PRIME MINISTER: Welcome to this first Cabinet Taskforce on women’s security and economic security. Women's safety and security are very much, I think, the heart and soul of what the agenda for this group is about and I'm very pleased to be joined by co-chair Senator Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women.
This is a group that is the largest group, combined with the central agencies represented here, the largest group of women who have ever been represented in a Federal Cabinet. This, I think, is a high watermark that I would like to see rise even higher in the future and the calibre and the credibility of the women who sit around this table, combined with the experience of the other members, I think bring the right experience, the right lens, the right focus and the right priorities and importantly, the right values as to how we can address these critical issues.
When I announced the formation of this group, together with Minister Payne, I talked about the importance to focus on equality, on safety, on economic security, on health and well-being. And that is indeed our focus as we gather together in this way to look right across all aspects of how our Government functions.
But let's not also forget the important values that underpin our approach as Liberals and Nationals to our Government. Values of dignity, values of respect, values of family that are so critical to nurture the society in which we all live and we all depend. And family, more than any other, something that should be a place of safety for all Australians, particularly for women.
But we know that's not the case. We know the incidence of violence against women, particularly from intimate partners. We know the dreadful statistics and they are heartbreaking.
Now, this is not to say that over many years and for many governments, that progress hasn’t been made on these fronts. Of course it has. We are in the Fourth National Action Plan of the National Plan to Address Violence Against Women. Over a billion dollars has been invested by our own Government in these successive plans and that is something that is making a real difference. But more difference has to be made.
On the economic front, even as we've come through this pandemic, it was women whose economic opportunities were so significantly impacted when COVID hit. But we're pleased to say now, within a year, the number of women in employment today is higher than it was when the pandemic hit. The gender pay gap is at a record low and we have reached the same heights again and more of female participation in the workforce.
But there is much more to do. And as we gather together here in this place, as we often do as a full Cabinet with a particular focus and lens on our challenges as a country to ensure that women have at least equal opportunity, at least as much safety, at least as much economic security as men in this country.
This is what we hope for, for ourselves, for our families and for our daughters. Marise.
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thank you very much, PM, and good morning, colleagues, and thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
I think this Taskforce is vitally important for the work that we are going to do. Important to accelerate and coordinate our efforts to deliver for Australian women right across this country and I really look forward to working with all of the colleagues here to deliver on the promise of this Taskforce, the commitments that we have made as a Government, the commitments we will make as a Government.
It gives us a good chance to take stock of what we are already doing. Prime Minister, you've referred to the National Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Women and their children. The implementation of the key priorities under the Women's Economic Security Statement, both 2018 and 2020 are already part of that stocktaking.
But this enables us to identify gaps. It also enables us to make decisions on how to fill those gaps through a targeted policy approach across Government that has a real and genuine impact on the issues that we know present the greatest challenges to women and girls in Australia.
Our purpose is to deliver practical, effective outcomes for Australian women in this process. The first priority, to respond to the remaining recommendations of the Respect@Work report, which we know is well underway in the safe hands of the Attorney-General, Minister Cash.
Also this week, Minister Ruston and I will co-chair the Women's Safety Taskforce meeting with all of our state and territory colleagues to discuss the next national plan on ending violence against women and their children.
I think this Taskforce will also help us drive an ambitious Budget programme, Prime Minister, and I'm very grateful for the engagement of the Treasurer and the Finance Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, with you in that process.
What the past two months, though, have underscored for us as a Government and as a nation is the depth of the issues that impact women, particularly in relation to violence and harassment, particularly in relation to workplace issues.
The work that we are doing here must have and will have an impact on addressing those concerns and the work that we already have underway through Prime Minister and Cabinet, through the independent review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner are integral to that and I look forward to working with all of you to bring those to fruition.
Thanks, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Marise. There has never been a stronger voice for women in an Australian Government ever before. And when I think about the roles, in particular, that are represented around this table, the Attorney, law enforcement, social services, important services to Australians in the areas of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, foreign affairs, again, industrial relations, and in our defence industries and in the environment.
This is a very strong team, Michael and Josh and Simon. This will be an important opportunity today as we frame the next Budget and as we move to the next National Plan. So thank you all very much and appreciate the media's attendance.