Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of interview with Melinda James: ABC Illawarra: 8 March 2017: International Women's Day; paid parental leave

Download PDFDownload PDF




SUBJECT/S: International Women’s Day, Paid Parental Leave.

MELINDA JAMES: Jenny Macklin, good morning to you.


JAMES: Thank you very much. Now you’re going to be focusing on women in politics today is that right?

MACKLIN: Yes although I’m particularly going to highlight the importance of paid parental leave. If we are going to do anything about the persistent gender wage gap in Australia we need to make sure we’ve got a strong paid parental leave scheme in this country and it’s something I’m very passionate about trying to make sure we maintain the scheme we’ve got and where possible try to improve it.

JAMES: And the interesting thing is as well not just improvements in paid parental leave but a particular focus on it being parental leave rather than maternal leave. If maybe more men were given the opportunity to take a bit of time out to help raise their children then things would be better all-round as well.

MACKLIN: Yes, also I’m going to tell a little bit of my own story. My partner took a year off when our first boy was born, I didn’t have much paid parental leave, he had to take a year off without pay from his job. This is a long time ago now and it’s always stayed with me. One of the things we were able to deliver was not only a national paid parental leave scheme where parents can take 18 weeks of paid leave at the basic minimum wage from the government but of course they can combine that with leave from their

employers. We did also introduce a couple of weeks of dad and partner pay, it’s certainly not a lot of leave for dads but it is a good first step and I would certainly like to see over time that improve. I agree with you, more and more dads are putting their hands up and I think it’s a great thing.

JAMES: A great thing for society and it just made me think that on a day like International Women’s Day we shouldn’t just be focusing on the battles ahead when it comes to any sort disparity or gender inequality that we still experience here in our society on both sides of the coin. It’s a great time to also reflect on the great successes that increasing gender equality has brought to society as a whole, once we reflect on those successes and how it had really benefitted all of us then it’s probably a much better place to move into the future from as well.

MACKLIN: You must have read my speech. I really agree with that that it’s important to think about where we’ve come from and yesterday I was in Dapto doing a big pensioner forum and there was lady there talking about when she was a younger person she didn’t have access to have superannuation and its made their retirement years that much more difficult. I think one of the great reforms of the 1990s was the introduction of superannuation for most people but of course there are still many women who are not getting much super and so don’t have that security to fall back on in their retirement, so that’s a big area where we can do more. One of our Senators actually, Jenny McAllister has been doing a terrific job raising these issues and looking at how we might improve retirement incomes for women in the future.

JAMES: In the context of all of history, change has been remarkably rapid really. If you think one hundred years ago myself as a woman I would not be able to vote. I mean that fills me with, I am befuddled by that now living in the 21st Century. But it’s incredible the rate of change we have experienced.

MACKLIN: Particularly over the last 30 years, where we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of women in the workforce. I think in the 1960s we couldn’t have imagined that the vast majority of women now expect to work, not just once they’ve finished their studies but to continue to work once they’ve had children and combine their work and family responsibilities and it’s not always easy but the conversation now is how do we make sure we support mum’s and dads to do that rather than whether or not women should work. So we’ve completely turned, what I think is an enormous corner for women to give them greater opportunities in all of social and economic life.

JAMES: Can I ask, you’ll be talking about women in politics as well and I don’t want this to become political but in terms of, it reared its head this week and last week in terms of the Opposition’s attack on the Member for Gilmore who is one of our local members, Ann Sudmalis, in the Parliament. She was visibly emotional in the Parliament, and many would say who could blame her after some sustained attacks but she came out and said to the local newspaper, “I don’t believe they would’ve gone after a male 3 days in a row, they would’ve moved it around, taken it to a different member but no they did three hits

in three days which is most unusual, they don’t do that to a bloke”. Do you agree with that?

MACKLIN: Well I don’t, but equally I don’t want to upset her or say anything that might upset her further but I just don’t think that is the case. I mean we go after Malcolm Turnbull every single day generally for eight or nine questions. We’ve just referred Alan Tudge, the Minister for Human Services, to the Federal Police because of the concerns we have about Centrelink. I don’t want to go on about these issues but just to draw the point that - JAMES: - plenty of blokes suffer sustained attacks as well -

MACKLIN: - that’s right. When there are serious matters that should be pursued, I think it is our responsibility to do so and if somebody says something that there is a strong disagreement about and of course there is a very strong disagreement in the Parliament right now about penalty rates, then of course we are going to pursue it and that’s what we did.

JAMES: Look it does raise the question though as well with Ann Sudmalis becoming upset in Parliament, this whole notion of emotion in politics and I’m sure you probably read Jacqueline Maley’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, I don’t know but men are they just too emotional to govern? It was very interesting, she said if the past week in politics is anything to go by it seems they have difficulty mastering their anger, resentment and jealousy and resisting the emotional urges, surges, that cause them to forget national interest in favour of self-interest. She was slightly tongue in cheek but she is saying that the past three Prime Minister’s we’ve had; Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, the men are the ones most ruled by emotion and the ones who are having the hardest time letting go. How we characterise being ruled by your emotions, I mean men suffer from it too, but in a different way.

MACKLIN: But don’t you think it’s a good thing that we are able to be emotional about some of these really important things? Personally, I think it’s a good thing that both men and women are able to show their emotions. Maybe it’d be a good idea if there wasn’t so much anger on display but I actually think the public would appreciate knowing how we feel about things a little bit more rather than just seeing us shout at each other. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to show emotion myself.

JAMES: No fair enough, we are all people aren’t we and we are constantly demanding of you politicians that you be a little more authentic, more human and then you display a bit of humanity people get hammered for it. You are in a bit of a no win situation sometimes.

MACKLIN: Well I think the main thing is to stand up for what you believe in and sometimes it can get pretty rugged and it is a very important place in which we have this contest of ideas and sometimes it is tough but I think that what I’m going to say to the young women today at this leadership forum is I think the danger we face from populism is apathy, and so I’ll be encouraging them to get involved in whatever it is that they feel

passionately about to make Australia a better place because their involvement and their activism will of course help us challenge populism far more than just complaining about it.

JAMES: Well Jenny Macklin enjoy your time in Wollongong today and your time at the Nan Tien Temple, thanks very much for talking to us.

MACKLIN: Thank you.