Women in Australia - 14/02/2022

14 February 2022

 I rise to speak about the status of women in this country. From the scourge of gender based violence to the stubborn gender wage and superannuation gaps, Australia has a long way to go in achieving true gender equality.

Last year shone a light on some of the core institutional barriers to the advancement of women in Australian society. We saw a cultural reckoning in this very building, the exposure of a toxic workplace environment which too often has ignored the appalling treatment of women. This led to an outpouring from women around the country who related to this and said enough is enough. We saw our 2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, shine a light on the sexual abuse of Australian children and the rights of victim-survivors to talk about their experiences. Last week, we saw Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins speak so eloquently and with such power at the Press Club, confirming their status as two of the most courageous inspirational Australians.

I also want to acknowledge some of the strong and inspiring women from my electorate who have bravely shared their stories of such experiences with me, including how often they have been let down by the very system that should be there to support and protect them. None of these women wanted to be in a position to be talking about these things. But their work and the work of countless others is changing the conversation around gender based violence around in this country, and it's something for which all Australians should be grateful. If we look at the facts, women still face many barriers, and that needs to change.

We've heard a lot of talk from the Morrison government about women but not a lot of action to address the inequalities faced by Australian women. To address these issues, we need a government that cares about inequality and how to address it, not just how a photo opportunity could help address an immediate political problem.

I am proud that Labor is, and always has been, committed to equality for women and is committed to a suite of policies to address the many facets of gender inequality in this country. First and foremost, we need to ensure that women are safe, both in the home and in the workplace. The [email protected] report found that two in five women have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years. That's why Labor will legislate to make it clear that employers have a positive duty to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation. In the home, we know that one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner and that one woman is killed on average every week.

Right now, women fleeing violence are being turned away from accommodation and services because of insufficient funding towards sector workers and the failure to recognise this tragedy as a national priority. A Labor government would fund 500 new community sector workers, with half of these in rural and regional areas. These workers would include caseworkers to help women leave violent relationships, financial counsellors for women in financially abusive relationships, and support workers for children. We would also appoint a new family, domestic and sexual violence commissioner to act as an advocate for victim-survivors, coordinate national safety policies, provide reports that track progress against the national plan and work with states and territories to gather data.

Housing is also crucially important for women's security. A Labor government will create a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to build 20,000 social housing properties—4,000 of the 20,000 social housing properties will be allocated to women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and to older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness.

We have a continuing gender pay gap in Australia where we face a 20 per cent gap in total wages and women retire with 40 per cent less super than men on average. I am proud that Labor is going to legislate to close the gender wage gap with a range of policies, including empowering the Fair Work Commission to have more power to look at wage increases for female-dominated industries, including some of those that have been at the coalface throughout the pandemic. That includes aged care, early childhood care and education—female dominated industries that have really helped to get us through this. It is time they received the pay and respect they deserve in that way.

It is not just one policy that is needed to address these things; it is looking at the issue of gender equality across the board. Our childcare policy is another really key element that will make that conversation more equal as families discuss who goes back to work with— (Time expired)