19 January 2018
Transcript - #2018006, 2018

Interview with Linda Mottram, ABC PM

SUBJECTS: Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy; mums in politics; juggling parenthood; Australia Day

LINDA MOTTRAM:

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, has had a new job for about a month now as Minister for Women, and she knows about balancing politics with looking after a new born. She was the first Cabinet Minister to have a baby while in office in Australia. Kelly O’Dwyer joins me on the line. Minister, thank you for your time.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great pleasure Linda.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Are you surprised that we are still seemingly surprised that women in power like Jacinda Ardern have babies?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, it took some time, about 65 years from Federation in Australia for a woman to be given a Cabinet portfolio in her own right, which was Liberal Senator Annabelle Rankin in 1966, and it took until last year for a woman in Cabinet to actually have a baby whilst in Cabinet, so it surprises me that we are surprised, but it has taken a little bit of time, and as soon as I heard the announcement I put in a call to Jacinda to extend to her and to Clarke my personal congratulations. And I passed on to her that I’m absolutely confident that she is going to be able to do two of the most difficult jobs in the world – running a country and being a mother

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Don’t rank them will you. Katherine’s report there reminded us that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was targeted for not having children when she was in office, do you agree with Natasha Stott Despoja that those double standards are still there?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I really don’t think it’s appropriate for women to be judged on their choices whether to have children or not to have children. Sometimes it isn’t in fact a choice at all. And I think the commentary around it is pretty puerile. I’ve always said that I believe women have the capacity to serve at the highest levels of government and also be mums, but also equally not be mums. And frankly, we live in a society where happily we do have these choices and we want to see women serve at the highest levels in our Parliament and I think it’s great news to hear that Jacinda is doing that.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

The question about juggling parenthood with work is rarely asked of men, is it? What are you going to do with this new portfolio responsibility to advance change on that front?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I think it’s actually really important to talk in very practical ways about the fact that it does actually require changes with parental leave arrangements for men. In my own circumstances which I do recognise are different to lots of other women, I actually was in the fortunate position where my husband could take some parental leave, he did that, he also took some unpaid leave as well in order to care for both of our children when they were born before returning to work. Now we needed to do that because I was breastfeeding and I needed that logistical support and I needed the support from my husband and we needed to care for our children but not everybody has those choices. But we do need to make it much more normal, though, for men to be able to have that flexibility in the workforce so that they can have that bond with their children, and so that they can make those decisions where they’re able to do that.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Will you tackle employers on this question of questioning women or perhaps, in some cases, we’ve all heard the stories – women being excluded from getting jobs because of concerns that they’re going to have a child. Will you tackle that head on?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it’s illegal to do that, it’s not at all appropriate. It’s not legal to actually ask a woman if she’s going to be having a child in relation to those sorts of employment questions.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

We know what happens though, don’t we?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it’s frankly wrong and frankly, I think any employer who doesn’t see the value and the talent in their female workforce, I think are actually missing out. I’ve had women who’ve worked for me who’ve come back part time after having had caring responsibilities and I have been very keen to get them into my office because I recognise the great skills that they bring to the role. And I think it’s a matter of education – making sure that those employers who perhaps are a little less educated on this front capitalise on the great skills that are on offer.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

And just finally on another subject – Sean Gordon, a prominent NSW Indigenous man speaking to me earlier, said that the Government has failed to sufficiently acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ issues, particularly on the Australia Day concerns. Should the Government do more to that end and what do you think should happen about the day?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I’m a strong defender of Australia Day being on 26 January. I think it is a day where we celebrate coming together as a nation and frankly, I think that there has been too much politicisation around this date of national celebration. That doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge our history, I think we should always acknowledge our history. But the idea that some people would try and use Australia Day to try and further a hard left political agenda I think is very disappointing.

LINDA MOTTRAM:

Kelly O’Dwyer thank you very much for joining PM.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Thanks very much Linda.