Senate debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Girls Takeover Parliament

4:09 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about this very important motion, and that is around the international day of the girl. It is a day to celebrate girls everywhere as they break down boundaries, take charge of their futures and demand more from their leaders not just in this place, not just in the place over there, but all around the globe. We have more than 60 of these girls with us today in parliament. Today, spending the day in my office is a girl named Georgia Rice. Georgia is 17 years old and from St Francis Xavier College in Canberra. Today I'm going to talk about an issue that Georgia cares about and wants to see action taken on by this parliament. I asked Georgia to prepare a speech about something that she deeply cares about, and I was actually quite surprised and happy with the topic that she chose because it's very dear to my heart.

Georgia wanted me to let the parliament know that she wants parliament today to talk about paid parental leave and flexible working conditions. She said: 'You might wonder why a 17-year-old girl cares about parental leave. Let me explain. When I was born, my mother, being violently ill, had to remain in hospital for a few weeks. When my father applied for paid parental leave to take care of myself and my older brother, he was denied. His employer said it wasn't something he was entitled to at his position in work, so he had to take leave without pay. This is not equality.' Georgie says, 'How is it that today, 17 years after I was born and my parents faced this tough condition, we are still struggling to have a paid parental leave system that is equal? I want to call on parliament to instigate mandatory equal time for each parent to be a parent.' What a powerful statement from Georgia about something I am deeply passionate about as well—about delivering equality for women not just at work but also at home.

I agree with Georgia: we cannot have equality until both parents are able to be primary caregivers if they wish to be. We cannot have equality until we close the gender pay gap. Australia's national gender pay gap is at 14 per cent, and in my home state of Queensland it is 16.6 per cent. But some other interesting figures ring true. In the private sector the gender pay gap is 17.3 per cent, and in the public sector it is 10.7 per cent below the national average. I only raise those two statistics because it is true that women in workplaces where conditions are collectively bargained have better outcomes. On this day of the girl, I want to acknowledge all of the women and girls who have fought for equal pay, and I echo the sentiments of my first speech and encourage them not to be quiet. There will be people that will tell you to be quiet. Don't listen to them. Speak up. Be loud. In fact, I want you to be very, very loud.

I want to finish today by talking about a group of girls that inspire me every day. The Matildas are the heroes of many girls not just in Australia but around the world. In 2015, they took strike action to demand that they be paid full-time pay for their full-time jobs. Since they achieved that greater pay equity, they have gone from strength to strength. The girls here today stomping the halls of parliament, demanding that their leaders listen, are my heroes. The Matildas, who take to the field every day to live out their dreams, to be equal—to be considered equal to their peers—are my heroes. And I want to thank them for all the work they do in inspiring women around the world, around the country, and I wish them luck. And I wish the girls here today all the best of luck for the future.


No comments