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Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Page: 9557


Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (15:54): I am pleased to speak on today's MPI, as indeed it is a matter of public importance and, I contend, a matter of historic importance. This December marks the 46th year since the arbitration commission ruled that women should be paid the same rates as males for the same jobs. A couple of years later, the basic wage was applied to women as well as men. The idea that male wages, as was contended by the Higgins decision of 1908, should be designed to be family wages and support a wife and children was gone. It was a historic decision, and it was the Whitlam government in that year that sent Mary Gaudron to fight for equal pay for equal work. However, here we are 46 years along, and there is still a full-time gender pay gap of approximately 14.6 per cent, or $244.80 less than men per week on average. We're told it's going to take 150 years to close that gap. I have been joined by the terrific ADF Squadron Leader Dominique Hoffman. When I shared that news with Dominique, she said, 'I hope not.' I thought, 'Indeed.' She is a woman serving her country, wearing the uniform and making an observation.

Aside from the real-time earnings, this often has far severer ramifications when women stop earning. On average, women currently retire with superannuation balances that are over 40 per cent lower than men's. The poorest people in our country today—and the numbers are on the rise—are women over 50, many of them trying to survive on Newstart, $590 or thereabouts a fortnight. It is absolutely crippling for them.

So this is why today's announcement is another milestone and another step towards a fairer system for Australian women. Interestingly, all of the landmark positive decisions about superannuation have been taken by Labor. In 1983, after the Whitlam years paved the way, the Hawke-Keating government began the Accord process, which really paved the way for the implementation of the superannuation guarantee that was set in place in 1992, where wage rises were given away by workers in lieu of superannuation co-contributions. Of course, in 1992 we saw that increase to nine per cent. An interesting point is that the other seminal moment in superannuation came in 1977, under the Fraser government, when cabinet took the decision—decision 3435 on 20 July 1977—not to establish a contributory national superannuation scheme.

Ms Ryan: Shame!

Ms SWANSON: It is indeed a shame that that conservative government didn't have the mettle to take that decision. So, in the fashion of Hawke and Keating, a Shorten-Bowen Labor government, should we be given the honour of being elected, will take the higher road. We will set another milestone in this country for superannuation. We will really create a platform that paves the way for future decisions for women, paying the superannuation guarantee on paid parental leave and, I might add, dad and partner payments, because we want everyone to do well. But we know that women have a way to go and need to catch up.

We're also going to phase out the $450-per-month minimum income threshold for eligibility for the superannuation guarantee. That is so important to all of those young people, particularly women, who are working two, three or sometimes even four jobs where the monthly income may not rack up to $450. But I tell you what: in the next 50 years they are going to need that superannuation and, more to the point, our tax base and our income generation are going to need that as well.

When I was talking about this this morning with an employee here in Parliament House, he said to me, 'Don't tell me that you guys are starting to plan more than three years ahead,' and I said, 'Well, we are, because now, if we start to include more people in the truly universal superannuation system, we will have more money put aside in years to come, and this will add an infinite amount of discretionary spending in the economy, but also it will take the pressure off the tax base in the future.' It's an important decision. (Time expired)