SUBJECTS: Intelligence and security legislation; Women’s Economic Security Statement; Sexual harassment in the workplace; Migration numbers; Scott Morrison's comments about Pamela Anderson.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to RN Drive.
KARVELAS: The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says encrypted messaging apps present a real obstacle to our efforts to prevent terrorism. Here he is today:
KARVELAS: Do you agree that this legislation should be prioritised when Parliament resumes?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think it's legislation that we need to look at very closely. It's before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security at the moment. That's a committee that is controlled by the Government so it's really up to the Government to organise the timing of the three remaining hearings that I believe are scheduled. But we need to make sure when we are looking at intelligence and security legislation that we offer bipartisanship as a Labor Party but that we also work with the Government to ensure that any shortcomings in the legislation are addressed. In the 44th and the 45th Parliament, Labor has worked with the Government to make to 250 recommendations to improve legislation into intelligence and security legislation. All of those recommendations that the Parliamentary Joint Committee have made to the Government have been accepted by the Government so we need to get things right.
KARVELAS: Peter Dutton though said that the Bill was being held up by the committee process. Is that a fair characterisation?
PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think it's a fair characterisation and the Government controls the timing of the committee so if he's got a problem with the timing on this legislation he ought to talk to the Government members on the committee.
KARVELAS: Just on your own portfolio, the Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer has delivered the first Women's Economic Security Statement which looks at a range of areas where women are really disadvantaged. What do you make of this as a strategy for improving outcomes?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it's a pretty underwhelming statement to be honest and I'm not sure that you could really call it the first. When Labor was in Government we had a Women's Budget Statement every year and this Government discontinued that practice. I think this statement has a few elements in it that we're happy with for example, funding the Australian Bureau of Statistics to do the Time Use survey - that's a good thing, we promised quite some time ago that we would do that if we were elected. The Government should never have delayed this Time Use survey. It gives us very important information. But other elements I'm really not so sure about. I mean, we have to have a look very closely at the paid parental leave proposal. This is a Government that has in the past called working mothers trying to take their paid parental leave "rorters" and "double dippers". They tried five times to slash paid parental leave and now they're talking about flexibility. Well of course when you say flexibility, we are all for that, but allowing women to take the same amount of leave at different times may be beneficial to mothers and their babies, or it may actually be beneficial to employers calling workers back early when they are not ready to come back to work, or when their babies are not ready to be without their mothers. We need to look very closely at those sorts of elements of this proposal.
KARVELAS: She flagged $109 million over the next four years for measures aimed at increasing women's financial security, and the focus is around increasing workforce participation and earning potential. Is that the key to more equal outcomes?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think a lot of the money that is claimed in this as new spending in this Women's Economic Security statement are things like getting the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to upgrade their computer systems. I mean, from what I could tell the computer systems have been scheduled for upgrade and repair for some years, and claiming that as a sort of workforce equality measure seems to me, frankly, a little bit of a stretch. Of course it’s important that women are able to participate equality in the workforce with men. That is a very important, fundamental principle here in Australia. But if we really are going to do that perhaps we should reverse the cuts to penalty rates that disproportionately affect women. Perhaps we should get our industrial relations laws right, so that where we have situations like the wide spread and systemic underpayment of childcare workers, we actually have a system that can identify and deal with that. We need to make sure that we are in fact supporting increases in the minimum wage rather than opposing increases in the minimum wage as this Government has done. We need to address issues like gender segregation in the workplace. I mean this economic security statement today talks about people, or women, having earlier access to their superannuation if they are a victim of domestic violence. Look that might be something that you would want to do in certain circumstances, but we know that Australian women already retire with 40 per cent less super than men, so if we are just bringing forward spending of superannuation that leaves more women in poverty in their old age, I am not sure that you can really claim that as a victory for gender equality. About a third of women, single women over the age of 60, are already living in poverty. So I think it is a bit disappointing that after five years and after months of hype around this Women's Economic Security Statement we’ve got a bunch of things that Labor has already announced, a few things that are just continuation of existing government spending and yeah, one or two measures that we are happy to examine, but not a great deal there, all in all.
KARVELAS: On another issue around women, the Human Rights Commission wants employers, bosses, to temporarily lift confidentiality agreements to that workers can give evidence to its inquiry into workplace sexual harassment. Do you think that's a necessary thing, should that happen?
PLIBERSEK: I think where we can shine a light on this very widespread issue of sexual harassment it’s a good thing to do. We know that many so many Australian women and indeed an increasing number of men are reporting sexual harassment in the workplace and it is important to make sure we get to the bottom of both the incidence and best practice for responding to sexual harassment in the workplace.
KARVELAS: Just on the other announcement or discussion point today. Scott Morrison has proposed reducing our permanent migration intake by 30,000. Our current intake is around 160,000 which is 30,000 below the 190,000 cap, so it's basically the status quo isn't it?
PLIBERSEK: We're very happy to work with the Government on a bipartisan approach to migration policy and we offered that months ago. We should make a decision every year about the best number of people for our migration program. One of the concerns that Labor has had in recent years is the over-reliance on temporary migration to fill skills shortages in the workplace. Well we need to longer term make sure that we’re training enough Australians to pick up those skills shortage areas. As for permanent migration, that’s a decision year by year that we should make in the best interests of our society and our economy. I think in recent years the under investment in infrastructure has really led people to feeling under a great deal of pressure in our capital cities. We see urban densification like in my electorate where old factory sites are being converted into apartment buildings, and where I am today in the Blue Mountains and the area around Richmond and Windsor, massive new housing estates. We need to make sure that our transport infrastructure, our roads, our trains, are keeping up with that, our schools and hospitals are being built in time for that new population, that amenity is not lost, we've still got open spaces, parks and places for people to enjoy the outdoors.
KARVELAS: Just finally, there is some pressure on Scott Morrison to apologise to Pamela Anderson around some comments he made. She's described them as lewd or smutty I think is the language she used. Today Kelly O'Dwyer was asked about it and she said he probably regrets the comments he made regarding Pamela Anderson. The other night I asked the same question to Steve Ciobo and he said, well he's another Minister, you know, they were light-hearted remarks. Do they deserve an apology?
PLIBERSEK: Well it's not very Prime Ministerial, really. It's up to him. I think they're pretty disappointing comments but I don't know that it's worth World War III. I think they're in poor taste and if he finds it within himself to apologise that would be a better thing.
KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.