ABC 774 - Jon Faine

Release Date: 
20 June 2018
Transcript
E&OE

JON FAINE:

One thing to get on with is what the Turnbull Government is doing on an inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. Kelly O'Dwyer is the Federal Minister for Women, Ms O'Dwyer good morning to you.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good morning Jon.

JON FAINE:

Why do we need the world's first inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Sexual harassment has a very real personal consequence for individuals who experience it, but it also has severe career consequences as well, and that has an impact on an individual's economic security. In addition to that, it has substantial impacts for our workplaces and that includes reduced productivity, high staff turnover, compensation claims, potentially even early retirement. So we think it's very important to have an inquiry that shines a light on this, examines it in a careful and sober manner, consider the economic costs, as well as obviously the personal cost, and give very practical tools to business to be able to better deal with sexual harassment complaints when they occur, and also put in place a prevention strategy to ensure that it doesn't occur as often.

JON FAINE:

Is it about leading up towards recommendations to strengthen the law to make it easier for women to go to court?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I am not going to prejudge what the independent Australian Human Rights Commission will find. They've got very broad terms of reference that they're looking at. I expect this to be a very sober review. I think it's very important to understand that sexual harassment is a significant issue for many people in the workplace, both men and women – but the majority of people who do experience sexual harassment are women in the workplace.

JON FAINE:

But why not just leave it to the courts is where I'm driving towards, if indeed women have a problem why not strengthen the laws without an inquiry? Just say, look it needs to be made easier for women to actually take action and seek redress. 

KELLY O’DWYER:

Not all people want to deal with their complaints in that manner is the first point. Secondly, I think we've found with the ‘Me Too’ movement it has certainly amplified the message and it has jumped from Hollywood and spread worldwide and it has demonstrated that social media has been highlighting a number of these issues. Now that can have very significant implications, both good and bad, not only for the person who is the complainant but also for the person who is the subject of a complaint and I think we have to have a very sober analysis of this. We need to have a thoughtful way of looking at these particular issues because we don't want to silence the very women whose voices I think need to be heard in the circumstances and that's one of the reasons why... (interrupted)

JON FAINE:

Was it not your party in power that shortened the limitation period for bringing a sex discrimination claim for instance, was that a mistake?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, we will obviously look at all of the issues that relate to sexual discrimination in the workplace... (interrupted) 

JON FAINE:

Was it a mistake?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well Jon I can't say one way or the other on that particular issue... (interrupted)

JON FAINE:

You made it harder for people to take action, now you're saying you want inquiry into why there is a problem.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we'll see Jon, I think through this, world first, frankly we'll see what are the barriers for people having their complaints dealt with, we'll see whether in fact it's more prevalent in our workplaces, we'll see if workplace culture has something to do with that and we'll see whether our legal system is working in the way that it should. I'm not going to prejudge it Jon. There's no point having an inquiry if you're going to prejudge the outcomes of it. But we do have... (interrupted)

JON FAINE:

Or the other alternative is that you never order an inquiry unless you know what's it's going to recommend.

KELLY O’DWYER:

No this is a very genuine inquiry, it's an independent inquiry by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, and it's born out of the fact that we recognise that there aren't just personal implications that flow from sexual harassment but economic ones as well. I'm also an economic minister as well as the Minister for Women and I want this issue to be seen in a very different light to the one that has been seen as... (interrupted) 

JON FAINE:

You're also in the Cabinet that is remarkably short of women, in a party that is remarkably short of women and in a party that is under pressure to try and do more to advance the political careers of women.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well if I can just finish on my earlier thought Jon, what I was going to say is because of the fact that I wear these two hats I recognise that this is not an issue that simply is about being nice to women. It's got economic implications for their financial security. It can mean for women who have a complaint of sexual harassment that they either lose their job, they don't get a reference for their next job. It may mean that they don't get additional hours at work if they are doing shift work, it may mean that they don't get a promotion. So there are serious personal consequences for the individual, but also for the business as well that they might be employed and so that is why I think it's important for us to have this proper serious analysis where we have to also look at technology and social media and how that has played a role in sexual harassment as well and I think it is great news that we have got Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner being able to conduct this inquiry with the benefit of economic modelling, as well to be able to look at how we can prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and deal with it more appropriately where it does occur. 

JON FAINE:

Thank you for your time this morning. Kelly O'Dwyer, Federal Minister for Women in the Turnbull Federal Government.

[ends]