7 May 2018
Transcript - #2018023, 2018

In the role of: Minister for Revenue and Financial Services [19 July 2016 - 28 August 2018]

Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

Subjects: Women’s economic statement, GST on sanitary products, income tax cuts, women on boards

SABRA LANE:

Kelly O'Dwyer – thank you very much for joining AM.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Great to be with you Sabra.

SABRA LANE:

What's the idea behind the women's economic security statement?

KELLY O'DWYER:

There is obviously going to be a lot in the Budget for millions of Australian women but it's really important that we build on the incredibly strong foundation that was set by my predecessor, Michaelia Cash, in making sure that women are safe in their homes, online and in their workplaces, and actually take it to the next level – to make sure that women have the economic capability, the economic resilience, to be able to make choices about their lives and they can only do that when they are economically secure. So for the first time as Minister for Women I am going to be making an economic security statement. That's going to happen in spring and it's going to be focused on those issues.

SABRA LANE:

So it will deal with closing the gaps on participation rates in the workforce, pay gaps, superannuation gaps, all those things?

KELLY O'DWYER:

It's going to touch on all of those things. It's particularly important when you consider that women retire, on average, with a lot less in their superannuation balances than men. In fact we know that the median superannuation balance is around about 42% less for women. So all the things that we can do to be able to help women to be able to save for their retirement, because women happily for all those women out there live a lot longer than men, all that we can do to actually help them to be able to prepare for their retirement will be a good thing. And that's why when we announced our tax measures in the previous Budget we had specific measures there that would actually help women in their retirement – with catch up contributions, with levelling the playing field so it didn't matter who employed you or how you were employed you could still make a concessional contribution to your superannuation, more than 1.9 million Australian women who are on low incomes will get access to the low income superannuation tax offset which means that they won't pay more in taxes on their superannuation than they would otherwise pay at their marginal tax rate. These are the sorts of practical things that we are doing.

SABRA LANE:

It sounds pretty impressive – a lot of people would think 'well why aren't we going to get that tomorrow night, why do we have to wait until September'?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well there is going to be a lot in the Budget already and there is going to be a lot that millions of Australian women will be able to focus on tomorrow night. But also it's important to note that we are building the next steps around women's economic security and there will be a significant statement in spring.

SABRA LANE:

The amount of money for this apparently will be squirreled away in the contingency reserve for September and apparently it is going to be more generous than the $100 million that Mr Turnbull announced when he first became Prime Minister to tackle violence against women. Is that about the quantity?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well obviously I am not going to be talking about dollar figures Sabra but it is fair to say that the Prime Minister has always had a very strong focus on improving the lives of women. His very first announcement as Prime Minister was the $100 million security package for women, their safety package, and it is fair to say that he is focused on the economic security of women.

SABRA LANE:

On women's issues – the tampon tax, Labor is promising to get rid of that if it was fortunate enough, it says, to win Government next time round. The Prime Minister has said it's an issue up to the states because it regards GST. The SA Liberal Treasurer, Rob Lucas, has said he is prepared to look at it. How unfair is it that this tax still applies to these goods – they're necessities?

KELLY O'DWYER:

I absolutely agree that they are necessities, as an Australian woman they are a necessity that I use as well of course, but let me say this we have tried as a Government when Joe Hockey was Treasurer to actually get rid of the GST on tampons and sanitary products, we took that to the Council on Federal Financial Relations – it was rejected. I hope that they will reconsider their position. It's a matter for basically all of the state treasurers out there because every single dollar goes to the states, not one dollar goes to the Commonwealth, and they need to unanimously agree to a change in the GST.

SABRA LANE:

Well given that all of the Labor people in the state treasury positions are saying that they are in favour…

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I am pleased to hear that, unfortunately though not one of them actually raised this issue with the Treasurer in Melbourne only weeks ago. I am pleased that that's their changed position and if they can get unanimous agreement that would be great.

SABRA LANE:

The Government is promising income tax cuts and it's been busy managing expectations in recent days to emphasise that they won't be mammoth and that low and middle income earners will be prioritised first – what's the thinking behind that?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well it's important to note that people work incredibly hard for their income. And we believe that Australians who work hard for that income should keep as much of it as they possibly can. Obviously Government has to provide essential services and we do. We are absolutely guaranteeing that by creating the right economic settings for our economy, and by making sure that we have a responsible budget. But the Treasurer is going to be announcing obviously the tax cuts tomorrow night, not long to wait now, and obviously that will happen at 7.30. I'm not going to be announcing it Sabra with you today, as tempting as that might be, it's the Treasurer's announcement and he'll be making it very shortly.

SABRA LANE:

All right, with your women's Minister's hat on, the debate about gender and merit has really been turbo-charged in recent days. Critics have been pointing at the banking Royal Commission and Catherine Brenner and Catherine Livingstone and saying that these appointments are a good indication that it was networking that got them to those positions, not the skills required and that the argument about quotas and targets has been proven to be shallow and wrong. What's your response to this?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well look, I'm really dismayed when I hear commentary say that women do not deserve a place around the boardroom table. I mean I find it pretty surprising in today's day and age that there would be people out there who say that there aren't women of merit who deserve their place around the boardroom table. Of course there are women of merit, women of experience and capability who absolutely deserve to be there and the very fact that we have targets is simply to say that we need to focus on making sure we have those women around the boardroom table. The idea that we've had corporate failures, and there are shocking revelations to come out of the Royal Commission, that somehow this is gender specific is completely wrong. Corporate failures are not gendered. We have seen plenty of corporate failures that involve men, whether it's Directors or CEOs, so to make this argument is really frankly ridiculous.

SABRA LANE:

Thanks for your time this morning.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Great pleasure Sabra.