07 March 2024



I begin by paying respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the ancient Ngunnawal people, and pay my respect to their elders past and present.

I want to acknowledge the strength and leadership of First Nations women in Australia – who are so often leaders in their communities, holders of knowledge and strong advocates for equality.

Today I would particularly like to acknowledge Commissioner June Oscar who is just about to conclude her time as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner but who has for the past 7 years led the incredible Wiyi Yani u Thangani work.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day.

And for us in the Labor caucus and the broader labour movement this will be our first International Women’s Day without two of our finest women Peta Murphy and Linda White.

We remember them today and every day and pay tribute to both – incredible women who dedicated their careers to improving the lives of Australian women - over many decades.

Both Peta and Linda knew that the Labor work to make Australia a better, fairer place for all is never finished and our Labor family will continue their work in their names.

International Women’s Day means different things to different people.

For some, it is a time of celebration – of all that women have and will achieve.

For others, it is a time of sombre reflection – of the work that remains.

To the women, who raise their voices, share their stories and push for change – I say thank you.

And as my friend Penny Wong likes to remind me sometimes – change doesn’t come easily.

For me to be in a position to stand here today to talk about how we build upon the progress made to date I must acknowledge all of those women throughout history who have refused to give up the fight for equality.

Who kept showing up.

Fighting to be in the room.

Then to be at the table where the decisions are made.

For me these women have been ever present in my life –

my mother, my sister, my nieces, my daughters, girlfriends I grew up with, women I have met through life – women I have worked with.

I am so fortunate to work with all of my female colleagues in caucus – the Status of Women committee members, the comradery of the women ministers including Amanda Rishworth and Justine Elliot with whom I work so closely on women’s safety.

And while we have a way to go when it comes to achieving a gender equal Australia, I know that it is possible.

It’s a realistic goal.

And it is one that’s worth fighting for.

Labor governments have a proud record when it comes to working for women.

It was the Whitlam Government that first made commitments to women as part of their campaign platform some 50 years ago.

In his first week as PM, Whitlam reopened the federal Equal Pay case, removed taxes on contraceptives and funded new birth control programs.

Soon after came funding for child care.

Payments for single mothers.  

Support for women’s refuges.

No-fault divorce.

The Family Court.

And contributing to this pace of change was the appointment of Elizabeth Reid as the Prime Minister’s women’s adviser — a world-first.

According to the media frenzy at the time, a young feminist activist on a senior advisor salary was the antithesis of good government.

But most women, unsurprisingly, felt differently.

Reid was flooded with letters from women who were desperate to share their experiences with someone who would finally listen.

It didn’t take long before Reid was receiving more correspondence than anyone else in Parliament House except the Prime Minister.

The volume was so great that a four-person team was set up in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to work through the backlog.

Today, the team is known as the Office for Women — now in its fiftieth year.

It’s grown from a humble team of four to around 60.

And they do far more than help with correspondence.

They’re the engine room of this government’s women’s agenda and they continue to punch well above their weight.

It has been successive Labor Governments since that time, that have continued to deliver reforms to make women’s lives safer and fairer.

I was a teenager when Susan Ryan, as a member of the Hawke Government, introduced and passed legislation that made it illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sex, marital or relationship status, or family responsibilities.

And while today that might seem like something we all take for granted, there was vocal opposition at the time...

People who thought it would undermine the “traditional family structure”...

Or that it might somehow be used to wind back other civil liberties and religious freedoms.

And that same Government went on to release the world’s first Women’s Budget Statement and National Women’s Health Policy – bringing gender-responsive budgeting and policymaking into the mainstream.

But it wasn’t enough to simply represent women in parliament Labor, and particularly Labor women, recognised that more needed to be done to ensure the parliament better reflected the community it serves.

In the nineties, Labor introduced affirmative action to get more women into office at a time when they represented just 14% of the federal candidates.

The first target set was 35%, raised to 40% in 2012, then to 45% and then 50% by 2025.

And despite what some of our political opponents say about quotas and affirmative action my response is:  they work.

Between 1994 and 2010 the preselection of women candidates increased from 14.5% to 35.6%.

In 2010, our country was proud to have our first woman Prime Minister – a Labor woman.

Julia Gillard.

And of course Labor in 2022 became the first federal Government to have a majority of members who are women.

Now 53% of our caucus are women.

But 100% of the caucus support equality for women

The reason I share this political timeline of progress is to make a simple point:

Addressing gender inequality is not the work of a single minister or a single government.

It is whole of government work over decades.

The advocacy of hundreds of thousands of Australian women and their allies.

And a long line of political leaders, like our PM, who have each played their part to push progress through generations who have continued to take on the unfinished business of the generation before.

In my lifetime, I have seen a great deal of change.

Meaningful progress.

But I also know that progress isn’t inevitable and isn’t linear.

It can easily be wound back.

Internationally we can see this whether it be the overturning of Roe vs Wade in the US.

Or Afghanistan where the resurgence of the Taliban has seen rights for women removed sometimes, with deadly consequences.

Over successive governments here in Australia, there’s a baton handed along with every change in government.

But we should never forget that the baton hasn’t always gone forward.

And that we must always remain on guard and ready to defend the progress made to date.

I’m privileged to be the one holding the baton today – backed by a Labor caucus that is totally committed to making a difference for women in this country.

Because the debate about whether there is an actual problem with gender equality in this country is one that may exist in other political parties

But it isn’t one we have in our party room.

Our conversations are about getting on with the work of addressing it.

And we have set a cracking pace in our first 22 months.

Our biggest investments since coming to office have been targeted to support women.


Women’s safety.

The expansion of paid parental leave.

Single parenting payment extension.

Aged care workers’ wages.

Proper indexation for community services.

All of these reforms were overdue and were overlooked by the former government.

But all acted upon in the first two years of a Labor government.

Because being in Government is about choices and

The Albanese Government chooses to back women.

And while we’ve made a good start, we know there is much more to be done.

Despite it being 2024, women in Australia still face barriers which mean they work less, earn less, and retire with less.

And when they take time out of work for children “the motherhood penalty” kicks in.

Women are less likely to work in senior management positions and more likely to work in insecure part-time roles in jobs where the pay is less, and the work is less valued.

Women experience unfathomably high rates of domestic, family and sexual violence – with more than one in two women experiencing sexual harassment in their lifetime and a quarter of women having experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

For some women these rates are even higher with first nations women six times more likely to die from assault related to family violence than non-indigenous women.

It is absolutely chilling to know that since 1989 more than 2,369 women were killed in this country by their intimate partner or other family members.

I say all of this to make the simple point that in 2024, women in this country, as a general rule, continue to be less safe, have less choice and be less economically secure than men.

And this is something that the Albanese Government is absolutely determined to change.

That’s why today, ahead of International Women’s Day, we are launching Working for Women our country’s first national strategy to achieve gender equality.

This was an election commitment of ours and I acknowledge Tanya Plibersek in doing the work and developing such strong policy from opposition which has allowed me to hit the ground running from the day we were elected.

In developing this strategy, it was incredibly important that it wasn’t just another bureaucratic document or words on a page.

Because women in this country don’t need another empty promise.

They need action and accountability.

For our Government, Working for Women is a commitment to the women and girls of Australia.

To a little girl who is born today...

That by the time you go to school, you won’t have preconceived ideas about “girl” jobs and “boy” jobs...

That by the time you choose the subjects you study;

You don’t self-select out of maths or science and technology if that’s what you’re interested in...

That as you grow up, you and your male peers learn about respectful relationships and enthusiastic consent rather than how women should protect themselves and their friends from the threat of violence.

That if you experience the pain of endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome your diagnosis doesn’t take a decade, or that you’re told the pain is in your head and then sent away from the ED with only Nurofen as pain relief.

That you won’t be catcalled when you go for a run or look over your shoulder when you walk alone.

Or that your parents won’t have to teach you how to carry your car keys in a way so they double up as a protective weapon if needed.

That it won’t be likely that either you or your girlfriends experience sexual harassment or assault – unlike most women in this audience today.

That you aren’t paid less because of your gender – and that, if you make the choice to have children, that this decision won’t impact on your future earnings.

And that you’ll be able to retire with security.

This is the real, human story of what Working for Women is written to achieve.

And while our focus is on women, this is not only about women. 

The National Strategy envisions a future of equality in Australia – for all Australians.  

That means an Australia where your gender doesn’t define how your life unfolds — the rights you enjoy, the choices you make, the chances you get, or the opportunities you pursue, or the outcomes from all of this. 

This strategy is all about bringing people together.  

Because when an economy and a society works for women, it works for us all.  

A fairer go for women means a better country for everyone. 

So, how do we accelerate change for that little girl born on the 7th March 2024?

I’ve spent the last eighteen months listening to women across Australia, hearing what isn’t working for them asking them what we, as a government, can do better.

All up we have received thousands of insights through roundtables, letters, emails, surveys, I know there is no ‘average’ or ‘typical’ Australian woman.

Each of us has different responsibilities, comes from different backgrounds and has unique dreams and aspirations.

Still, across the board, the same themes kept coming up – themes which aren’t new, but reflect the enduring challenges that persist for so many women: 

Violence, unpaid and paid care, economic security, access to health services

and leadership and representation.

In many of these areas, women feel that the system is working against them.

A feeling that can be even further compounded by economic uncertainty and

cost of living pressures that make inequality feel even more pronounced.

That even when they do the things they were told would lead to success even when they’ve studied hard, worked hard, forged relationships, started a family – things are not working out, or can too easily go backwards.

This isn’t to say men don’t lose out as well.

They do.

Men often feel bound by traditional societal expectations to be the primary breadwinner.

Men are also less likely to be involved in parenting – even when they want to be, and they’re also less likely to seek help for their mental health.

One contributor from the strategy consultations summed this problem up by saying:

“I think men are given a raw deal when it comes to parenting, whether it be leave or access, which I feel is extremely unequal,”

This contribution is an important one, because it highlights two things:

One, that inequality serves no one.

And two, that at the heart of our country’s story on gender is extremely rigid gender expectations about who cares for whom, and what or whose work counts as something to be valued.

This inextricable link between gender equality and rigid expectations around care has been noted in many reports over the years including more recently by the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce.

The Taskforce, chaired by Sam Mostyn, found that if we abandoned prescriptive gender stereotypes there would be significant economic benefits.  

And harnessing those economic benefits primarily relates to care.

Who cares for whom, and why. 

Making care a choice, not a constraint.   

And making care something we value, make time for, are supported to do, and

are recognised for. 

Women spend 9 hours a week more than men on unpaid work and care. 

That’s more than a whole work day, every week. 

Women with children face an average 55 per cent drop in earnings in their first five years of parenthood, while fathers’ incomes don’t change at all.

36% of women report their child-caring responsibilities as a major barrier to starting paid work or taking on more hours.

Whilst only 7 per cent of men feel the same way.

As a result of these imbalances, one-third of our gender pay gap can be attributed to the time women spend caring for family and to interruptions in full-time employment.

And as these lower earnings accumulate over their lifetime, they’re exacerbating the gap between men and women’s superannuation balances at retirement.

We know that this gap can start as soon as families choose which partner will take paid parental leave.

Paid Parental leave remains the only workplace entitlement that currently does not require super to be paid on top of ordinary time earnings.

The Labor movement, women’s organisations and many of my colleagues including some here with me today have for years been campaigning to have super paid on the government funded PPL scheme.

I acknowledge them all today.

Since coming to Government, the PM, Treasurer and I have made no secret of the fact that finding room to pay for super on PPL was a priority for the Albanese government and today we are announcing that we will pay parents accessing Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave an equivalent 12% superannuation guarantee payment on top of their paid parental leave payment from the 1st July 2025.

You’re paid super on your sick leave.

You’re paid super on your annual leave.

There is no reason why it shouldn’t be paid on paid parental leave too.

The Government has taken this decision because:

It’s the right thing to do.

Because the Government values the work that women do caring for children and we don’t believe they shouldn’t be penalised with financial insecurity in retirement just because of those caring roles.

Over the last two budgets we have found the fiscal room by getting the budget in better shape

Finding savings where we can and getting rid of waste.

Our budget management now allows us to make this important investment.

As Labor people we are proud of Australia’s superannuation system.

Unlike our political opponents who seek to undermine it at every opportunity, Labor seeks to protect and strengthen it.

Recent ATO data puts the gender super gap between 22%-32%.

The decision today will not only to help close the gender super gap, but it is also  an important equity measure that will make a real difference for women.

And whilst there are a number of factors that cause the gender super gap including women working in lower paid jobs, part time work and time out of the workplace to care for children,  the fact that super hasn’t been paid on PPL has resulted in women paying another financial penalty that has an ongoing impact on their retirement savings throughout their career.

Our decision today, to be reflected in the May budget, is further indication of the priority this government places on women.

To show leadership, to find room to fund important investments and to prioritise a whole of government effort to drive economic security for women across the country.

Paying super on PPL builds on the changes we made in 2022, to deliver the biggest boost to Australia’s Paid Parental Leave scheme by adding an additional six weeks of Paid Parental Leave for families, bumping the total leave to a full six months.

A change that was not only good for the economy, but that encourages and facilitates more dads and partners to access PPL through “use it or lose it” or reserved leave provisions, so that both parents can share in those precious early days and share the caring responsibilities more equally.

Paying super on PPL compliments these reforms.

These changes also work hand in hand with our cheaper child care policy to make sure that having a child isn’t an economic barrier for families, particularly for women looking to go back to work or wanting to work extra hours.

And when we’re talking about care in this country, we can’t overlook the disparities between men and women in the paid care sector.

The care sector is overwhelmingly powered by women.

Women account for 75 per cent of disability carers, 87 per cent of residential aged carers, and more than 90 per cent of early childhood educators.

When I think about the changes in my lifetime, this is undeniably one of the areas where I’ve seen the least change.

These jobs also happen to be notoriously low-paid and insecure. 

Of course, diagnosing the problem is the easy part. 

Addressing it is far harder.  

Fortunately, we’re not beginning from a standing start. 

Many of the levers in the economy we can use to help balance out who performs care and under what circumstances, are already being pulled by our government.   

We’ve established two new expert panels in the Fair Work Commission to hear wage-related matters and help address low wages and workplace conditions in the care and community sector.

We’ve also supported and funded aged care workers a much-deserved pay rise.

For a government that values women and wants to drive women’s economic independence, our announcement of paying super on PPL, although important on its own, can’t be seen in isolation of the other reforms the government is implementing.

Making sure we’re more equally sharing and valuing care is just one of the keys to unlocking gender equality in this country.

Working for Women sets out five priority areas that need action now to change for gender equality to be achieved.

Aside from more equally sharing and valuing care, the other four are:

Ending gender-based violence — acknowledging that that little girl born today cannot be equal if she's not safe...and that she deserves to be safe…

Economic equality and security — because it’s time to close the gender pay gap, and ensure her financial security into retirement...

Health — because our health systems need to respond to the fact that, at the moment, that little girl is more likely to have her pain and symptoms dismissed simply because of her gender...

And leadership, representation and decision-making — because when she grows up, she shouldn’t have to fight to be at the table, or see decisions made for her that don’t reflect the reality of her life....

The national strategy sets out the challenge transparently, but while it is officially launched today, we have been getting on with this work for almost two years now.

There is work well and truly underway in all of these areas.

We committed $2.3 billion to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.

Amanda Rishworth, Justine Elliot and the State and Territory Ministers for Women’s safety are leading the work there.

Just last week we’ve taken action when it comes to cost of living relief with the passing of the Tax cuts legislation.

Labors Tax cuts are bigger for women, better for women and fairer for women.

100% of women taxpayers get a tax cu.,

And 90 per cent of women taxpayers or 5.8 million women across the country, will receive a bigger tax cut than they would have under the former Government’s plan.

We are implementing all the recommendations of the Respect@Work report,

We amended the Fair Work Act to include 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave.

In women’s health, Ged Kearney, the Assistant Minister for Health, has been working hard to address the stark differences in the health outcomes for women and girls.

This has seen the opening of 22 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics to help women access this type of critical care, missing from the system for far too long.

And for women of my age, we are FINALLY talking about Menopause!!!!

In women’s leadership, we’ve funded support for more women to stand for Parliament, to help dismantle some of those barriers that stop women pursuing a career in politics.

We will introduce stronger targets for women on government boards and advisory bodies.

And today I am also pleased to say that the government will use its purchasing power to better support gender equality outcomes.

Every year, the government spends $70 billion to procure goods and services and we think there’s more that can be done to make sure women are getting a fairer slice of that spending.

We’ll use the Workplace Gender Equality reporting framework to make it a rule that, in order to win government work, businesses with 500 or more employees must commit to targets to improve gender equality in their workplaces.

These targets will focus on the gender makeup of their boards and the workforce; equal pay; flexible working arrangements; workplace consultation on gender equality; and efforts to prevent and address sexual harassment.

Not only will businesses have to set targets, but they will also have to show progress towards them.

WGEA is consulting on those targets now.

All of this work – across health, treasury, finance, education, attorney-generals, DSS and others – gives you a sense of the work we are doing to drive a better deal for women.

It is not left just to the Minister for Women.

As it should be – the work is being done right across the government.

Joined up, complementary reforms that make it clear that gender equality is an Albanese Government priority.

And last week we showed how serious we are on a national push to close the gender pay gap.

For a long time now we’ve known that barriers to women’s economic participation cost us dearly — both individually and across the economy.

Persistent gaps in pay are high on our priority list.

The latest ABS data tells us the average pay gap in Australia is 12 per cent.

Some might think, ‘12% — that’s not too bad.’

But if present working patterns continue, a 25-year-old mother today can expect to earn $2 million less over her lifetime than a 25-year-old father.

And if we look at total remuneration, the picture is far worse.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency gender pays gaps published for individual employers have started a real conversation.

Looking at organisations with 100 or more employees, and looking at full time equivalent total remuneration, the gender pay gap is 21.7 per cent.

That is an eye-watering disparity.

And at current rates it’s going to take about a quarter of a century to close that gap.

And each year we wait, there’s an impact on women’s incomes and retirement savings.

You all saw the coverage this data unleashed as women around the country logged on to check what was happening in their workplace.

Whilst some in the Parliament saw the data as “useless” and “complete nonsense”

We in the Government believe that shining a light on what’s actually happening in workplaces will put pressure on employers to rethink how they hire, promote and remunerate their staff.

I’m very confident it will drive change and deliver the outcome we want.

Along with our IR changes we’ve prioritised getting more women into trades and apprenticeships through fee-free TAFE places, targets set in the Australian Skills Guarantee, and our new five-year National Skills Agreement.

But Working for Women acknowledges that there’s much more we can do.

Like making sure women get a fair crack at opportunities that will come with growth industries like clean energy and cyber security to prioritise equality in the ways they attract, train, hire and promote – to make sure that women have pathways and pipelines to success in the jobs of the future.

I acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.

But we do have a mass of expert advice. And a lot of ideas worth pursuing.

I’m determined not to waste this opportunity.

And I know the Prime Minister and every member of this government have the same view.

Working for Women is our touch stone, it will keep us focused, and I hope it creates a framework for Government, business and community to work together.

Because when it comes to achieving gender equality, we know that it can’t be achieved by Government alone.

I’ve outlined for you today our side of the bargain, and how we’ll prioritise our effort.

And this strategy is an invitation – to work with us.

Because gender equality benefits everyone and everyone is responsible for bringing about change.

Women’s lives today reflect so much of what Elizabeth Reid and other feminists over the decades have imagined for us.

We’ve made remarkable gains.

But there is much more to be done.

That’s why I’m asking you to join me to think about that little girl who is born today and the life that she will go on to lead.

She deserves an end to harmful attitudes and stereotypes that hold her back.

Education and employment opportunities selected by interest and skills, not gender.

An end to gender-based violence.

Access to child care if she decides to have children

Better rights at work.

Genuine pay parity.

When she grows up, she doesn’t want special treatment.

She just wants equality, and to be treated fairly.

We, as a country, owe that to her and to all the women and girls that follow her.

Thank you.