THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC WEEKEND BREAKFAST
SUNDAY 23 SEPTEMBER, 2018
SUBJECTS: Gender Pay Gap Reporting; Schools funding.
KATHRYN ROBINSON, PRESENTER: Well Labor has announced that if it wins the next election it would force companies to reveal how much they pay women compared to men. The legislation would apply to companies that employ more than 1000 people.
JOHANNA NICHOLSON, PRESENTER: The Opposition would also scrap pay secrecy clauses so that employees would be entitled to disclose their wages or salaries without repercussions. To discuss this and more, we're talking now with Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, thanks so much for coming in.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be with you.
NICHOLSON: So tell us how this would work exactly. Would those companies with employees over 1000 be forced to make that information public about the gender pay gap?
PLIBERSEK: Well those companies already collect that information and they already report it to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, so we're not asking them to do more. We're simply asking that the information that's reported and kept secret become public. What we've noticed is that countries around the world that have greater transparency in this area generally have a smaller pay gap. So we introduced the different reporting requirements when we were last in Government. We've seen a small positive impact on the gender pay gap from that. We believe that making the information public would actually improve the difference even more.
NICHOLSON: So will you be asking them to make it public or forcing them?
PLIBERSEK: Well there's an expectation that they will make that information public and the consequence if they don't is they're likely not to be able to tender for Government contracts. We've got very strong compliance from companies with more than 1000 staff, very few don't make this information available to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency already, so I wouldn't expect that there would be any trouble with compliance because of course, large companies want to be able to bid for Government work.
ROBINSON: How many companies would this apply to, as in how many companies have more than 1000 staff? What percentage of the workforce would this apply to?
PLIBERSEK: Well it's something over 700 companies and the good news about it is although it's a relatively small number of companies, it covers about 3 million Australian workers. So if we target those large companies you get quite good coverage of the whole workforce.
ROBINSON: Do you expect then that small to medium-sized businesses will pay any attention at all to it, where the bulk of workers are in the economy?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah I think so. When you set the standard at that high level with large companies, you actually encourage smaller companies to look at their culture as well. I mean, the workforce moves between those large and smaller companies and so I think you change culture over time. Of course medium and smaller companies can also use the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's gender pay gap auditing tool. They are able to use that tool to look at their own workplaces, and that's a very handy thing, because a lot of companies assume they have no gender pay gap. Their managers say "I'm not sexist, I'm sure that I wouldn't be consciously discriminating in my workplace." But when they do an audit of their gender pay gap, they often, to their surprise, find there is a gender pay gap within the business. So encouraging this publication is important, encouraging companies to voluntarily do a gender pay gap audit and publishing the results of that as we will, and getting rid of the pay secrecy clauses, all these measure would work together to increase transparency.
NICHOLSON: Is it your intention to eventually expand that to include companies with less than 1000 employees?
PLIBERSEK: Look not at this stage. I mean I think that is something we could look at over time but it's certainly not our intention at this stage.
ROBINSON: How will the policy be measured upon which it might be a success because at the moment the gap stands at around 15-16 per cent for the gender pay gap?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well we've already said that we will report to Parliament regularly on the gender pay gap in Australia. That we would report on progress to reduce the gender pay gap. Countries that have made this a priority, in many cases, have had quite good success in bringing the gender pay gap down more quickly than they otherwise would and a good example is Belgium. I think they've got a gender pay gap of about 3 per cent now, because they made it a priority. They were deliberate about the way they went about reducing the gender pay gap. We think we should pay that same attention in Australia because if we don't we will be facing this gender pay gap for the next fifty years.
ROBINSON: What was Belgium's pay gap before it hit that 3 per cent, what was its..?
PLIBERSEK: Look I don't remember off the top of my head but it dropped over the course of 2005 to 2015 it dropped quite substantially.
NICHOLSON: Banning that secrecy clause, how effective do you think that will be, given that employees would generally be quite private about how much they earn, especially if there's a suspicion that they might earn more than their other colleagues?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. So we're not suggesting people should be forced to disclose their pay, but we're saying clauses in contracts that prevent people disclosing their pay are just not fair. So if you want to compare your pay to someone else's you should be allowed to. The industry that has the greatest use of these pay secrecy clauses is the finance industry and, lo and behold, it has the greatest, one of the biggest gender pay gaps as well. So we're saying people should be allowed to disclose and actually I think you'd be surprised by how many people are keen to know that they're being paid similarly to someone who's doing a similar job.
ROBINSON: I guess that's from an employee’s perspective. Do you expect there to be much push back from employers on this, or do you expect that they will work with you?
PLIBERSEK: We've already had very positive feedback from some employers who have said that addressing the gender pay gap in their company is a priority for them. They want to attract and retain the best staff and attracting and retaining highly skilled women, you want to be able to tell them that you're going to pay them fairly. So a lot of companies see this as a positive measure. Some, of course, will push back. You know, if you've got a big gender pay gap in your company, you might not like the fact that it's going to become public, but we've got a two year phase-in period, so I hope that companies that are embarrassed about their gender pay gap take that two year period to do something about it.
NICHOLSON: How would this apply, or would this apply, to the public service?
PLIBERSEK: We already have different measures for the public service. There is reporting across the public service of the gender pay gap which is about 8 per cent at the moment, so it's less than the private sector but it's still not good enough. We've also said we would like public service departments to undertake a gender pay gap audit in their workplace and to report that information, and we've also previous to this introduced targets to see 50/50 at the Senior Executive Levels of the public service. So we do need to have measures in the public sector as well.
ROBINSON: You mentioned that public sector remuneration report looking at the pay gap from 2017, it being 8.6 per cent. It's well below the private sector but not to compare sectors, you compare that one organisation. If Labor was elected at the next election would you potentially put a target on minimising that gap to a certain percentage?
PLIBERSEK: I think we'd certainly introduce measures to help reduce it, and it's something we can look at in government. I think if you increase the levels of Senior Executive Service leadership that's female, if you have a gender pay gap audit of your organisation, if you publicly report the results of that audit, all of that is trending towards reducing the gender pay gap.
NICHOLSON: Let's move on to education. We've seen this week the Government pledged some more money for Catholic and independent schools. Labor has been asking for more money for the Catholic sector in particular for a long time, you must be welcoming this then?
PLIBERSEK: We've been asking for all of the funding to be restored. We certainly haven't, we've said yes the funding should be restored to Catholic schools but also independent schools, and most importantly public schools. 85 per cent of the billions of dollars cut from schools has been cut from public schools. 85 per cent of the cut is from public schools in the first two years alone. We think it's terrific that some money would be restored to two sectors, but public school parents would have been asking themselves this week "Why is my child worth less? Why is my child's education less important?" So the Government has agreed to restore funding to two sectors, but the public sector that teaches 65 per cent of Australian children, it teaches the majority of children who come from a poorer background, the majority who have got a disability, the majority that go to small and remote schools, the majority of Indigenous children. The cuts stay for those kids. I just don't understand how a Government can pitch the children of Catholic and independent schools against the children that go to public schools and say that the public school kids deserve less than other children. It's just not fair.
ROBINSON: It's an issue that's far from over but I'm afraid we are out of time now. Tanya Plibersek, many thanks for joining us this morning.
PLIBERSEK: No worries.