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Address to the Parliamentary Breakfast for Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, Canberra

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23 AUGUST 2012

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Good morning.

Thank you Auntie Agnes Shea for that warm Welcome to


I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of

the land on which we are meeting, the Ngunnawal people, and

pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

I am honoured to host this breakfast for my Parliamentary

colleagues to welcome Michelle Bachelet.

Thank you to the National Committee for UN Women in

Australia and AusAID for organising this event.

My respect for the Under-Secretary-General and Executive

Director of UN Women is immense.

In her current role, Ms Bachelet is continuing to contribute her

considerable talents to the causes of women’s leadership,

gender equality and the empowerment of women at global,

regional and national levels.

It builds on a lifetime of championing democracy, human rights

and women’s rights.

It is a pleasure to welcome her back to Australia - her refuge

for a short time during her days of exile from Chile in the 1970s.

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A warm welcome also to Jenny Macklin, the Minister for

Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the

Minister for Disability Reform; Warren Snowdon, Minister for

Defence Science and Personnel; to all my other parliamentary

colleagues; Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth

Broderick; and General David Hurley, Chief of the Defence

Force; and to Penny Williams, Australia’s Global Ambassador

for Women and Girls.

I’d like to remind you of a message Michelle delivered at the

Commission on the Status of Women this year on the

importance of women’s political participation.

She stated that women’s participation in politics and the

economy reinforces women’s civil, political and economic rights

and strengthens democracy, equality and the economy.

Yet female representation in Australian political and public life

remains well below an equitable level.

We meet here today when, for the first time in our country’s

history, we have a female Prime Minister, a female Governor

General - and the highest proportion of women in the Ministry,

at 26.7 per cent.

But there is still a great deal of work to be done.

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Women’s representation in our Federal Parliament has, in fact,


Women hold around 40 per cent of seats in the Senate and 25

per cent in the House of Representatives.

As a Parliament, we must work to promote the increased

representation of women in politics in the interest of gender

equality and women's empowerment.

Equal opportunity for women and men supports economic

growth and helps reduce poverty.

This is as true in developed countries such as Australia, as it is

in developing countries.

In Australia, closing the gap between women’s and men’s

workforce participation could boost our Gross Domestic

Product by up to 13 per cent.

Having an equal number of men and women in leadership

positions leads to more informed decision making and better


And if we eliminated violence against women, we would also

save the Australian economy $13.6 billion each year.

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Domestic initiatives

The Australian Government recognises this evidence and we

have introduced initiatives designed to:

 Support working Australians and their families.

 Build a new Australian economy by making a sustained

national effort to raise productivity and remove barriers to

people participating in the workforce.

 Strengthen communities by creating a fairer and more

inclusive Australia.

Earlier this year, I worked with the Prime Minister to develop

the Women’s Statement 2012, which outlines where we are

going, and how the Australian Government will contribute to

achieving equality and building a stronger and fairer Australia.

The Women’s Statement highlights the many achievements this

Government has made to improve outcomes for women,


 The historic introduction of the nation’s first Paid Parental

Leave scheme.

 A record investment to make quality early childhood

education and care more affordable.

 A commitment to a minimum of 40 per cent

representation of women and men on Australian

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Government boards by 2015. The latest annual Gender

Balance on Australian Government Boards Report

released in April showed female executives filled 35.3 per

cent of Government board positions in the 2010-11

financial year - an all-time high.

 An $86 million commitment to initiatives under the

National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and

their Children. The National Plan brings together the

efforts of all Australian governments, non-government

sector and the community more broadly.

 The Australian Human Rights Commission review of the

culture within the Australian Defence Force Academy and

Australian Defence Force (ADF). Phase Two of this

Review was tabled in Parliament yesterday and deals

with the treatment of women in the ADF. I am pleased to

say the Government and Defence have agreed in-principle to accept the recommendations of the Review.

 And the Australian National Action Plan on Women,

Peace and Security, which I launched on International

Women’s Day this year.

o This National Action Plan is part of Australia’s

ongoing commitment to implement United Nations

Security Council Resolution 1325 (thirteen twenty

five) and related resolutions.

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o We know that around 90 per cent of casualties in

recent conflicts have been civilians, with the majority

of victims being women and children.

o The National Action Plan recognises the

disproportionate impact of conflict on women and

highlights the critical role women can play in peace


The Women’s Statement also reaffirms the Government’s

commitment to equality with a strong focus on women’s

workforce participation and economic security.

All Australian Government Ministers and Departments share a

responsibility for delivering equality for women, and for

considering the needs of different women, particularly those

who may face multiple barriers to full participation in work and

community life.

This is consistent with the Beijing Platform for Action, which is

to integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public policies,

programs and projects.

International initiatives

While progress towards greater gender equality is being made

here and abroad, women in developing countries still face

challenges that seem unimaginable to most of us in Australia.

We know that:

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 The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a

pregnancy-related cause is about 25 times higher than for

a woman living in a developed country.

 Women in a developing country are much more likely than

men to be illiterate.

 Female-led households are often desperately poor.

 Women political leaders remain a rarity in most countries

around the world - and that right on our doorstep, in the

Pacific, there is a critical lack of representation, where only

three per cent of parliamentarians are women.

This is why Australia appointed a Global Ambassador for

Women and Girls and why Australia’s aid program gives priority

to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Through AusAID’s programs, we help the poorest women

increase their incomes, access education and health services,

and take leadership roles in their communities.

We are working to end violence against women and girls in

their homes, in their communities, and in situations of conflict

and crisis.

The Australian Government is particularly proud of a number of

new initiatives focused on women which we’ve announced in

recent months.

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Senator Carr announced last month that Australia would double

aid funding for family planning services in developing countries,

increasing our support to $50 million a year by 2016.

This increase in funding will help women in the Asia-Pacific

access reproductive health services, family planning

information and modern contraception.

Australia is also taking a lead in reducing domestic and

community violence against women.

In Afghanistan, Australia has a $17.7 million program to help

change community attitudes and reduce retribution attacks

against women.

In Indonesia, Australia will help around three million women

with jobs, family planning and increased protection against

domestic violence, through a $60 million aid program.

Partnership with UN Women

Australia’s partnership with UN Women is an important part of

our contribution to promoting gender equality and women’s

empowerment internationally.

We will provide $48.5 million in core funding over the next four

years to UN Women.

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We are also looking forward to taking a seat on UN Women’s

Board in 2013 and contributing to the organisation’s

governance in this critical early period of the organisation’s life.

UN Women has only existed in its current form since January

2011 but it has already established itself as the key

international organisation working to promote gender equality,

through advocacy and practical programs around the world.

Under Ms Bachelet’s leadership, UN Women has built a strong

foundation over the last year and a half.

I look forward to working with UN Women and all of you over

the years ahead to deliver real results for the world’s most

disadvantaged women wherever they may live, including here

at home in Australia.

Thank you.