TRANSCRIPT: Paying Super on Paid Parental Leave, International Women's Day



SUBJECTS: International Women’s Day; Sam Kerr allegation; Superannuation on Paid Parental Leave; gender pay gap; National gender equality strategy; Family and Domestic Violence Frontline Services; Travel Expenses; Newcastle Knights; Passing of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon.

RICHARD KING – HOST: International Women's Day this 8 March. And joining me now, my local federal Labor Member for Newcastle, somebody I haven't spoken to for a while, who is on the line, Sharon Claydon. Good morning, Sharon.

SHARON CLAYDON, CHAIR - FEDERAL LABOR’S STATUS OF WOMEN COMMITTEE: Good morning, Richard. And happy International Women's Day to everyone.

KING: Yes, happy International Women's Day to you. And look, I can't go past the Sam Kerr situation. Everybody's had their 20 cents worth to say on Sam Kerr. Is she an icon, a hero, et cetera, or is she now a demon? Any thoughts on the comments allegedly made by Sam Kerr and the fact that there's a bit of a ‘pile on’ at the moment?

CLAYDON: There is a ‘pile on’ and I prefer to let allegations sit aside and wait for an actual process to follow through. But I heard some reassuring comments from Western Australia today in their support of her...

KING: Oh, Roger Cook, yes.

CLAYDON: Everyone's got a strong opinion here and I don't think any of us lose sight of the iconic status that Sam Kerr has had in Australia, and indeed around the world, so let's see what process unfolds. She's pleading not guilty, so I don't want to pre-empt any of that.

KING: All right, International Women's Day – a cause that you're certainly very strong on. In a big win for gender equality, your Government is pledging that they'll make sure Australian women are going to be better off financially when they retire with the announcement of superannuation on paid parental leave. How will this scheme work, Sharon?

CLAYDON: Well, currently it's often a shock to a lot of Australian women that they don't get paid superannuation when they take paid parental leave. And of course, this makes paid parental leave a real outlier in workplace entitlements because if you took sick leave or you took annual leave, you absolutely get superannuation paid on that. So, this has been a long, outstanding sort of grievance, really.

What Labor announced yesterday was to say - we're not going to allow that situation to continue anymore. We know that when women retire, their retirement incomes in superannuation are at least 25% lower than men’s. That's been a long, outstanding feature and inequity, and we've said no more. We're putting a line there under the superannuation part of that inequity, and saying when you’re being paid the Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme, you will also be getting 12% superannuation.

KING: Right. But this won't come into effect until after the next Federal Election, is that right?

CLAYDON: It’s in July next year, that's right, because there is quite a bit of legislative change we need to make, and that also requires some system changes across Services Australia and the Australian Tax Office. So, what the Government did yesterday was raise the flag and make very clear that this is our intention. We, of course, have to get processes through the Parliament, but we've said enough of that inequity. We know that our aim is to enable Australian women to earn more, to keep more of what they earn and then have more when they retire - and we're tackling that on all three fronts.

KING: The gender pay gap figures were released, I think it was last week. Matt Canavan was very quick to comment and said the figures are useless and a complete waste of time. Obviously, you have a differing opinion on those gender pay gap figures that were released recently.

KING: I sure do, and so does just about every other Australian citizen, I expect. I think Senator Canavan is very much out on his own there, and what it's really done is triggered a lot of conversations in workplaces. I've had a lot of women contact me saying, thank you for publishing that data, I had no idea what was happening in my own workplace.

That data being published is off the back of us also prohibiting secrecy clauses now in people's pay arrangements. So, when I was doing a lot of work in this area, probably about five years ago, when we started trying to think of ways we could start lifting women's wages, I was absolutely shocked to meet professional women, even women working in law firms, who had signed these secrecy clauses where they weren't allowed to discuss their wages, only to find out that the man next to them doing exactly the same job was getting paid $30,000 more or something.

So, there's inequities that are felt and are in place for no good reason and, really, these measures are part of our way of trying to get a level playing field out there. And that's what we're seeking to do also with the national strategy that was released yesterday, which was ‘Working for Women’ - Australia's very first National Strategy to achieve Gender Equality.

KING: My guest, the Federal Member for Newcastle, also Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sharon Claydon. You've been a very strong advocate for women and young girls, especially when it comes to domestic and family violence. Certainly from the publicity that's been given to it, it's fairly obvious there's something of a crisis and hundreds will be gathering across Australia today to remember those who've had their lives tragically taken from them and those who have survived. And this coercive legislation that was passed this week in Queensland highlights this issue. Should there and will there be more funding announced in the upcoming May Budget for these frontline services, which many are under threat?

CLAYDON: Richard, it's devastatingly tragic that we've not been able to shift the rates of domestic violence in Australia for decades. Indeed, they are going in the wrong direction, and that is just a really huge burden for every government at every level, every citizen, because nobody could think that losing women to domestic violence is a good outcome by any measure. So our Government has made record investments into frontline services now, and there's more to still see coming through those pipelines. Every opportunity and every budget we get, women's safety will be a key priority for us. It really is just an untenable situation in Australia.

KING: Now, another hot topic. Tony Burke. Certainly a lot has been said in the last 48 hours about this so-called $57,000 US trip, which many people are saying is not a good look, or it's a bad look, for a government focused on cost of living. Your thoughts on do you think people should be paying back? I mean, forever, we're hearing about people taking trips, et cetera, while they're working, some seem to spend more than others. Your thoughts on the US visit by Tony Burke and the $57,000 allegedly that that cost taxpayers?

CLAYDON: Look, I think as members of the Government, or indeed as Parliamentarians, full stop, everybody should be absolutely careful about every cent we spend of public money. We are all accountable for that - and anything beyond the entitlements and guidelines - absolutely people repay. There's no other course of action in my view. But don't get me wrong, there are absolutely legitimate reasons why people might travel for work and across all professions, and we shouldn't be stifling genuine work travel. But it is absolutely when you are spending public dollars, we are all held to account for that and everything must be made open and transparent.

KING: And finally, I know you're a Knights fan. It wasn't a great start to the season last night at McDonald Jones Stadium, was it, Sharon?

CLAYDON: Hey. A little bit bumpy, a little bit bumpy. But I am looking forward to the season ahead.

KING: So, am I. Thank you very much for your time. Happy International Women's Day, Sharon.

CLAYDON: Thank you, Richard, and a big happy International Women’s Day, however people are celebrating it. Let's celebrate our achievements, but also double down on our commitment to do more.

KING: Look, I've just been reminded, obviously, you know Joel Fitzgibbon and his family very well. Very sad to hear of the loss of his son, Jack.

CLAYDON: Sharon, devastatingly tragic. I mean, words hardly seem adequate at times like these, but our hearts and thoughts are really with Joel, Diane and all their family and everybody who knew Jack. It's a tragic, tragic accident and workplace accidents are particularly acutely think, you know, everyone expects to come home from work and this was one of those tragic, tragic accidents. It's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child. My heart really goes out to them.

KING: Yes. Thank you very much for your time. Have a great weekend, Sharon.

CLAYDON: And your listeners, too. Thanks, Richard.

KING: Thank you. Sharon Claydon, the Federal Labor Member for Newcastle, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.