Subjects: International Women’s Day, the Morrison Government’s record $328 million investment to reduce domestic violence, women in politics, Labor’s “living wage”, Malcolm Turnbull.
FRAN KELLY: It is International Women's Day and the Morrison Government has been grappling with the lack of women in its ranks. But he is trying hard to try and woo female voters in the lead up to the Federal Election. Earlier this week Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer, announced the biggest Commonwealth contribution to a national plan on domestic violence ever. More than $300 million. Kelly O'Dwyer is heading to New York today to address the UN Commission for the Status of Women. Minister, welcome back to breakfast.
KELLY O'DWYER: Great to be with you Fran and happy International Women's Day.
FRAN KELLY: Happy International Women's Day to you too. And you are heading off to address the UN about the status of women in our country. What will you be telling them?
KELLY O'DWYER: Well I will be telling them that in Australia we have more women in work than ever before, more women in full-time work than ever before and the highest workforce participation rate. We have got a reduction in the gender pay gap – it went up under Labor to 17.2, it has come down under us to 14.2. And we are making great strides on reducing violence against women and girls. Our internationally recognised National Prevention Strategy which we announced this week is something that we will certainly be talking about – the first time you have seen a very serious investment in upfront prevention strategies to reduce violence against women and girls.
FRAN KELLY: There is no escaping the fact that you are the Minister for Women in a Government – in a parliamentary party – that just has 11 women in the lower house. According to the inter-parliamentary union Australia is ranked 49th on the list of female parliamentary participation due mainly to the lack of women on your side of politics. We will be sharing that statistic at the UN?
KELLY O'DWYER: Well look I think it is fair to say that in terms of the representation in the Australian Parliament we can do better. I'm not going to deny that Fran and we have seen the numbers go up and down over time. But there is no question that…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) They haven’t gone up for a while on your side of politics and what people are looking for is the plan.
KELLY O'DWYER: I suppose what I would say to you Fran is that we have a record number of women in Cabinet. We have got seven women…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) Yes but you have eleven in the whole Parliament.
KELLY O'DWYER: Fran just let me make this point. Seven women who sit around the Cabinet table, which is where the decisions of Government are made, I sit on the Expenditure Review Committee – that is the sub-committee of Cabinet that puts together the component parts of the Budget. There are women represented at the highest levels of our Government making a significant contribution. If you…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) Of course I am not denying that. Don't you think it matters if you do not have some critical mass of women on your side of politics? Some sense of gender parity?
KELLY O'DWYER: I have said to you Fran I think that it is important to lift the number of women in our Parliament. I think that it is a good thing for our democracy and certainly I can tell you from my own personal perspective, I announced last International Women's Day that my colleagues and I would support financially women who put their hands up to run for Parliament on our side of politics, through the Enid Lyons Fighting Fund. Now that is something that would make a practical difference to women who are making the decision to put their hand up or not, and to give them the financial support that they need. Having targets are important. Having those targets measured, that's important. We're doing that. Have we got a way to go? Yep, we are still on the journey. But we are certainly making progress there and as I said look at the scoreboard in terms of what we are delivering for millions of Australian women. I think there can be no question that we are delivering lower taxes, we are delivering better childcare for those who want to be able to use that childcare for men and women so that they can return to work if that's what they want to do…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) Okay. I want to get to something else that you are tackling today. And that is you are on a campaign against a particular business, the Wicked camper vans. A lot of them – people see them all around – they are covered in pretty offensive slogans some of them. Why are you hopping into this?
KELLY O'DWYER: Well look I think it just simply not acceptable to be able to have slogans on mobile billboards where this particular company changes its jurisdiction in terms of where it's sort of licensed to try and stop the clampdown on these offensive slogans. Now we talk about prevention and we talk about respect for women. Let me say to you Fran – and I can actually read this one on radio – one of the slogans on one of these vans was “I can already imagine the gaffer tape on your mouth”. Another, “I wouldn't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die”. Frankly this is violent, and there are worse things that have been said.
FRAN KELLY: What are you going to do about them?
KELLY O'WYER: So what we are doing is that we are making sure we take a national approach to this. Both the Deputy Prime Minister and myself, we have said to the State and Territory leaders that we are seeking their urgent support to make sure that we have got a coordinated national approach to force this company to comply with community standards. And we will not allow them to simply forum shop from one state jurisdiction to another.
FRAN KELLY: Okay. On another issue this week. Labor announced a policy that in government it would use the Federal-States Hospital Agreement to ensure that public hospitals offer abortion services. What is your view on this? Do you think public hospitals should provide surgical termination for women?
KELLY O'DWYER: Well as you know Fran, this is obviously an issue of public health and I think that we expect all public hospitals to provide services that people need. That is what they are funded to do. And I…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) Including termination?
KELLY O'DWYER: I would expect all public hospitals to do just that and this is one of these State jurisdictions that actually run our public hospitals to ensure that people are getting the services that they need.
FRAN KELLY: Some of them aren't doing that. Tasmania is one obvious example. If you were sticking around would you be looking to try and pressure Tasmania for instance and all of them to do it?
KELLY O'DWYER: I think that all public hospitals should provide services that women need. I feel that very strongly. I know that in the case of Tasmania I understand that they have got another provider to provide those services. Now I'm not sure whether that is a stop-gap measure or a measure that they are looking as a long-term solution. They are obviously conversations that the Health Minister will have with his counterparts when these issues come up. You know we would expect that to happen on a regular basis.
FRAN KELLY: Okay. You are listening to RN Breakfast our guest is Kelly O'Dwyer. Kelly O'Dwyer is the Minister for Women and also the Minister for IR and Jobs. Labor floated this idea of a living wage. In particular to help people who are working full-time but living below the poverty line.
(Plays an excerpt of the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O'Connor)
BRENDAN O'CONNOR: One of the ways to rectify that is to make sure that when the Fair Work Commission is making an annual decision they are taking into account those issues that go to whether in fact people have got a wage they can pay the bills and have a decent life.
FRAN KELLY: That is Shadow Employment Minister, Brendan O'Connor. Do you back this idea about the living wage to try and get wages back on track?
KELLY O'DWYER: The first thing I would say is we don't know what Labor is talking about when they talk about a living wage. In fact we have seen them jump all over the place, over the last three days trying to explain it.
FRAN KELLY: What do you think of the idea? We know what it is roughly.
KELLY O'DWYER: I think it is important to see stronger wage growth and I think we all can agree on that. We actually want to see stronger wage growth in our country. But if you listen to Sally McManus or Brendan or Bill Shorten you would actually think that wages are going backwards. But the truth is somewhat different. Wages are actually continuing…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) Well they aren't much different.
KELLY O'DWYER: No, no. I can tell you factually if we care about facts that wages are continuing to outstrip living costs, wages growth by 31 per cent compared to a 23 per cent rise in living costs over the last decade. They have outstripped living costs over the past 10 years.
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) What about the last two years?
KELLY O'DWYER: And over the last year…
FRAN KELLY: (Interrupts) But not by much.
KELLY O'DWYER: I suppose that is the point – we would like to see higher real wage growth and we are doing something about that. Because wage growth is a core focus of our Government and we are doing that by making sure that our plan of lower taxes, more trade, significant infrastructure investment will continue to deliver more jobs and higher wages. And we know from the Reserve Bank Governor that when you actually ensure that there is less areas, less spare capacity in the Labor market, if that spare capacity declines, you can see wages go up. And we have turned a corner on that.
FRAN KELLY: All right. On another issue the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has re-emerged in the political spotlight today. He has taken a swipe at your Liberal colleagues. Let's have a listen.
(Plays excerpt of former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull)
MALCOLM TURNBULL: As I said at the time it was essentially a form of madness that occurred. Whipped up internally and also amplified by voices in the media. But basically you could argue that there concern was not that I would lose the election but rather that I would win it. Because there is no question that the Government's position, and it still could win the election the Liberal Government, but it's position is much less favourable than it was back in August.
FRAN KELLY: That was Malcolm Turnbull speaking on the BBC's Politics Live program in London. Kelly O'Dwyer is that why your colleagues dumped Malcolm Turnbull? Not because they thought he would lose it but because they thought he would win the election?
KELLY O'DWYER: Look Fran, I have got to say there is an obsession in wanting to talk about these past historical issues. I am not a historian and the history wars are going to be fought out by historians. Frankly I'm much more interested, Fran, in actually having a policy discussion with you around these issues living wage, inequality, industry wide strikes which is something that has been proposed and the impact that that would have on the economy. I think your listeners are going to be much more interested about those issues.
FRAN KELLY: Well that makes the point that this is not such a helpful contribution from your former leader.
KELLY O'DWYER: Look you can do the commentary Fran. I am not a commentator. I haven't commentated on those issues about that particular time. I don't intend to start commentating today. I don't think it is very helpful to commentate about those issues. Let's talk about the policy issues.
FRAN KELLY: Kelly O'Dwyer thank you very much for joining us and good luck at the UN.
KELLY O'DWYER: Terrific. Thanks Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Kelly O'Dwyer is the Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations and she is heading off to the UN in New York to address the Status of Women Council about Australia's runs on the board.