Bill's Speeches

International Women's Day Breakfast








[Check against delivery]


Good morning everyone, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet.


I’d like to acknowledge my colleague, the Prime Minister, and all the distinguished guests who are here today.


And it would be remiss of me not to congratulate Natasha Stott-Despoja on her appointment as Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls – an appointment of an ambassador which I think everyone in the Parliament can heartily endorse.


I’d also like to acknowledge and thank her predecessor, Penny Williams who established such a presence in promoting equality and giving women a stronger voice in the world.

Next year my beautiful little daughter, Clementine, will be starting primary school.


Next year, my beautiful daughter Georgette will be starting secondary school.


What my wife Chloe and I want for them is what I believe every parent wants for their child in their first year of primary school, or their first year of secondary school:


We want our daughters to be safe and resilient, to make friends and to have their love of learning supported by a great teacher at a great school.


The third Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality in education makes that simple, parental instinct a matter of global concern.


I think we can all be proud that all of the 130 countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals have achieved gender equality in terms of primary education for girls and boys.


But only two out of these 130 countries have achieved equality in all levels of education.


Today I believe our presence here is a reaffirmation of our pledge to continue to work with our friends in the region in pursuit of these goals.


I do not believe we can leave here after a lovely breakfast and great conversation and simply rest until every girl, around the world, has the opportunity to go to secondary school and indeed to further studies afterward.


We cannot say on a day like today that we have succeeded, until every woman has the right to a fulfilling, secure job with equal pay.


I believe on questions as important as these our goal has to be complete success – not relative progress.


I don’t think it’s enough for us to compare ourselves favourably with some other countries.


Australia should lead the world.


That’s why Labor, in Opposition as in Government, is committed to a constructive partnership with UN Women.


And we encourage our Government to re-commit Australia, and Australian resources, to this agency.


A fair go for women is not just a global challenge.


It’s a mission we need to focus on in Australia too.


This morning I would like to say a few words about the recent debate on the gender pay gap.


We do well in Australia, but we can do better.


The gender pay gap is real – and often underestimated. I would submit to you this morning that we don’t just want women to become economic contributors, they’re already economic contributors. It’s just that we don’t pay them the same as men.

If we’re serious about getting equal pay for women, we need to work to lift the pay of occupations dominated by women.

We should understand in this country that we’ve been reasonably good at paying people for their intellectual contributions, and indeed their physical contributions.

But as a nation, we’ve been tardy about recognising the emotional contribution of people at work. And a lot of that work is done by women.


We need to change our attitudes as well as our laws.


We need to recognise that when we talk about the economic contribution of women, that we should recognise the vast amount of unpaid work that is already done by Australian women, just perhaps not appreciated the way it should be.


We need to help working women negotiate hours and arrangements that make it easier for them to juggle work and family, without trading away their workplace rights.


We need to eliminate the idea that women who work part time or flexible hours are having a ‘day off’ or ‘getting in late’ when they’re really just doing their other full-time job.


We need workplaces that encourage men to take on these same responsibilities.

I was interested to read that the Secretary of the Treasury, Dr Martin Parkinson has recently said that many women still miss out on senior roles through an ‘unconscious bias’.


I agree with Dr Parkinson and with the chief executive of ANZ Mike Smith, who said that concrete reporting on gender equality is: ‘essential to making progress’.

The information that reporting requirements provide holds both government and employers to account.


Without data, it is too easy for employers to pay only lip service to the idea of gender equality – women deserve better.


I believe our 21st Century, the lives that we live and our daughters and our sons live, will be defined by the march of women through the institutions of power.

There is no area of Australian life, no sector of Australian community, that does not and will not benefit from the full and equal participation of women.

In business, in science, in the law and in politics women will shape our country’s future.


I acknowledge my own deputy Tanya Plibersek and our leader in the Senate Penny Wong. I acknowledge the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and of course our Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop. Madam Speaker, I seek no clemency for this though. And of course, Christine Milne, leader of the Greens.


We will have more Nobel laureates like Elizabeth Blackburn, more High Court Justices like Virginia Bell and Susan Crennan, more entrepreneurs like Carolyn Creswell – and more ambassadors for women and girls like Penny Williams and Natasha Stott Despoja.


We will be in good hands in this country if we give the women of Australia full and equal participation.


Thank you.