SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women
Date: Wednesday, 8 February 2023
GREG JENNETT, HOST: Katy Gallagher, thanks for coming back on Afternoon Briefing on what I expect, like all sitting days, is a busy one for you. On gender pay gap, you're legislating for compulsory reporting of women's pay by employers. This is data that's already collected, it would start next year. So what will change from current practice?
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Well, we're collecting the same data, the change is that we'll be recording that data at an organisational level. So instead of, in previous years, it's been reported at industry level, so you can see gender pay gaps within industry. This will actually attribute those gender pay gaps to your organisation. So, for those businesses that have 100 or more staff, it will be publicly reported what your gender pay gap is, and we've seen overseas evidence that when that is done, you do see more efforts made by employers to close that gender pay gap.
JENNETT: How many entities will that capture?
GALLAGHER: Well, yeah, thousands. It's for every employer across the country, including public sector. So the public service will be reporting as well, with businesses over 100. And the information, it's really taking the information we currently gather to the next step, and really trying to drive an accelerated response. Because at the moment, we know, if things keep going as they are, we're not going to close that gender pay gap for another 26 years.
JENNETT: Now of that projection, how does this compress it below 26 years?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think it's really the behavioural response that will come from publishing that data, so people will be able to see if you're a big company, or you know, that if people have an interest in a particular industry, where to go and work. I mean, I think it will change, and that means businesses will have to respond to that. And that in itself will accelerate that. I think it's hard to measure, although I am a fan of targets and trying to achieve change over time. If that's not included, there's more work to be done in that space.
JENNETT: You don't rule out a target?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think it's more about how we measure progress. You know, we want to see change, we want to close the gender pay gap. Women don't get paid as much as men in this country. We want to change that. This is an approach that will drive some of that behaviour change, but more needs to be done, and not just by this legislation. It will take more than that.
JENNETT: Yeah, sure. Why don't we move on to your own workplace, you've been on your feet in the Senate and the House has dealt also today with a code of conduct for staff and for MPs. Sitting beyond its adoption, though, is the question of sanctions or penalties, if you like, that's an ongoing piece of work. For parliamentarians, the recommendation is for something like suspension, that it goes back to a chamber to impose that penalty. Why? Couldn't that thwart on political lines, appropriate punishment for misdeeds?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think we're getting to sort of the pointy end of the implementation of the Set the Standard Report. So we've made a lot of changes in recognition that this workplace, not just in this building, but across Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces, wasn't always a positive experience for staff, in fact, the opposite. So we've put in a lot of changes, the change now, around the codes, and this has been something that's been attempted. So I'm not pretending before, I'm not pretending that this is going to be easy work to land across the Parliament. Our hope is that we can all move as a Parliament on this. Today was a good example of that, where we've all endorsed the draft behaviour codes and standards. So that's the first step. The next step is how we establish the body that does the investigative, and sort of, compliance side of enforcing those codes. And as you say, the tricky bit will be what are the sanctions? Is it public recording? Is it other sanctions that the chamber imposes? But that's got to be worked through.
JENNETT: Well, they'll escalate over a scale depending on the nature of the misconduct. But even so, you come back to the position we have now, don't you, that you're tiptoeing forever around the question of privilege, and this commission may not be given the power to impose any penalty per se, on parliamentarians.
GALLAGHER: Well, that's over to us to help design. And again, I think there's the appetite across the Parliament. Everyone understands what happened 12 months ago, when that report was tabled. I don't think anyone was proud to say that, you know, everything in this workplace was right, because it isn't. We should be leading the way. So, the onus is on parliamentarians to get that body right. You know, it's got a, it's got to balance, like it can't be used for political purposes. It shouldn't be. That's not the purpose. And there's a lot of politics in this place. So how we manage that is critical, how we land it and hopefully how we get unanimous support for it.
JENNETT: Yeah, and that's an ongoing piece of work for you and others. Let's go to some news of the day. Published a little earlier today, a report in the Australian Financial Review, saying the Albanese Government's agreed to a demand from Peter Dutton and will have the Electoral Commission mail pamphlets to voters around the Voice referendum. Peter Dutton is calling that a backflip. Is it happening? And is it a backflip?
GALLAGHER: Well, we've been negotiating across the Parliament with the machinery legislation that is to set up the rules for how a referendum would be held in the country and modernising it, essentially. As part of those negotiations, things have been put on the table, and I think it's an indication, you know, the Prime Minister has always said, he wants to reach out and work with the Opposition on this. And I think this is a sign of that, there was representations made about the 'no' pamphlets. The current legislation is that you would have a 'no' pamphlet mailed out, and, you know, in terms of getting that legislation through, we'll make that change.
JENNETT: Well, just to be clear, the machinery bill says there will not be 'yes' or 'no' pamphlets mailed out. What's being discussed today is whether there is separate to that an AEC public information campaign, you're telling us that there will be.
GALLAGHER: That's right, I meant the current laws, the ones that operate now, before that bill passes, have the publication of a 'yes' and 'no' case. As part of the discussions on facilitating the passage of the new bill, which would modernise, but put in the arrangements this referendum. The 'yes' and 'no' case, the pamphlet, the official pamphlet, if you want to call it that, those arrangements will be put in the bill. And I think again, it's a sign, you know, I see Mr. Dutton wanting to play politics with it again, it's really a sign of our attempt to work across the Parliament to reach agreement on this.
JENNETT: So, meeting him somewhere in the middle or further beyond the middle on these pamphlets is a price you're prepared to pay to hold bipartisanship around these measures?
GALLAGHER: Well, we negotiate on every piece of legislation in the Senate, as you know, like, you know, it's a minority chamber. On these negotiations, I think the agreement reached is that we would continue with the arrangements that exist in place under the current laws, that is the publication of a 'yes' and 'no' pamphlet. If that gets the Parliament moving together, that is a good outcome.
JENNETT: All right, we'll wait for the information on that. On cost of living, your colleague, Steven Jones, has expressed a view today that he's hoping we are, if not at the peak of rate rises from the Reserve Bank, then very near to it. “We,” he says, “we think what's already in the system should do the job to ensure we can dampen demand.” Who is “we”? Because it sounds a bit like if “we” is the Government, is jawboning the Reserve Bank.
GALLAGHER: Well, I haven't seen his comments, so it's difficult to respond to those. But I would say, you know, the Reserve Bank has a tough job. It's trying to deal with this inflation challenge without crunching the economy. We've got our own responsibilities. The Reserve Bank is independent, they issued their advice yesterday, in terms of, you know, the decision, they took, and we leave those decisions to them. I don't think it's particularly useful for us to pre-empt or speculate on what they might do. They've got a mandate, they've got to get inflation down, we've got a job to do to not interfere essentially, or make their job harder with the decisions we take as the Government.
JENNETT: Okay, don't speak for them, then, speak for the Government. Does the Government, the Treasury or your department have any advice that what's already in the system will be sufficient to dampen demand and therefore not require further interest rate increases?
GALLAGHER: I think the information that I've seen and the discussions I've had with officials, is that we're certainly seeing the impact of the rate rises today, those that started before the election, and the ones that have continued after, that we are seeing the signs of that impacting across the economy. Obviously, mortgage holders feel it first, and it takes some time to see, what, how it manifests across the economy, and we're seeing that. But as to whether there are future ones, you know, people speculating today, obviously, as they do, that really is a matter for the Reserve Bank, not for the Government.
JENNETT: You are, as we said at the outset, covering a few matters in the Senate these days. Yesterday, you led out with that motion that tried to, or did succeed, in re-designating Nauru as an offshore processing country. Never addressed the question though, why? How did this come about?
GALLAGHER: Look, I think these are things you have to deal with in Government. That instrument lapsed, it shouldn't have. You know, there should be processes in place that makes sure that those instruments don't lapse.
JENNETT: Aren't there?
GALLAGHER: Well, we were advised there were, but you know, from time to time, you will see issues like this arise. So, I think the Government's job is to respond to them and to deal with them, so we brought it back to the Chamber at the first opportunity we had to deal with it. It had no practical impact on the Operation Sovereign Borders policy.
JENNETT: That's purely because no boats arrived in those four months, but it could have if one had.
GALLAGHER: That's right, and, you know, obviously contingency planning is done around that. That's in another portfolio area. But, you know, the job of the Government, when these issues arise, and there will be more I have no doubt, not necessarily in the Home Affairs area, but across Government where these instruments lapse, there's so many of them, that you have to deal with that and you have to front-up to the Parliament and take what you get. And, you know, we got a bit of that yesterday. The main point is that the arrangements are back in place as they should have been and they shouldn't have lapsed and arrangements have been put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again.
JENNETT: Yeah, well, here's hoping. Katy Gallagher we could go on, but we won't. Your time is limited, so is ours. Thanks for joining us again on Afternoon Briefing.
GALLAGHER: Thank you for having me.
Lisa Glenday 0403 931 209 | Gallagher.Media@finance.gov.au