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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1741


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (10:59): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that International Women's Day:

(a) will be celebrated globally on Sunday, 8 March 2015;

(b) is a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women, and to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development; and

(c) in 2015 will reflect on the Beijing Platform for Action, a progressive blueprint for advancing women's rights launched 20 years ago at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing;

(2) notes that:

(a) at the launch of Beijing +20 in 2014, United Nations Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka identified that a number of critical areas for women raised in Beijing 20 years ago still require significant action to address, including:

   (i) reducing women's share of poverty;

   (ii) improving access to health and education;

   (iii) ending violence against women;

   (iv) ensuring women's full participation in decision-making;

   (v) ensuring women's equal opportunities in the economy;

   (vi) removing gender stereotypes;

   (vii) increasing women's role in the media; and

   (viii) protecting the human rights of all women and girls; and

(3) urges all Members of Parliament to be leaders in their community and act on the advancement of gender equality in Parliament.

Next Sunday, 8 March, is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women and to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is an also an opportunity to stop and check on the direction we are moving in towards gender equality, to take stock and to confront squarely the challenges ahead.

This year, International Women's Day will highlight the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap, signed by 189 governments including Australia, 20 years ago, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. In Australia, we have made progress in implementing the Beijing Platform—and so we should, I might add—and in recent years have made a number of significant achievements, as outlined in our most recent report to the United Nations. Labor's introduction of an affordable national paid parental leave scheme in 2011 has assisted more than 400,000 families to balance family, caring and work roles and allowed women to take time off work to care for their child.

Internationally, we have been a major contributor to promoting women's leadership, economic empowerment and safety in the Pacific region. I have been lucky enough in the last 12 months to take part in women's leadership programs in Samoa and the Solomon Islands and this morning I joined with Madam Speaker and a number of women parliamentary colleagues from across the political divide with a delegation of Fijian women parliamentarians. These engagements with women from across the Pacific provide renewed impetus for me—and I hope this parliament—to ensure that Australia continues to take a lead role in our region to promote gender equality, opportunity and safety for women.

In 2010, the former Labor government introduced a 12-year framework to address Australia's commitment to upholding the human rights of women and to bring together the nation to achieve a significant and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women. I note that the current government have continued the implementation of the plan, and I commend them for doing so, although I share the very real concerns raised by Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, about the negative impact of cuts to government funding and front-line support services for women and children.

In Australia, on average one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence, and it is most likely to occur in her home. In Indigenous communities, the statistics are at their worst, with Aboriginal women 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for violent assault than non-Indigenous women, and 10 times more likely to die as a result of family violence. These are shocking statistics for a wealthy and developed nation like Australia. No nation can afford to have so many of its citizens left in such dangerous and vulnerable circumstances to fend for themselves. We must make a more concerted effort on a national level to address these issues. No woman or child should feel unsafe in their own home, anywhere or anytime.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to the issue of inequality in the workplace. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency was established in 2012 to promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces. Australia remains a nation where women are paid less for the work they do, do more unpaid work, are denied seats at the heads of the largest corporations—and in this place too, I might add—are more stressed and are more likely to be victims of workplace harassment. As reported last week, our gender pay gap has blown out to a record high, stretching to 18.8 per cent. What was the government's response to this inequality in the workplace? It was a watering down of the gender reporting guidelines for businesses, as announced last week. I call on the 'Prime Minister for women' and his government to reconsider their position in light of the shocking state of the gender pay equity gap in Australia.

As outlined in the motion before the House today, International Women's Day is a time to reflect. If we are serious about gender inequality, we must confront the stark reality that we need to do much more. I look forward to celebrating International Women's Day with colleagues and organisations in Canberra this week and, on return to my electorate of Newcastle, I will celebrate with the Union of Australian Women at their annual dinner with special guest speaker Helen Cummings, a longstanding activist and advocate against violence towards women.

I finish with some words delivered by our first woman Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who reflected on inequality at an event just last week:

When it comes to gender inequality, we feel the restlessness reminiscent of children in the back of the car chanting 'are we there yet', and unfo rtunately we are not there yet.

(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Is the motion seconded?

Mrs Elliot: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.