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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8333

Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (11:12): I'm proud to speak in support of the motion put in the House by the member for Sydney about the gender pay gap. I also congratulate her on 20 years as a parliamentarian, and I look at the wonderful achievements that she has rolled out—and the more to come. It's sad to see that, on this motion, there are only Labor speakers. It's bizarre to think that we have a former human rights commissioner, the member for Goldstein, sitting in the parliament, mute or muzzled—I'm not sure—and not prepared to speak up on gender pay equity. It's unbelievable. He's happy to moan every now and then but, when it comes to talking about gender equity, he has nothing to say—unbelievable!

The reality for women in Australia is that they get paid 14.9 per cent less than men. That peaked at 18.5 per cent in 2014, which perhaps had something to do with the mining boom. I note that that gap is still higher than the OECD average—a shameful record for Australia. That is not okay. There is no comfort from the fact that we're not the worst in the OECD. There is still much more to be done. It is definitely not okay in a modern, progressive country in 2018. Women in Australia effectively work for free for the first two months of each year, and that is unfair. Fundamentally, people doing the same job should receive the same pay. It's not a difficult concept. I'm sure even those opposite would support that idea. But, at the current very slow rate that the gap is closing, it will be decades before equal pay for women becomes a reality for women in Australia.

Women don't want special treatment; they merely want the same treatment. It's no argument that women's work is mostly in what some call 'feminised' industries and that somehow that work is easier. We know that is rubbish. I know how hard women in the so-called feminised caring industries work. My mum was a nurse. She worked harder than most men, I would suggest. She had 10 children to look after and was a single mum for most of that time. When she was at home it was difficult, and then she had patients to look after when she was at work, patients who relied on her care to get well and get back to their own families and jobs. And in her first career, my wife was a social worker, working in child protection. I know how hard she worked helping families who were in crisis. On many significant days of the year like Christmas and New Year's Day, when most families were spending time together, Lea was working, looking out for other people's loved ones and, sadly, for those who nobody loved.

And what about our early childhood educators? They do such important work educating our most precious resource—children—especially in the first 1,000 days of life. Their patience and care give our kids the best start they can have in life. And what about the carers who look after our elderly family members? They give them not only care but precious dignity in their later years of life. In all of these industries, the workers are mostly women. These workers deserve recognition for the valuable work that they do. And what is the most obvious form of recognition? It's pay. So I'm very happy to support the member for Sydney's motion. Workers in these sectors are caring; that is the nature of what they do. They're always thinking of others before themselves. So when they stop doing their important work to draw attention to the unfairness of their wages, we know they don't do it lightly.

Last week we saw some early childhood educators stop work to send a message to the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government that time is up in terms of payment. This is unprecedented action taken by early childhood educators. I joined a Big Steps rally in Brisbane to show my support for them. I joined educators from Robertson and Salisbury and a few other centres in Moreton who are demanding better pay for the valuable work that they do. What sort of society do we live in if we don't value the important work that our early childhood educators do? If we value every child, we should value every educator and we should pay them better. Some early childhood educators must have tertiary qualifications, yet some of them are paid as little as $22 an hour. You'd be better off pushing trolleys in the supermarket car park. That makes them some of the lowest-paid professionals in the country. We expect the people who give our children their educational start to be well qualified. We expect them to be the best educators for our children. We cannot expect to attract people to these caring roles if they are not adequately remunerated. We've heard evidence that they are unable to get a mortgage and, on occasion, to even feed all of their family. These women are not asking for special treatment, just the same pay for doing the same job. There can be no more excuses. Our early childhood educators need support from good governments.