Subjects: Domestic and family violence leave; CFMEU
KELLY O’DWYER: Today is an historic day in the Australian Parliament. Today we have seen, for the first time, minimum standards set for domestic and family violence leave. This domestic and family violence leave, these minimum standards, will now apply to eight million Australians. We know that domestic and family violence is a scourge on our society. We know how serious this issue is, and Members in this place have put politics aside, have come together to deliver this very important reform. I think Parliament is, at its finest, where we can put the national interest first, and today that is precisely what has happened. We have lost too many lives to family and domestic violence. We know that Australian police deal with incidences of family and domestic violence every two minutes. Everything that we can do at a local community level; at a state level; and at a national level; and within our community to actually deal with this insidious problem will bring us closer to making sure that women and children are safe – safe in their communities, at home, in their workplaces and also online.
I want to thank the Members in this place who’ve come together to deliver this very important minimum standard, this new important reform. It comes from the decision of the Fair Work Commission that protected around two million Australians through their decision earlier in the year, but we wanted to make sure that that protection was available to an extra six million Australians. And because that legislation has now passed through both Houses of Parliament, this reform has been delivered, it's been enacted, and importantly, it's being enacted before Christmas. We know that Christmas is such a joyous time for so many families, but we also know it is a very stressful time, and sadly, we know that the instances of family and domestic violence certainly increase around Christmas time. We wanted to make sure that, as a Parliament, we had these protections in place before Christmas, and I'm very pleased that it could be delivered.
JOURNALIST: Is the next step paid leave?
KELLY O’DWYER: The decision of the Fair Work Commission was very clear. The decision was, after much evaluation and after much discussion with stakeholders – with victims of family and domestic violence, with employers – that there needed to be a minimum standard of five days of unpaid domestic violence leave. Now, that is not to say that employers can't offer a much higher standard. In fact, we know that there are many employers who offer paid domestic violence leave and offer more than five days of paid domestic violence leave. And we applaud those employers who are able to do that. But we need to make sure that there is a minimum standard that applies to absolutely everyone. The Fair Work Commission has said that they will evaluate this issue again in 2021, when there's more evidence in, and I look forward to them being able to do that.
JOURNALIST: In a practical sense, for somebody who’s leaving a violent situation who might struggle to get time off work; does this ensure that their job is protected?
KELLY O’DWYER: This absolutely ensures that someone who needs time off work to deal with an issue around family and domestic violence can know that their job is protected, that their job is safe. It is absolutely right that we have these minimum protections in place across the board for eight million Australians that would have previously not been protected before this year. It is a historic moment in this Parliament. I think it is one of the pleasing things at the end of the year – that we can say that we have come together across party lines to unite in what is a very important issue, and an issue that our Government has been very focused on. I delivered the Women's Economic Security Statement only two weeks ago, and in that statement we focused on measures that could help increase women's financial independence, particularly those who are rebuilding their financial security after fleeing a situation of domestic or family violence. There is always more that we can do and I can give you a complete assurance that we will never lose sight of that focus and we have the determination to follow through.
JOURNALIST: Minister, obviously the Fair Work Commission were the ones that set the benchmark here, but what would your message be to those who have been advocating for 10 days of paid leave?
KELLY O’DWYER: I absolutely understand the very sincere and genuine intent behind that advocacy and I think that all people who have been advocating for better awareness, better understanding and more flexibility for those people who have experienced family or domestic violence have done us all a favour. I think their message has been very much heard and I can say – I’m just checking that I’m not meant to be running off to a division – I can say with all sincerity that we come together as a Parliament to deliver this standard. That's not to say the standard is set in stone forever, it is a minimum standard, employers can go above and beyond it and there are many who already do. But we want to make sure that there are protections for everyone. And this is what's been delivered today.
JOURNALIST: Minister, just on the CFMEU – the High Court has dismissed the union’s appeal against a maximum penalty being imposed on an official who breached right of entry laws and was abusive to a site manager. What does this decision say about the role of the ABCC?
KELLY O’DWYER: I think it's very, very clear that the ABCC is a very important cop on the beat. It is very important that we have a regulator that is ensuring that we are putting an end to thuggery, bullying and intimidation on construction sites right across this country. Small businesses and the people who work for them need to be protected and I find it very, very surprising that in the ACTU and Labor platform next week that they would want to run a protection racket for the CFMEU who are engaged in what can only be described as thuggish behaviour. It shouldn't be tolerated anywhere, shouldn't be tolerated on our building sites, and I think the courts have made it very, very clear that the CFMEU are one of the most recidivist unions in this country. They are up in front of the Federal Court time and time again. Even Bob Hawke, former leader of the union movement has said that there needs to be a disassociation from the thuggish tactics involved. He pointed to the fact that when he was Labor leader he did that with the BLF and frankly, it's time that Bill Shorten did the same.
JOURNALIST: Minister, just on the growth figures that we saw yesterday, we’ve seen the household savings ratio hit its lowest point in almost 11 years. Do you agree with the Treasurer’s assessment that that’s because Australians are feeling confident in the economy and also have low interest rates at the moment?
KELLY O’DWYER: We've had 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth. There are more Australians in work than ever before and there are more women in work than ever before. In fact, there are more women in full-time work than ever before. Over our period of time in Government, there have been almost 1.2 million jobs created and we have seen young people get into work over a 12 month period – 100,000 jobs for young people also created. So there is great opportunity right now. We want to make sure that that economic opportunity and the economic prosperity that flows from that economic opportunity is shared by all Australians. And it is only put at risk by a Bill Shorten-led Labor government dictated to by union bosses. Thank you.