Transcripts → 2024


Doorstop interview - Parliament House, Canberra

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


Date: Thursday, 7 March 2024

Superannuation on Paid Parental Leave; Penny Wong becoming the longest-serving female cabinet minister; Minister Burke travel; Expenditure Review Committee.

JOURNALIST: Katy you've said that you're not going to tell us how much this policy is going to cost, you clearly think that it's worth it because you wouldn't be announcing it if not, so why not tell us how much it's going to cost?

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Well, the details of that will be finalised in the Budget and published in the ordinary way. But I can confirm that it is you know, a significant investment, hundreds of millions of dollars per year that we will be allocating to make sure that you know, we are paying super on PPL, which we pay super on a whole range of workplace conditions. And this is another one and we think this is an outlier. And this is one way we can address that. But also importantly, not only will it help women’s super-balances at retirement, it will also send a strong message that we value, unpaid care or paid and unpaid care you know when women take time out of their careers to care for children. We don't think they should incur another financial penalty on that.

JOURNALIST: Is $250 million around the mark? There are reports today that that's the rough figure.

GALLAGHER: Well, there's a couple of things going on there. I mean, you know, some original costings, were done in that order. But we are expanding paid parental leave as well. So, we're increasing the entitlement for six months. So, as we do that the cost of this initiative will increase. But you know, I'm not pretending, it is a significant investment that we're making today, but we think it's worth it. We've found room to pay for it. And we think it sends a strong message about the value that we place on women, the role they play as carers in our community, and also that we should be doing what we can to close that super gender pay gap, which for most women, when they're retiring is a gap between male peers in the order of 25 to 30 per cent.

JOURNALIST: What guarantee can you give that this will come into place by July next year, given the economy, economic conditions keep changing? We've heard from the Government you have to adapt when things change. Is there a guarantee though, regardless of what happens this comes into place?

GALLAGHER: Yes, that's right. It's a decision the Government's taken and it will be reflected in the Budget papers when they're published in May. Then we need to pass legislation through the parliament, [inaudible] all parties in the Parliament would support that legislation getting through.

JOURNALIST: On the Opposition. Obviously, they're taking a look at what's been announced today, in the past they've suggested paid parental leave is a welfare payment. Do you agree with that definition?

GALLAGHER: Absolutely not. And I think that goes and shows you the times that we're operating in when it comes to the Opposition. I mean, it's always back to the future. You know, this is not a welfare payment. This is a workplace condition that many people have as part of their conditions of employment. They have unpaid parental leave. This is paid parental leave, and now it has super on it, annual leave, personal leave, all other forms of leave have super paid on it. This was the outlier. We're addressing that with this announcement today. It is not a welfare payment. It is a payment that we make to people who are having breaks from their career whilst they have children and it's a very old fashioned and out of date view to hold that view that it is a welfare payment.

JOURNALIST: We're one day away from International Women's Day. And so perhaps good timing that Penny Wong has become the first, the longest serving female cabinet minister. What kind of an achievement is that?

GALLAGHER: Well, as you all know, Penny Wong is an incredible politician. She's an incredible human. She's a good friend of mine and in many ways, she's led whether it be, you know, being an Australian of Malaysian descent in Parliament, whether it be her advocacy around same sex marriage, whether it be her leadership through the Labor Party, I mean, Penny has always been there as a shining light that many of us have followed. And I don't think it's any surprise that she's one of Australia's favourite politicians, but also that you know, her skills and experience have been recognised through her appointments in Government and yeah, she's just an all-round good person and I'm really pleased but not surprised to see her leading the way.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Tony Burke should have to explain why his four-day trip to the US was so expensive?

GALLAGHER: Look, I think this is always difficult, but you know, politicians have to travel, ministers have to travel, and there are costs associated with that. I think people expect us to, to you know, minimise costs as much as we can, and make sure that every dollar spent is a dollar that's needed to be spent. And then that information is made public so that people can have a look at it and we're accountable for that. You know, we've made savings in travel, in legal, in advertising, across Government. You know, and I think taxpayers expect us to do that. But we have been reducing those budgets, but there will be costs incurred when people travel and you know, they often travel at short notice. I'm going tomorrow to New York for the conference on the Status of Women. It's a meeting I didn't attend last year, I'm attending this year, there will be costs associated with that trip. And it's part of the work that we have to do as ministers.

JOURNALIST: So, you are saying $57,000 is fair enough?

GALLAGHER: Look, I don't know the breakdown of all of those costs. But you know, I accept that it is expensive to travel. And I again say that the Government expects that when we do travel, and the Prime Minister has made this clear that we manage costs as efficiently and as effectively as we can. And then of course, we are accountable for those costs.

JOURNALIST: Just in your position as Finance Minister, the SMH this morning was reporting growing disquiet among some ministers, in terms of spending decisions. Do you think that some policies that perhaps Labor would be supporting are being sacrificed for the sake of a budget surplus?

GALLAGHER: Well, I've seen the reports, and I don't think it's any surprise that we have people who would like to do more, and a budget that can't do everything. And part of my job has been working with Jim Chalmers to make sure that you know where we are making additional investments, additional spending, that we're able to do so in a responsible way, that we've you know, as we've said so many times we have costs coming at us faster than we can absorb them, whether it be health, defence, aged care, NDIS, paying the interest on our debt, those areas, you know, are increasing not decreasing, and, you know, it's a fact that Labor Governments like to do things and it's my job to say we can't do everything.