Speech - International Women’s Day Parliamentary Breakfast 2017

Speech - International Women’s Day Parliamentary Breakfast 2017

Parliament House, Canberra

16 February 2017


Aunty Agnes, thank you so much for you very warm Welcome to Country. We acknowledge and honour your elders, including yourself and all of your elders past and present. We are here on Ngunawal land.

I am delighted to be here at the UN Women Australia’s Breakfast and thank you, Janelle, and President Elizabeth Shaw for hosting us here. As Janelle Weissman ran through the many parliamentary leaders and leaders of our Defence Forces and other distinguished Australians who are here this morning and said: “Please forgive me if I don’t read out the entire list.”

Janelle, I don’t think anyone would’ve forgiven you if you had read out the entire list.


But you are all great Australians. We have all of our parliamentary leaders here and I should say we have of course, Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the first woman to be Foreign Minister of course. Marise Payne, the first woman to be the Defence Minister and of course on the next table here is Frances Adamson, first woman to be Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  And just across the way, as I am talking about the Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash who has had a great success in the Senate overnight but just across the way is the High Court with the first Chief Justice who is a woman.

So I have to say we have achieved a lot of firsts for women in leadership and government under the Coalition Government.

Now the theme today is, ‘Empower a woman, empower a nation’. And that’s good. It’s a good theme but it should be much more than a theme. It should be absolutely part of our national purpose, our national DNA. When a woman is empowered, the whole economy, the whole community benefits. 

Gender equality is not just an issue for women. It is the responsibility of all Australians, of all citizens, here and around the world, because all benefit.

I want to congratulate Dr Sharman Stone on her commencement as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls. Sharman has very distinguished track record in Australian politics, in government and of course internationally, has been a champion for gender equality. She brings enormous experience and wisdom to this role which champions equality for women and girls on vital issues such as the elimination of child marriages, stopping the abhorrent practices of female genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Sharman continues the work of former Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, and we thank her for her outstanding and leadership too.

I am proud of our ongoing commitment that at least 80 per cent of development investments, regardless of their objectives, will effectively address gender issues in their implementation. That gives an insight into our commitment on this issue.

Our efforts internationally complement the investments we’re making to empower women and girls here at home.

Now, women must be economically empowered, as I said at the outset. That’s why boosting women’s workforce participation is a priority of my Government. I reported this time last year that women’s employment had reached a record high and I’m pleased that this year it’s climbed even higher, now sitting at a record 5.5 million.

In the last year, 90,000 more women than men joined the workforce and we are on track to meet our G20 target of reducing the participation gap by a quarter by 2025.

Every policy of my Government is designed to encourage more employment. Everything we are doing is designed to encourage more investment, and the jobs that flow from them.

And we want families to choose their child care around their work, rather than limit their work hours to suit their child care.  

Our additional child care investment will benefit around one million families and is targeted towards those working the longest hours, but earning the least.

Families earning $65,000 or less will have receive 85 per cent of their child care costs back. This means care will cost on average $15 a day for low income families.

As one mother said to me last week, if her out-of-pocket child care costs come down, she can work the hours she wants to work. That is important for her and her family, her household income, but it is critically important to maintain that connection with the workforce. Absolutely vital for her future, for the nation’s future.

Now the empowerment of women is the most powerful tool at the disposal of any government to keep communities strong and the economy resilient.

We want more women employed as researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, and reaching leadership positions in all sectors of society.

And role models, many of whom are here today, are so important.

So we have set ourselves a new, more ambitious target for women on Government boards—we had surpassed the 40 per cent mark, so now, with under the leadership of the Minister for Women, we’re aiming for 50.

We also encourage greater workplace flexibility, and that is something Lucy and I have practiced in practical terms for decades, in every business we’ve run.

And I have to say, that I have always been, I was always very influenced by a piece of wisdom I received back in 1976, when I was a young journalist in New South Wales Parliament from then Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Jack Ferguson. He said to me, Labor premier, he said to me:

“Young Malcolm, remember this - peace on the home front is worth ten per cent on the basic wage.”

Those words have stuck with me, because you can see that everything that you do, everything we do must be designed to ensure that families can manage work and child care commitments, manage that balance.

Workplace flexibility enables gender equality.  It enables workers - men and women - to have a much better family-work balance. Happy families, happy households are something that we all have a vital interest in right across the nation.

And you know, very often, the barriers to flexible workplaces are simply a lack of imagination on the part of the employers. We have so much potential with technology to be able to enable greater flexibility in the workplaces and we have to do that and, of course, the public service should lead by example.

Again, as I have said in another context, opportunity for Australians is built on a foundation of security. None of this matters, none of this will be effective, unless people are safe. Security is the foundation on which everything else depends.

I have led a national conversation about the importance of respect for women.

Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. That is a fact.

So we can all make a difference. We can be better role models, raising our sons, as Lucy has always said, to have respect for women, beginning with their mothers and their sisters. Raising our daughters to have greater self-esteem.

This cultural shift will take time. Our national “Stop it at the Start” advertising campaign has been a good way to drive that shift.

Our $100 million Women’s Safety package and additional $100 million investment to back in the Third Action Plan is protecting women and children through expanded front-line services and other support measures. 

We appointed Julie Inman Grant as the e-Safety Commissioner, and expanded her role to include combatting the non-consensual sharing of intimate images commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’, and are working on a nationally consistent approach to criminal offences relating to the non-consensual sharing of those intimate images.

We have proposed amendments to the Family Law Act to make it a criminal offence to breach a personal protection injunction issued under the Act. This will reinforce that family violence is not a private matter. Family violence is a criminal offence and will be treated as such.

Each of these practical actions provides immediate support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

We are all striving for a society in which women are respected, and are on an absolutely equal footing with men, sharing equally in the corridors of power in politics and business as well as in every room in the home.

As I've said before, gender equality is an economic and social priority for Australia. it’s good for women, for families, for business and the economy. It is more than a theme. It should be part of us.

By working together, we can create a society in which women are respected, represented, have a strong voice, are financially and economically secure, and are safe from violence. 

Thank you very much.


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