29 April 2021


SUBJECTS: Budget; Gender Inequality; Canberra Women’s Forum; India COVID Outbreak

LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now the Member for Canberra, Alicia Payne. Good afternoon.

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good afternoon, Leon. Thanks for having me on.

DELANEY: Thanks for joining us. Of course, last year's budget seemed such a long time ago now and so much has changed in the world since then. And there are so many challenges confronting the budget, surely the priority has to be economic reconstruction doesn't it?

PAYNE: I think so, yes. So it's very concerning, you know, to see the Treasurer talking about, you know, not being able to look at wage increases and things like that. These are very important things for stimulating the economy. And as you mentioned, women were left out of the budget last time, and I remember the Social Services Minister saying, you know that women got to drive on roads, looking for something to say that they'd done for women, so I really hope that there will be (inaudible) there this time.

DELANEY: So obviously, when we talk about things that might be of benefit to women, does that necessarily mean that they're not to the benefit of men?

PAYNE: No, not necessarily. But I do think that we saw throughout the COVID, the onset of COVID, that women were in many ways at the forefront of that. Women, you know, at the coalface many of our healthcare workers are women, aged care workers are women, teachers, childcare workers, who were the first people to be taken off JobKeeper. And, of course, women, you know, in general who took on more of a caring role when we're in lockdown that sort of thing. And women were largely left out of the response. So I think it is fair to say that there should be focus on women in the recovery.

DELANEY: Now, looking at the economic statistics, it's true that women lost more jobs than men, they were more directly affected in many instances. But also, since then, we've been told by the economists that women have been getting their jobs back again, or getting new jobs at a faster rate than men and have recovered more quickly than men. Why is that do you think?

PAYNE: Well, I do think we need to take any figures that we've seen, of course, it's really good that we're seeing promising indicators of the economy. But I think it's really important to note that any figures that we're seeing at the moment, do not take account of JobKeeper finishing, or the substantial reduction in the JobSeeker payment, the unemployment benefit, as a result of the Coronavirus Supplement being removed. So those things have only just happened at the end of March and any data that we're seeing is from March. So I am sort of a little bit pessimistic about those, those figures.

DELANEY: Ok early days yet, in other words, Now, of course, you've got a women's forum, which you've organised along with your colleague, Katy Gallagher, which is happening this weekend. So why is that? And what's it going to achieve? What are you looking to achieve?

PAYNE: Yeah, thanks Leon. So this idea came out of the real groundswell that we have around women's inequality that has obviously been sparked by the, you know, very disturbing allegations and experiences that have happened in Parliament House. And then we had the Women's March 4 Justice, the last time that parliament was sitting. And we have a real moment, as a nation, as a Parliament, to seize this moment, and do better for women in the way that we treat women in our communities, and also with our policies as a Government. And so I was, I've been talking to many women, constituents, and I just had this idea that it would be great to bring us together to gather ideas of what they would like to see the Government doing to address, you know, the issues around violence and women's safety, but more broadly, women's inequality in the workforce, women's health issues. And so this event on Saturday is really a listening event, where Katy, myself as a local member and Katy, not only as our ACT Senator, but of course our Shadow Minister for Finance, to gather ideas from women in Canberra and men if they want to want to come absolutely.

DELANEY: Well, I'm glad you said that, because I was going to ask you can non women come? And if they can't, isn't that sex discrimination? But you've put my fears to rest there.

PAYNE: Yeah, no, they're very welcome. I think it's important, you know, that we involve men in this conversation. And I think these issues that have been raised, particularly regarding the last couple of months are issues that you know, men need to work to address too. It's not about women needing to do all the heavy lifting to solve these problems. So no, men are very welcome to come. But this this forum is about gathering people's ideas. And we're going to forward these ideas on to the Government’s ministers' for women, and also into our own caucus, Labor caucus processes.

DELANEY: Now, I assume, since we're still in a COVID restricted world that you need to actually RSVP to a control the numbers that are attending.

PAYNE: You do and I'm pleased, but sorry also to say that it's actually been booked out. There's no more spots but you can join a waiting list if you go to my Facebook page or my website. So there may be some spots come up if people cancel. And I would say to people, if you are not going to come, please do cancel so that others can come. But it will be live streamed on Facebook at the time. It's 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, but also that video will remain on my Facebook. So, and we will, of course take down the ideas and distribute, distribute those, as I said, so many ways for people to be involved if you can't actually be there on Saturday.

DELANEY: Indeed and very quickly, of course, the Government is under a bit of fire at the moment  suggesting they should do more to assist Australians who are stranded in India currently. Obviously, Australian citizens have a legal right to return to their home country at any time, even if they might need to go into quarantine under normal circumstances. But of course, these are not normal circumstances. Is it right that the Government has left them stranded there at least until halfway through May and maybe even longer?

PAYNE: Well, yes, this is this is a heartbreaking situation we're seeing unfolding in India and I know for our large Indian community here in Canberra, many are very concerned for loved ones, including those stranded there. And while of course, we need to listen to the health advice, I do think that this is a case where the Government should have addressed this earlier, people should have been brought home earlier. We've known that all along that has been health advice to bring people sooner rather than later. And if the Government, the Federal Government had stepped up and taken responsibility for quarantine, a proper quarantine programme run federally, we would be able to have accommodated that and possibly accommodate it now. So, you know, I wish we could be doing more to support people in India than we are right now.

DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us today.

PAYNE: Thanks, Leon.

DELANEY: Alicia Payne MP the Federal Member for Canberra.