ADDRESS TO UNITED SERVICES UNION 2019 WOMEN’S CONFERENCE - SYDNEY

28 August 2019

It's terrific to be here with you today. And really this is, let's acknowledge, a celebration. There's some things I'm going to talk about today that aren't so celebratory. But this is a celebration – where we are as women in 2019 and what we have, collectively, in Australia achieved.
 
I'd like to start with this because I think while there are a number of challenges, it's easy to lose perspective of how far we have come in a fairly short period of time. We know that the Australian suffragette movement created history and opportunity for women in this country. They fought for women to both have the right to vote and the right to run for Parliament. And I know you know this but let me just remind you that in 1902 Australia became the first country in the world to allow both of these things with the Australian Commonwealth Franchise Act.
 
Now, I like to do this little test. How many of you were eligible to vote in 1988? In 1988, before the New South Wales election, you want to take a guess how many women had been elected to the New South Wales Parliament in that entire time since the Parliament started to 1988.
 
Seven.
 
You fill a Tarago.
 
Yes, that's how long it took. I say we had an early start but a slow burn.
 
Now I use 1988 is an example because that year there were six more women elected so we got to 13 in the entire history.
 
When I was elected in 2003, three of those original 13 were still in the Parliament; it was like touching history in 2003.
 
We didn't have our first female Cabinet minister till 1984 – Janice Crosio.
 
And so sometimes, you know, people will say, "Why did it take so long to get to a first female Premier?"
 
Because it took a long time just to get a critical mass of women in the Parliament full stop.
 
But once we did, we really got going. It did take some time. I will say today, federally, I'm quite proud of the steps that our movement has taken to promote women politically.
 
If you look around our Federal Caucus, it is filled with strong, committed intelligent women.
 
Of course, Labor's Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, is someone that I get to serve with. She is a force to be reckoned with.
 
I sit behind her Question Time; I watch her piercingly eyeing off the blokes opposite. She's usually got Mathias Cormann firmly in her glare and you can tell he gets really discomforted. She has this stride which is like, "Here I come" and it sends a message and it's such a powerful one to the other side.
 
We've got an all-female Senate leadership team in the current Federal Party. The Manager of Opposition Business, Senator Katy Gallagher, our Whip, Senator Anne Urquhart and Deputy Manager of Opposition Business, Senator Kimberly Kitching. We let one bloke in – Deputy Whip Raff Ciccone. While they have a significant number of blokes sitting in their ranks and on their frontbench, we've got a largely all-female leadership team in the Senate.
 
Of course our frontbench in the House – Tanya Plibersek, Linda Burney, Catherine King, Terri Butler, Michelle Rowland, Julie Collins, Amanda Rishworth, Madeleine King and Clare O’Neil.
 
It's a pretty impressive line-up and something our movement can be proud of.
 
I want to point out someone like Senator Jenny McAllister from New South Wales who's been – I've been friends with Jenny for years – such a dedicated and focused member of so many committees in the Parliament. She works tirelessly, often behind closed doors, to apply not just her intellect to our national security apparatus – which has often been a man's preserve in the Federal Parliament – but also on solving the superannuation gender pay gap. The reason it is a topic for discussion at all in the Federal Parliament is because of the work Jenny's been doing.
 
And I also want to point out Deb O'Neill, who I think would be known to many of you, Senator Deb O'Neill. Another one who uses the committee process and tirelessly works to advocate for things like funding for eating disorders, funding for mental health for young people. Folks she's single-handedly – I told her I didn't think this would get up; don't listen to me! – she dragged the Senate to an inquiry into financial auditors, an issue arising out of the Banking Royal Commission just two weeks ago.
 
It's that type of intellectual capacity that we are putting in our Parliament.
 
I think when you build up the capacity of women, in our labour movement in particular, but right across society, you build up the capacity for leadership, for advocacy and for change.
 
I know that you and I share similar values. We're here to serve the people we represent, to champion rights for working people, to deliver a fair society for all and to change perspectives, laws, regulations, and attitudes that ultimately further equality for women and working women in this country.
 
Now as women we still have, regrettably, many attitudes and perspectives and laws to change. And I know that these are going to be discussed at length in the next two days at this conference.
 
Equal pay.
 
The superannuation gap,
 
The scourge of domestic violence.
 
Advancing equality for First Nation women, particularly when it comes to health outcomes.
 
Standing up and speaking out against misogyny.
 
These are just some of the many ways we still need to fight for equality in Australia.
 
And I do want to point out some of these things are not partisan.
 
On Monday night I appeared on Q&A, alongside the current Premier Gladys Berejiklian; it was Gladys, me and a bunch of high school students. I said to my staff, "what could possibly go wrong?"
 
Now while the Premier and I may disagree politically, and I know many in this room disagree with her as well, we do share some things in common.
 
Gladys and I have both served by leading the biggest and the best state in the country. We know the pressures that come with that job.
 
We both faced, and continue to face, criticism from the media, from the public, and sometimes even in our own party rooms, for the sole fact that we are women.
 
Our clothes, our fingernails; I've had a column written about them.
 
My hair once dominated the front pages of three newspapers in this country on the same day. The same day we had the single biggest dive in the stock exchange since the 1988 recession… and what dominated?
 
My hair.
 
These are the things that sometimes people will focus on, rather than focus on what we can do. Because it's a way to delegitimise; it's a way to undermine.
 
One of Gladys' predecessors, Barry O'Farrell, liked to refer to me as Kim Kardashian because we have the same initials you see. So obviously, Kim and I have a lot in common.
 
But it was his way of trying to delegitimise me based on my gender and trying to link me to one of the most vacuous women in the world just because of our initials.
 
Now, I do want to just focus on one thing. I've watched as we've had a debate occurring regarding the decriminalisation of abortion in New South Wales. I know this is a topic that people in the community have a variety of views on. I think I should just tell you mine so you know, when I make these comments.
 
I do you think abortion should be safe and legal. I would also like it to be rare. I would like us to have for women and men access to effective and inexpensive birth control but I do realise that life is not always straightforward, or sometimes can be messy, and this is a medical service that I think should not be a criminal act.
 
It's something that is a decision taken between a woman and her doctor; we should treat it as a health service, not as a criminal act.
 
I've watched this and I've watched people try to hurl accusations at the Premier, not really based on the issue at hand but really trying to seize sometimes unfounded accusations toward her.
 
For example, the fact that she has delayed the vote in the upper house – I think it's not a bad thing. This is a complex matter. There are lots of things that a house of review should be considering and I'll give you an example of just one.
 
Right now in New South Wales, we collect data on pregnancy outcomes and we don't distinguish between stillbirth, miscarriage and abortion.
 
That makes it very hard for policymakers to know what is the right decision to take about the provision of birth control, about preventing stillbirth, about understanding the prevalence of miscarriage in the community. We need to fix that up and this legislation actually offers the opportunity to do that so I've written to the Premier to suggest that she take this opportunity to do that.
 
I find it amusing we have politicians in the upper house in New South Wales right now who in 2004 said quote, "It's not from politicians to get into the middle of doctors consultation rooms" on this issue, and then turned around and called the Premier "dictatorial" for daring to bring on this legislation.
 
And I don't think they would say that about a male Premier.
 
I think that they are seizing upon her gender in a way to make a political opportunity out of this debate.
 
I'm sure that the Premier and I have both shared experiences having to tell our staff that, in fact, it does take women just a little bit longer to get ready in the morning. The first day I was Premier, they allowed me to have an exercise session and they had given me 15 minutes to get to a media event.
 
You all get it. I actually just said to the staff, "You have a lady Premier. It takes a little longer than fifteen minutes to get the hair and the makeup and everything suitable for television and ready to go."
 
When Jodi McKay became Leader of the Opposition, I got a call from a journalist a couple weeks ago and I make this point because it just goes to show how sometimes male journalists aren't paying all that much attention either.
 
He called and he said he wanted to interview me because we had quote, "For the first time in Australia, a female Premier and a female Leader of the Opposition."
 
And I said, "I'll stop you right there. Right now in Queensland, they have a female Premier and a female Leader of the Opposition" and he kind of then collapsed. His story was gone.
 
Journalists make mistakes, even though they won't admit it, but it was glaring error that they just simply overlooked the fact that this has already happened. At the same time, it also shows how remarkable we still think it is when it happens.
 
Throughout our lives as women, and you will all have stories where you have faced similar small, sometimes not small, sometimes not so subtle, confrontations on a daily basis.
 
This is the challenge we will be grappling with here today. We grapple with how to teach our daughters and the women in our lives, the young women coming up through the workforce, how to grapple with as well.
 
And there are multiple challenges in it you can unpack – how to be assertive, how not to be seen as aggressive, how to be strong without crossing over into bitchy, you know what I'm talking about.
 
Today, I want to talk a little bit about the gender pay gap because this is an area where we do need to work out how we're going to be assertive and demanding rightly what is ours.
 
And yet it’s within a context, where you have a Prime Minister who recently said that we want women to get ahead, but just not at the expense of men.
 
The reality is we want women to get ahead – and he acts as if it's a zero-sum game. It's not.
 
And that kind of mentality really just says, "Well, your claim is good, but don't really come at me with it."
 
Let's get some facts on the table.
 
The gender pay gap has declined from 14.6 per cent and 2018 to, wait for it, 14 per cent in 2019. It's still too high.
 
On average in 2019, women working full time earned $1,484 a week. By comparison, men working full time earned $1,727 a week.
 
So it's a difference of $243 a week.
 
KPMG put out a report last week called She's Price(d)less and in Australia, the report tells us the gender pay gap has fluctuated between 14 and 19 per cent over the past 20 years. So we've had some movement back and forth but really, it's been pretty solidly there.
 
It's persistent, stubbornly high and the report also showed it is actually discriminatory.
 
This report found that gender discrimination was the most significant contributor to the gender pay gap accounting for 39 per cent of the pay gap in 2017.
 
And that has actually gone up. In 2014, gender discrimination was found to account for 29 per cent, so we've had a 10% jump. That's not good.
 
Together, industrial and occupational segregation – the notion that some jobs are "girls' jobs" – contributes to 31 per cent of the gender pay gap.
 
For all that we hear about growth, economic growth from the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, the reality is that we're not seeing growth benefit women, particularly when we're seeing things like penalty rate cuts which disproportionately affect those "girls' jobs" and industry.
 
So as we listen to the Prime Minister, it's almost as if it's fine, nothing to see, the economy is growing, we've created all these jobs; never mind there's all this under employment and underutilisation.
 
At the current rate, it will take us 50 years to reach pay parity in Australia. 50 years. I will be 100 – I hope I'm still here – but I will be 100. Maybe my granddaughter will see it at this current rate.
 
I guess you like me do not want to wait for 50 years and we don't really need to.
 
KPMG did a report last year that found that in halving the gender pay gap, halving it, would result in a $60 billion payoff in GDP by 2038. That's a lot of money. That's a heck of a lot more money than we would have seen from the so-called corporate tax cuts had they gotten them through.
 
Today, I want to make this point because it’s Unequal Pay Day – August 28.
 
This is the day marking the 59 additional days since the end of the financial year that women have to work in order to earn the same as men. So hey, happy Unequal Pay Day.
 
We know in this room that it's going to have to be the Labor Party and the labour movement that agitate for change.
 
Now, the experts have said that the current Government could not claim credit for decreasing the gender pay gap. Scott Morrison last year, by the way, tweeted that they had decreased it; he really only decreased it by depressing all wages. So male wages went down so therefore the gender pay gap narrowed slightly.
 
The only thing that has really contributed to any narrowing, I would argue, is policy legislated by the former Labor Government.
 
We introduced the first national paid parental leave scheme, we funded the equal pay case for social and community services and we ensured that businesses with more than 100 employees had to report annually on their gender equality indicators. But regrettably, we're now in Opposition, and we can't continue to build upon this and make additional changes.
 
We are going to rely on organisations and groups like yours to continue to advocate and agitate for change, we will be there with you, but we need the Morrison Government to feel the pressure on this one.
 
We need to make clear Australia needs a clear, genuine reform agenda to close that gender pay gap and address the discrimination that is causing it.
 
Pay equity must be a central objective of Australia's workplace relations system and the Morrison Government must also address the rising cost of childcare. They claim they fixed it, they haven't, it's coming up. And they also have failed to appreciate that other costs of living are going up while wages are stagnating.
 
There must be a serious look at how the Government can help fix attitudes that contribute to women taking on the majority of unpaid caring responsibilities in Australian households. We had committed the last election to bring back the Time Use Survey. I'd say this was possibly the least-sexy announcements we made, but for someone like me the most exciting because what it would have done is told us what is happening in our community in terms of women's unpaid work, caring work, caring for older parents, caring for children, caring for people with a disability, household work. All of these dimensions that we know make up women’s’ lives and really are an unpaid contribution to our economy.
 
We don't have a real good handle at the moment as to what the value of that is. So when you talk about things like the superannuation pay gap, that is that women are retiring with far less super than men, it's often because they're taking time out of the workforce to take on these responsibilities, or they're delaying a return to the workforce because of them.
 
How do we address that unless we know the value of that work and how often it's happening?
 
One of my heroes, perhaps one of yours, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, an 86 year old woman who is a US Supreme Court Justice.
 
She quite famously went to law school at a time where women weren't going to law school; she wanted to be a lawyer and a judge at that time, and she had a daughter, a child.
 
She started at law school in 1956, her daughter was just 14 months old. She studied there every day, from eight to four, then she went home and spent time with her daughter and when her daughter went to bed, she went back to study. Her husband actually watched her daughter at that time.
 
I think back to when I first got elected in 2003, my husband went part-time to look after our kids; they were two and four. Like this was such a novel idea the newspaper ran a story about it. I can't imagine in 1956 a family taking that decision. So I pay tribute to her husband, Marty, who supported her, helped to raise their child.
 
Ruth Bader-Ginsburg says, "Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation."
 
And I know that there are lots of men who are starting to do this. There's lots of discussion in workplaces about how we can do this but it still remains the case that this is the exception and not the norm.
 
We look at someone like Jacinda Ardern, who is only the second Prime Minister in the world to give birth while in office, the first being former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Jacinda Ardern's partner, Clark Gayford is helping raise their daughter Neve while Jacinda serves as the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Now think about the new norms that are being set for children, boys and girls, both from New Zealand and right around the world.
 
I'd have to say I don't think I quite appreciated it until I became the first female Premier of New South Wales about how important that symbolism and imagery is.
 
They often say, "you can't be what you can't see."
 
The night that Julia Gillard became Prime Minister, I was Premier and I went to a school function in my electorate, and all these little year four and five girls came running out to greet me and they said, "Miss! Miss! Girls are in charge everywhere!"
 
It was true. Clover Moore, Me, Marie Bashir, Julia, the Governor-General, – all women.
 
Although there's a downside to this story, as well, because when the World Cup – remember the Soccer World Cup we were up for hosting the Soccer World Cup – and there were six men from FIFA who came out.
 
They landed at the airport in Queensland, they were greeted by Anna Bligh and she took them to visit a stadium. Then Kate Ellis, the Sports Minister, flew with them down to Sydney where they were greeted by me as the Premier and I took them out to the stadium.
 
Then that night, Julia had Kate, me and the FIFA board to Kirribilli for dinner and one of them said to me, "Do women run this whole country?"
 
I thought, "yeah that's awesome... and yet there is now no way we are getting this World Cup."
 
One of the other things I love about Jacinda Ardern is that she quite honestly speaks about something that I have felt, that I suspect any woman who has tried to put yourself forward for a leadership position or opportunity, which is that sense of an imposter syndrome.
 
That sense of asking ourselves – am I good enough? Can I do this? Am I doing the right thing? Maybe I should wait a little longer, get a bit more training, get a bit more experience? There's other people who are more qualified.
 
In my time out of politics, I worked at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and we did a specific program to get more women into MBAs because one of the things we were hearing – we did a survey – women in business in undergraduate are 50/50 to men but when it gets to MBAs, they're 70/30.
 
And so we lose women somewhere and an MBA in business is almost increasingly becoming a tick-the-box exercise you need to complete in order to get promoted. Women were just taking themselves out of that equation, so we were trying to figure out why.
 
By the way, one depressingly honest realisation was that if they were in a family unit with a husband, they were better off economically to invest in his education than hers. It's rational decision for a family but a completely catastrophic one for a society if every family's taking that decision.
 
One of the things we discovered, in addition to cost and lots of demands on their time, is they really lacked a sense of confidence and lacked mentors and people to say to them, "This is how you do it, this is where you go next, this is the risk you have to take," and it was that sense of an imposter syndrome.
 
I have seen in my time in politics blokes throw themselves forward for jobs I know they are hopelessly unqualified for but there's a sense of, "Oh well, I've got two thirds of the skills – I'm going for it."
 
If I reflect on my time in politics, I look back at the times where commentators or my opponents have tried to label my ambition as "obscene". Like as in quote, "she's obscenely ambitious".
 
As opposed to the other guy I'm up against – his ambition is okay. Nobody's ever described his ambition as "obscene" but for a woman to have ambition is sometimes seen as obscene and hence, we can sometimes get this whole imposter syndrome going.
 
Am I good enough? Do I deserve this?
 
Jacinda says, "the guilt of whether or not I'm a good enough daughter, sister, partner, mother… show me woman who doesn't feel that"
 
I think that's a fair thing, because that's the compounding part of that guilt. Am I doing the right thing by my kids?
 
I remember my then nine year old saying to me, "Why don't you ever do canteen like Joel's mother?" and I said "Because unlike Joel's mother, I'm chairing Cabinet at that time of the day."
 
His father did canteen, that was embarrassing apparently, but that's my point – I had a son who was at home, at that time, compounding the maternal guilt. I'm going to be honest, it was there. I felt that sense.
 
Now he's 19 and I say, "do you feel like you missed out?" and he looks back and says, "No, no, it was pretty amazing I got to do a lot of other nine year olds didn't because of who my mother was."
 
I liked the fact that Jacinda confronted this full on; I think the challenge remains for us though as a society.
 
It is easy at one level for someone like Jacinda Ardern and me when I was Premier to raise kids. I had an army of people, including my in-laws, a babysitter, a cleaner, a husband, 30 staff in my office, two drivers; it's not that hard.
 
Whenever the media wanted to do a story on me of "she juggles the laundry and the cabinet" I said, "no I don't do the laundry."
 
There was one year when I was Premier that I couldn't have told you the names of my kids’ teachers. Like if you stopped me at a press conference, I could've told you all types of statistics about the health system in New South Wales, or on-time running for trains, but I couldn't have told you who was teaching my children.
 
I just took a view, well, they've got a dad knows that and that's just how it's gonna have to be for the time being.
 
At one level though that's easy for a woman in a powerful leadership role, because you have all that support. I'm not naive enough to say just because Jacinda can do it, we can all do it, and I don't think she would be either.
 
I think the challenge for us now is to work out how we build a society with the combination of childcare, recognising unpaid labor, achieving gender parity, fixing up the gender pay gap, and tackling the misogyny and the attitudes that exist – the challenges that confront us in our generation – so that hopefully soon we will have this solved for our daughters and our granddaughters.
 
Thank you.
 
ENDS
 
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