Transcripts → 2022


Television Interview - ABC Afternoon Briefing

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women


Date: Friday, 25 November 2022

Bell inquiry report into Scott Morrison’s multiple ministries, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Inquiry into Queensland Police Service responses to domestic and family violence.

NOUR HAYDAR, HOST: Katy Gallagher, thanks for speaking with Afternoon Briefing. Before I get to some questions about your role as Minister for Women, I do just want to start by asking you some questions about some breaking news. Do you think it is appropriate for Scott Morrison to remain in Parliament, given this inquiry has found that secrecy around his appointment to multiple ministries was corrosive of trust in government?

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thanks, Nour. Thanks for having me on. Well, I think whether Scott Morrison remains in Parliament is a matter for him to consider. I think what we've learned today from the outcomes of the Bell inquiry, confirms I think what people were worried about that, you know, having multiple ministries, the colleagues not knowing fundamentally undermined our system of government and trust in that government. Including trust within the government itself at the time. And I think the Prime Minister was right to order the inquiry. The inquiry has come up with a number of recommendations.  Cabinet will consider them but I expect will agree with those recommendations because it is important we can't see our system of government, trust in government, trust in our democratic processes eroded away. They're precious and we have to hold on to them and that's fundamentally what I think the inquiry found and what the recommendations will ensure.

HAYDAR: Some of the recommendations require legislative changes. Is that something you think you'll be able to pass in the final sitting week of Parliament?

GALLAGHER: Well I'm not sure about the timing for that. I mean, obviously, we've got a packed legislative agenda. The Cabinet will need to consider the report. The Prime Minister's only just received it, so there's a little bit to do there. We've got a final week, and we've got a lot of bills in place and we need to make sure we get this right. But I would imagine because of the seriousness of what's been found in this inquiry, what we've learnt since, you know, these revelations were revealed to the public, that the Parliament will want time and opportunity to debate and consider these recommendations.

HAYDAR: Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, so I did just want to ask you about the government's pledge to end violence within a generation. It is a big commitment. But can the public trust that as governments come and go, that goal will remain in focus?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think so because it's a goal that's been signed up to by states and territories and the federal government of different political persuasions. I think it is a shared goal. And I would also say governments and in fact parliaments can't do this on their own. It is a national shame that violence against women and children is as prevalent as it is across Australia. I think the more we talk about that, the more we raise it, the more we say how unacceptable it is, the better it is. Because you know, until we accept that this is a problem we need to fix, as a community, we're going to continue to see women die, children die, hundreds of thousands hospitalised, traumatised and the economic impact alone be so significant. So you know, we absolutely have to get it right, because lives are depending on us.

HAYDAR: The government has made over the last six months some substantial changes that women's advocates have been calling for. From domestic violence leave, paid domestic violence leave through to the Respect@Work legislation, which is in the Senate today, to some broader structural issues around childcare and paid parental leave. What do you want to see done throughout the rest of this term of government and indeed into the next term of government to improve women's safety and economic security?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so we've sort of had a cracking pace in the first six months and done a lot of what you've just outlined; we passed the Respect@Work bill just before so that's really good and important reform. The National Strategy for Gender Equality is the next big piece and the violence, addressing and eliminating violence, is a key part of that. Because until we can get that bit right, we're never going to have a gender-equal Australia. So I'm focused on getting that strategy in place, hopefully by the first half of next year, because that'll be the overarching document that sort of guides all of our decision making. But we've made no secret that women, women's economic security, addressing the inequality that exists across our community for women, is central to our agenda as a government. We've been clear about that from day one, and it will continue to be the case.

HAYDAR: You hold both the Finance and Women's portfolios. The big thing that many people are talking about is the rate of JobSeeker, particularly given the connection or correlation between poverty, homelessness and violence against women. Are you looking to increase the rate given that connection?

GALLAGHER: Well, we've said we'll look at the rate of all payments in every budget. We did it in our first October budget and I think you saw in that $32 billion increase across payments. Now that was partly to deal with the inflation challenge we're seeing, but over the next 18 months, that will lift the rate of JobSeeker by about $2,000 a year. Now, some will say that's not enough. But I think you can, again, see our commitment to doing what we can, in a reasonable and affordable way. We recognise that people on payments are doing it tough. We've also got a budget in deficit and a big debt burden to manage and so we have to balance up a range of competing priorities. But addressing poverty, supporting women, supporting single women with children, is something, you know, that is, again, central to our agenda.

HAYDAR: On the Respect@Work legislation, the government has agreed to review the issue of who should ultimately bear the cost of any action taken against an employer when it comes to workplace discrimination or harassment. What approach would you like to see be taken here?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so this came quite late in the piece where we already agreed to implement the 55 recommendations. And then some concerns were raised by stakeholders about the implications of sort of cost neutrality approach, which is where everyone sort of is at risk for paying their own costs, regardless of whether they win or lose. We knew there were barriers for women pursuing cases under the old model, and, you know, potentially being out of pocket, so that that was a real disincentive. Stakeholders are telling us that there are still some disincentives that would discourage women from pursuing cases under the cost neutrality arrangement. So we've undertaken to have a look at that. We've sort of carved that out, we'll have a look at that pretty quick through a departmental review, and then consider it and come back, work with all of the stakeholders. But essentially, we were responding to the concerns that have been raised just in the last couple of months.

HAYDAR: I want to ask you about an inquiry that's been taking place in Queensland into the way that the Queensland Police Service deals with domestic violence cases. It found that a failure of leadership had allowed a toxic culture of sexism, misogyny and racism to fester within the police force. Yet nobody has lost their job. Do you think that's good enough?

GALLAGHER: Well, look, I haven't followed it closely. I've been reading, obviously, news stories about it and I think all of us are horrified at some of the evidence that comes out of this. It's not peculiar, essentially, to Queensland. We've seen it in other jurisdictions as well, we've seen it in Commonwealth entities over time as well, we've seen workplace culture and workplace conduct that's not acceptable. And I guess the easy fix is to sack people, and at times that is appropriate. I'm not close enough to the Queensland one to have a view on that. But I would say the harder piece of work is actually reforming the workplace itself, and culture is part of that. Leadership is essential to that. I have after all these years in public administration, you know, leading from the top is what fundamentally changes culture the most and we have to absolutely have a zero tolerance to poor culture in workplaces. Part of that is the Respect@Work legislation that we just passed, but it's an ongoing piece of work.

HAYDAR: Senator Katy Gallagher, thank you for your time.

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much, Nour.


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