Remarks at the UN Women for International Women's Day Parliamentary Breakfast

Transcript
15 Feb 2018
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE
Health and Social Services

PRIME MINISTER: Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

I want to thank Aunty Jeanette for a warm welcome and as I just said in Ngunnawal language we are here on Ngunnawal land and we pay our respects to elders, past, present and emerging.

Janelle Weissman has made all the acknowledgments but it’s wonderful to here with so many admirals and air marshals, and Bill and Richard and Penny and Tanya and Nola Marino and Jane Prentice and so many others. Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Women.

I want to say this is a very, very important gathering today. It comes in a very important week. As Aunty Jeanette reminded us – the 10th anniversary of the apology, of course coming and also the week in which we produced the closing the gap report.

It’s also a week in which we had a gathering to celebrate the work of ‘Our Watch’ which of course is devoted to ensuring we bring an end to violence against women and children. What is often called domestic but we all call it domestic violence, so I think it’s all a term we dislike, seems to be entrenched.

Now gender equality is not just an issue for women. It’s the responsibility of everybody, here and around the world. And it begins at the very start. All of us have an obligation as parents and grandparents to make sure that we bring up our children to respect and honour the women in their lives. Whether they’re their little sisters, or big sisters, or mothers or grandmothers or aunties or cousins - absolutely critical.

And I repeat that very profound insight of Lucy, which I repeat all the time but it bears repeating, not all disrespect of women results in violence against women, but that is where it all begins. So this is, all of these issues are about gender equality. We have to recognise that, at the foundation is respect for women and equality for women.

Now today on International Women’s Day we’re highlighting the impact of natural disasters and conflict on women, as well as the role they play in that disaster relief planning and response.

Now, Australians know better than most that natural disasters can hit anyone, anywhere.

But tragically, in many developing countries, women are disproportionately affected by natural disaster.

Janelle touched on the Boxing Day Tsunami, in North Aceh, Indonesia 70 per cent of the fatalities were women. In Kuala Cangkoy, in Indonesia 80 per cent of fatalities were women. And in Tamil Nadu in India 73 per cent of the fatalities were women.

And they demonstrate so poignantly why we must achieve gender equality, both in Australia and overseas.

Now I’m proud of our ongoing commitment to ensure that at least 80 per cent of development investments. I should acknowledge the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson, the first woman to hold that role and I’m very proud to have appointed you to that role Frances, and you’re doing an amazing job.

Of course the department headed by our first woman Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

Now we contribute significantly to our neighbours in the aftermath of natural disasters. We work closely with counterparts and key players, including UN Women across the region to ensure that when disaster strikes, responses are swift.

Now Janelle referred to Tropical Cyclone Gita. So I’ll just give you an update about what’s happening there.

Now following a request from the Tongan Government, we’ve made available approximately $350,000 in life-saving equipment including emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits to assist over 2,000 people in need.

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster delivered the first tranche of stores from our humanitarian supplies warehouse in Brisbane to Tonga on Tuesday evening. And further flights are expected in the coming days.

Humanitarian relief supplies pre-positioned with the Tonga Red Cross Society, including tarpaulins and water purification tablets, are also being distributed across the main island of Tongatapu.

We’ve also dispatched two civilian humanitarian specialists as part of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Crisis Response Team and are working with Tongan authorities and counterparts from New Zealand to identify their needs. And that’s in addition to an Australian-funded humanitarian specialist already working with Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office.

An Australian medical expert is working with Tongan authorities in a joint assessment of medical needs with officials from New Zealand and the World Health Organisation.

Now, I’ve given you quite a lot of detail there, but that is the way Australia responds to disasters in our region. Swift and comprehensive. And it is a great credit to the seamless effort of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, our Australian defence forces – working closely together, to ensure that we provide the relief that is needed.

Now in the aftermath of the disaster, women are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence and we are committed to providing sexual and reproductive health and support.

Pregnant women become especially vulnerable when essential health infrastructure like hospitals are damaged, destroyed, or become inaccessible. Aunty Jeanette touched on that.

It is important that when planning for disasters, we consider and respond to the needs of women. I know that our Ambassador for Women and Girls, Sharman Stone, has been a strong advocate for this work.

As have the Minister for International Development in the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. And of course, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who sends her apologies, Julie Bishop.

At home, we know that one of the best ways to achieve equality is to empower women economically.

Last year we launched Towards 2025: An Australian Government Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation.

We’ve seen significant advances — at this event in 2016, I reported that women’s employment was at a record high.

Last year, I was pleased to report it had climbed even higher to 5.5 million.

Today, it gives me the greatest pleasure to report it is at its highest in history—with more than 5.8 million women in the workforce.

Of the more than 400,000 jobs created last year, 60 per cent of those went to women.

The female participation rate is at near record highs, and the gap between male and female workforce participation of 10.4 per cent — is at an all-time low. 

The gender pay gap has narrowed further over the last twelve months, with the latest figures showing it has fallen from 16.3 per cent to 15.3 per cent – a 12 year low. This gap is still too wide but the trend is positive.

These are great results. But more work needs to be done to reduce the gender gap in workforce participation. And the Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer with the support of the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash, will be pursuing that important objective.

Now the Towards 2025 Strategy sets out the roadmap to achieve it, supporting more women into work, which will help us achieve our G20 goal of reducing the gender participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025, which we are on track to meet.

Good news for women, good news for the families and good news for the nation.

Because achieving our G20 goal has the potential to add up to $25 billion to the Australian economy. We’re supporting more families to balance work and caring responsibilities by enabling more women to work through more affordable and accessible childcare.

From July 2nd, childcare reforms come into operation, from July 2nd nearly one million families will benefit when our new childcare package comes into effect. Package benefits to those who work the most hours and have the lowest incomes. We’re appointing more women to the Cabinet than any previous Coalition leader and this Government has appointed the first female Defence Minister. My predecessor Mr Abbott appointed the first female Foreign Minister and my Government has appointed the first female High Court Chief Justice.

We’re leading the way by setting the ambitious target of women holding 50 per cent of Australian Government board positions. At the end of the last financial year, we reached 42.7 per cent of women on government boards. So our goal is fast becoming a reality. The Government is focused on supporting more women into the jobs of the future, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I suspect I am trespassing on your patience already, but this is a very, very big issue. We need more women working in STEM. So wasn’t it fantastic to see Professor Michelle Simmons named as Australian of the Year last month?

That was a great choice, she is really at the cutting edge of the most advanced computer science anywhere in the world. She’s going to be a great role model for women and girls considering careers in STEM.

Now of course, our most important responsibility is to ensure women are safe. The $100 million Women’s Safety Package and the additional $100 million dollar investment to back the Third Action Plan, is protecting women and children through expanded frontline services.

We’ve increased our funding for the specialised domestic violence units that provide in one location, access to coordinated legal services, social work and cultural liaison services. Last November we introduced the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme to better protect victims and their family’s right across the country. So for this International Women’s Day, I recommit to gender equality in all areas; at home, in the workplace, on the sporting field, in our schools and universities. It goes to the heart of a society we want for ourselves, our children and for generations to come. Australia should be known and it should be our goal to ensure that Australia is known as a nation that respects women. This has to be part of our cultural DNA, more than ever.

Again, I’ll conclude with Lucy’s words that the time, the most powerful time for us, is to start at the very start. Remember those really impactful advertisements that Michaelia Cash had: “Stop it at the Start”. We’ve got to make sure we bring up our sons and our grandsons to respect and honour all the women in their lives.

So thank you very much. Congratulations Janelle, Catherine, for the outstanding work of UN Women.