Bill's Speeches

LAUNCH OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN. LABOR'S PLAN FOR EQUALITY - MELBOURNE - FRIDAY, 26 APRIL 2019

LAUNCH OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN. LABOR'S PLAN FOR EQUALITY

MELBOURNE

FRIDAY, 26 APRIL 2019


Thank you, Tanya.

I want to thank you for your friendship, your advice, your support for the past six years.

And on behalf of our movement I’d like to thank you for your leadership, everything you have done to bring together the best women’s policy program that any political party has ever taken to the people of Australia. Thank you very much Tanya.

And because of Tanya, because of remarkable women like our Shadow Ministers; Jenny McAllister, Linda Burney and Amanda Rishworth – and, of course, the one and the only Penny Wong.

Because of great members of Parliament like Lisa Chesters and Ged Kearney and Jo Ryan, Kimberley Kitching and many more.

And because of outstanding candidates like Jana Stewart who we just heard from, and Fiona McLeod running in the marginal seat of Higgins. Peta Murphy, Shireen Morris, Kate Thwaites, Jennifer Yang and so many more who are here…

Because of all of you, if we win the election on May the 18th, we will be the first government in the history of the Commonwealth with 50 per cent women in our ranks. Well done.

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

And friends, I promise that if we win the election, these words of respect will be marked by action.

Action on Closing the Gap.

Action on truth-telling and treaties.

And action on a Voice for our First Australians, enshrined in the nation’s birth certificate, the Australian Constitution.

This is why Labor seeks to form Government, it is why I want to be Prime Minister: to turn words into action.

It’s what motivates every member and every candidate of our stable and united and talented team.

It’s why this election is so terribly important to our future. To the future of the country; it is a chance to give that great, glorious old idea of a fair go, to give it new life and new meaning for more Australians.

  • Transforming education, with universal pre-school for every three-year-old and four-year-old.
  • It will be the biggest expansion of Medicare in a generation, to practically eliminate the costs of fighting cancer.
  • It will be embracing renewable energy, ending the toxic paralysis of the climate change wars, taking real action on climate change – not just passing the problem on to our children and our grandchildren.

And contrast all of that, all of what we want to achieve, the plan for the future that we offer the people of Australia, contrast that with the smallness, the meanness, the narrowness of what our opponents offer.

After six years, three Prime Ministers, no vision, no plan, no ambition - nothing good to say about anything, nothing but a long, dishonest, list of things that they want to make you afraid of. How did we come to a state in Australian politics where the government of the day says we have nothing new to offer you but we want you to be afraid.

Afraid of change. Afraid of reform. Afraid of the future.

Afraid of the march of women towards equality.

Afraid of every new idea, of every big challenge.

For every new idea, for every new challenge, their answer is no.

They can find an excuse to do nothing every time.

They say that our country cannot afford the best possible health system.

They say that we can’t afford to rebuild TAFE or properly fund public schools.

They say that we can’t afford a manufacturing industry; they say we can’t afford fair pay or a living wage.

They say that Australia cannot afford to take real action on climate change.  

But please know this. Every time you hear the Liberals say that our country can’t afford it, what they’re actually really saying is they think our people don’t deserve it. 

I’m proud we take a different view.

I’m proud that we have a vision that seeks to write Australia large. 

I’m proud that in the Labor Party we want the very best for the Australian people.

I’m proud of the fact that we are launching our women’s policy and it is entitled ‘All About Equality’. I am very proud that at the heart of our plan for a fair go for all Australians … is our determination to achieve equality for the women of Australia. 

A fair go means equality in pay, a fair go means equality in opportunity, a fair go means equality in leadership, a fair go means freedom from violence.

Friends, when I became Labor leader back in 2013, I said that I wanted to make preventing and eliminating family violence a national priority.

I said that we needed to deal with the hard issues as a Labor Party, not just the easy issues. And there has been no issue treated any more as difficult as violence against women. Now I said this in 2013 for a whole lot of reasons - from the courage and remarkable inspiration of courageous Australians like Rosie Batty.

I said it when I witnessed the ground-breaking Royal Commission initiated by Dan Andrews and the late Fiona Richardson in the Victorian Labor Government. I actually think from when we spoke about it then, our country has actually come a fair way on this issue.

There is a sea-change in the attitude of Australians, at least in part.
We don’t turn a blind eye anymore.

We no longer metaphorically and literally pull down the blinds and turn up the television to drown out the noise next door.

We talk more openly about respect and changing attitudes.

But the uncomfortable truth, the hard truth is that whilst our willingness to talk about family violence has changed, the number of deaths has not.

And to be really blunt and direct - in a crisis, words do not put a roof over your head.

Words don’t help kids coming home at night checking if their mother has turned on the light on the porch or not as a quiet sign to say whether the dad is in a good mood or an angry mood.

Words don’t help kids in the morning and their mothers wondering where would they go? How much longer can they take it?

Words don’t help children at night or their mother trying to negotiate the unpredictable moods of an angry man. Is he drunk happy or is he drunk angry? Will he fall asleep at the table? Can I turn my music on in my room? Will it cause a fight? Does my mother have to physically and literally protect me from the mood of the angry man? Words are not enough.

Words don’t pay the bills if your partner has closed your accounts, frozen the credit card.

Words don’t really help, do they, when you have to negotiate the minefield of the courts.

If you’re caught up in this frightening, dangerous ordeal of family violence – what you need is practical help, you need real money, concrete support.

That is why today, we are announcing a $660 million commitment to prevent family violence, to fund frontline services and to help rescue survivors and their children.  

We can find a way in this county to pay for these things; we should be a country that can provide flexible financial support packages, of up to $10,000. It should be there to help with rent on a new place, to change the locks, or just paying the bills.

You shouldn’t have to draw down on your superannuation, should you? Or take out a loan just to get you through a crisis.

And I acknowledge the work of the Australian union movement in influencing us to put 10 days paid leave into the National Domestic Leave policy and the National Employment Standards10 days, as if people go through family violence to get a day’s paid leave.

It’s just about helping you pick up the pieces, without worrying about losing your job.

There is no way a survivor can negotiate finding the new tenancy, inspecting the house, doing the paper work, making sure the kids are okay at school, talking to the teachers, keeping an eye out for an angry and vengeful ex-partner, and not have a little bit of paid leave.

And today I can announce that a Labor Government will double the funding for emergency accommodation and women’s refuges in our Fourth Action Plan – double the funding.

Actually when you look at what this government spends money on, the fact that we can just say it’s an additional $60 million over the next four years to ensure women and children fleeing violent partners can find a safe place to stay – it’s actually not that much, but it is a recognition that too often, when the very worst happens, when the end event of a chain of violence and abuse – we still hear people say: “Why didn’t she leave?”

When the real question we should have asked is: “Where could she have gone?”

A Labor Government will answer that question. We’re going to put in the money to expand existing safe accommodation; we’re going to build new centres right across Australia, city and country.

We willl work with the states to ensure crisis accommodation is accessible for people with disability – and it’s got to include facilities for the kids too.

Now friends, anyone who’s been to a Community Legal Centre – we know these places are full of remarkable people who do vital work on a shoestring budget. They don’t get paid what their contemporaries from university who went into the commercial firms get paid, but what they give in terms of intellect and emotional energy is second to none. And when you look at what these community legal centres do, particularly when it comes to helping women seeking legal protection from violent partners.

What an isolating experience it is for a woman to come out of a relationship to be stalked by the ex-partner. It is so tiring; from the tracking on mobile phones, to the unexpected visits, to the so-called chance bumping into in a corridor in a supermarket. What these women need is help.

And of course, no matter how dedicated the staff, no matter how passionate the law students are and the volunteers, we know that the help required on the existing resources means there are simply not enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank of the legal centre. It means that Australians, people, women are turned away and vulnerable women are left to navigate a confusing and intimidating and expensive legal maze all on their own.

That is why if we are elected, Labor will invest another $42.5 million into Australia’s Community Legal Centres.

And we will provide another $21.5 million to help Prevention Legal Services expand into growing suburbs, country towns and remote communities.

I have a very simple view of Australia, your post-code should not determine your access to justice or indeed, no matter where you live in Australia, if you are a woman dealing with family violence you have the same right to good advice, to quality representation and to justice in the courts. 

Now I’ve spent most of this week in northern Queensland talking about our plans to get wages moving again in this country.

You know, everything is going up in Australia except your wages. But I don’t need to tell Australian women this.

When you think about it, in a lot of ways, Australia’s oldest political promise, Labor’s oldest promise, our founding principle is a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  

But in 2019 too many women are being excluded from this promise.

Not only because Liberal cuts to Sunday and public holiday penalty rates disproportionately affect women.

Not just because the Liberals’ much-vaunted tax plan does nothing to help millions of women working part-time.

But because women earn less than men and retire with less than men.

Because feminised industries have historically been undervalued and underpaid compared to traditionally male-dominated industries.

And because too many working women are seeing their entire salary eaten-away by the rising cost of child care.

Yet the only thing that the Liberals and Nationals have done to narrow the gap in pay between men and women in the last six years, is just suppress the wages of all working people.

The Liberals are not helping working women earn more or save more - they’re just making sure that men are paid less.

After six years of conservative economics calling the shots in Australia its plain enough:

Equality does not trickle down.

It is plain enough that the free market and the invisible hand aren’t doing a good enough job.

That wage stagnation is not a plan for equal pay.

And the Liberals and Nationals after six years have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt, they are simply not interested in fixing it or capable of changing it.

The current Prime Minister says that he doesn’t mind women succeeding, so long as it’s not ‘at the expense of the others’.

Now unless he’s talking about zebras, he means men. We have in 2019 a prime minister, who thinks that equality is a question of special treatment.   

The current Minister for Women said that the Liberals are seen as ‘anti-women’.

And the government’s first Minister for Women was Tony Abbott.
So when it comes to fair pay and conditions, it is only a Labor Government that will strive for the equality that women deserve.

We said that we will deliver a $400 million boost to the superannuation account balances of women and low-income earners - because women should not be penalised for taking time out of the workforce to start and raise a family.

And in the very near future, we’ll be announcing new plans to cut the cost of long day child care - and we will announce in the very near future, a new national push for pay equity, starting with early childhood educators.  

And for the first time, we are going to require that big businesses publicly report the gender pay gap in their companies.

We are going to ban pay secrecy clauses.

At the moment, the financial services sector is one of the biggest users of pay secrecy clauses in contracts.

It is arguably, therefore, no coincidence that they have the biggest gender pay gap – almost 30 per cent.

Under a Labor Government, if your company is not trying to close the gender pay gap – you won’t be able to cover it up any longer.
And we’re going to set the standard too, as a government.

In our very first year, every department, every agency will be required to do an audit to find out what their pay gap is and what’s causing it.

And we are also going to restore pay equity as a principle of Australian Public Service bargaining.

We’re going to adopt a simple principle for government departments: “If not, why not?”.

If you’re not paying men and women equally – from now on you’re going to have to explain why not. If not, why not.

And what’s more, we’ll require departments to demonstrate that they have a pan to fix it.

And – friends – the same will go for companies seeking government contracts.

If you want to bid for Commonwealth dollars – whether that’s in infrastructure or procurement or technology or services – you will have to report on the gender pay gap and you’ll have to show what you’re doing to close it.

Because companies that are doing the wrong thing should not get a competitive advantage, or a single taxpayer dollar.

Friends, a few weeks ago, I was campaigning in Corangamite with the remarkable Libby Coker.

And we met a dairy farmer; he’s a man in his late 60s. It was on the Bellarine Peninsula, and I just asked out of curiosity, as one does to dairy farmers. I said, did you go to Queenscliff Secondary School? There’s a reason. I don’t always ask dairy farmers that.

Cause he was of an age and he gave this answer and I said, was his teacher Ann McGrath, and he said it was. That was my mother’s name, Ann McGrath.  

And you know, when your parent has passed and you sort of wish you could replay the conversations, and you sort of kick yourself for not having had more conversations, you don’t realise until too late that time isn’t always there to have those dialogues. So periodically though you get lucky and you meet someone who knew your parent and is almost like a voice, from your parent to you via this interlocutor. And he got quite interested, and he said, “We used to call her: “Annie Get Your Gun.” I know my grandfather used to shoot rabbits but…

I said why was that? And he said my mother was a great friend of his mother, and he described his own mother and my mother who would have been in her early twenties when she was teaching him – mid-twenties. He said, “They were feminists before people knew what feminists were.”

And it is funny, how a chance reflection from a stranger can make you think.

My mother was a brilliant woman.

She won a teaching scholarship; Catholic family, first to go to university, they weren’t rich. She had to take the teacher’s scholarship to look after the other siblings.

Don’t get me wrong, she loved being a teacher and she was very good at it. But she always wanted to be in the law.

Later in life, when my twin brother and I went to university, she was enrolled at the same faculty; she distinguished herself and got the Supreme Court prize. I did not. That part was superfluous, I guess.

But what is interesting and when I work with such talented women every day as I do, when I’ve got the remarkable Chloe at my side.
I realise that she was never bitter about what had happened to her, but she always felt that because of her family’s financial circumstances, because of the era she grew up in and because she was a woman, it was never assumed that she should have the same opportunity to fulfil her potential, to decide her own future. That if she had been the eldest son, with the best will in the world to my grandparents, if she’d been the eldest son, I suspect that she wouldn’t have had to take the teacher’s scholarship.

But this is it: she was never bitter about the lack of opportunity and I can’t fix that now. But the reason why I’m so pleased to be part of this launch and part of this movement is I can’t make it better for her, and she wouldn’t ask me to, but I can make it better for my own daughters, I can make it better for every Australian woman going forward.

Because when we as a country, put restrictions upon our people’s potential, we are all diminished.

If we deny people opportunities because of where they live, or what their parents earn, or because of their skin colour or how many generations they’ve been here, or because of their gender … then our whole country misses out.

We’re here launching a plan for equality but equality is not about lifting someone up and forcing someone else down as the government would have you. Equality is recognition that in the race of life, we don’t all start at the same point. That because of various discriminations and reasons, your gender, your colour, your faith, your location, your wealth, you get put further back from the starting line. Equality for me is just giving everyone the same opportunity.

We must repudiate in this election the proposition that the government advances that Labor wants some to go up but by pushing others down. That’s not right. What I want is I want everyone to have the same starting line. I don’t want to see people wasted.

If we strive to ensure that every Australian – young and old, every Australian – city and bush, women and men – can get equal opportunity, then nothing holds our country back.

If we can achieve equality for women in Australia, real equality for women, then we will be the fairest and the richest nation in the world.

Friends;

I said at the beginning our mission is all about turning words into actions.

When it comes to a fair go for women – we have our words right here.

We have a positive vision for the future.

We don’t spend our whole time sledging the government.
We don’t seek office merely on the argument ‘we are not them’.

We seek office because we have a view, a positive vision of the nation.

We’ve made long-term reform decisions to pay for our plan.  

There’s one more step though we need to take.

We need to get out there and win the election.

Let us turn our words into actions.


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