I’m really honoured to be here today with Lucy to co-host this parliamentary breakfast with the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Chloe. And we’re here to celebrate International Women’s Day.
As Julie said there are so many of our Parliamentary colleagues and Admirals and Generals, the Speaker I see. I won’t run through them all but I just want to especially acknowledge my Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. The Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and of course I see here Bill’s Deputy Tanya Plibersek.
Also, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin and all of the leaders and members of the ADF here as well.
Now, Julie, the work you do at UN Women Australia is important for the future of the women and girls in our region. This morning we’re celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women in Australia in our region and around the world and we acknowledge and thank all those, all of you here and millions of people outside this room who are working hard towards gender equality.
It is well-known that when a woman is empowered, the whole economy, the whole community benefits – women that hold up more than half the sky in reality.
Critical to any economy and society is ensuring that we have access to the ingenuity, the enterprise, the intellect of the whole community – in our schools, in our workplaces, and in the innovative industries of the future.
Ensuring that that the power of women is brought to bear, is enabled, empowered, that rich human capital and increasing their participation in the workforce, must be a critical part of every government’s agenda to secure the economic future of the nation.
Australia’s best assets, its best capital, is its human capital. Our greatest value, our greatest asset is not under the ground, it’s all of us, all of you – 24 million of us – and half of that population are women.
Last year, I should note, our labour force participation rate increased by half a per cent, the most rapid calendar year growth since 2006.
A key driver of that was the increase in the female participation rate, which is now at its highest in our history. Almost 60,000 more women than men entered the workforce in 2015, and the number of Australian women in full-time work – that’s full-time work – is at a record high.
Earlier this week we saw the gender pay gap trend in the right direction, not trending fast enough, but the gap has fallen from 17.9 per cent to 17.3 per cent from an all-time high of 18.8 per cent in 2014.
Now as well as financial and economic security, it is absolutely vital that women live free from violence and are safe in their communities.
In December, through the Council of Australian Governments, we agreed to national perpetrator invention standards, actions to limit technology facilitated abuse, this is abusing the internet, using smartphones as devices that we seem to be all perpetually connected to – some more than others and I guess I fall in to the some rather than the others.
We also took important steps towards a national approach to a domestic violence order scheme.
We announced a $100 million Women’s Safety Package, it was the first part of the Government’s longer term response to addressing violence against women, which included practical and immediate measures to keep women safe. And I want to thank especially Michaelia Cash for her leadership in this regard. Let’s give Michaelia a round of applause.
Now, UN Women Australia’s theme for International Women’s Day this year is, “Change her future: Together we can stop violence against women and girls”. This reminds us of the global challenge and it is a local challenge – one in three Australian women will experience violence in their lifetime. That number is far higher for women elsewhere in our region.
It is time to confront this very important fact: society’s attitude towards women, the value we place on women, the regard we have for women, is directly connected to the violence that is committed against women.
This is really, I believe, one of the most important facts of all. Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespect for women. All violence against women begins with disrespecting.
This is an issue about respect; this is an issue about equality.
Now, Lucy has always made a very powerful point and she’s addressed this issue and I want to repeat it. Lucy has said and I think we should all agree, the most important thing we can do as parents, or one of the most important things, is to make sure our sons respect their mothers and sisters.
You have that little boy – your son or your grandson – and you make sure that he respects his mother and he respects his sisters and he respects the women in his life. And if, particularly as a man, as a father, you show respect to your wife and the women in your life, that boy will grow up ingrained into his view of the world, ingrained into his view of the world, respecting women. That is absolutely critical. You know, that is one thing that Lucy is so right – I’m quoting my wife a lot this morning but let me tell you, she’s very often right and very mostly right – almost always right!
But this is a very big point, it’s a really big point and you know as fathers we’ve got to set a good example and as parents this is an issue for mothers as well. Mothers must ensure – all ensure – that our sons respect the women in their lives.
Now, as a global leader, we have committed 80 per cent of all aid investments to address gender equality. This week, Julie Bishop, now one of the six women in my Cabinet, launched the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy.
Using our foreign aid, this strategy recognises that empowering women and girls is critical to supporting economic growth, reducing poverty, increasing development and ensuring security, particularly in our region.
International Women’s Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made.
Gender equality – I repeat – is an economic and social priority for Australia – it’s good for women, families, business and our economy.
So, I want to ask all of us here today to do all we can to ensure that all women are afforded equal economic and social opportunities to men. And I call on men, women, business and government to work together to lead the cultural change required to ensure that women are respected, are represented, have a strong voice, are financially and economically secure, and are safe from violence.
This is an important transformational cause. Julie, I agree it would be good if we didn’t have to have another meeting like this at some point in the future, but let me tell you the work that you do, the leadership that you show, is making a better world for all of us, for every single one of us and we salute you and thank you for it.