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Live. Today at the National Press

Club - the Sex Discrimination

Commissioner, Elizabeth

Broderick. With the global

recession tightening its grip,

Ms Brocerick questions whether

women are on the verge of

recession, too, at risk of

losing gains made in the work

force. Sex Discrimination

Commissioner Elizabeth

Press Club address. Broderick with today's National

Ladies and gentlemen, and I

might say today particularly

ladies, welcome to the National

Press Club and today's National

Australia Bank address. It's a

great pleasure to have

Elizabeth Broderick here today, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and responsibility

for age discrimination as well. One of the reasons for today

being particularly appropriate

is it's already been quite a

big day for Elizabeth Broderick

and her causes, the government

having this morning announced

their program for minimising

and hopefully eliminating violence against women and children, which is something

with which she has been

identified very closely in

recent times. Sir Donald

Bradman has now been

Commissioner for close to two

years and has spoken to

thousands of Australians about

the issues that affect her

portfolio, if you can call it

of economic stress such as that, but of course, in a time

this, there are particular

problems which she intends to

address in more detail today.

Please welcome Elizabeth


Thank you very much, Ken.

It's a great pleasure to be

speaking here at the National

Press Club today. You're right,

my identical twin sister is

here and if things get a bit

ugly, I might just have to

substitute her in! It heartens

me today to welcome the release

of the national council's plan

to reduce violence against

women and their children. This

is the first time we've had a

national plan in such a

comprehensive form. And the

challenge now is to ensure that

the plan is properly resourced

so that all women and their

children can live a life free

from violence. Speaking in the

nation's capital today reminds

me of an experience I had

several years ago now when I

was asked to speak at the

annual Government Lawyers

Conference in Parliament House.

I was delirious with excitement. I'd always wanted

to speak in Parliament House.

So I raced that morning, jumped

a flight down to Canberra, I

grabbed a taxi, and off to

Parliament House. I raced in

there, to reception. Said to

the reception ist "Can you tell

me, where is the government

lawyers' conference being

held?" She looked blankly at me

and said "There is no such

thing on here today." I said

"Look, there is, it says here,

government lawyers conference,

Parliament House." She said

"Madam, if you read the next

line, it says Sydney."

Aah! (LAUGHTER) So there I was

trying to realise my life

ambition down here in Canberra

when the conference was

actually taking place in the

New South Wales Parliament and

my speaking slot was only an

hour away. I not only managed

to sprint down the runway and

grab the plane back do Sydney

but I had 10 minutes to spare

and an extra 500 frequent flyer

miles! I have been in my role

as the Sex Discrimination

Commissioner now for just over

18 months. Although it feels a

bit longer, Ken! And during

that time, I've met countless

inspirational women and men

from all walks of life. Many of

these have been Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander people.

Let me begin this morning by

firstly acknowledging we are

gathered here today on the

Ngunawal people and to pay my traditional lands of the

respects to their elders past

and present. I'd particularly

like today to pay tribute to

the many Indigenous women of

this area and also to the

non-Indigenous women for for

many decades have spoken out on

the rights of women. Without

their advocacy, it's unlikely

that I'd be standing up here on this platform as the

commissioner, but also as a mum

with two young children. I did

wonder whether today I might go

out on a limb and predict

whether or not paid parental

leave would be in Federal

Budget in May. (LAUGHTER) But

you know what? I thought ...

maybe it's not such a good

idea, because if I get this

wrong, I don't want a stream of

you approaching me nursing

babies called Elizabeth

demanding compensation. (LAUGHTER) But

seriously, as you might expect,

I will be talking about issues

such as the need for a paid

parental leave scheme into

Australia integrating paid work

and caring responsibilities and

of course the economic and

personal security for women

over their life cycle. But

today, in the shadow of the

release of one of THE most important and toughest budgets

our country has seen, I intend

to make a very specific case.

To illustrate why efforts to

progress gender equality are

not just desirable, but

absolutely critical at this

particular time. I will put to

you that ironically the current

climate provides perhaps the

best opportunity yet to create

a fairer and more equal future

for both men and women so let

me set the scene. I believe

that there are two factors

coming together right now to provide us with opportunity.

And they are on the one hand

demographic change or the

ageing of a population and on

the other the economic

downturn. When I came into this

role, our country was already

grappling with a profound and

almost silent shift. That is,

the rapid ageing of the

population. Research shows that

by 2050, we will have a

quadrupling of a portion of

people over the age of 85 years

of age and a doubling of the

proportion of people over 65.

This demographic change will

have two main impacts. Firstly,

a shortage of workers, our

future taxpayers, and secondly

because of ageing, a greater

demand for caring. More

recently, the global economic

meltdown has well and truly hit

home. We just have to read the

newspaper, watch the TV or if

we're part of a labour market

we understand that that's

what's occurred. As this

recession deepens the need to

cut cost will accelerate,

there's no question of that and

job losses will grow. I believe

that as a nation, niece two

factors, the global economic

downturn and demographic

change, so on the one hand

declining revenues and on the

other increased costs

associated with ageing, that

they create a perfect storm. It's exactly because of this unique combination of

challenges that now more than

ever before, we must tackle the unfinished business of gender

equality in our country. So if you take only one anything from

what I say today, it should be

that this perfect storm of demographic change and economic

downturn provides the perfect

opportunity to reinvent paid

work and care for the benefit

of all families, men and women,

for our businesses and for our

economy. So why in these

turbulent times when they're

not just on the verge of

recession but very likely in

recession, should we focus

first on women in our quest to

reinvent work and care? And I believe there are three reasons

for this. Firstly, if we are to

reap the full rewards that come

from being an international

leader in women's education and

training we must enable women

to achieve their aspirations in

both paid work and in their

caring lives. Secondly, if we

do remove the structural

barriers to women being more

involved in paid work we'll all

benefit, not only women, but

also men, business and

ultimately our economy. And

thirdly, if we enable women to

have economic and personal

security over their life cycle,

whether or not they participate

in paid work, this will lead to better financial and social

outcomes for families, and it

will create a stronger economy.

Now, as I explore these reasons

in more detail, I want to be

absolutely clear that gender

equality is not a battle of the

sexes. It's not about women

winning and men losing. I'm not

predicting today that one

gender will be more adversely

impacted or affected in this

recession than the other. Let's

face it, both men and women are

doing it really tough at the

minute. So let me just start

exploring some of those

reasons. Let me start by

asking, why is it that women of

child-bearing age represent one

of THE most underutilised

talent pools in this country?

We're doing well on women's

education and training but as a

nation we just can't seem to

fully utilise women's skills.

If I could start by using my

own family as an example. My

grandmother was born in the

early 1900ses. She was educated

to high school level but she

had to leave the work force

when she got married because of

the Commonwealth marriage ban

she then focused full time on

raising my mother and aunt. My

mother was born in the 1930s.

She went to technical college

level and she established a

small business with my father

when my sisters and I were

born. Mainly so she could

continue to be in paid work and

also care. I was born in 1961,

I know I look much younger than

that, but way, my twin sister

can verify that fact! I managed

to complete degrees in law and

computer science. When my

children were born, I was one

of the lucky ones because my

employer agreed I could work

three days a week and I

continued this arrangement when my mother became critically

ill. And I needed to care for

her. What I hope you take from

this story is it that even

though the opportunities for

women have expanded enormously

across the generations, caring

has remained constant. And so

this remains the challenge for fully utilising female skills

in this country. The World

Economic Forum released its

most recent global agenda gap

report. The report covers a

total of 128 countries, which

represents about 90% of the

world's population. What that

report found was that Australia

sits in a group of countries

that are No. 1 in the world on

women's educational attainment.

We're No. 1. But depressingly,

we're No. 40 on women's work

force participation. So if I

could just explore that a

little bit further for a minute

- if we look at how women are

progressing in the work place,

last year we discovered that

women in ASX 200 companies

hold only a tiny percentage of

board directorships and only four Chief Executive Officer

roles but for me the most

disturbing figure in this

report was that only 5.9%,

that's less than 6% of senior

line managers in ASX 200

companies are female. And

that's a really significant reduction from two years

earlier. My point is that

despite our success in women's education, things are getting

worse, much worse, and while

women have equal educational

outcomes compared to men, t

vast majority of Australians

living on low incomes and

social security are women.

Women still earn significantly

less than men. Let's be clear:

there is a serious leakage of

female talent in this country. Without significant

intervention by business, by

government, the number of women

progressing in our work force

will shrink even more. Some

have argued that women prefer

to stay at home but it's not

about pitching the value of

caring work over paid work or

choosing a career over family.

This is about enabling all of

us, both men and women, to

engage in paid work and care

and to do that in a way that

works. Others have argued,

looko look, the absence of

women at decision-making level,

that will change over

generations as more and more

women enter the work force. I

mean, will it? Research shows

that once the task of juggling

a career with caring

responsibilities kicks in, most

women of the next generation

will follow a similar track to their

their mothers. This is because

as we all know, women often

take on work below their skill

level to commutate their caring

responsibilities. Over 70% of

part-time workers in this

country are female. In fact

that's 71% are female. However,

the reality is that the large

majority of part-time jobs are

low-paid jobs with really very

limited training and

promotional opportunities.

There's absolutely a dearth of

part-time jobs vaim at the more

senior levels. I mean how often

do we see a senior executive

position advertised as a

flexible work arrangement? We

just don't. My next story might

sound a little familiar to you.

And you may relate to it. It's

the story of Maria, who changed

as a librarian. She was

looking0 to return to the work

force after having had children

and she was offered a position

at a university. This was a

position that she'd coveted for

many years as a university

librarian. Her husband

encouraged her to accept it,

terrific job, no problem, I

will help with the child care

but as she pointed out, her

husband had a completely

unrealistic idea of how that

might work. She said to him

you're on a work trip all of

next week. Who would pick up

the kids if I was at work? He

had no answer. And then instead

of taking the librarian

position, Maria made the

decision to take the teacher's

aide position which was within

school hours and at a nearby

school. And I think this is

just a story which raises the

issues many women face every

day. It's a good example of the

deskilling happening in our

country, this mismatch between educational attainment and work force participation has a

significant cost. If you

consider that $66 billion was

spent on education in Australia

in 2006/08, and over half of

that was spent on females, the

hard question we need to ask

ourselves as a country is: are

we getting a return on our

investment in women's education

and training? How can we claim

to be taping into the full

productive power of women?

Attempting to force a female

life cycle into a male career

model does not work, has never

worked, and will not work in

the future. Let's now look at

how removing the structural

barriers to women participating

in paid work would benefit not

only women but also business

and community and how can we

use this converge ens of demographic change and the

global economic downturn to

reinvent work and care? As Lara

Lizwood from Goldman Sachs said

recently, "We thought if we

educated girls and women and

gave them access to health

care, the rest would follow.

But it hasn't worked out that

way." She is right. It hasn't.

Because that was only part of a

picture. Let's just for a minute imagine a world where we

have removed the structural

barriers; where all working

women or men, irrespective of

job roam, have the ability to

stay pat home with their newborn babies for almost the

first six months of life

without jeopardise ing their

year prospects. Where both men

and women can have access to

high-quality flexible work at

their skill level. Where there

is affordable,

accessible-quality child care

and elder care and where the

prevailing attitude has moved

from focusing on fixing women

to men and women working

together successfully and

equally. In this world our social and economic well-being

go hand in hand, so what do we

need to get in? I consider a

crucial first step to be a

government-funded national paid parental leave scheme and as

you well know, that's a very

hot topic at the minute. A

government-funded scheme will

mean that every child in this

country will be able to be with

their mum and dad for at least

- almost six months

irrespective of a family's

financial circumstances.

However, the debate has moved

on from whether we should have

a scheme to whether we can

afford one in these challenging

economic times. My response is:

paid parental leave is the

foundation on which we will

build a planned and sustainable

work force. It's part of the

solution to our current

economic woes. Let me explain

why. Currently, Australia lags

behind our international

counterparts on the work force

participation of mothers,

particularly those with young

children. There is a strong

empirical link between young

children and mothers' work

force participation. Put

simply, countries with paid

parental leave programs have

more mums able to participate

in paid work. They're utilising

the talents of all their people and surely that makes good

economic sense. And there will

be immediate benefits to the

economy in terms of spending.

Many of those who currently

don't have access to paid

parental leave in Australia are

on low incomes and they are

struggling financially. For

these families, this is money

that will be rapidly spent on

the necessities of life, such

as providing their children

with accommodation, with food,

health care, clothing.

Apparently the Productivity

Commission's proposal of 18

weeks' paid maternity leave and

two weeks' paid supporting

parent leave is reasonable and

affordable. And recent evidence

from the Australian Institute

demonstrates that the scheme

will pay for itself over time.

Now, it's commonly stated that

Australia is one of only two

OECD countries, the other being

the United States, without a

legislated scheme of paid

parental leave. It was

interesting when I was in the

UN last month , an American

colleague pulled me aside. I

was lamenting about this. She

said "No, Liz, in America, in

California and New York State

and a number of other States,

they all have State-based paid

parental leave schemes." So in

reality, this makes Australia

the only OECD nation without

any leg lated paid parental

leave scheme. The point to make

is: let's make no mistake, we

are out on our own on this

particular issue. I'm not

saying for a minute that paid

parental leave will be the

panacea to solve all aspects of

the Crick crisis but what I am

saying is it's an essential

plank that will form the

foundation of the workplace

transformation which is

necessary to take us into the

future. The close companion of

paid parental leave is

high-quality flexible work and

of course accessible,

affordable quality child care

and elder care. If I could just

talk about flexible work for a

minute. Flex cial work

arrangements for both women and

men are part of preventing the

leakage of female talent and we

know anecdotally that more and

more companies are changing

work practices particularly at

the minute. They're doing it to

preserve jobs, to cut costs and

to embrace flexibility and

different ways of working. I

want to stress that when I talk

about flexible work I'm not

talk being increased

casualisation or forcing people

to work reduced hours. I'm

talking about redesigning jobs for both women and men where

this is in the interests of

both the business and the

reciprocity of interest. There employee, so where there's

is a number of myths

surrounding flexible work. My

particular favourite is that

flexible workers aren't as

committed as full-time workers

or that flexibility costs the

business a lot, or that role

with superviz ree

responsibilities can't be done flexibly. My own experience

tells a different story. I have

learned it's the fear of change

that's often worse than change

itself. And I apologise to

those of you who have heard me

tell this story before. In

heard me tell it more than fact, some of you might've even

once, but I think that this is

a story which provides a great

example of how flexibility can

work for both employers and

employees. As Ken said, prior

to commencing in my current

role I was a partner at Blake

Dawson. I had a day which

started just like any other.

One of my lawyers came in to

tell me the happy news she was

pregnant. That same afternoon

another senior manager came to

see me with the same news. What

they didn't know was that I was

also pregnant and when the

fourth one came about a week

later, we knew we had a

problem. That was half the

entire legal team without on

maternity leave at exactly the

same time. But with all the challenges come great

opportunity as well. We knew we

had a solid business reason now

to reinvent the way we worked.

We redesigned our jobs so that the ultimate responsibility for matters rested still with an

individual, irrespective of

whether they worked full or

part time. If a flexible worker

needed to come in on a

non-designated day, workday and they couldn't arrange child care at short notice, that was

OK, they could bring in the

kids. Now at the heart of each

of these arrangements was res

pros tree and trust. But it

taught me that flexibility

builds a loyalty among staff

like no amount of money ever

can and it enabled me to obtain

a return on the firm's

investment in education and

training. And I wanted to share

this example with you and it is

just one of many possibilities

and one thing I've learned is

no one size fits all when you

look at flexibility. But I

think the story demonstrates

that supporting employees to

balance paid work and caring

can work for both an employer

and an employee. The challenge

now will be to hang onto those

arrangements that are working

and we've seen a lot of

innovation. We saw an article

last week, the four-day week

has arrived. So we're seeing a

lot of innovation. The

challenge is: how can we hang

onto that when the economy

turns round? That's really the

great opportunity. However,

removing so structural barriers

by itself is just not enough.

We need attitudinal change and

law reform particularly when it

comes to flexible work. I

firmly believe that men hold

the key to attitudinal change.

What will change the culture of

an organisation more quickly

than any number of women with

young children is men making

visible their caring

responsibilities. Why is it that we often hear about the caring responsibilities of

female politicians, female

corporate executives, female

community leaders, but we don't

often hear about those of their

male colleagues? And if we

could do one thing to progress

this issue, it would be for our

male leaders to make visible

that which is currently

invisible. Namely, their caring

responsibilities. By that, I

mean our Prime Minister making

more visible the time he spends

as a dad. Our CEOs scheduling

meetings after dropping their

kids at school. Our union

leaders visibly taking time out

to care for their elderly parents. We need male role

models at the highest levels to

send the message that you can

be a serious career player and

a caring father or son, partner

and neighbour. It's encouraging

to see that the right to

request a flexible work

arrangement was included as

part of the new national

employment standards. The

disappointment was that it only

provides workers with the right

to request such such an

arrangement if they have a

child under school age or a

child with a disability up to

the age of 18. We need to

extend the right to request to

include those caring for family

at the other end of life,

indeed, all forms of caring, so

that workers don't have to make

these kind of choices.

Particularly right now. And I

know that for me, when my

mother became extremely ill, I

would've left my job if I

hadn't been able to get time

off to care for her in those

final months. We also need

changes to the federal Sex

Discrimination Act. The

government should amend the Act

to ensure that both women and

men have comprehensive and

equal protection against

discrimination on the basis of

family and caring

responsibilities. It's not

about women caring less; it's

about enabling men to care

more. So while paid parental

leave and high-quality flexible

work are absolutely at the

heart of gender equality in

2009, we just must start also

exploring new options. For

example, to increase the number

of women on boards you will be

aware that Norway has had

legislation for some time now

requiring companies to have a

minimum of 40% representation

of each gender on their boards.

Alternatively, organisations

could set their own targets,

and regularly measure progress

against those targets and we've

seen South Australia do it and the South Australian

Government. What about

shareholder engagement, where

CEOs are quizzed on their

agenda equality and diversity

measures? Aren't these ideas

that we should be seriously

considering? The current

economic crisis must be seen as

an opportunity for innovation.

Experts agree that recovery and long-term economic growth

requires nations to draw on the

widest pool of talent. The

World Economic Forum has said

over time a nation's

competitiveness depends

significantly on whether and

how it educates and utilises

its fee mall talent. It seems

that we train and educate women

well enough here in Australia,

but are we simply unable for

just unwilling to utilise their

talent? There continues to be

significant structural barriers

to women's involvement in paid

work. The third compelling

reason as to why we must act

now is that if women can build

economic security for their

families this will attain a

level of economic resilience

which is so vital at this time.

What do we want for our

daughters and grand daughters?

As a mum I want my daughter to

have the financial capacity to

support not just herself but

herself and her family in

unexpected times of hardship.

The need for economic security

for women became patently clear

to me about 12 months doing

when I women called Lulrene as

part of my national listening

tour. Now, Lurlene was working

in a young women's refuge in

Tasmania. Her life story was an

incredible chain of

achievements most of which were

unrecognised. She had not only

spent many years caring for her

own children but was helping to

better the lives of many

disadvantaged young women. Now

that her children had grown up

and moved on, Lulrene works

with young girls in the ages of

12 to 16 who are homeless for

all sorts of reasons, like

violence, like abuse, drugs,

alcohol and poverty. Lurlene

gets up all through the night

to help these young women and

on the morning I was fortunate

enough to meet Lurlene, she

told me she'd been up at 2.30am

when one of the girls'

boyfriends had dropped around

around demanded to see her.

Then he was back at 3.30am he

came back with his mates

threatening to burn the refuge

down. Then she was back up

again at 6am when she had to

ensure that all those girls

were dressed and ready for

school. The sad part of this

story is that Lurlene should now have the option of retiring

from paid work. She is 72 years

of age. But because of a life

spent caring for other own

children firstly and now others

combined with the poor wages in

the feminised community sector

she has little to no

superannuation. And her

situation isn't unusual. Caring

delivers value, both socially

and economically. It's time to

recognise this and give unpaid

carers a chance at a

financially secure future. The

very sobering reality we now

understand is that like

Lurlene, many womens face the

prospect of poverty in their

twilight years. Current

superannuation payments for

women are approximately half of

those for men, and of all

household types in Australia,

single elderly female

households are at the greatest

risk of persistent poverty. We

need to ask ourselves as a

need to ask ourselves as a

nation: is poverty to be the

reward for a lifetime spent

caring? In summary then, if

we're to reinvent the way we

work and care, we need to stop

underutilising the skills and

talents of women, we need to

evaluate our current approaches

to integrating paid work and

care giving and we need to

start creating mechanisms to

provide a more economic future

for those people who have spent

a significant portion of their

life caring. For if people

cannot work and care at the

same time, then some will have

no choice but to leave paid

work to care full time. And

this will exacerbate the skills

shortage and deepen the

difficulty we will face as our

community ages. The alternative

is that others will be able to

- unable to care at all,

leaving some with no carers and

the burden of caring will then

shift to the State. Given our reduced taxpayer base, who will

pay then? I started off today

in my presentation by

acknowledging the traditional

owners of this country and the

inspiring Indigenous and

non-Indigenous women who for

many years have advocated for

gender equality. I'd like to

now finish by reflecting on

what has been one of the most

significant moments of my life.

Last month, I accompanied a

group of Aboriginal women from

the Kimberleys to the United

Nations in New York to tell

their story of courage and

change. A story of rebuilding

their community after years of

alcohol abuse. And as they

spoke for the first time in New

York, they began in the Bunnaba

language saying "This is the

first time that the first

nation of Manhattan has ever

heard the language of my

people." They told of their

success in lobbying for alcohol

restrictions which has led to

an almost 50% reduction in the

number of domestic violence

reports, and an increase in

school attendance and

engagement. As I reflected on

this, I realised that change

can happen. But it requires

strength. It requires courage

and determination. If these

women who have limited access

to influence power and money,

as well immense geographical

barriers, can bring about such

significant positive change,

what responsibility do each of

us have in our own lives? In

this time of global reflection,

we should ask ourselves: will

we revert to what we know and

what we've always done? Or will

we grab the opportunity to form

and create a stronger and more internationally competitive

country? Now is the time for

governments and employers to

dig deep. To create real

change. With enlightened

policies and unwavering

commitment. I am an optimist. I

absolutely believe it can happen. Thank you very

much. (APPLAUSE)

Time for our media questions

now. You've spoken about the

need to include men as well as

women in new flexible workplace arrangements. The recession

does provide an opportunity for

this with companies that are

cash strapped asking employers

who want to take on part-time

work or take a year off without

pay. Too often it's women that

accept these offers. How do we

get men to change their views

and see these offers as open to

them? Is the problem we've got

that a full-time five day a

week job is seen as a sign of a

man's virility? That's a very

good question. You raise the

broader issue which is around

culture. At the minute in most

workplaces we have what's the

ee deal worker model, that is,

someone who is usually male,

available 24/7, no visible

caring responsibilities. That's

the model of success that sits

up there in the organisation.

What I'm suggesting is that

jobs should come in all shapes

and sizes and that we see men doing it differently also

sitting up there as a model of

doing it differently. The success and of course women

question is how do we get men

to do that? 29% of men in this country already work in some

kind of flexible work

arrangement. We can't

unfortunately say how many of

those jobs are what we call quality part-time work and there has been some recent

Productivity Commission when studies, in fact, the

they looked at flexible work

found that 500,000 men

currently working part-time -

sorry, working full time to

prefer to work part time. So

there is demand there. I think

the real challenge is we can't

be what we can't see. As a man

if I can't see others doing it

successfully, then I start to think it's just not possible.

So that's what we need to do. We need

We need to make visible that

which is currently invisible,

that is, for men to be doing it

differently, making visible

their caring arrangements,

encouraging other men to

actually do it, to actually

balance paid work and caring.

So it is around developing a

culture which sees jobs in all

shapes and sizes for both men

and women so flexible work is

gender neutral. We've seen the Prime Minister talk about

moving benefits and tax breaks

away from people who earn above

150,000 to the lower income end

of the spectrum. If in this

budget, would it be feasible to

introduce a paid maternity

leave scheme perhaps focusing

on the lower income workers or

is it critical that such a

scheme applies the board to all

women? It's a good question.

The women who currently have

access to paid maternity leave

are women who are on the higher

salaries, to 75,000 and over,

or women who work either for

government or in organisations

of 1,000 or more people. So the

women that really need paid

maternity and paid parental

leave are low-income women. In

fact, those women, if you look

at the clerk cam and sales

area, only 1 in 10 of those

women have access to any form

of paid parental leave. I think

all women in this country

require access to paid

maternity leave and I would

also say it's equally important

when we're talking about gender equality, that men or

supporting partners are also

included in whatever the scheme is. But I would urge the

government and I know there has

been a lot of advocacy arnt it,

we have the Productivity

Commission report, which is

affordable and reasonable and I

would urge the government to

move forward with that. The

government is also reportedly

looking at means testing child

care subsidies in this budget.

Would you see that as a setback to women's work force participation, if the

government adopted such a move,

would that exacerbate the

leakage of female talent that

you spoke about? I think all

women struggle to balance work

and family. And child care is a

really important part of that.

The issues around child care

are that it needs to be quality

child care. It needs to be

accessible and it needs to be

affordable. Because they're not

many jobs when you look at child care being in the range

of 75 to 110 dollars a day,

there are not many jobs that

pay you so much more money than

that that if you looked at

returning to work purely on an

economic basis, it would make

sense. So I think the

government needs to invest in

child care. We need to invest

in a paid parental leave

scheme. We need to offer

parents choice and choice about

what type of child care they

actually - that works best for their particular situation as

well. So they're the things

that I think we need to be

doing around child care. You

strike me as a very

mild-mannered person. If in the

budget there is no paid

maternity leave scheme or it's deferred, will you display any level of personal outrage? (LAUGHTER) And part 2

of the question is: do you

think there is a certain

percentage of Australian women

who voted for Labor in good

faith that they'd introduce a scheme, do you think they've

been betrayed if it's not

upfront in two weeks' time? I

don't know whether to take those comments as a compliment

or not but I can absolutely

display outrage! Just ask my

twin sister or my younger

sister. No I think if paid

parental leave is not in the

May budget, women across

Australia and men will be

bitterly disappointed. Will

women go away on the issue?

Absolutely not! This is about -

this comes off the back of 30

years of advocacy on this

particular issue. It comes off

the back of a very

well-considered and research ed

scheme put forward by the

Productivity Commission. Now is

the time to introduce the

scheme. There's no question of

that. But if as you're

suggesting it's not included,

women will group and will not

go away on this particular

issue because it is one of the

core pieces of social

infrastructure that we need.

Just in relation to the second

part of the question ... About

women feeling betrayed. Look,

I think the government's

commitment early on was that

they would take the issue of

paid parental leave to the

Productivity Commission. They

have done that. But having said

that, I think there will be a

level of deep disappointment if

this doesn't happen. Not to

harp on the theme but on

parental leave - given that

there seems to be some

suggestion that the government

may jigger about with paid maternity leave in this budget,

yes, we'll do it but it won't

start until next year or it

might only be for low-income

women this time around, how

acceptable as a compromise

would that be to you, if there

was a guarantee that it would

go ahead for all women next

year or the year after? And

secondly, how disappointing is

it to you that parental leave

seems to be the only thing the

government has consistently

mentioned as the thing they

will not go ahead with or are considering not going ahead

with in the budget? On the

second part first - I am an

will see something in this optimist and I'm hopeful and we

budget. So I want to put that

out there. As I said, I won't

totally predict it , I'm not

signing on the bottom line but

I am hopeful about that. In

relation to your question about

the pocket of delaying a scheme

or what they might do - my view

is that we need - if it is to

be implemented properly, we

need a good education campaign

around it. One of the things

that happened in California, I

referred to that State-based

scheme, was that they

introduced a scheme and the

very people who needed it, the

lower income women, only 24% of

those women knew that such a

scheme was available. And when

they tried to understand what

that - that was three years

after the scheme had been

introduced. That was about a

lack of education about how

this scheme worked. It will

take some time to make sure

that the education strategies

are there, and also that there

should be an evaluation

framework, because what we're

seeing is yes this scheme

should be introduced, but we

need to understand, is it

meeting its objectives? Is it

delivering and should it

potentially be extended? I

don't think you can do false

you have a good evaluation

framework in place. So in terms

of a potential short delayed

implementation, then I think

actually that can work in our

favour, to be honest. Because

that will ensure that it goes

in in a more considered

environment. But there needs to

be a strong commitment to paid

maternity leave in this budget.

I think that's the main point.

Another question on paid parental leave. If it's not in

this budget and of course the

next budget as well is expected

to sh another difficult one.

There's the possibility it may

not be in there either. If

there's no commitment to a paid parental scheme, would you

suggest that maybe some of the

States consider setting up

their own schemes? You talked

about this in the US and as a

way forward there. Could that

work here? And have you spoken

about this with any of the

State governments? Are there

any States where it might be

appropriate or feasible to do that? That's one of the

reasons it's happened in the

US, to fill this void of a lack

of a federal system. South

Australia, the report they did

into paid parental leave

that if the Federal Government actually said exactly that,

didn't do it, South Australian

needed to move with it on a

state basis. Moi preference absolutely is for a national scheme, which covers every

woman in this country, and

their supporting partner, and I

think that as I said before,

this issue won't go away. Not

only is it about the financial

ramifications, it's more - it's

symbolic. This actually says

that women matter in the

workplace. That they are

disadvantaged because of child

bearing but having women in the

workplace matters and if it was

introduced, a scheme as the

Productivity Commission

recommended, it would also say

that men have an important role

in the early days of their life

and that's an important message

as well. So it's a possibility.

It would absolutely not be my

preference. Commissioner, could

I ask you a question about how

you interpret your role? I was

about your previous experience intrigued about your comments

in the law, where work

practices have gone from

billable hours to billable

minutes, which ... Is that

since I left?! (LAUGHTER) But

it does say something about the

structure of working practices.

That's one of the things you've

touched on in terms of policy

and legislative provisions

which haven't worked. Do you

see your role as being not only

to recommend what ought to be

an outcome but how it should be

achieved? In other words, prescriptive legislation?

Well, in relation to the sex

discrimination Act, which is

the Act that sets up the

function of Commissioner, and

as you may know, the Senate has

recently had an inquiry into

the Sex Discrimination Act,

yes, we made a very detailed

recommendation, based on I

suppose being responsible for

administering the Act. So we

did, on that occasion, actually

suggest that men, for example,

should have more comprehensive

coverage in relation to family

responsibilities. But look, it

is about outcomes but we all

come into this role with a

different history. I come in

with quite a deep understanding

of corporate life and cultural

change and attitudinal change

and they're the issues I'm also

out there advocating. You say

you're an optimist but the

latest figures show women are

probably likely to be the

biggest victims. Recession. The

gap between men's and women's

wages has widened as a result

of the recession and that they

hold the sorts of jobs in

retail sectors and casual jobs

that are most likely to go if

the recession gets worse. Is it

misguided of employers to let

go of female employees

particularly as I think in the United States and certainly in

Iceland, the companies which

had more women on their boards

have fared better than those

which are mainly dominated by

men? It's a good question,

because absolutely, the

research shows that a greater

gender diversity at the most

senior levels and at the board

level actually delivers better

results in the medium term. So

there's no question that having

better gender balance is better

for corporate performance. Just

in relation to the fact that

there is a widening pay gap -

you're absolutely right, and

that's one of the reasons I

think we should start exploring

some of the solutions which are

actually being put in place in

other countries. Because as I

shade in my speech, it seems

that some of the things that

we're doing now are just not

working. I mean, why is it that

we have in the last two years,

if we looked at just ASX 200

companies and they're a small

section of companies in this

country but they are quite

influential, why is it we've

gone so far backward in terms

of women's representation at

senior levels in Australia? We

can keep on doing the same

things we've always done but

should we expect a different

outcome? I might be an optimist

but I'm not silly so what I

would be saying there is we

need to start doing different

things. We need to have robust discussions around quotas,

around targets, we need to look at the issues around

shareholder engagement, we need

to not just keep on trying to

mentor women and what I call

"fix" women. What we need to do

is work with men, because

actually, men and women working together is what is

together is what is going to

change this. I was going to ask

the opposite question to Sue. Does the global financial

crisis perhaps have a silver

lining for women? Is it an

opportunity to shake things up

and provide an opportunity for

women to succeed within the

workplaces that they are? I do

think it is an opportunity.

Because I think a lot of the

traditional thinking that we've

had, because we're moving into

uncharted waters, that thinking

might be thrown away or at

least we've got a reason to

throw that thinking away. So I

think that's one of the really exciting things about the

minute. We're seeing innovation

in work practice and in workplaces that we wouldn't

have seen in the good times

potentially. So the challenge

is to hold on to that which

works, that which ensures a bit

of sharing of paid and unpaid

work between men and women

while at the same time cutting

costs for business, increasing

productivity. I mean, I think

that's the great opportunity.

People say to me are men doing

worse or are women doing worse?

As I said in my speech, it's

really too early to tell in of

job losses. You could make the

argument that women are more

economically vulnerable. The

fact is we are in and out of

paid work because of our caring responsibilities. We have half

the superannuation of men.

We're paid 17% less in ful-time

work and if we look at part

time it's an even greater pay differential. We are more

economically vulnerable in the

good times, chances are we will

probably be more economically

vulnerable in the bad times but

I think the thing is that men

are doing it pretty tough at

the minute as well and that

these solutions that I'm

proposing are ones that will

help both men and women,

business, our community and our

country build a stronger

economy and that's absolutely

what we have to do at the

minute. Thank you, our final

question is from Dan

Harrison. The Senate committee

report you referred to on the

Act, one of its recommendations

was for greater protections for

breastfeeding mothers. I just wonder whether you thought

there was a need for greater

protection for breastfeeding mothers and what form they

might fake. It's a good point,

because there are protections

already under the Act but

braent feeding is what they

call a protected attribute at

the same level as pregnancy,

sex. The Senate committee said

we need to be absolutely clear

that women cannot be

discriminated against on the

basis of breastfeeding. And I

think that's really important,

because we're talking about

women in the workplace. We're

talking about the way that our

lives have changed because of

mobility and a whole lot of

other things. It's important

that women are not

discriminated on the basis of

having to feed their child.

That's part of what being a mum

is about. If we're excluded

from public life or workplaces

or restaurants or whatever it

is, then that will take women

backwards. So I think it's a

good recommendation that

they've made there and I'm in

support of that. Thank you very

much. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much,s

Elizabeth Broderick. We'd like

you to have your standard

mementos of the occasion, which

is membership and an elaborate

pen to sign all your future

instruments with. Oh thank

you. But also something a

little more celebratory. Thanks

very much. (APPLAUSE)

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