Advancing gender equality in Australia



Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (11:19): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that International Women's Day is celebrated annually on 8 March and that the theme for 2024 is Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress;

(2) acknowledges that the Government has made significant investments in areas to improve the lives of women by delivering more tax relief to women and making it easier to work, making childcare cheaper, expanding the Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme and paying superannuation on this leave, investing in women's safety, improving how the industrial relations system works for women and improving pay and conditions in the care economy;

(3) welcomes the difference this is already making, noting that:

(a) the gender pay gap is now at a record low of 12 per cent;

(b) Australia has jumped up 17 places from 43rd to 26th in global gender equality rankings in the last 12 months;

(c) 60.4 per cent of women over the age of 15 are now employed, compared to 59.9 per cent in 2023;

(d) for the first time in history, Australia has a majority female Federal Government;

(e) women's wages are up; and

(f) the Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme will be expanded to 26 weeks, with a 12 per cent superannuation contribution being paid to help boost retirement incomes for millions of mums; and

(4) congratulates the Government on releasing Australia's first ever strategy for gender equality Working for Women, which sets out a path to get us there over the next 10 years, with a focus on driving action in five priority areas:

(a) gender based violence;

(b) unpaid and paid care;

(c) economic equality and security;

(d) health; and

(e) leadership, representation and decision-making.

I'm very proud to be able to talk today about the significant investments by the Albanese Labor government to advance gender equality in Australia. The struggle to achieve gender equality is by no means new. I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the strong women who came before me, to those who have been fighting for change long before I was born—women like the suffragettes Mary Lee and Mary Colton, who fought to change the prejudicial views that society and the law held against women, like not being able to vote. Or women like Alice Henry, a socialist who fought for women's hospitals, labour reform and disability care. Alice yearned to enter politics but couldn't, simply because she was a woman of the time. And there was Jessie Street, the great Australian diplomat, suffragette and campaigner for Indigenous rights. As Australia's only female delegate to the founding of the UN in 1945, Jessie ensured the inclusion of a clause in the UN charter forbidding gender discrimination. What incredible foresight! And I want to recognise the strong, smart and staunch Labor women who continue to fight for equality today and every day—and, indeed, all women in this parliament. However, we have lost two formidable sisters in recent months, and I pay special tribute to our colleagues Peta Murphy and Linda White.

Past women have paved the way for change and we're so grateful for the opportunities they provided for women today. Australia is now ranked 26th internationally for gender equality, up from the 43rd place we were in in 2023. We can be very proud of that. The gender pay gap is now at a record low of 12 per cent, an historical first, and we now have a majority female federal government. Sixty per cent of women over the age of 15 are now employed, compared to 59.9 per cent in 2023. These statistics speak about the progress we've made in advancing gender equality in Australia, but our progress isn't fast enough. Women are still being paid less, they retire with less and they experience high rates of violence.

We can't just hope that this gets better; we need a plan and we need to focus our energy on it. I'm proud to be part of the Albanese Labor government, which is determined about this. This government has just released Australia's first-ever strategy for gender equality, entitled Working for Women. It outlines a 10-year plan to achieve gender equality and how this government is going to get us there. The strategy focuses on targeted action in five priority areas. Gender-based violence is the most heinous crime, with women so significantly skewed to being victims. In this year alone, 19 women have been killed in Australia by acts of violence, according to Australian Femicide Watch, and we're only in March. We've committed $2.3 billion in the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and will continue to support Australia's National Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission to support and amplify the voices of people with lived experience of domestic, family and sexual violence, and to reduce violence against women.

Caring for children and those who need assistance is a job that falls disproportionately on women, taking many out of the workforce and into poverty. That's why we're also focused on unpaid and paid care. We've increased paid parental leave up to 26 weeks and, for the first time, women will soon be paid super on that leave. That struggle has been far too long. We've made child care cheaper, we've increased wages for aged-care workers and we're developing a national carers' strategy to deliver a national agenda to support Australia's carers. We also know that women want economic equality and that they need economic security. That's why we've given every woman taxpayer a tax cut. On average, 6.5 million women will receive an average tax cut of $1,649. We've made gender pay reporting mandatory and we're supporting more women who are raising children or who are going through change with changes to parenting payment single and the child support system. And we won't take our eyes off structural reform; we're doing a lot of work in health, leadership representation and decision-making.

I call on the House to support this motion today. We should never sit still whilst gender inequality exists in this nation.