Transcripts → 2024


Doorstop interview - Parliament House, Canberra

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT


Date: Saturday, 6 January 2024

Gender pay gap; Stage three tax cuts; Cost of living; May Budget; Transaction fees; Skin cancer checks; National Anti-Corruption Commission

SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thanks for coming and Happy New Year. We've got some important changes coming this year for the gender pay gap reporting. So obviously, we've been seeing that gender pay gap start to reduce, but it's not reducing fast enough. At the current rate it's going to take about a quarter of a century for us to reach parity between men and women in the workplace. So, we believe this big change, that we passed the legislation for last year will come in and it will publish gender pay gaps for companies and businesses with more than 100 employees. That first report will be available in February. And for the first time, we will see at an individual level what's happening in individual businesses across Australia. In the past, it's been reported at industry level. So, we've been able to see in certain areas like banking and finance, construction, we've got big gaps, but we haven't been able to see what's happening at individual levels. And we believe this will drive the change that's needed to close that gender pay gap faster than it's currently reducing. So, a big change, we're really keen to work with companies. So, we want companies to be looking at their gender pay gap, being aware of it, and also be explaining what they're doing to reduce that, because at the moment, if you've looked at all remuneration, bonuses, other payments, it's about $26,000 a year that women get paid less than men, and we don't think that's fair. And we want to see that reduced and we want equality in terms of pay in the workplace. And this change will give us I think, a significant boost into seeing that happen. Happy to take other questions of the day or questions on that as well. 

JOURNALIST: Just on the gender pay gap because that'll take about a quarter of a century to close it under current projections. With all the measures that you're taking, how long will it take under Labor, to close the gender pay gap? 

GALLAGHER: It's pretty difficult, I guess, because we don't control, so for some of those decisions that are taken at a business level, what we do know and when we've looked at international experience, is that when this happened in the UK, we saw a significant reduction from that first point of reporting, partly because businesses became aware themselves what was happening in their workplace. So, we haven't put a time frame on it. But this first data I think, will give us a very good indication of what's happening at individual business level and then we can start driving the change from there. I think everyone's in agreement that 25 years is too long, and we want to see it significantly reduced.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can you guarantee that all workers even those on the highest incomes will get their full stage three tax cut from July one?

GALLAGHER:  Well,our position on the tax cuts haven't changed. They're legislated, they're due to come into effect on the first of July [this year] the parliament passed them in the last term. 

JOURNALIST: Those earning above $200,000 will receive a benefit of more than $9,000. While those on the lowest incomes will get less than $1,000. Is the government considering any additional tax relief for those who need it most?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think the Prime Minister has made it clear that we are constantly looking at ways to support households that are doing it really tough. Our first, you know measures that went to some of those issues around social security payments, energy bill relief, cheaper childcare. They have been targeted at particular income thresholds. We're aware that particularly those with mortgages, they've been really feeling the interest rate increases. And there's more work to do and the PM has been clear that we will be looking at further measures to support people with cost-of-living pressures through the Budget process that started in December that will really, you know, we'll have a lot of work to do in January and February in the lead up to May.

JOURNALIST: But tax relief in particular?

GALLAGHER:  Well, I think what we're saying is in cost-of-living measures, you know, tax is one way you can provide relief back to families, but you can in other ways as our cost-of-living measures have already shown. And we will, we will look at what we can afford, what the Budget can afford, but also what we can do that doesn't add to the inflation challenge in the economy. I mean, one of the big issues that we've been trying to deal with is making sure that when we are making investments in cost-of-living relief, that we aren't adding to the inflation challenge in the economy. That's a real balancing act that we've been carefully navigating over the past 18 months and it's still an issue and we need to be mindful of that.

JOURNALIST: So, are you concerned these tax cuts this year will be inflationary?

GALLAGHER: No, because they have been factored in and they've factored into the inflation, you know, to the CPI forecasts in the Budget. And in certainly I would imagine into the RBA’s inflation targets because they have been legislated and they've been understood.

JOURNALIST: Card fees are costing Australians an estimated billion dollars a year you know, fees on payments. Michelle Bullock has come out today saying she'd like to see that sector sort of reformed, she thinks we're being ripped off, do you think that should happen as well? You know, like fees on when you're paying with your credit card at the shops?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, look, this is something the RBA has raised over a number of years, and I think it's one of those issues that really irks Australians. I mean, you can do it when you go and pay in a car park with your pay pass as you're going out. They'll add another charge on there and I think that is an issue that we want financial institutions and those providers that those credit card services to be looking at. And I know the RBA has you know they have the I guess the regulatory responsibility to be having a look at this. It's been raised in a lot of forums, and we would hope that those banks and financial institutions are looking at it because all of this stuff adds up to people's you know, what they take home and what they have in their pockets to make household, you know, budgets meet each week.

JOURNALIST: Would you support a crackdown on those transaction fees?

GALLAGHER:  Well, we've been supportive of the work that the RBA has been doing and raising and working with those institutions over this. Yes. I mean, I think everyone needs you know, we accept that businesses need to, you know, make an income to manage and to provide services but we don't believe or we want to make sure that what they are charging is reasonable and not, you know, additional costs on people that need to use credit cards and electronic funds for their day to day living.

JOURNALIST:  Would it require any legislative change by the government? Or is it solely something that can be regulated by the Reserve Bank?

GALLAGHER:  From my understanding this is something that the RBA manages, but obviously we work closely with the RBA on these matters, and I know that they would be, if there are certain things the government would need to do, that we would be open to discussing that.

JOURNALIST: On another topic, there's a push for free melanoma checks and some GP appointments are costing people up to $300. Considering the cost-of-living crisis, in your role as a senior member of the government, do you think that that's something that should be looked at?

GALLAGHER:  Well, certainly we want to be strengthening Medicare and that's why we've been putting billions of dollars into Medicare to make it easier and more affordable for people to go to their general practitioner. I know a lot of people go there as their first point of call for a skin check before maybe being referred to another skin specialist. So, part of our investment into making sure people can afford to go to GP’s is so that they are able to follow up any concerns they have or just the normal yearly screening that they might be doing for skin checks. I know the Department of Health and through the National Cancer plan, the new cancer plan that the Minister for Health has released, these issues of screening, population-based screening programs are one of those things that the cancer plan looks at and you know, they take a range of issues into consideration when determining what you know what areas warrant a national screening program. So, we have it for example, for bowel cancer screening, we have it for cervical cancer screening, and that's where it's met certain thresholds. But I think from our point of view at this point in time, it's about making sure that people can get into a GP, can have a skin check, if they need to, at a price or cost that's affordable. And I would also say as we're in summer and a lot of people are at the beach. It is one of the most preventable cancers around is skin cancer and so slip slop slap when you’re outside is one of the key things every individual can do to reduce the risk of skin cancer. 

JOURNALIST: So, should the checks be free?

GALLAGHER: Well, again, this is I think this is a matter that would be determined through advice to government around broad-based population screening programs. And that hasn't been the case to date. As I said, there's a number, breast screen, cervical cancer, bowel cancer where there are population-based screening programs, usually targeted at a particular age. And that hasn't been the case so far for melanoma.

JOURNALIST: Now that we’re only a few months away from seeing the stage three tax cuts come into effect, and people will be able to clearly see that disparity between what those on the highest incomes will get and those on the lowest incomes. What do you say to those on the lowest incomes about the fairness of these tax cuts and why it's structured the way it is? 

GALLAGHER: So, I think it is useful to remember that stage one and two of the tax cuts were targeted at lower incomes, people on lower incomes. This is the final stage, stage three. But what I would say is that the government is constantly looking at ways to support households who were doing it tough. I mean our 23 billion dollars in cost-of-living relief. Some of that is heavily targeted to people on low incomes and on concessions, recognising that they needed additional support during what's been a pretty tough year or so. And we will continue to do that, work is underway on the Budget. We're looking at that now. We've got a few months of pretty intense meetings as we go through that, and we will keep monitoring it and make decisions on what the Budget can afford. How we meet those cost-of-living pressures, particularly on households who are feeling the pinch and how we don't add to the inflation challenge in the economy.

JOURNALIST: Are you hoping tax relief helps people? 

GALLAGHER: Well, I think tax relief does help people. I mean, if you're providing more back through the taxation system that's going to add into people's household budgets.

JOURNALIST:  Last month, the Australian reported that Linda Reynolds had reported the Brittany Higgins payment to the National Anti-Corruption Commission. Have you or your department, heard from the National Anti-Corruption Commission on that matter? 

GALLAGHER: Look, I haven't, but I'm not commenting, and I think the government’s position has been that we are not commenting on any matters that may, or may not be, before the National Anti-Corruption Commission.