Tuesday, 6 September 2022
Questions without Notice
Jobs and Skills Summit
My question is to the Minister for Women, Senator Gallagher. Can the minister outline how the recent Jobs and Skills Summit, which I was privileged to attend on Thursday morning, placed women front and centre to ensure gender equality is a core economic priority?
I thank Senator O'Neill for the question and acknowledge her advocacy in women's policy over the years. I acknowledge that today. The Albanese Labor government's Jobs and Skills Summit brought together Australians, including unions, employers, civil society and governments, to find common ground on some of our big economic challenges and to drive a consensus towards the solutions. Women's economic equality was a core focus of the summit. I've been really pleased by the response to date at the role of women at the summit: they were more than 50 per cent of the participants. They led the panels. They led the debate. There were some amazing speakers who attended the summit, full of talent. It was amazing to witness their contributions and the fact they were centre stage and a key focus.
Gender equality and women's economic participation were points of discussion across all the sessions at the Jobs and Skills Summit. The two-day summit's first session was focused specifically on this topic. Participants discussed the policy space, not only around equal opportunity and pay but also the care economy, boosting work and training opportunities for women, and examined how we can make all workplaces safer for women. And practical measures to reduce the gender pay gap were discussed at the summit.
One of the key outcomes of the summit, apart from the fact that the talented women at the summit were so amazing, was that there was agreement across all participants that women's economic equality should be seen as a key economic priority—something that I know many senators, like Senator McAllister and Senator Waters, have for some time been arguing for.
I thank Senator O'Neill for the supplementary question. Following the summit there were a number of areas where we did reach agreement. One of them was around modernising Australia's workplace relations laws to make sure bargaining is accessible for all workers and businesses, including those feminised industries where we have seen really low wages growth and the failure of the bargaining system to work for women. Another area was around improving access to jobs and training pathways for women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse people, including equity targets for training places, 1,000 digital apprenticeships in the Australian Public Service, and other measures to reduce barriers to employment. We're also making sure that the APS is leading by example by reporting to WGEA and setting targets on improving gender equity in the Public Service. There were also a range of agreements around reporting data to WGEA.
Thank you, Minister, for that report on the practical action arising. Can the minister outline how this builds on existing commitments made by the Albanese Labor government to advance the issues facing Australian women and to restore national leadership on gender equality?
I thank Senator O'Neill for her question. And she's right: for too long, women's policy was in the wilderness under the previous government. It's front and centre under this government. That's the big change. For everything we discuss, every policy developed and every consideration, we will have an analysis of what it means for women: how does it impact women? Is it good? Is it bad? How do we change it to make sure it deals with some of the issues that come out of that research?
I would note that it's no surprise that Mr Morrison didn't take on the Minister for Women portfolio when he was taking Senator Birmingham's portfolio! Poor old Senator Birmingham: he shared his finance ministry with the Prime Minister for the entire time he was finance minister—unlike Tony Abbott, who did take the women's ministry. But we are putting women's policy front and centre, and I look forward to working with all interested senators on doing just that.