9 March 2018
Transcript - #2018011, 2018

Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

SUBJECTS: Women in Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering (STEM), sexual harassment, women in politics

LAURA JAYES:

It’s International Women’s Day so let’s speak to the Minister for Women, she is also Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer joins me now from Sydney where she has been with the Prime Minister today. There is so much to celebrate Kelly O’Dwyer on International Women’s Day. How have you reflected on the last couple of weeks in Parliament we’ve had a bit of bad behaviour on display?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well Laura you are absolutely right there has been so much to celebrate and it has been so fantastic to be here at Burwood High School for girls here is Sydney, in my colleague Craig Laundy’s electorate of Reid. To be joined by the Prime Minister and also to have Professor Michelle Simmons our Australian of the Year who only today was announcing another breakthrough in the fantastic work she does, her quantum computing work that is world leading. And we’re here today to talk about the fact that we’re announcing an ambassador for women in science to travel around the country to tell girls about the need for them to pursue maths, science, technology and engineering because 75 per cent of the jobs out there in the future are going to be in these fields. They need to see role models. They need to understand how they can get the right skills to be able to achieve that future.

LAURA JAYES:

If Michelle Simmons can’t convince more girls to go in to maths, science and some of these STEM subjects then I don’t know who will. Kelly O’Dwyer earlier this week you were at the National Press Club, there was no booing while you were at the Press Club I might just point out to our audience but let’s not get in to that, and you did go in to a number of areas but also you touched on the Me Too movement. It’s such an important movement that swept through Hollywood and has really swept through other aspects of women’s lives, but are there examples of you think of it going too far and being counterproductive?

KELLY O’DWYER:

So my reflections on this are that it is incredibly important that we shine a light on harassment – in particular sexual harassment in the workplace. And I think Me Too has absolutely amplified that message, a message that was really focussed on Hollywood, but one that really has spread worldwide and jumped from social media into the mainstream media. And the point that I have made is that this is a very important conversation, but we also need to understand that the airing of allegations in a public sense can have implications – both good and bad – not only for the person who is the complainant, but the person who is the subject of the complaint, and all I’m simply saying is that we need to have some degree of sensitivity and thoughtfulness around that because we certainly do not want to silence the very women whose voices need to be heard. And that’s one of the reasons why I was so supportive of our Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, expanding the survey that she conducts once every five years looking at sexual harassment in the workplace moving from 2,000 Australian women through to 10,000 Australian women so we can understand what is going on in the here and now, what are the challenges and how does social media also impact the way that we deal with sexual harassment complaints.

LAURA JAYES:

Absolutely. What do you think are the biggest barriers at the moment to women at least getting equal opportunity, because that’s the biggest thing here isn’t it, just equal opportunity. I’m a targets person not a quota person, I think you are with me on that, but we’ve seen the Labor Party achieve almost equal number of men and women in the federal parliament, the Liberal Party is so far behind, so have you changed your view a little bit towards quotas or are you still sticking with the targets?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I think when it comes to political parties – and I think this is a much broader topic – when it comes to political parties there is no question that the Liberal Party needs to do better, which is why we have now got a 50 per cent target for women in parliament by 2025. We have a very strong and proud legacy in the Liberal Party when it comes to women. We had the very first woman elected to Parliament, we had the first President of the Senate, we had the first Minister for Finance, the first Defence Minister, the first Foreign Minister who’s a woman. In fact, believe it or not I’m actually the first woman to have held a Treasury portfolio whilst in Cabinet and also the first woman to give birth whilst in Cabinet, so I think we can say we have a proud history of firsts but we do need to do better. Certainly I have been talking with female colleagues, and one of the things we are going to do together is to make sure that we have a fighting fund for those women who are in Parliament and who need to get re-elected, and have that economic independence behind them to be able to fight those campaigns, and also for those women candidates who are putting their hands up. But look, the Labor Party isn’t perfect on this either, if you actually analyse the figures and look at where the majority of their women come from, they’re holding seats with a margin of less than 10 per cent, so as I said, there is room for improvement everywhere.

LAURA JAYES:

Alright, I’m so glad you pointed out you have a Treasury portfolio as well, I did point it out at the start of the interview, but let me go to that. Do you think perhaps lifting the minimum wage, paying early childhood educators is something you’d get behind – paying educators more, sorry I don’t want to pretend that they’re doing this for free – paying early childhood educators more and lifting the minimum wage, are those two things that you’ll seriously look at?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well we’ve got a Fair Work Commission that actually looks at industrial cases and I understand that this is an industrial case that is on foot at the moment, being looked at by the independent umpire. But can I make a broader point here around closing the gender gap and closing the gender pay gap. I absolutely think that that is something that we need to have a very strong focus on. Unfortunately under the last Labor Government it went up. Under our Government it has gone down. It’s still 15 per cent though, and that is far too high. We need women to be paid properly for the job that they do, and we need to ask ourselves some questions as to perhaps why it is that there is a gender pay gap. One of the things I pointed out in my press club speech is that a lot of women, particularly when they take on caring responsibilities, work part time, but culturally it’s not thought about in quite the same way in relation to men. I mean men can work flexibly, they can work part time, and they can take on more of that parental responsibility, and the question I ask is ‘why don’t they do it?’ and when we see them doing that and not being financially punished for doing that I think that will improve it for women as well.

LAURA JAYES:

It seems that you and Tanya Plibersek actually agree on many of the aspects being discussed on International Women’s Day.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Oh Tanya might be very shocked by that.

LAURA JAYES:

Perhaps you’re shocking yourself as well. And just quickly, you still call yourself a feminist?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Absolutely, I’m a very proud feminist, because being a feminist is all about equality of opportunity…

LAURA JAYES:

…and not about hating men, not about hating men.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Not about hating men, no, we love men.

LAURA JAYES:

Kelly O’Dwyer on that note we’ll leave it there, thanks so much for your time.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great pleasure, thanks Laura.