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Rectifying the gender pay gap

I rise to speak in support of this motion regarding rectifying the gender pay gap. Gender equality is something that most people in this country agree with in theory; however, in practice, it does not yet exist in Australia. Gender inequality is particularly evident in our workforce, which does not yet reflect the values of the Australia we want. This year, 2022, the gender pay gap is still over 14 per cent, meaning women need to work 60 days more each year to be on par with men. This pay gap, together with the reduced workplace participation of women, contributes to the superannuation gap, which sits at around 40 per cent less for women.

Women are also vastly underrepresented at board level, with only six per cent of ASX 300 companies having female CEOs. Outside of work hours, women also take on disproportionately more unpaid care work than men, often including the cognitive and emotional labour of managing the household and family. However, according to Deloitte Access Economics' latest report Breaking the norm, which was released only last week, a shocking one-third of Australian men still believe that gender inequality doesn't actually exist in this country. These statistics paint a clear picture of gender inequality—a picture that is reflected in the World Economic Forum's Global gender gap report 2022, where Australia is ranked a low 43rd. Our neighbour New Zealand is ranked number 4. At current rates of progress, it will take approximately 132 years to reach total gender parity.

This House must play a critical role in enacting legislation that will accelerate gender pay equality in workplaces across this country, including in this parliament. To do this effectively we need affirmative action. Some steps towards affirmative action are already underway, and I welcome the recent progress made. In particular, I welcome the amendments to the Fair Work Act that are the focus of this motion. These include prohibiting pay secrecy clauses and establishing a panel in the Fair Work Commission for pay equity in the care sector.

I would also like to recognise the recent budget measures that support greater female participation in the workplace through legislation for cheaper childcare and the supporting of men to take paid parental leave. I also want to recognise the Respect@Work legislation currently before parliament, which places a positive duty on employers to prevent workplace sexual harassment, and, additionally, the recent historic introduction in New South Wales of positive consent legislation and the decriminalising of abortion.

However, I would also like to highlight that even in our own parliamentary workplace we need to do a lot more. In the recent review of the MOP(S) Act regarding workplace conditions here in Parliament, it was found that there was a significant impact on people with caring responsibilities. A number of current and former MOP(S) Act employees, especially women, said that their workload and work environment were wholly incompatible with any caring responsibilities they had or planned to have. I would like to say that, after just six months on the job, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. My staff are struggling as they work many extra days and hours of overtime each week. Our Electorate Office also relies heavily on volunteers, the vast majority of whom are women. They are performing core duties yet they are unpaid. The work culture here in parliament and in the electoral offices is not currently compatible with gender equality and must be addressed if this country is serious about encouraging equal participation of women in this parliament.

Parliament should set the standard for businesses and organisations around Australia. When parliament falls short of setting the standard for gender equality for the rest of the country, is it any wonder other workplaces also do not do enough? Discrimination against women and the devaluing of their work is pervasive and is even entrenched in our own parliamentary workplace. We must do more. I commend this motion to the House.