Transcripts → 2022


Radio Interview - ABC RN Breakfast

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women


Date: Friday, 22 July 2022

Women’s ministers meeting in Adelaide; Safe and affordable social housing; Abortion access; RBA

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: The Minister for Women Katy Gallagher will host today's talks, the first face-to-face meeting since the election. Katy Gallagher joins us this morning, Minister welcome.


KARVELAS: Top of the list today is finalising the national plan to end violence against women and children. When the draft was released earlier this year it was met with some criticism. The government has been revising the plan – that's what you've been working on – what changes have been made?

GALLAGHER: Thanks Patricia, it's a great opportunity to get all the women's ministers from around the country together. They haven't met, is my understanding, for some time in this forum. So I think for Amanda Rishworth, who's leading the work on the National Plan, and myself, it's the first opportunity really to pull everyone together and have some of the discussions around the National Plan. As you said, there was a lot of work done before the election, the state and territory governments didn't get a copy of the document as it was kind of completed before the election. So we've updated it to reflect a couple of some of our commitments that we took to the election. Our commitment about a National Plan for gender equality, for example, some of the election commitments we had around frontline services. But we'd like and we have provided it to the states in the lead up to this meeting. Basically, to have the conversation with them today about things that they'd still like to see changed or whether they want to do further consultations within their jurisdiction before we finalise the National Plan. So that's really the big part of the meeting today.

KARVELAS: There are calls for the plan to have independent monitoring and accountability so it's easy to track which initiatives actually yield results. Will you be talking to the states and territories about including specific targets to measure progress?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so this seems to be one of the issues that there is not universal agreement on how to handle. So there's certainly in the sort of community and stakeholder groups outside states and territories, there are views about having strong targets. And then we'll have that discussion with states and territories today who have responsibility for a lot of areas under the National Plan and also talk to them around how the action plans which are really the practical implementation of the National Plan, how they would work and how we would want to be able to measure progress there. Amanda Rishworth and I are absolutely on the same page about making sure there's progress. We need practical implementation of the plan, but also ways to measure -

KARVELAS: So you're in favour, just to be clear, of targets or measurable elements in this plan?

GALLAGHER: We definitely want to be able to measure progress. I mean, there's resources going in, there's a lot of effort gone into this plan to date from stakeholders, we need to make sure – and the issue of violence against women is so significant in terms of numbers and prevalence and impact. We have to be able to measure the implementation of this plan in some way and that's what the discussion with the states and territories. We need to listen to them about what their concerns are or areas they think we can measure progress without a problem and that's what we'll be talking about with them today.

KARVELAS: Now currently there isn't a National Plan, the last one ended on June the 30th. There is a sense of urgency to get this done. What timeframe are you working towards?

GALLAGHER: So again, we'll talk about that in the meeting today, but we would like to — we have put a fair bit of, Amanda Rishworth has in particular put a fair bit of work into getting it to where we are today and meeting with stakeholders over the last few weeks. We will have that discussion with the states and territories. Obviously they are key partners in this and I don't want to pre-empt the discussion at the meeting. But we would hope that we will be able to be in a process of finalising this, you know in the third quarter of this year, so around September/October and that's what we'd be asking the states and territories to consider today.

KARVELAS: Okay, September/October.

GALLAGHER: It's not like nothing's happening, though. I would say you know, like we're still making progress, it's just finalising the National Plan in terms of services and, you know, the rollout of some of the resourcing that will continue but we do need to finalise the National Plan.

KARVELAS: Anyone who has experienced family violence knows that actually leaving and having a safe home to go to is one of the key obstacles. And this ends up being an ongoing problem we heard in AM that thousands of women are forced to return to abusive relationships because they don't have anywhere to live. What is your plan to try and deal with that? We heard during AM from Kate Colvin saying there needs to be a huge roll out in terms of the numbers of housing options provided to women. Will you increase that in this plan?

GALLAGHER: Well housing clearly is one of those major areas which intersects with women and women’s safety and the provision of affordable housing. States and territories provide a lot of those services. We went to the election with a plan around our Housing Australia Future Fund which was really about the Commonwealth coming back into providing social and affordable housing properties nationally which is an area where the Commonwealth hasn’t been active. And in fact, I think Julie Collins met with her Housing Minister colleagues last Friday for the first time in five years, or something ridiculous like that. So the engagement with the states and territories is happening. We recognise housing is one of those critical areas. If we are to support women, particularly women leaving violent relationships, and that Housing Australia Future Fund had a particular section of those housing that we wanted to target towards women and women and children leaving violent situations. So yes -

KARVELAS: My understanding is that your commitment, I'm sorry to cut in like that, is 4000 specifically 4000 homes, you know, whatever that looks like, for women fleeing violence. 4000 is just not enough across the country. Are you open to increasing that?

GALLAGHER: Well, we'd always like to do more. That was the commitment in the election campaign, but I would say that's just under the Housing Australia Future Fund. There is an agreement with the states and territories on housing, which Minister Collins will be renegotiating which does provide other resourcing going into that to the sector, the social and community housing sector, and those discussions will appropriately happen there but one thing we are doing is making sure that all of areas of government are walking in the same direction. So if we've got our National Plan for women's safety and implementing that, we will of course want to align with priorities in negotiations with the states and territories in housing. And we recognise that housing is one of those critical parts of ensuring that we are better at supporting women leaving violent relationships.

KARVELAS: Australia is making little progress when it comes to the gender pay gap and representation of women at executive levels. You are responsible for Labor's National Plan for Gender Equality. How will you shift the dial there?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so that's another item on the agenda today. So we went to the election saying that we'd have a National Plan for gender equality. That is a key part of my work that I've been doing. And this is, again, something we'd like to deliver in the first 12 months so I don't want to have a long process of putting this together. States and territories have moved alone in a sense or moved individually in this area, but we think there is the opportunity to pull it together and have a National Plan. And we'll be looking at, that'll cover those issues you raise like the gender pay gap, but also leadership, representation rights, some of those issues around care and caring responsibilities and health and well-being as well. So that'll be the vehicle that we use to progress issues like the gender pay gap, but all those other things I've just outlined. And the other thing I'll do in the next month is finalise the Women's Economic Security Task Force, which is getting a task force in place to help me develop that national plan for gender equality. So there is a lot going on, PK, and I hope we can have a lot more discussions about this because part of it is raising awareness about some of these issues that remain a problem for women across our economy.

KARVELAS: Minister, child care workers will shut down centres across the nation on September 7TH to strike over poor pay and conditions. This is a priority area for Labor, you want to expand access and lower costs for parents. Now there's so many implications for this, particularly I suppose, on women's participation in work as well. I mean childcare is necessary for women to participate in work and now we're going to have this shutdown. What's on the table for the predominantly female workforce?

GALLAGHER: On child care, obviously, we've got our significant investment that we are going to be bringing in in the Budget in October and for it to ensure that people, women and parents in general, are supported better in accessing child care so that they do have choices about whether they work extra hours. In terms of staff across the care economy, obviously the big one at the moment before the Fair Work Commission is the aged care case, which is due to be completed in the next few months and the government will wait for that case to come down before we look at issues about resourcing and implementation there. But this is one of the big areas of the care economy where the Jobs and Skills Summit we'll be looking at this because, you know, women are the majority workforce in that sector. It is a growing sector, it is suffering from workforce shortages and poor pay, as we know which is goes to the point you've raised, and this will be a big focus as well, as I said in the Job Summit in September. So we recognise that getting the care economy right, making sure people are paid properly, making sure there's career progression, making it sure it supports the female workforce, in particular, is a critical issue going forward, which is why you know, I'm on the job, but we've also got it as key parts of the Job and Skills Summit in September.

KARVELAS: Minister, you will also be discussing women's reproductive rights. The Prime Minister has said he won't revisit a 2019 Labor policy requiring public hospitals to offer abortion services as part of the Commonwealth funding arrangements. Why not?

GALLAGHER: Well, the states determine what they provide through the hospitals and surgical terminations are provided through public hospitals as required but there are obviously private termination of pregnancy services that are offered across Australia as well.

KARVELAS: Yeah, but this is an equity issue. If I can cut across to say, abortions can be very expensive and inaccessible for women. This has been put back on the agenda because of what we've seen happening in the United States. Clearly women and others are saying in this country, they don't want to see that kind of scenario play out. Do you, will you revisit that idea of requiring public hospitals to offer abortion services?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think the point I'm making is they can. The Commonwealth doesn't dictate what they provide. But I would also say that Minister Ged Kearney is actually responsible for putting together the National Women's Health or a National Women's Health Plan, working with Minister Butler. Reproductive health, access to reproductive health services will form part of that plan. But we are happy to have the discussion with state and territory ministers today, noting that the issue they raised was about nationally consistent laws for the provision of termination of pregnancy services. And that is a matter that constitutionally rests with the states and territories. But I think when it was raised with me about whether or not it could be discussed at this meeting, I was happy to facilitate that. This is the way we want to engage with states and territories. If they have issues they'd like to raise, then we should facilitate that through the agenda, have the discussion and work out a way through but you know, and that's what we'll do today on that matter.

KARVELAS: This week, Anthony Albanese warned the Reserve Bank against overreach when it comes to interest rate rises. Was that appropriate for Anthony Albanese as Prime Minister to warn the Independent Reserve Bank about it setting interest rates?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think he was asked a question and he responded. I mean, the fact is the – and he knows and we all know – that the Independent Reserve Bank makes its own decisions in the best interest of the economy and I think his comments went exactly to that.

KARVELAS: But they didn't, he warned them of overreach. I mean, if —

GALLAGHER: Well, I don't think he was warning them. And he made the comment that the Independent Reserve Bank makes the decisions that they make in the best according to their mandate and in the best interest of the economy.

KARVELAS: It certainly goes further than Prime Ministers or ministers traditionally go there's no doubt about it. Was it appropriate?

GALLAGHER: Well, as I said, I think the Prime Minister made it clear that the Reserve Bank makes those decisions in according to their mandate and independent of anyone else and that, you know, that is entirely appropriate. The Prime Minister's comments were entirely appropriate.

KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us this morning. 

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much PK. 


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