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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
02/04/2009
Pay equity and increasing female participation in the workforce

CHAIR —Welcome. Do you have any comments to make on the capacities in which you appear?

Ms Taylor —I am the Deputy President of the Australia Education Union.

Ms Bond —I am the training and education director of the Australian Workers Union.

CHAIR —Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have received a written submission to this inquiry from you. Do you wish to present any additional submissions or intend to make a brief opening statement?

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —I would like to make a small opening statement. First of all, thank you for having us. You have two full days, so thank you for giving us the opportunity. The Victorian Trades Hall Council represents more than 40 affiliated unions, which represent more than 350,000 workers in Victoria—so we are here as a voice for our members—and which are mainly dominated by women participating in the workforce, both in the private and public sectors. The VTHC has made a joint submission with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other state union peak councils.

Pay equity is a complicated issue. The widely accepted definition of pay equity refers to equal pay for equal or comparable work. The words ‘or comparable’ are very important. Pay equity means more than just the same pay for men and women doing the same job. Pay equity also involves the proper valuing of female dominated professions and the appropriate rewarding of these professions. The problem is there has been an undervaluation of work in many feminised occupations and industries. The VTHC sees political intervention as a necessity in the current situation. Political intervention is necessary since the market has not and does not deliver pay equity on its own. Strong political support is needed. The dismantling of the monitoring and reporting mechanisms under the Howard government meant that we lost track of this situation. This needs to be remedied. The importance of comprehensive data and research on women’s workforce participation is necessary so that unequal remuneration can be identified, and there are many recommendations in our submission that refer to that.

CHAIR —Terrific. Thank you very much. This morning we had a presentation from the Victorian government about their commitment to a work standard of pay equity—hopefully I have got the jargon correct—and some of the things that were happening, included the establishment of the Family Council. Given the opportunity of having such a broad cross-section of workplaces and women workers represented here, I thought I would ask what sort of impact you thought the Victorian government’s initiatives were having?

Ms Taylor —The council, for instance, has only been up a short time, so I tend to think it is too short a period of time for us to see an impact. I would have to say we look with some jealousy at states like Queensland and the structure they have got—others have done more research on it than I have—they really do seem to be delivering. So the jury is still out in terms of the Victorian initiatives, I would say.

Ms Jennings —May I add to that. The leadership of Rob Hulls, our former Attorney-General, was fantastic in this area, and Trades Hall Council was able to put in a submission to the review the Victorian government did on gender pay equity. Since then we have been disappointed in not seeing a lot of action from the government, particularly in their role as an employer, and of course for our union that is particularly significant. They did make it quite clear that any initiatives they might be taking in the gender pay equity area would not be involving them in their employer role. There is a new IR minister in the portfolio and the Trades Hall Council gender pay equity committee is meeting with him next month.

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —On 21 April.

Ms Jennings —So we are hoping to be able to move the activity along in that area, and we will be interested to see the submission from this morning.

CHAIR —It is available on the website.

Ms Taylor —We will also be very interested in looking at the submission from the previous group. We found that really interesting.

CHAIR —They were very impressive. My second question goes more to your submission. Every union in the country has pointed out that the Queensland equal pay principle is the best and the model No. 1. But the fact of the matter is that, when you have a good look at the access to the principles, where states have had that capacity, not a lot of applications have actually been taken to the commissions. I am interested in whether you have a view about why that might be.

Ms Bond —I will jump in on that one because I am interested in the Queensland principle, as we all are, but in terms of it being taken up as part of our submission. I think one of the reasons is what happened federally with legislation. Some of the states were making great leaps forward. Unfortunately, Victoria was not one of those because we lost our state based system so we did not have the same infrastructure to be able to make legislative change that could directly impact on people’s ability to put submissions forward. But the fair pay case in New South Wales was a great leap forward. The new legislation in Queensland was sensational. There were some really good test cases, such as the childcare case.

Then, as all of this was happening, Work Choices started encroaching on what was going on. There has been quite a lot of research into the regressive nature of that, even on the state based systems because there was so much pressure being put on those systems: that they were going to be closed down anyway; that the legislation was no longer going to be valid. And the people who were most likely to be affected by the principles were even less likely to be putting up their hand to say, ‘Yes, I want to be part of the test case, I want to be one of the people who says I should be paid more,’ when they were actually being discouraged from even having a voice in the workplace at all. So I think it is a combination of those two things. That is not to say that they could not have been used more, and I think the states that have those principles in place, New South Wales and Queensland, are now looking at using them more. Certainly, the impact of Work Choices was not just on those who were covered by the federal legislation, such as those in Victoria; it actually filtered out to everybody in the workplace who felt that the nature of their employment was precarious.

Ms Jennings —Can I add that one of the initiatives with the Queensland principles was the provision of funds so that cases could be mounted. I think that was important. It enabled more to happen in Queensland than elsewhere. One of the aspects we are pushing very firmly in the submission is that the pay equity commissioner within Fair Work Australia have a proactive role so that a systemic remedy can be set in place. From our point of view, particularly in the Australian Education Union, we have seen very clearly that it is when there is centralised regulation and a centralised system that women can start to achieve some measure of equality.

I feel like I have been involved in this campaign for my whole life—I think I have!—and I really do feel that this hearing and inquiry is a potentially significant opportunity to finally address the gender bias that has existed in work value cases for the whole existence of the Industrial Relations Commission. There has been a ‘not allowing’ of comparable work and the valuing of women’s work in a comparable way. The Industrial Relations Commission has expressly prohibited that a number of times, particularly in 1983. I think this is what must happen: women’s skills need to be revalued with the gender bias removed. If you look at the work that women do, the skills are big ones, the responsibilities are big and the conditions are often very appalling, but none of this is remunerated properly. I do see you having such an important role and hopefully this will be such a historic opportunity to actually address the situation.

CHAIR —The final thing I would ask you to comment on is that we have had a lot of people variously say that they did not know there was an equity gap or that a lot of employers are unaware of it in their own workplaces. We had some interesting evidence from one of the unions yesterday, the CFMEU, about their support for paid maternity leave and the like. But when I started to ask them about their support for quality part-time work in their industry—and Mike will probably kick me under the table!—they talked about the expectation of the six days for construction workers. We have men doing very long hours of work and we seem to have women compressed at the shorter end of the spectrum. If you are going to balance out those work-life choices then that sort of flexibility is there. What role do you think there is for education and awareness campaigns to tackle those sorts of perception issues?

Ms Taylor —It has already been mentioned that we think that there should be legislation, but our submission quite specifically states that we need legislation, enforceable regulations and education together with support from public institutions so that it is bigger than just laws. I am hoping that, for instance, some of the things that have been in the paper just recently start to change the understanding of the community. I am sure you have seen the research that came out through AMP Financial Services yesterday that showed that a young woman who is starting work today compared to a young man who is starting work today will earn $1 million less in her lifetime. It is worse for people of my era because I am very much the baby boomer and there is a bigger gap. So, whilst there is something that has been done, there is still so much to do. It is $1 million over a lifetime. Of course, that affects your security after you finish work too, with superannuation et cetera.

CHAIR —Superannuation and retirement income were included in the $1 million.

Ms Taylor —I did not think it was, but I have to say that I have read the summary of the material rather than the full details. It does have some specific statements about the superannuation balances a man has compared to a woman and the percentages at different levels. There is still some work to be done.

Ms Bond —Can I throw something into the education discussion. The other side of it is that people who have more access to collective bargaining—so, ideally, union members—probably have more access to education to a certain level as well compared to an awful lot of people who are affected by this who are on minimum awards and do not have access to collective bargaining. Their own education is severely lacking in terms of any sense of what they can ask for and what their rights are. So not only do employers and some unions need to be educated but also there needs to be some way for that education to filter through to the people who are actually at the end of the scale, the ones who will be relying on the changes that hopefully this inquiry will make. Even if changes are made and the remuneration principle is created, the majority of people who are likely to benefit from that probably will not know about it. Where the education comes from, who guides it and who supports it are very important questions as well.

CHAIR —The cage doors are open but the bird will not fly.

Ms Bond —Yes.

Mr HAASE —I notice that in your 55 recommendations in your submission you have mentioned Fair Work Australia 24 times. I thought that was a commendable promotional exercise.

Ms Jennings —Are we the best?

Mr HAASE —I also, perhaps with similar severity, mention that with your aspiration in recommendation 2—as we are all interested in—in reducing the pay equity gap, would you countenance the reduction of male wages?

Ms Taylor —No.

Mr HAASE —We have got that out of the way. I wondered whether that was part of your strategy.

Ms Taylor —Definitely not.

Mr HAASE —That is on the record!

Ms Jennings —There are some CEOs—we might be prepared to—

Mr HAASE —Yes, it is amazing how your perspective changes as the circumstances do. With respect to the whole issue of pay equity, we have discussed with various witnesses how you define the topic of this inquiry. I have raised the issue that many people accept that there is already gender pay equity and no gap exists because awards are phrased these days in a manner where it is illegal to have different rates on a gender basis. So have you looked at further accurately describing what you collectively see as the measurement of the gender pay equity gap? This is an important issue if we are talking about educational programs and putting in a mandatory form of audit, we need to have a language that is understandable. What is yours?

Ms Taylor —I have to say I still like the term ‘work of equal value’. Our members include people like schoolteachers, preschool teachers and groups such as integration aides in schools who look after kids who are struggling and who have problems. I would have thought that you could say that the value of the work of a schoolteacher is at least equal to the value of the work of a lawyer or an accountant, but the pay levels are quite different. For a preschool teacher, before you start having to jump through hoops, the highest you can get is just under $50,000 a year. Then there are some hoops and then you can get higher than that but that is the top of the automatic level.

CHAIR —Does not their profession devalue a pre-primary or preschool teacher in comparison to a primary teacher and in comparison to a secondary teacher.

Ms Taylor —Primary and secondary teachers get the same through the agreements we have negotiated. Twelve years ago the early childhood teacher earned 30 per cent less than a schoolteacher. We have now got it up, so you start at the same but we still have not won the extra bits at the top that will take it up there. The highest you can get if you are full-time integration aide—and very few are because if you are just working school hours you cannot do a full-time job—is $41,000. That is why I like the language of ‘value’. What is the value of that job compared to the value of another sort of job? That is why we need structures that are going to have to interpret those things.

Mr HAASE —That is the next question. Who would be the arbiter? Is society the arbiter? Would you agree with me that the society’s valuation of skills of people in professions or jobs if you like is what determines the comparative rate of pay?

Ms Taylor —I do not think that it is society that arbitrates on this. We as a modern union do lots of surveys and polling of the community. We absolutely know that the community values the work of teachers more than that of many people who earn a lot more. The challenge is to set up structures that represent the community rather than the power structures that have existed over the years. I can see that other people want to buy into that one.

Ms Jennings —Absolutely, and I think that the arbiter needs to be a person like a pay equity commissioner within Fair Work Australia. There needs to be an expert body there that can undertake these work value cases that Ann is suggesting. Historically, they are very gender biased. If you look at the work that, typically, a lot of men do, working with machines, that has historically been valued much more highly in terms of remuneration than the work women traditionally do, which is often dealing with people, particularly if the people are young or disabled.

Mr HAASE —Do you know why?

Ms Jennings —I would say that it is probably an unconscious historical gender bias, and quite possibly a reflection of the male unions—the craft and trade unions—being a lot stronger in the beginning. The male unionists had a lot more industrial clout. If you are a woman who has a tenuous connection to the labour market—you are casual or part time, you have parental responsibilities, you are so-called semiskilled or low skilled or you are from a non-English-speaking background—being involved in the union and trying to get better rates is way down your list of priorities. I think that one of the reasons it is so severe in Australia is that we still have the most sex segregated workforce in the OECD. As the women in engineering were just talking about, there are very, very few women in engineering. Twenty-nine years ago I worked in a girls apprenticeship program to try and get more women into the male trades. Depressingly, it is still exactly the same as when we all eagerly went in there to try and encourage women into the male trades. It is very hard to shift it, but I think the basis of gender pay equity is very simple: it is about valuing skills. All the other things like lack of career progression, parental responsibility, breaking from the workforce and not having super hang off that. I think the essential heart of it is valuing the work that women do in a way that has the gender bias off. There are a number of mechanisms to do that.

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —And part-time casual employees, who are predominantly women, get left behind in promotions.

Ms Jennings —Yes, it is even worse.

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —If there are any management positions coming up, they automatically will not apply for them—’I’m casual,’ ‘I’m part time,’ ‘I can only work certain hours because I have to pick up children from child care’—so that really puts them behind the eight ball again.

Mr HAASE —Is that a choice situation for them?

Ms Jennings —False choice.

Mr HAASE —Do you believe that, if the gates were opened and there were absolute equity, you would have great hordes of women walking away from their family caring responsibilities and taking up full-time jobs?

Ms Taylor —We hope we would have great hordes of men walking towards their family responsibilities.

Mr HAASE —But do you think you are having that point of view with both feet on the floor? I do not believe that you would find a great body of men agreeing with you.

Ms Taylor —No, probably not, but that is part of the problem, isn’t it?

Mr HAASE —Yes, but that is our dilemma.

Ms Taylor —Yes, I agree.

Mr HAASE —Do we simply mandate change out of step with society’s expectations?

Ms Taylor —We have been following for so long and we are not getting anywhere.

Mr HAASE —But this is the nub of my questions. Ought we to mandate these changes—

Ms Taylor —Yes.

Mr HAASE —at the rejection of society or should we dictate to society through legislation?

Ms Taylor —Leading.

Mr HAASE —Of course it is a combination of carrot and stick—I accept that—but, broadly speaking, is society seeking these changes as readily as the trade union movement is?

Ms Bond —I think so.

Mr HAASE —What is the collective measurement of that? Sure, we are getting great bodies of evidence that say that there is this great inequity and discrimination, but we put our shingle out there saying, ‘Report here,’ and Mrs Jones hasn’t written to me once saying, ‘I’m dissatisfied with my life.

Ms Bond —Mrs Jones is busy with the kids.

Ms Jennings —Yes, she is.

Ms Bond —In terms of the great leaps forward that the trade union movement is taking, the union movement also needs to make those leaps, and we are making them, but like everybody else in society we do not just do it simply and easily. Coming from a blue-collar union where 85 per cent, and in some cases 90 per cent, of our membership are men, I know it is not an easy fix or an easy change. We are not talking about doing something that is simple. If it were simple it would have happened a long time ago. We are talking about something that is very, very complicated. If we want to go back into the language of what is of value, there is nothing to say that the work that women do is not valued; it is just that it is not paid as well as it is valued.

So, if we want to break it down into something that can be legislated and structural, let us talk about it as something that is not related to value, to heart politics or to where women belong and where men belong but to competencies and skills. In the work that we are doing, regardless of whether we are a man or a woman or whether we are working in a blue-collar industry, in a white-collar industry or as a teacher, the skills that we require to do that job have an economic value. If there is a disparity in the economic value, which clearly there is—we obviously all know that there is a huge disparity in what people are being paid—it comes back down to an assessable unit of competency. Where there are large levels of competency, there should be equal remuneration.

Mr HAASE —Would that pertain, as we have discussed on numerous occasions, to the underpaid and undervalued industries of child care and aged care? Would we see enormous additions to government funding going into both those sectors and therefore have the equivalent tax increase to pay for them?

Ms Bond —Yes.

Mr HAASE —And impact on society at large? Remember that you are talking about the values of 100 per cent of society, of which men are a little less than 50 per cent.

Ms Bond —Men have children too.

Mr HAASE —Of course.

Ms Bond —And they have children in child care as well. So I think the impact on society of allowing the options, if child care were available for men or women—or both if that were what were required—to be able to go back to the workforce, would balance out. I think that the taxpayer dollars that are spent on making the workplace more flexible would balance out. It is the leap to get there that is the hard part. Once we are there, I do not think too many people are going to be too upset about it.

Ms Jennings —The alternative is that you have women continuing to underwrite the economy, which is not fair. You have the economy resting on women’s unpaid and underpaid labour, so that is not fair, and that is not tenable in the longer term.

Mr HAASE —It has served us for a lot of years.

Ms Jennings —It did, but it is not fair anymore.

Ms Bond —We also spend money. We are noticing. We are in the economy and we also spend money. We make the majority of the decisions about how the money is being spent.

CHAIR —I think he is partly riling you. He does it to me effectively all the time.

Ms Bond —It worked!

Mr SYMON —I will go down a different tack, because I think we have probably explored that one enough for the moment. I note the call on page 30 of your submission for a dedicated pay equity division within Fair Work Australia. Would that, in your opinion, fit under the current act as it stands or are you talking about a separate act to house that in? It is a discussion we have had in the committee in the last couple of days. I would like to seek your opinions on that matter.

Ms Taylor —I am not sure that we would be the ones who would dictate how that would happen to the parliament. I understand that the government has some concerns about putting amendments to legislation they have just put through. I think that the parliament would probably find it easier as a separate act, but we are quite happy to let you work out how to do that.

Mr SYMON —I ask it because not everything involved with pay equity and access to the workforce actually comes back down to an industrial instrument. From that perspective, I was wondering if you had an opinion that we need something wider as a tool to use to achieve this.

Ms Bond —I would suggest one thing. One of the benefits of having it as part of Fair Work Australia is the arbitration—or not arbitration but the ability to make decisions giving some teeth behind the legislation. The concern if it were put into a different area would be, again, that it would be the women’s issue portfolio, where women’s issues are discussed, and what we want to do is move it back into the general industrial climate, where it belongs to everybody. We have done that a few times before. We have a lot of different areas where women’s issues are dealt with in the law, and we want to say that they are society’s issues, that they are equal across the board and that they should not be marginalised in that way. That is my opinion, but I think that is where this is coming from.

Mr SYMON —Most of those agencies that are currently set up can handle individual complaints, but they cannot change things prospectively for other employees. In terms of a pay equity division within Fair Work Australia, do you think they should have that power to run their own cases?

Ms Bond —Absolutely, and review the awards with equal pay principles in there.

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —Yes. As you say, the equal opportunity jurisdiction is much more individualistic and it cannot lead to systemic change, and that is what we need. It has got to be core business.

CHAIR —A separate body for that, yes.

Ms Bond —And the centralising wage system that has been one of the only things that has kept a lot of women with a minimum wage where they are now. Moving away from that and separating it out would further separate that relationship to the system.

Mr SYMON —The next question will probably be a dorothy dixer. In your submission you refer to the ABS statistics, especially series 6306, which is the employee earnings and hours, which is only done every two years. The statistics you quote come from May 2006. Sitting here in April 2009, it strikes me that you might like to comment on whether that should be done on a more frequent basis and actually cover a wider range of parameters.

Ms Taylor —We clearly say that that absolutely should happen. For those who are trying to track it, I just found it on page 27. We have got to be able to monitor, we have got to be able to look at it longitudinally and we need to be able to really assess what is happening and go by facts. We are very passionate and passion goes so far, but you need to the facts behind you. That would be really useful.

Mr SYMON —It has come up quite often at this committee inquiry that we are dealing with data that is collected that is not necessarily current or does not have enough detail in it. That seems to be the major survey that is always relied upon. I will push along to page 35 and retirement income. Your recommendation there about retirement income policies at 9.22, reducing the contribution tax or removal of that tax on incomes of less than $70,000 per annum. If I remember rightly, at the moment that tax is 15 per cent for everyone that contributes to super. I take it your suggestion is that it would help proportionately women more than it would men because there are more women in that lower income band. It seems to be quite a sensible suggestion in that regard. Do you have any comments?

Ms Taylor —Nothing further.

Mr SYMON —That is fine. The last one is on page 39, where you refer to procurement policy. I would see, and I am sure you would similarly see, that there is an opportunity for government to enact change by its own procedures, by prequalifying tenderers by vetting contracts before they are let, to make sure that women are not disadvantaged in employment with the entity that receives the taxpayer’s dollar. Have you got any suggestions as to how government could do that better than that currently does, if it does at all?

Ms Bond —One of the recommendations we have in there is the better off overall test, and that test actually incorporates principles of equal pay. So in the new proposed no disadvantage or whatever it is going to be, the better off overall test is really looking at better off overall, are we better off than we were previously in this case. What we are looking at at the moment is, if they are better off than they were just before, is that good enough? Can we expand the better off overall test to actually say better off across the industry or across that grouping? It is a vehicle that has not yet been tested.

Ms Taylor —Trades Hall and the ACTU have always been very strongly of the position that government through its tendering processes as well as its employment practices should be looking at best practice. We know that under the previous Howard government there were requirements before funding was received or tenders were received to sign up to the Building and Construction Code et cetera. There are things that government should be driving and this is one of the ways they can drive it. They can drive for the good or the bad, but we would like them to drive it for the good. We think this is definitely an important way that government could do it.

Ms Jennings —Yes, and this is potentially something that perhaps could fall within the pay equity commissioner’s jurisdiction, and it is something that we have been thinking of suggesting to the Victorian government and may well be part of our discussion with Minister Pakula next month. One of the concerns we have, for example, is the government funding that goes into the disability sector. We would like to see that funding not go ahead unless there are certain employment conditions that are met. So it is an underutilised tool, I think, and potentially a very useful one. If government does shy away from taking action in its role as an employer, it could take action in its role as a funder.

Mr SYMON —I have one last question. You referred to the better off overall test, but I would like to hear your comments on how that could be applied to the intangibles that are not currently measured—that is, access and opportunity and quite a few other bits and pieces that go along with that as well—that continually come up in every one of our hearings for this inquiry. It may be something as simple as access to overtime on a particular day, the opportunity for training, the opportunity to try for a promotion, returning to work with the same conditions after parental leave, even break of service that resets those conditions to zero. As I understand it at the moment, the better off overall test would not cover all of those circumstances. Do you have a suggestion about how you would like to see something like that put in place?

Ms Bond —Right of entry is one way. The only way that we are going to get that information is to be able to go into workplaces that do not have current access to collective bargaining. That is really where these key issues are of concern. Where we have collective agreements, where we have unions in place, we can probably access that information and incorporate it into our agreements if necessary, but where we do not have the access to people who are relying on the awards or the minimum wage, who are probably the primary groups who are going to be impacted on if this legislation is improved or changed, the only way that we are going to find out about what is really going on out there is if people who are interested in finding out about those issues are given access to their workplaces. Those things go hand in hand.

Mr SYMON —I note that in your submission you also referred to mandatory pay equity audits, which I suspect could be another way of getting to the same point to get hold of that data.

Ms Jennings —Yes. If you did finally have pay equity between men and women you would then see different family choices being made. You might see the mother going for the promotion because she is not going to be earning a whole lot less than the man. It is a no-brainer who stays home if she is not earning anything and she has no career anyway—she may as well stay home because the family is better off. So you start to change all the decisions that are made by a family, however it is structured. That is another benefit of pay equity.

Ms O’Donnell-Pirisi —Yes, and it gives the father the opportunity to take a year or six months off, for the woman to get a better career or go back full-time and then negotiate to go back part-time, and then the father can go back full-time. So they can share the care of the child or children. That is a real issue, too. I was on unpaid maternity leave—that was the employer I was with—and my partner and I struggled. It is the bonding, it is establishing breastfeeding. Everything comes into play if you know you have the support and the mechanisms to be able to go for promotions when you return to work and share the caring—although not everybody is in a couple.

Mr RAMSEY —Thank you for your personal testaments. I presume you are aware that this is the same submission we had given to us two days ago in Queensland?

Ms Jennings —Yes. It is from all the trades and Labor councils.

Mr RAMSEY —Yes, so we have already looked at this one before. I made the point to that presentation at the time that it was a very strongly political paper and I think loses some impact because it is so much so. Some of the recommendations that it brought in are probably beyond what is important in this argument. I just make that point.

I would also like to come back near to where Barry was. This is something I bring up repeatedly. It seems to me that when we are talking about sectorial comparisons many of the low-paid industries that women are employed in—aged, disability, health, education, child care—are sectors where the wage structure is governed by what government pays. They are the major employers in that sector and consequently they set the benchmarks. If you look at education you do not see the independent education sector getting in front of the government sector. They are roughly in parallel. You can say the same about aged care or child care. That money comes directly from government, whether it be an independent or government funded sector.

The role for governments here, if they wish, is to be the leaders and to set those minimum standards in those areas that will redress that sectorial imbalance. I presume every government around Australia would stand up and say, ‘We are really interested in these issues of pay equity,’ but at the end of the day they are faced with balancing a budget and trying to please the electorate. You tell us there is strong public will to see this done, but will the public back that up at the ballot box when the government says it cannot have these services because we are going to bring up the wages in the childcare, education and disability sectors?

In South Australia the current government has been in dispute with the education sector for about nine months now over a pay deal. I do not think the education sector is going to get any huge catch up on the rest of the world. In the end it is a political thing that governments have to deal with day to day in their budgets. It is all very well for us to have high ideals, but delivering the goods at the coalface can take some doing.

Ms Taylor —Governments can sell changes and priorities that they follow on the basis of what they will deliver to the community. We have also just had a big dispute in Victoria over schoolteachers’ salaries. We won a very large pay deal, and it is a pay deal that will retain experienced teachers within the system in Victoria. The government can tell the community that is why we are spending it—otherwise we would be losing teachers hand over fist. Pay equity is not just about the money in the pocket of the individual who might get better pay; it is about the community. We need to tell the community that it is needed to retain people in various areas and that there is going to be more money spent by their families. It is a bigger picture thing rather than just that really narrow bit. It is also not just governments. Samantha was talking at lunchtime about some of the industries she is in. Yes, government is one thing and government should be leading the way—we would absolutely say that—but it is across everything.

Ms Bond —The majority of our members are in the private sector. We still have enormous disparities where the women are working, where the men are working and where the women and men are working together. We still have disparities in those areas that have not been tested.

Mr RAMSEY —No, the point I was making is that governments have the opportunity to be the leaders in this area. I do not think they actually show that they are, even though they say that they would wish to be.

Ms Jennings —We would say strongly that this is one of the reasons the Rudd government was elected. A core platform and policy of the Labor government was paid maternity leave and pay equity, making things better for working women. It is one of the reasons the union movement was behind a move to the new government and we worked so hard. These are the things that the majority of the community want. That is why they voted for this government. They have a responsibility to the people.

Mr RAMSEY —I am not sure the majority of the population—

Ms Jennings —Seventy-four per cent.

Mr RAMSEY —were as fully informed across a wide sector of what those commitments as what you are.

Ms Jennings —They voted for them.

CHAIR —We had arguments about that through the parliament about a week and a half ago. We got as far as we are going to go on that one.

Ms Bond —Often the electorate do not go kicking and screaming into things; they just go with them. It is not like we are trying to spend billions of dollars on things that they think they are never going to use. We need to publicly demonstrate what we are trying to achieve through this. It is going to benefit everybody—not just people working in the childcare sector but every family and every worker in Australia. I understand people do not like to see their taxpayer dollars being spent. There are lots of things that we do not like our money being spent on but it is going to be spent anyway. I do not think there is going to be a huge public outcry if money is being spent on something essential.

Mr RAMSEY —No, but governments do have to deal with the reality of getting their budget out there. They are reluctant to either raise taxes or cut services.

Ms Jennings —Yes, but look at the mess we are in. That had nothing to do with women demanding too much pay. That has been the skewed wages and money that have been paid to those very rich men. Now we have to get out of this mess.

CHAIR —I thank you for your attendance here today. I cannot recall whether you have been asked to provide any additional information but, if you have, could you liaise with the committee secretariat. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence. On behalf of all of the committee, I thank you very much coming along today. It has been wonderful to spend some time with you.

[3.20 pm]