House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Bills

International Women's Day

11:17 am

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that 8 March 2021 is International Women's Day and acknowledges the immense contribution Australian women have made during the COVID-19 pandemic, as frontline workers, as parents, and as community members;

(2) expresses concern that the decisions the Government has taken are making things worse for hardworking Australian women and have set too many women on a path to poverty by:

(a) using the pandemic as cover to give businesses more power to cut the pay of Australian workers;

(b) abandoning women in insecure and casual work; and

(c) robbing women of a comfortable retirement by making people eat into their superannuation savings to get by;

(3) further notes that this is no way to thank the women whose commitment at home, in the community, and at work has got us through the pandemic; and

(4) calls on the Government to deliver a COVID-19 response and economic plan that benefits all Australians.

This motion notes that we are approaching 8 March, International Women's Day. It's a day where we celebrate the social, economic and cultural contribution of women around the world. This year, after all we've experienced, that contribution feels particularly significant.

When 15,000 women marched in New York in 1908—considered the beginning of International Women's Day—they were demanding voting rights, as well as shorter hours and better pay. From that march grew an international movement that continues to demand equality for women: economic equality, political equality and social equality. Indeed, this this year's theme is 'Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World'. It's about honouring:

… the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal … recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's a vision that we share in the Labor Party, but greater equality is not inevitable; it must be fought for.

The past 12 months have been confronting for everyone, but women have shouldered an enormous burden during this pandemic. Much of the frontline work has been done by women. Women have lost jobs at a greater rate than men, and women have lost more hours of work than men. We've had women in caring professions putting their health and their safety on the line, in the front line, for other Australians. We've had women in schools shifting their practice overnight and making sure our kids kept learning as the rest of their lives were tipped on their heads. We've had women cleaning the nation's offices, hospitals, schools, shopping centres, public transport and other public places, fighting the pandemic on low pay and in insecure work. We've had women in tourism, hospitality and retail—sectors hit so hard by the lockdowns. We've had women in our homes, guiding their families through the disruption of a lifetime. Both men and women have increased their hours of domestic labour during the lockdown, but women, of course, have increased their hours much more. It's been a massive, often risky, often heroic contribution, and we in the Labor party honour it. Women will be critical to the recovery too. This is where our choices will make our society and economy more, or less, equal as we begin the road to recovery.

This is where the government is going wrong: with an industrial relations bill that cuts pay and makes it easier to sack people, particularly low paid and vulnerable workers. We know that women, when they rely on award payments, have been very severely affected by changes to the industrial relations regime under those opposite. We see a broken promise on superannuation when we already know that women are retiring with about half of the superannuation savings of men, as the shadow minister continues to point out. This is particularly bad as we know that older single women are the fastest-growing group of people going into homelessness. Just last week we saw the abolition of the Family Court because of a shameful deal done with One Nation. We know that specialist services that are informed by people who are expert in dealing with domestic violence are absolutely critical for families at these very difficult times. So that's the Liberals' promise: lower wages, less security and less safety through our legal system.

Labor has a different agenda for the economic recovery. It is one that recognises that, until wages start rising again, people won't be confident to spend to create jobs for others. It is one that identifies the growing epidemic of job insecurity and has a plan to create good, permanent work. It is one that makes child care affordable for working families and one that invests in dignified aged care and provides better retirement incomes. That's how we honour women's contribution, that's how we drive our recovery and that's how we build a better, fairer country for all Australians.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

11:22 am

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to this motion and highlight some inspiring women in my electorate of Mallee ahead of International Women's Day. There have been inspirational stories of women in leadership from all over Australia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some outstanding ones in Mallee.

Di Thornton is a nurse practitioner from Murrayville who owns and operates Mallee Border Health Centre in Pinnaroo, South Australia. She was forced to close her clinic in South Australia when border restrictions first began last year, resulting in her and her staff being unable to go to work in South Australia from their border town in Victoria. After finally receiving an exemption to continue her essential service, Di was able to reopen her clinic in Pinnaroo. Since then, Di has worked tirelessly to provide thousands of COVID tests to members of her cross-border community who have been dealt blow after blow due to ongoing restrictions and border closures.

When border closures were in full effect, cross-border community members were required to be COVID tested every seven days for almost 20 weeks. The mammoth effort of health practitioners such Di and her team has been vital to supporting the needs of our rural communities along the border.

I've also been working with Paula Gust from Apsley. When South Australia closed their border to Victoria, Paula saw firsthand the terrible outcomes these restrictions were causing in her community. She started a Facebook page called 'Cross Border Call Out' to highlight the effect these restrictions were having on families, businesses and communities. Paula saw the need for clear and concise communication for cross-border community members. There was so much information coming from both sides of the border, but 'Cross Border Call Out' stayed on top of every message and passed them on to their followers. The page now has over 5,000 likes and continues to grow.

The Morrison-McCormack government understands women's issues and has provided several means to support women throughout the pandemic. The JobKeeper payment has supported countless women to continue operating their businesses and to remain employed. Tara Ridley owns and operates The Office wine bar in Mildura. As with many other hospitality businesses, she was forced to close her doors when restrictions were first introduced in country Victoria. Tara told me that JobKeeper saved her business. She was able to retain full-time employees, who didn't need to look elsewhere for employment during the restrictions and many of whom are also women. Tania Hovenden from Swan Hill has a similar story. Tania told me her business, Tan's Tuckerbox, would be closed without JobKeeper. She's been able to retain two of her staff and is confident in her ability to trade out of this downturn.

When the pandemic first hit, this government acted swiftly and decisively to provide additional support for domestic and family violence services. In 2020 we delivered a $150 million domestic violence response package. This was in addition to the $340 million investment in the fourth action plan. Also, $30 million was provided to the Victorian government to assist in their response to the COVID pandemic. This was to provide targeted support for family and domestic violence and to provide frontline services which were topped up through the pandemic. The government continued supporting women in the 2021 Commonwealth budget with the Women's Economic Security Statement. This is a $240 million commitment over five years. It aims to repair and rebuild women's workforce participation and, further, to close the gender pay gaps. It will also provide greater choice and flexibilities for families to manage work and care, support women as leaders and role models, respond to the diverse needs of women and support women to be safe at work and at home.

Women and families will be supported further through this government's ongoing commitment to affordable child care. In 2021 the government will pay approximately $9 billion in childcare subsidy payments. We know that access to child care is a key element of women's workforce participation. Our childcare package supported families during all-time-high women's workforce participation—61.5 per cent—in January 2020. The Commonwealth government is delivering a COVID-19 response and economic plan that is benefiting not just women but all Australians.

11:27 am

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Child care, aged care, teaching, nursing and retail: these are all sectors most severely impacted by COVID. Sadly, these industries are dominated by women. And I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised, because one thing we have learnt through COVID is that this virus has a way of exposing flaws in our system and ratcheting up tensions. I'm not surprised, because we've always known that the Australian economy and the Morrison government undervalue female dominated professions in the care economy, in teaching and in frontline retail. So this House should not be surprised that, through COVID, it is women who have been asked to do more and expect less through the most critical national challenge.

I rise to fiercely support this private member's motion and thank the shadow minister for women for bringing this motion on. I regularly door-knock in my electorate of Corangamite to ensure I'm connected with the concerns and needs of my community. As I knock on doors, many people share their challenging stories with me. Perhaps one of the most challenging was from Sarah, who I interrupted while she was on the phone to a local charity. Sarah had lost her job while raising three children on her own and was facing forced rehousing or perhaps homelessness. Her plight, exacerbated by COVID, reveals just how damaging our system can be for women who are vulnerable or just need support to get ahead, raise their children and have hope for the future.

Many of my female constituents have spoken to me about our childcare system and how it doesn't work for them. One of them was Pawandeep, a mother of two who expressed her frustration that, because child care was so expensive, it didn't make sense for her to work extra days in aged care through the pandemic. Through coronavirus, Pawandeep was trying to get more time on the front line to play a vital role in caring for our elderly and most vulnerable. Instead, due to this government's prohibitively expensive childcare system, Pawandeep could not afford to step up. Her story is not an isolated one. Women regularly encounter these obstacles in their working lives. They undertake greater caring responsibilities while working and are often expected to take time out of their careers to care for children and parents.

Women also suffer from a real and sustained pay gap. As a result the average retirement balance is about $280,000 for men and about $160,000 for women. If current settings are extended to maturity, the median balance on retirement will be about $630,000 for men and about only $310,000 for women. This stark contrast reveals just how many women are vulnerable in retirement. And why? Because they care for others.

The government's plan to rectify this is to change the rules so that people are likely to end up with lower super balance in retirement. Even worse, this government is unable or unwilling to address the pay gap or superannuation during maternity leave. But wait, there's more; the government also wants Australians to take a pay cut so that the Liberal Party's donor mates can take home a bigger share of what we make. It will be women in retail and caring industries who continue to carry the unfair burden.

Last International Women's Day the Minister for Women observed:

When women and girls feel safe and valued, they are free to pursue their potential.

Nothing could be more true. But the problem with the Morrison government is that it is doing nothing to empower and support women. The government has sung the praises of women's contributions across the past 12 months, but, as always, the government's talk doesn't match its actions. It's all spin, no substance.

The government say they believe in people having a go to get a go. But they hold women back from working by pricing them out of child care. They refuse to address the pay gap when women are at work. They do nothing to address the disparity in retirement super between men and women. The government say they believe in equity, but they don't fight for it. They certainly do not have a plan. Instead, women who contact my office often feel vulnerable and unsupported. The shadow minister for women has made herself a workhorse for advancing women's status and wellbeing in this country. The Morrison government must do better or step aside and put in a government who will.

11:32 am

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to acknowledge the women of Australia's contribution during COVID as frontline workers and parents, as a mark of respect for International Women's Day on 8 March. It is no secret that women have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian women made up the majority of those who lost their jobs through this crisis, largely as a consequence of women still dominating industries such as accommodation, food services and retail. These were the sectors most hard hit because of social-distancing measures and lockdowns, particularly in Victoria. Women have also borne the brunt of caring and schooling for their children through lockdown. It really has been an extraordinary juggle. As the health restrictions have eased, these jobs have started to come back with relish. Of the 458,000 jobs created since May, 60 per cent are now filled by women. Challenges do remain. The Morrison government is determined to see female workforce participation reach its pre-COVID-19 record high.

I'm proud to have advocated for the 2020 budget Women's Economic Security Statement, the second presentation of this statement, with $240 million in measures and programs to support a number of issues: new cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; job creation and entrepreneurialism; and women's safety at home and at work. We've also provided record support for child care through the COVID pandemic and onwards. The 2020 Women's Economic Security Statement will create more opportunities and choices for women not just for the recovery but for generations to come.

The Morrison government is guided by the belief that a robust economy is grounded in an education system that develops job-ready graduates, with free enterprise enabling individuals to realise their aspirations. Already we've seen evidence of this. I held an inaugural Women in Business forum in Higgins, with both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, with amazing women kicking business goals.

The Morrison government's JobKeeper program and other strong economic support measures have kept women in jobs, businesses in business and families afloat. But it's about more than support through the COVID crisis; it's about a plan for the future. One key element of the COVID recovery will be modern manufacturing. We've seen how critical manufacturing is to the modern Australian economy. It plays a key role in almost every supply chain and adds significant value to all sectors. These are jobs women can embrace with enthusiasm. We are not talking about old manufacturing, with men in blue overalls bending metal; we're talking about more complex, high-value-add manufacturing such as research and development, design, logistics and services. We're talking about industries such as food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space. These are sectors that women are embracing with enthusiasm.

Amongst other things, this will rely heavily on the use of science and technology—think artificial intelligence, blockchain and cybersecurity—to improve practices and processes for manufacturers. These are jobs where women can enjoy pay parity with men. I'm particularly keen to see women leading this modern manufacturing revolution, and so too is the Morrison government, with sizeable investments targeted at women in STEM. This includes $25 million for the Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships Program to create STEM career pathways for up to 500 women through industry sponsored advanced apprenticeship-style courses.

There are more women in the construction and engineering sectors than ever before. More than 14,000 female apprentices and women have already benefited from the Morrison government's $2.8 billion supporting apprenticeships and trainees wage subsidy. The $1.2 billion commitment to the new boosting apprenticeship commencements wage subsidy, which subsidises employers to take on new apprentices, will also greatly benefit women. Likewise, we're supporting greater participation and outcomes for women in vocational education and training through the $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

The member for Sydney clearly subscribes to an outdated view of women in the workforce. As we re-imagine the Australian economy as part of our post-COVID pandemic recovery, we should also re-imagine the role of women in our workforce. We on this side understand that, when we help women we do well, their families do well, our economy does well and Australia prospers.

11:37 am

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Higgins just suggested that the member for Sydney subscribes to an outdated concept of women in the workforce. If standing up and fighting for women to have equal pay and equal rights in the workforce is old-fashioned, then I'm pretty happy to be old-fashioned as well. What the member for Sydney said in her contribution was that equality can't be taken for granted; it must be fought for. I represent an electorate named after a woman called Louisa Dunkley, who, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, subscribed to exactly that belief: equality can't be taken for granted; it must be fought for. She fought for equal pay for women in the post and telegraph office, and she achieved it. Sadly, 120 years after she achieved that equal pay, there is still so much more to be fought for.

COVID-19 has left women not just in Australia but around the world in a position where many of those gains that have been so hard fought for are in real danger of being lost. Countries around the world know this. The United Nations knows this. We're in real danger of being led by a government who not only doesn't know this but won't do anything about it when it's pointed out to them. Australian women could be facing a future which is worse than the past, not just in the short term but in the long term.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, recently said, 'COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women's rights', and therefore launched a report recommending 'ways to put women's leadership and contributions at the heart of resilience and recovery'. Some of the really disturbing events in Australian politics and this parliament of the last week have shone a spotlight yet again on the lack of women's leadership in Australian politics and the dangerous culture that that allows to exist.

Australia's global ranking for the proportion of women in the lower house of the national parliament fell from a high of 32nd place in January 2010, under Labor, to 48th place in 2019—32nd place isn't good enough for a country like Australia, but 48th place in the world is just embarrassing. The OECD data shows that Australia fell in the global rankings for the proportion of women serving as ministers from 22nd in 2012 to 33rd in 2019. Following the 2019 election, when I was so proud to be elected, along with a number of other strong Labor women, only 23 per cent of the entire coalition party room are women—and that's good for the coalition—whereas in Labor we're at half, and it makes a difference. Women's leadership makes a difference.

One of the reasons, I suggest, that the Morrison government's response to COVID has almost ignored the impact of COVID on women is that they don't have enough women's voices around the table. It's not good enough to just have people who see women as their mothers, their sisters and their daughters. We need actual women around decision-making tables so that our voices can be heard.

Gender Equity Victoria recently released a report and submissions for the Victorian budget which noted that in Victoria, as in the rest of the country, because of COVID-19 women have experienced higher unemployment rates. They've had less access to JobKeeper, greater responsibility for caring and unpaid work, and poorer mental health outcomes. But, as Per Capita noted last year, this federal government's stimulus responses concentrated on industries with high concentrations of men, particularly the construction industry, and ignored the caring economy, where women are predominantly employed. This government can't keep on representing half of the community and forgetting the other half of the community any time, particularly when that other half of the community, women, are the ones who are hurt the most.

11:42 am

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In March every year we mark International Women's Day, the day to celebrate women. It's a day to acknowledge the immense contribution women make to our economy, our society and our lives. It's a day to recognise how far we've come. Once women couldn't vote, and now we're leading countries. We once faced restrictions on where we worked, and now we're running corporations. We have rights our grandmothers could only have dreamed about, yet we still don't have complete equality. Whilst it's important to recognise how far we've come, it's clear to see how far we still must go.

This has been particularly evident over the past week as we've looked around this place and listened to the stories of women and their experiences here—stories like that of Brittany Higgins. I want to say to Brittany: you have shown enormous courage over the past week and, indeed, over the past few years. What happened to you shouldn't have happened; it's as simple as that. Your bravery will give other women courage and make this a safer workplace for all, and you are leading change for the better so that every woman can feel safe in their workplace. This is every woman's right inside these four walls and outside of this place.

We must do better because our lives depend on it. The World Economic Forum's 2020 global gender index ranks Australia 44th out of 153 countries. Australia has dropped five places in the last two years alone. If we look back at 2006, Australia was ranked 15th. The statistics are sobering—87,000 women are killed every year just because they are women. Of those, 50,000 are killed by their male partners or family members. And these are only the deaths we know about. In 111 countries there are no repercussions when husbands rape their wives and 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Fourteen per cent is the size of Australia's gender pay gap. As of May 2020, a woman's average weekly ordinary full-time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1,558.40 compared to men's average weekly ordinary full-time earnings of $1,812. Forty-five countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence and 35 per cent of women globally have experienced sexual or physical violence.

As I said, we must do better because our lives depend on it. It's incumbent upon us as leaders of this nation to lead that change and to call out gender bias and inequality where and when we see it. As the first ever female member for Eden-Monaro, this is something I am incredibly committed to doing. I know that I'm backed up by my sisters across the electorate, who are working every single day to lead this change. They are strong women, like Chris Walters and Danielle Murphy at the Cobargo Bushfire Relief Centre, who have been working tirelessly, serving their community as it recovers from the Black Summer bushfires. They are strong women, like Christine Welsh from the Sapphire Community Pantry, who dedicates her life to helping others in community with their basic needs—like food. They are strong women, like Tarni Evans, GWS AFLW player. She has played for both the Tathra Sea Eagles and the Queanbeyan Tigers, leading the field in her chosen sport and changing attitudes along the way. They are strong women, like Queanbeyan's Justine Brown, a proud Ngunnawal woman, an Aboriginal health worker with Grand Pacific Health and the business brain and passion behind Mulleun Dreaming. They are people like Zoe Joseph from the Bombala Chamber of Commerce, a dynamo of change for her community and the business brains behind S.H.E Change, a female empowerment program. And they are business leaders, like Jane Cay from Birdnest in Cooma, who runs one of the most successful retail businesses in this country.

These women are out in our communities and leading the way every day of the year, not just on International Women's Day. They did this important work before the pandemic and they'll continue to do it post pandemic. But it's important to recognise the heavy burden women are carrying in relation to COVID-19. As frontline workers, as parents and as community members, more women have lost their jobs, more women have lost their hours, more women have been exposed to the virus and women have an increased risk of family and domestic violence. I know that the Labor Party, a party of equal representation, will continue to call on the government to deliver a COVID-19 response and economic plan that benefits all Australians.

11:47 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's with great pleasure that I rise to contribute to this debate today on the private member's motion from the member for Sydney recognising International Women's Day. Of course, it will be on 8 March whilst this parliament is not in session, regretfully, but it is important that this House acknowledges the immense contribution that Australian women have made during COVID-19, particularly as frontline workers but also as parents and community members.

When each of us reflects on the lessons learned from COVID-19, one of those lessons indeed was just how vulnerable women in terribly insecure work are, even though they were in the most important jobs that this nation relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm thinking of those women who were working in our early childhood education sector, for example. They felt the brunt of this pandemic immediately. These are women who we rely on entirely to educate the next generation of Australian kids and yet they were the very first group to lose support from this government. Let's not forget that fact: when JobSeeker and JobKeeper first started getting pulled it was women in insecure jobs in early education who got dudded first.

Let's also not forget that early reports have indicated there were shocking increases in domestic violence for women who found themselves in lockdown with their perpetrators 24/7. For a long time we had no line of sight of what was happening for those women and families, but all of the early reports, particularly those coming out of Victoria, have shocking indications of not just what has happened during COVID but the terrible increase in the number of women reporting domestic and family violence for the first time ever. The long-term implications of that are yet to be felt by the nation, but we know that, whenever you have women and children in an unsafe situation, it has long-lasting physical and mental health implications. Time and time again this government fails to grapple with this.

We know there's going to need to be some renewed focus to ensure that there is better support for women and children in domestic and family violence and for those trying to flee those situations and to ensure that they are given every opportunity to not just join the ranks of other insecure casual workers when they're seeking to earn their livelihood to support their children. If they choose to leave at this time, they are looking at the JobSeeker rate being cut again at the end of this month. We've already heard women demonstrate clearly the need for an increase in the JobSeeker rate in order to provide a safe and decent place for their kids to live when they are fleeing violence. The supplement has made an extraordinary difference. Many of the women I have spoken to in the last few months who are looking down the barrel of losing the additional $150 supplement are very worried about what's going to happen.

I am deeply concerned for all of the young women who have cleaned out their superannuation accounts. They took $10,000 last financial year and $10,000 this financial year and they have zero dollars. We know that that will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars when it comes to their retirement. In this nation, in terms of retirement income, women are already woefully behind Australian men, but this government, by enabling the clean-out of those superannuation accounts, has chosen to put those women further behind, and they have no hope in hell of ever catching up.

11:52 am

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Sydney for bringing before the House this motion on women and COVID-19. I thank all members of the House—mostly Labor members of the House—who have spoken on this matter for their contribution to this important debate.

Issues of economic security and personal safety have been very much in the public discussion over the last week. The behaviour of those of us who work in this place has been placed under scrutiny. Often we come to this House somewhat in the manner of people who are lecturing to the rest of the country about how they should organise their workplaces, how they should organise their business and perhaps how they should organise their personal life. I think the events of the last fortnight have made it very clear that, if we're to have any credibility on what we're saying to the rest of Australia, we have to start with our own selves and our own behaviour. I know I speak on behalf of an overwhelming number of people in this place when I say that we have to do better. Yes, we have to improve the culture of this place, but we also have to make substantial improvements in substance, particularly in the way that we're legislating, in terms of the impact on the way that women live their lives.

A number of contributors to this debate touched on the issue of superannuation, a matter close to my heart. Superannuation, of course, is how we save a little bit of money each week to ensure that as Australians we can retire with a greater sense of economic security and with a greater sense of dignity. As the member for Hunter and the member for Sydney have pointed out in their contributions, women are falling further and further and further behind. As of today, the average Australian woman retires with $120,000 in her retirement savings. The average male retires with $183,000 in his superannuation account. Just to put that into context, let's deal with the average female worker. A hundred and twenty thousand dollars is less than the Prime Minister will accrue in two years. Let me say that again: the Prime Minister will accrue more superannuation in two years than the average Australian woman will retire with after her entire working life. We've got a job of work to do. How can we as parliamentarians say 9½ per cent is enough for the women of Australia when we know that, over a term of parliament, we will accrue more superannuation than most women are retiring with? So, yes, we have to work on the culture, but we also have to work on so many of the bills that we put before this place that have a direct impact on the economic livelihoods of the women of this country.

The member for Hunter has also pointed out the alarming statistic about the growing number of Australian women who are retiring in poverty. There's a silent crisis going on in this country. One in five Australians over the age of 55 are jobless. I'll say that again: one in five Australians over the age of 55 are jobless—unemployed, on the carers benefit or on a disability support pension. They're invisible. We don't talk about them. We certainly don't deal with their issues when it comes to the legislation that comes before this House—not in superannuation, not in job support and getting them back into the workplace, and certainly not with a proposition that says, 'If you're jobless, in a few weeks time we're going to cut your income support down to $40 a day.'

We've got a lot more that needs to be done if we're going to create greater equality for this group of women. One in three women over the age of 55 are living in poverty—one in three. But we're not talking about it. The motion that the member for Sydney brings before the House today deals with International Women's Day, but it is something that we should be considering each and every day as legislators. Yes, of course we've got to improve the culture in this place. Yes, of course we've got to ensure that this workplace stands out as a beacon to every other workplace in the country, as a place where women can feel confident, comfortable and safe in their workplace. But we need to do much more than that as well. We need to ensure that women retire with dignity and that throughout their working lives they're not discriminated against in their pay or how they're treated within their workplace. Unless we can do this, no nation on International Women's Day is going to elevate women to the level of equality that they so deserve.

11:58 am

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to the member for Sydney for this very important motion, and thanks to everyone for their contributions today. With the one minute remaining in this session, I just want to acknowledge that, while all the contributions have been fabulous, a number of them have focused on domestic violence. I think I can speak on behalf of all members of this House in saying that violence in any way, shape or form is not acceptable when it comes to women and families, but in the home it must be incredibly upsetting, and it's incredibly challenging. At Christmas time, I don't send Christmas cards. The money that I save by not sending Christmas cards I donate to those centres that are supporting women in that terrible time of the year at Christmas. Sometimes we call them pamper packs. Sometimes it's as much as going out and buying 200 pairs of underwear in all shapes and sizes, as you can imagine. With the time remaining, I just want to thank those people who are out there looking after the most vulnerable in our community. You do an outstanding job, and we thank you.

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.