The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

8 March 2010

NO.003

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace
Agency Employer of Choice for Women Announcement

International Women's Day

National Australia Bank

Sydney

8 March 2010

It's great to be here with the NAB and Cameron [Clyne], and all of your staff and of course all of those other organisations represented in the room today to celebrate the list that's been released today, celebrate the contribution that is made by so many organisations right across our economy to ensuring there is a degree of opportunity, equality of opportunity for women in the workplace.

It's also good to be here with Tanya today. Tanya is a good friend and a valued colleague, but in her example I think we have an example of what can be done - elected to Parliament in her late twenties, a Cabinet Minister before the age of 40, mother of two children, moving between Canberra and home, juggling that work and family balance - all of those things are very much part and parcel of the lives of so many people in this room. Tanya I believe has been a magnificent role model for so many young women in our community and of course there must be more. As Tanya said before - it is a struggle. We can do better, we will do better and we'll do better through the example of those organisations represented in this room today.

It's great to see not just the large organisations - the large banks - but many other smaller organisations represented here today, because we won't make the progress if we're just relying on one or two large organisations to set the example. This has to become a part of our life, from top to bottom, from large to small, and at the core of this - from my perspective as Treasurer - is a fundamental economic fact: that as a country we do prosper if we're fair. As a country we prosper and create wealth if we provide opportunities to all of our people not just some of our people.

I released the Intergenerational Report in January this year and it made the point that over the next 40 years we really haven't got a person to waste. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about young women or older women, young men or older men, or whether people have a disability. What we know is that as we go forward we don't have a person to waste, and we don't have the option of favouring men over women. We don't have the opportunity of favouring older workers over younger workers or any of that discrimination that is part and parcel of our workforce unfortunately from time to time. But what we do know as we move forward is that if we manage to eliminate that discrimination - whether it is gender-based, whether it is aged-based, or based on some other criteria - we will prosper as a country because that enables us to work with all of our people, not just to create a stronger economy but also a better society. A society without discrimination is the society I believe that we all aspire to, but it just so happens that when it comes to economics it's a better way to organise ourselves, it's a better way to create wealth and it's a better way to spread opportunity.

But specifically today we're saying that gender most certainly should not be a barrier to participation and, of course, we must try and live this in our own lives. When I think about our current Federal Government I think about the contribution that has been made by senior Ministers - the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Families, the Minister for Climate Change and others like Tanya - we've not had a government in this country that has had such a serious contribution at such a senior level from senior Ministers who are female in our history. But that doesn't mean to say we can't do better and we should, and we will, partly through the example set by people like Tanya and Julia and Jenny Macklin - that's just in terms of our Government.

I think about what I do in my life in terms of my office. I have a senior economic advisor who is a young woman from Western Sydney who is perhaps one of the most talented young people I have ever worked with. I would hope that she would aspire to be the first female head of the Treasury, and if not her, someone else in our lifetime could move through that organisation and change the gender balance if you like, in organisations as significant as that.

That's what we dedicate ourselves to today. To make sure that gender inequality is something that we remove from our workplaces for the benefit of all, not just for the benefit of the individual. And, of course as Tanya said before, there are a range of government policies that need to be in place to facilitate this. There's no one policy you can pull out of the box and say that produces the solution. It's a whole range of policies when it comes to the mix of work and family. It's a whole range of policies such as paid parental leave - which we announced and is to commence I think from the 1st January next year. It's what we do in the Fair Work Act. It's all of those things that are so important because we do know at the end of the day, if we fail in this endeavour as a country we will be poorer for it.

And this takes me back to what I said before about the Intergenerational Report. It makes very clear in very stark terms that we do need to lift participation levels in our workforce, not just the productivity but participation levels, because we are as a country ageing and that means we have to make the most of all of our workforce. And I'm pleased to see that in practice NAB acknowledges that in many of its employment practices. Groundbreaking reforms here in the workplace of this organisation which enhance the capacity of females to participate in the labour force particularly when they have children. These are very important initiatives to be acknowledging today because they go to the core of the type of society we want to be and the type of economy that we must have.

So could I congratulate NAB on hosting this function today, congratulate each and every one of the organisations that appear in the list today. I hope that when we have this function next year that this will be indeed larger and we move on making progress in this very important area.

So congratulations to everyone involved, and certainly have a very happy International Women's Day

Thankyou