Skip navigation

Speech on Workplace Gender Equality Amendment Bill

On Wednesday 29 March 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament in support of the Government's Workplace Gender Equality Amendment Bill 2023 as a positive step, and called on the government to implement further reforms to address the persistence of the wage gap. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.


E WATSON-BROWN: I am very sad to report to this House that the 2022 Global gender gap report ranked Australia 43rd in the world for gender equality. This is patently too low for a wealthy country that claims equality as an Australian virtue. I was also sad to hear just now from the member for Chisholm about the reports on unreconstructed gender attitudes here in Australia. It's just not good enough. The overall gender pay gap worsened during COVID. The figures, I understand, are at 22.8—a bit different from what you've said but still appalling. I guess it depends on how it's measured. It's not good enough. It's absolutely urgent that the gap closes rather than widens again.

We Greens have called for a number of reforms towards achieving this, measures like extending coverage to public and private sector organisations with more than 50 employees; measuring, which means actually looking at whether existing policies are implemented and what impact they are really having; publishing employer data of pay levels rather than just general sector-by-sector reportage; requiring real action, making employers actually take action to close the gender pay gap, and making the employers who are not doing this ineligible for government grants and contracts; requiring reportage, making employers publish the number of sexual harassment complaints made and what action is taken in response; collecting intersectional data to identify hurdles for particular groups of women; and designing targeted approaches to addressing specific pay gaps.

Some of these recommendations are being implemented in this bill and the revised minimum standards instruments. It's encouraging to see that the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 will require the WGEA to publish employer-level gender pay gap data, will require relevant employers to report to their governing bodies and will recognise sexual harassment and discrimination as gender equality indicators. It's also encouraging that the new minimum standards instruments provide for more detailed reporting to bridge the gap between policy and action. So it's great that we're taking these important steps towards transparency, accountability and reporting of the gender pay gap. As my colleague Senator Larissa Waters has noted, you cannot fix a problem you do not understand, and you cannot understand a problem without clear, consistent and meaningful data.

Today I want to take this opportunity to talk about the bigger picture of what we urgently need to really address the gender pay gap and gender inequality in Australia. Firstly, we need real above-inflation wage rises in feminised industries like nursing and cleaning, not just lip-service to that. We need paid parental leave of 12 months, with super contributions and provision to ensure more equal sharing of care between partners. And we desperately need universal free child care for every family, not complex or overwrought, means-tested subsidised systems. We urgently need to build enough public housing and crisis accommodation so that every woman has a secure place to call home. I note that currently Labor's offer on housing is going to see more women in need of affordable housing by the end of that policy than currently. I think that that's just not good enough. We also need to raise income support above the poverty line, and we absolutely need to reverse the Gillard government's decision to cut parents off the single parent payment when their child turns eight and punt them onto the much lower JobSeeker payment. Single parents should remain eligible for this additional support until their youngest child is 16.

All this would give all women the economic and social security and independence needed to live flourishing lives, to not have to choose between family and career, to be valued for the work they do, to escape situations of domestic violence. We welcome this bill as a positive step and urge the government to use its promised second tranche of reforms to implement the outstanding recommendations from the WGEA review and drive the change that all employees deserve.

Continue Reading

Read More