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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 2377


Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (11:48): It has been a pleasure to be here for the contribution that each member has made in regard to International Women's Day. In 1935 my mother wrote out a cheque to the State Electricity Commission for an electricity bill for a store down the road from the corner store which my grandfather owned. You do not pay the electricity bill for a store unless you own it. You do not pay the electricity bill for the drapery store down the street unless you have invested into it. And my mum did. I make the point on International Women's Day that my mum, as a single individual at that time, went down the road after the 1934 flood—I suppose the owner was a bit knocked about—and purchased the business, which grew into a business that she created all over Gippsland.

When I came into this place I suggested in my maiden speech that women had played a major role in the fact that I was here in this place, and there was great hilarity amongst the members as I gave that address. The fact is that it is the truth. A major part of the inspiration for a lot of my political activity has come from the women around me in my life who encouraged me, who said, 'You've got to have a go—come into this place and be a parliamentarian.' I mentioned those women in my maiden speech. Outside of that I have been a business person all my life, along with my father and my mother, and there was never any discrimination with regard to how much a person who worked for you was paid. There was an award rate for an adult or for whoever it was. We paid over and above the award rate, but it did not matter whether you were male or female.

So, for me, the gender issue that is outlined in the motion today has not been a part of my concern outside the policy matters for the nation, because in my family we did not have an issue with gender equality. My sisters were treated in exactly the same manner as their brothers were. My cousins, whether male or female, were treated in exactly the same way, because our role models in leadership were both male and female—drivers and entrepreneurs and people who build up businesses. My mum took businesses from Korumburra right across Gippsland to Pakenham, to Berwick, to Nar Nar Goon and to Tooradin and did all sorts of things, but she was an entrepreneur. She was an absolute natural. She employed a whole lot of people, male and female, in all of those businesses. And I grew up in a society, in a family that did not have any gender bias whatsoever, because we accepted the leadership of the females within our community.

I see it now in my own electorate in the farming community. Gender equality in farming families is a known exercise—the contribution women make to our local government, to our state government areas. Melina Bath is a new member for the upper house in Victoria, working in my area, and it is great to have her onboard—she is a Nationals member—as a contributor to the governance of our area of Gippsland.

I understand that there are places where women have been held back and where barriers and walls have been put up, but I do not see it in the House of Representatives, in the organisation that is here. I am seeing less of it in parliamentary terms and I am seeing a positive outlook for the way women are excelling in academia and law—in all aspects, especially in this parliament. Some of the most talented people in our nation's history—I am reading a book on women who came to this foreign shore immediately after the tall ships came here and the struggles that they went through. I am reading the individual biographies of these people and how these women survived the trauma of coming to this nation, how they excelled and how they played a really big part in our wool industry and in the creation of the industrial future for Australia.

Not only have women played a part in the nation's life, in building this nation we have today, but also they have played a role in the individual lives of people like me. That has been an expression of a gender-free action. That is why I never get asked, 'Do you get it with women?' I do not have to be asked. They already know that I get it.