28 July 2017
Transcript - #2017023, 2017

Interview with Sarah Cumming and Tom Williams, The Daily Edition

SUBJECTS: working mums, mums in politics

SARAH CUMMING:

She is the Federal MP breaking new ground. Kelly O’Dwyer is back at work with a cot in her office, having returned to full-time work after giving birth to her second child.

TOM WILLIAMS:

The Liberal MP is the first minister to have a baby while serving in Cabinet. Her newborn Edward has already been exposed to life in politics. The three-month-old has attended his first Cabinet meeting, even sharing a cuddle with the PM.

SARAH CUMMING:

Kelly O’Dwyer Minister for Revenue and Financial Services joins us now live from Melbourne. Great to have you with us, Kelly, thank you for joining us.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Sarah and Tom.

SARAH CUMMING:

Congratulations on the birth of Edward. How’s the juggling act going?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Like a lot of mums, it is a bit of a juggle, particularly when you have a toddler as well. But it is a wonderful juggle and he is a very good little baby. I can’t complain. He is a good eater and, happily, so far he is a good sleeper. So let’s hope that continues.

TOM WILLIAMS:

That is great. He is very cute. You’ve set up a cot in your Melbourne office. What’s been the reaction?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I actually set up the cot in my Melbourne office when I had Olivia. I did that because sometimes when you are breastfeeding and working you actually do need a place to put them down safely. It’s just a practical piece of furniture. I don’t notice it any longer. I did have one of the bank CEOs come in to see me not long ago and he was very taken aback by seeing a cot in an office. He thought it was pretty good, we took a selfie next to the cot. He did think it was rather interesting.

RYAN PHELAN:

We just saw a lovely photo with Prime Minister Turnbull there before, also in recent times, Larissa Waters getting a lovely response as well. Do you think Parliament is a lot more accepting of mothers nowadays?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Yes Ryan I think that is the case and I think it is the case that we want our Parliament to be open to people of different backgrounds, experiences and family makeups. A lot of the time, many women have not considered a career in public life because of the impact it would have on family. I’m not saying it doesn’t have an impact, it certainly does, as do a number of careers. But it’s certainly a lot better than what it once was. We now have arrangements in place so that if you are a breastfeeding mother in Parliament, you can be paired so that you can continue to feed your child while a vote is taking place and ensure that your vote is still counted in the Parliament. Simple, little practical things like that, that do make a difference.

SARAH CUMMING:

Absolutely, and I think you described in the past the Prime Minister as being enlightened and very understanding on these issues. Why do you think that so many other bosses in other industries perhaps are not so understanding?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I’ve got to say that I am very grateful that my boss is Malcolm Turnbull because, of course, he is not only a father but a grandfather. He is a very modern man and he does understand that you do need to have in place flexible arrangements around work in order to get the right team around you. I know that when I was on maternity leave, I still wanted to participate in Cabinet meetings. I asked the Prime Minister if I could video presence into those meetings down from Melbourne when Parliament was sitting in Canberra and he was very open to doing that. He made sure it happened. I was able to fully participate. It makes all the difference when you’ve got a good boss. Why some people don’t do it? Sometimes there are challenges, particularly when people are in small business or medium-sized business. Frankly, we need to shine a bit of a light on this. If you want the best people around you, if you want the people who can do the job, you’ve got to understand that sometimes they will require flexibility whether they be men or women. The more our workplace can keep pace with some of these changes, I think the better it will be for everyone.

TOM WILLIAMS:

For sure. Kelly, earlier this year, former Labor minister Kate Ellis resigned because of having to spend too much time away from her family. How challenging is mixing politics with motherhood?

KELLY O’DWYER:

It is challenging, I’m not going to lie about it, but then again there are lots of other careers that are equally challenging. A lot of other people who have to balance work and travel and family. In politics, you do spend a lot of time away from home. I do find that as a minister, particularly, I spend time not only in Canberra but also in Sydney. I am off to Perth next week, I was in Sydney just this week. I do spend a fair bit of time travelling around the country. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s obviously an important one given the context of the job that I do and the very privileged job that I have. I do have a very loving and understanding family. My husband has taken six months of work, we are in a fortunate position where he can do that in order to care for our two children. I’ve got a fabulous mum and I’ve got a fabulous office. So no one person can do it all by themselves, you need really, really a good team around you.

TOM WILLIAMS:

And a great boss by the sounds of it too.

KELLY O’DWYER:

He is pretty good.

TOM WILLIAMS:

Great stuff. Thanks so much Kelly.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you.