnecessary cuts to take home pay will occur as a result of that decision. And we've seen the Government step away from saying that they will back in domestic violence leave, which is a vitally important part of tackling that scourge on our society.
So the trade union movement is very clear that we will continue to fight for the rights for working women, we will continue to fight against these relentless attacks from this Government and we will continue to make sure that working women can achieve all of the things that Anne has mentioned today and a decent working life.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and happy International Women's Day. Today we've heard from two leaders of equality for women, Anne Summers and Ged Kearney.
But today, on International Women's Day, it appears that the equal treatment of women in our society is more elusive than ever. In particular I talk about the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is effectively seeing women paid about 20 per cent, on average, less than men in Australia. And we are seeing the gender pay gap further under threat because of the reluctance of the Turnbull Government to stop the cuts to penalty rates.
Overwhelmingly, the work force in pharmacy, fast food, retail and hospitality, affected by these penalty rate cuts are women. Women tend to be at the lower levels of the classifications and are much more likely to be affected by penalty rate cuts than even men.
On International Women's Day, it is important to make sure that women get paid the same as men, the penalty rate cuts will exacerbate the problems. Put another way, Malcolm Turnbull loves to quote that women hold up half the sky but women are not getting half the pay in Australia and it is not good enough.
And also, if these cuts to penalty rates are not stopped now, this will be the thin edge of the wedge for other women who rely upon penalty rates in the Australian work force.
If Malcolm Turnbull wants to do one good thing for women on International Women's Day, he will join with Labor and stop the penalty cuts right now. Otherwise, if we don't stop them now, this will be the thin edge of the wedge for workers, in particular working women across Australia in the future.
Happy to take questions on this and other matters.
JOURNALIST: Are you still surprised that states like Queensland and New South Wales still haven't decriminalised abortion?
SUMMERS: Yes, I actually live in New South Wales. So, I am well aware of the situation there and I know that it has been very politically fraught to try and change that law because there is not support for it in the parliament. And this was found in Queensland just a week ago when there were bills put before the Queensland Parliament that were withdrawn by the sponsor because the Coalition parties decided they would not support it, and therefore there wasn't enough votes to get it through the Parliament.
And I would have to say that what these parliaments need to understand is that they do not represent the people of Australia. There is a majority support, over 70 per cent of Australians support the right of women to choose abortion if they wish.
And it is absolutely wrong for these Members of Parliament to force their moral views onto the people of Australia. So, I think it is very clear what they should do. They should represent us and they should give us what we want.
SHORTEN: Any other questions on International Women's Day?
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the idea for a Department of Homeland Security?
SHORTEN: When it comes to fighting terrorism, Labor and the Coalition are in this together. But I think I am like a lot of Australians; we are sick and tired of national security leaks of various Coalition ministers jockeying for Mr Turnbull's job and using national security leaks as their way to get the top job.
The Government needs to stop fighting each other and focus on fighting terrorists. If there is merit in a Homeland Security Department, the Prime Minister needs to talk to the Opposition. But in the meantime, Australians want the Government to start fighting the terrorists not fighting each other.
JOURNALIST: Does that mean you're open to the idea?
SHORTEN: First of all, the Government needs to explain to us why they want to do it. What I don't think is a good idea is seeing selective leaks from one faction in Mr Turnbull's government saying it is a good idea, then other anonymous leaks from another faction in Mr Turnbull's Government saying it is a bad idea. This is not the way to run our national security apparatus.
What Australians want is their members of parliament, be they Liberal or Labor, to work together to keep Australia safe. You cannot assume that this Government is keeping Australians safe when all they want to do is take each other’s job.
JOURNALIST: Child care workers are protesting today over low wages in the sector. Do you accept that workers in their sector are low paid and how should we go about addressing it without pushing up the cost of child care for parents?
SHORTEN: Let me be very clear here; I think our early years educators are underpaid. I think that there is a problem in their remuneration. The fact of the matter is if the child care sector was full of men workers, I don't believe their pay would be as low as it is.
We entrust our youngest, our very youngest in our society to child care workers to early years educators, it is the first time that little children leave their home and their families and we put them in the care and education of early years educators.
I think that they are worth more than they are getting paid at the moment. Labor would support an equal value pay case. We believe that the Government has done nothing to address the gender pay gap in child care workers and we think that they need to do more. I might ask, because we have the President of the ACTU here, Ged, to further talk about the challenge for child care workers in Australia.
KEARNEY: I am very proud of our early childhood educators today because their battle for decent pay, for a decent life for themselves will undoubtedly flow over into the quality of care that is provided to their chargers, to the young children that they care for.
There is high turnover in this sector, there is disenfranchisement, there's low morale, that cannot mean there is high quality child care, and ultimately that is the aim of our early childhood educators who work in that sector. So we are wholeheartedly supporting their action today and we hope that it results in an outcome that means that they can earn a decent wage, that they can be respected in our society and that they can deliver quality care.
SHORTEN: Are there any other questions?
JOURNALIST: The CEO of the Commonwealth Bank yesterday during the Parliamentary Inquiry, made the comment that young people aren't telling him that they believe that property prices in Sydney and Melbourne are overpriced, or that they simply just can't afford to buy property. Do you think that he's out of touch?
SHORTEN: I think that the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank sounds almost as out of touch as the Turnbull Government when it comes to housing affordability. Let's be clear, the housing affordability market is not a level playing field for first home buyers.
We currently have a situation where the Turnbull Government is supporting the maintenance of negative gearing tax concessions, which means that when young Australians go to bid on their first home, they are competing against investors purchasing their tenth home - investors who receive a government subsidy in the form of a tax concession to be able to bid for those houses.
The problem with housing in Australia is that the first home, the opportunity to buy your first home, the dream of it is becoming out of touch for working class and middle class Australian families.
The Government should stop defending the top end of town, stop defending capital gains tax concessions and negative gearing tax concessions which favours investors over first home buyers. Mind you, nothing that the top end of town and the Turnbull Government says surprises me very much because they are out of touch by advocating for a $50 billion tax cut at the same time we see penalty rates being cut for our lowest paid Australian workers.
JOURNALIST: A new poll shows that if an election was held in Victoria today, the State Government would comprehensively lose and possibly lose 18 seats. Are you concerned for your state counterparts here?
SHORTEN: I have made a consistent habit since I became leader not to comment on the polls. I am sure that Daniel Andrews' determined and consistent focus on jobs is what Victorians really want to see. They have had a tough couple of weeks, no-one can deny that. But I think that Daniel Andrews has the character to win through when he focuses on jobs and we are seeing that from Melbourne Metro through to the railway crossings program.
JOURNALIST: Don Nardella yesterday, left the Labor caucus. Do you think he should also leave the Labor Party and repay back the $110,000?
SHORTEN: That is a matter for Victoria but I think everyone gets really frustrated and angry when they think that parliamentarians, no matter what party, are looking after themselves and not the interests of the people. Probably he should leave the party, yes.