Transcripts → 2023


Television Interview - ABC News Breakfast

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service


Date: Wednesday, 8 March 2023

International Women’s Day; Gender inequality; Interest rates; Online abuse.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: To mark International Women's Day, the Federal Government is releasing a new report card to show exactly where progress on gender equality is failing, in some cases, failing very badly indeed. I'm joined from Canberra now by the Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher. Senator Gallagher, good morning to you.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Good morning, Michael. Thanks for having me on.

ROWLAND: And Happy International Women's Day to you as well.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

ROWLAND: Now, gee, some of these findings of this new report are really disturbing, including the finding that one in two women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. What do you think when you come across figures like that?

GALLAGHER: Well, Michael, I think that's why we've put out this scorecard. Because I think for many Australians some of these statistics aren't well known. And I really wanted to, I guess, put front and centre on, as we're doing our work trying to progress gender equality, what some of the areas are that we need to focus on. And certainly, areas like sexual harassment, family, domestic and sexual violence, are really fundamental issues that we have to crack, we have to reduce the level of violence and harassment against women and children in this country, or we're never going to have a gender equal Australia, which is something that I think most Australians would want to see. So, the scorecard's there, we're going to put it out once a year on International Women's Day, to make sure that we are holding ourselves to account and trying to ensure that we are making progress each year against some of these really tricky issues. But it's also, you know, when you look at the data in a whole, you know, women earn less, they have less assets, less savings, women over 60 earn the least of all the demographics across society, and many of those women face issues around homelessness and things like that. So, it's, you know, there's a broader picture here, of issues that we have to tackle that the government can do part of, but it's a broader national conversation that we're trying to ensure we have.

ROWLAND: And indeed, going to one of those points you just raised there, the report finds that women over the age of 55 are the fastest group of homelessness, homeless people, in Australia. We had a woman in her sixties who got in touch with us yesterday - talking about her, in her sixties - talking about how she has had to sleep on couches in friend's homes because she simply doesn't have a home. We know what the problem is. It's a big challenge. What is the government doing to help these women in particular?

GALLAGHER: Well, thanks, Michael. And yeah, that is the shocking statistic, and that comes for a range of reasons. Sometimes it's linked to marital breakdown once children leave the home, but it's also linked to the fact that women earn less, have less savings, have less super, and have less assets when compared to men. And so that's why we're seeing it for this group, in particular, older women over the age of 55. So, it requires a range of responses, Michael, it requires investment in housing and homelessness, it requires us to look at how we close the gender pay gap and deal with issues there. It also requires us to have a look at how we are supporting single women, and I had a roundtable with single women and some of the issues that are affecting them across the social security system. But also, more broadly about them feeling like they are the forgotten group in this country, that when we have a conversation about women, we often talk about women and children, and this is an area that we've got to focus on more and support that group more.

ROWLAND: Okay, listen, before we go, I want to circle back to how women are treated before we finish this conversation. But just briefly switching to your other cap, you're the Minister for Finance as well, is it time for the RBA board to put the brakes on?

GALLAGHER: Well, Michael, I think I've been on your show before and said the RBA is an independent body, it makes its decisions independently of government. And it's, I don't think, particularly useful or constructive for someone in my position to provide an opinion on that. They have a job to do, a difficult job to do. I think we've all been impacted, you know, I think across Australia, by the tightening cycle that's happening. And the government's got a job to do, which is to make sure that we are dealing with the inflation on where it falls within our area of responsibility. So, looking at how we, you know, our expenditure, how we provide cost of living relief to people, how we repair the Budget, and how we deal with some of those supply chain issues which are impacting inflation. So, you know, we understand completely that these increases in interest rates impact on households, we understand the cost of living pressure that's placing on households, and our job is to look at what we can do to make a difference there in a sensible and affordable way, but not make the bank's job harder at the moment.

ROWLAND: Now before we go, one of the big problems facing women right around Australia is the way they are treated online. You'd be aware of the appalling, the vile, the offensive comments directed at my co-presenter Lisa Millar over the last couple of days simply because of what she chose to wear to work a couple of days ago. I want to get your thoughts on that. And also, what you think of the news outlets who amplified that bullying by running stories on Lisa, and in doing so, repeating some of those vile comments?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, Michael look when, I mean, for women in public life, unfortunately, at the moment, this is part of our experience. And you know, when I see it happen, it's incredibly frustrating and distressing, because we all endure it in one way or another. And we know the nature of the trolling and the abuse to women online is particularly nasty. It's particularly gendered, it's often sexualised, it's often threatening, and, you know, to some degree, if we want to pursue careers that are in the public life, our choice is put up with it or withdraw from it. It's not an acceptable situation at all. And we know that it impacts on women's choices. And this goes back to my point about gender equality. We're not going to have a gender equal Australia, if people are seeing Lisa's experience and others' experience. It will mean that women choose not to go and pursue careers where they have to endure that kind of online abuse, and I think you know, we all have a responsibility, a broader community responsibility, to deal with these situations, when they emerge in a responsible way. Amplifying it, repeating it, providing clickbait to generate readers or customers to your site, I think, is completely unacceptable because it makes the problem worse.

ROWLAND: Katy Gallagher, really appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much for having me on.


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