Prime Minister, thank you very much for those very fine words, and I want to say it’s great honour to be here with you today.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of land on which we meet today, and say to Aunty Violet that if she’s been talking about that school pickup for a long time, there’s no end in sight. Congratulations on number 29.
I’d also like to acknowledge all of my parliamentary colleagues here today. There are many people – as the Prime Minister pointed out – at a special bipartisan event like this from across the political spectrum.
I say thank you very much, in particular to my Deputy Sussan Ley who’s here today. Perin Davey, but many colleagues as I look around the room.
Penny Wong, the Foreign Minister.
Simone Clarke, Georgina Williams, thank you so much for the work that you do. We’re very grateful for, Georgia, your words that you spoke before, which I think are absolutely transformational, and I hope that we can do justice to the aims and the objectives, to the vision that you’ve had and that you’ve worked a life time toward.
To all of those who are involved, particularly in frontline services and those who represent agencies providing those services to women in our country and indeed in the region. Thank you very much for your presence today.
The Prime Minister and I yesterday had the honour to deliver condolence speeches to celebrate the life of the late Lowitja O’Donoghue.
Lowitja fought for and furthered the causes of indigenous rights, representation, recognition and reconciliation.
She was, as you know, iconic, inspirational, indomitable and part of our pantheon of influential and illustrious Australians.
In her early career, she was a nurse and she provided inspiration to young women, to women across our country and indeed across the world during the course of her long contribution to public life.
She worked with a Baptist Overseas Mission and helped disadvantaged people in northern India.
In 1992, she was the first Indigenous Australian to address the U-N-G-A, to UNGA, and I know UN Women will be reflecting on her life and legacy this week.
As we heard before, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is a fitting one – ‘Accelerating gender equality through economic empowerment’.
It is a true, noble and important objective around the world.
Tonight, the Prime Minister and I will dine with the Prime Minister from Papua New Guinea, and there are many people in this room who are involved in reaching out to our friends in the Pacific, in the Asia Pacific – and I acknowledge Jan Adams and the work of Penny Wong and her predecessors, Marise Payne and Julie Bishop, in the work that they’ve done to provide support to women in the region and particularly in impoverished nations such as Papua New Guinea.
When one’s economic position improves, one has more choice and freedom – it’s a statement of the obvious – and with more choice and more freedom comes greater equality for women.
Just as greater freedom has led to economic improvement, economic improvement has led to freedom.
But when we look around the world today, there are still so many countries where women are economically disempowered.
Countries where women still don’t have property rights.
Countries where women cannot choose their education or indeed their employment.
And countries where women have little agency over their lives.
So I do want to commend the work today of the UN Women, and acknowledge the fact that they shine a light every day of the year on these issues.
Now, we’re lucky to live in Australia, some of the best living standards in the world due to our continued economic growth over generations.
But even in our country today, as Georgie pointed out before, we still contend with economic disempowerment.
Women are still economically less secure than men, and we must take up the opportunity that’s presented – given the bipartisan nature of our approach to this area of public policy – to improve education and the standards that Georgie spoke about before, in young women in particular, at our preschools, at our primary schools, at our secondary schools, and at our tertiary institutions to talk about the basics of financial literacy.
It empowers people within relationships. It allows younger people, in particular, to make good decisions around purchases and taking up credit cards that can leave a debt for many years into the future, and limit choices that women and young girls in particular can make.
I acknowledge the presence today of Julie Inman Grant, and the work that she does as the eSafety Commissioner in helping young women online.
The sharing of body images, the exploitation and the advantage that’s taken, particularly of young women online is a current scourge, but a modern reality that will continue to compound as a problem.
One of my proudest moments in this Parliament was to establish the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. The work that we’ve done there has saved the lives, literally, of thousands of young Australian girls and boys, and those across the region, in particular in Southeast Asia. It enjoys bipartisan support, and I thank the Prime Minister for the work that the Government’s continued in that regard.
We must make sure that both parties are committed to working on many more initiatives to help lift women’s workforce participation.
The objective is one that we must approach through different strategies: more accommodating workplace agreements, more incentives for education and for training, and a suite of programs to support women and girls into employment and leadership opportunities.
We also need better data collection. It sounds a little bit Canberra bubble centric, but it is important because it helps policy makers, departmental heads, drive and tailor measures to deliver better outcomes.
Now, Government can’t generate all the solutions and solve all of the problems. Many of the solutions to the problems must come from the private sector as well, and working together in a collaborative way is absolutely essential.
But Government and Parliament more broadly must set the tone and provide necessary leadership. When we were in Government, of the 2 million jobs that were created during our term, 60 per cent went to women. The gender pay gap reduced from 17.4 per cent to 13.8 per cent. And participation of women in the workforce reached record highs, and the Government’s continued that work, and I acknowledge that today.
Women’s wages increased for full time employed women by nearly 27 per cent on average – outpacing men’s growth at 22 per cent. And the number of women running businesses, providing flexibility that they need in their own lives, increased by almost 169,000 people.
Senator Jane Hume was appointed as Australia’s first Minister for Women’s Economic Security, and did and continues to do a wonderful job.
We want to work together, Prime Minister, to make sure that we can continue to make a difference in this place, and I know that you are committed to cause. There are many things that we disagree on, and as was rightly pointed out before, some people do go away from this building having watched Question Time with some level of disappointment. But in between that hour and a half, each day here is filled with opportunity, where together, we are able to work for the betterment of our country.
That work often isn’t reported because it’s not reportable for the media, there’s not enough colour and movement, but we should take the opportunity today to recognise the areas where there is bipartisanship, where we can work together.
This is one such area where we can and where we must continue to work together very closely.
Thank you so much.