Brett Gale
Friday, 16 August 2019

Launching “Closing Gender Pay Gap” Research

Good morning everybody thanks for coming.  On behalf of the Chifley Research Centre welcome to this event.  For those who don’t know me I’m Brett Gale the Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre.

On behalf of Chifley and everyone present, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered here today – the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.  We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal language groups and First nations people who are present today.

Of course, we are meeting today on a site named for a strong indigenous woman – Barangaroo.

As Grace Karstens from UNSW has documented, Barangaroo was a strong and courageous figure in the first years of white settlement in Australia.  According to Karstens, part of Barangaroo’s power came from her role as a hunter and provider. She provided for the clan’s men with fish caught in and around the harbour.

That may well have been the last time in Australian history that there was a gender pay gap in favour of women.

But, the name of this place, Barangaroo, reminds us that the struggle for true recognition and reconciliation for indigenous Australians still continues, as does the struggle for gender equality.

Throughout July there was much focus on celebrations commemorating 50 years since the moon landing.  Undoubtedly that was a significant achievement for humankind.

Here in Australia 2019 also marks another significant 50th anniversary one that didn’t receive anywhere near as much commemoration as the moon landing.

June 19, of this year was the 50th anniversary of Australia’s industrial relations system endorsing the principle of “equal pay for equal work”.

Yet here we are 50 years later, and in 2018, Australian women had to work an extra 62 days after the end of the financial year to earn the same as men.

It is no wonder we didn’t celebrate the 50th anniversary of the equal pay case with the same fervour as people celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

We’ve made much progress in 50 years but not nearly enough to warrant widespread celebration.

Indeed, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has estimated that on the current rates of progress it may well take another 50 years to close the gender pay gap in Australia.

I think it strikes everyone in this room that we should not be waiting around for the 100th anniversary of the 1969 equal pay case to celebrate achieving pay equity in practice.

That desire to achieve more than incremental change was the animating force behind the Chifley Research Centre’s undertaking of this research project.

The mission of the Chifley Research Centre is to promote a Labor culture of ideas and to develop informed, reformist public policy aimed at making Australia a fairer and more progressive country.

Nowhere is this imperative more important than in the need to close the gender pay gap.

That’s why it’s my great pleasure to be launching this latest Chifley Research paper with you all today.

And thank you all for being here for this important event.

I’d particularly like to acknowledge the Hon Julie Collins Shadow Minister for Women, Senator Jenny McAllister, Mich-elle Myers Junior Vice President of the Australian Labor Party and Linda White Chair of the Chifley Research Centre.

And I’d like to thank Women in Media for your support of this event.

The purpose of the paper we are releasing today was to model the public policy interventions that would have the greatest impact on closing the gender pay gap in the shortest possible time.

We unashamedly started with the premise that the existing rate of change is too slow.  So what we were looking for, was what policies could accelerate the closing of the gender pay gap.

These fell broadly under 4 key areas.

Greater transparency.  It is clear that for too long, too many employers have managed to hide the truth of their gender pay gap behind a wall of secrecy.

That’s why we are calling for the public release of gender pay data for all organisations with more than 100 employees.

For some companies only the spotlight of embarrassment will make them act.

For good measure, we call for a ban on pay secrecy clauses in employee contracts and to remove any adverse action to employees who openly disclose wages or salary.

Secondly, we examined measures to mitigate the impact of horizontal gender segregation where female dominated industries are paid considerably less than male dominated industries.

What’s needed here are wholesale changes to the Fair Work Act

We recommend that pay equity be introduced as a specific and explicit objective of the Act and that a series of principles be incorporated that better recognise the ways in which the work done in female dominated industries has been traditionally undervalued.

Let’s get rid of the ridiculous need to prove a comparator between female and male dominated industries for a start.

And as Federal Labor recognised going into the last election it is beyond time to offer a decent pay rise for those women in traditionally underpaid industries such as ECEC.

Thirdly, to reduce the impact of disadvantage imposed by unpaid care work we propose that the government change the paid parental leave scheme by increasing the total number of shared parental leave on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis and make further changes to the childcare rebate.

Lastly, we suggest that guidelines be set for both Government procurement processes and access to government funding that mean if you don’t meet the new gender pay requirements you either can’t tender for government jobs or you lose your government funded support.

The policy interventions we focussed on are not new, but what we have done, that I believe is our unique contribution to the debate, is to model the individual impacts of that range of policy developments.

What is clear from the research is that picking off individual initiatives one-by-one will not lead to step change in our rate of progress.

Instead we would urge governments to adopt all the measures that we have examined if we are to make significant change in closing the gender pay gap.

Our modelling shows that the collective impact of all the proposed policies would reduce the gender pay gap by nearly half by 2025.

One important thing to note, and the report goes into some detail on this, and that is our modelling shows a greater pay gap than that commonly attributed to public discourse.  The pay gap in our research takes into account a range of factors that WGEA for instance does not.  I am sure when we get to our panel discussion that our research lead Dr Sharon Ponniah will be able to talk more to that point.

John F Kennedy’s words at the launch of the space program are illuminating he said, “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard”.  It is now time to address the gender pay gap with the same determination and fervour.

In terms of public policy it was about a choice.  It was a choice to go to the moon and it has been a choice of Australian society to ignore the gender pay gap for too long.

Societies should be judged on the choices they make and on any judgement of Australia, it’s clear that Australian society should not be judged well on its commitment to equal pay.

For instance, we made choices on the types of work we valued and we paid workers accordingly.

We have failed to value the work done in female industries – often deriding it as “women’s work”.  This must stop.

Unfortunately, in Australia we haven’t tackled gender pay equity because it was too hard, we haven’t tackled it because it’s been too easy to get away with doing the bare minimum.

Since the initial victories in the late sixties and early seventies its been too easy to let the process of change remain glacially slow.

However, in recent years it has been pleasing to see that glacially slow is no longer an option.

And, hopefully, the report we are releasing today will play a part in pushing for faster action.

I am so grateful that Julie Collins the Shadow Minister for Women is able to join us here today for the official launch of this policy brief.  As a former Minister for Women Julie knows only too well the ongoing fight to achieve gender pay equity.

Of course, under Julie’s predecessor, Federal Labor took to the last election a bold policy agenda to help close the gender pay gap.  Many of the policies contained in that policy are similar to the ones that we have modelled in the research we are releasing today.

Some did not go as far as we are advocating for in this report.

That’s as it should be, after all it is the role of think tanks to push the envelope, to set the terms of the debate, and to call for faster and more rapid change.

I know that Julie will bring a strong commitment to the task of closing the gender pay gap and Chifley looks forward to working with her on this vital policy issue.

I would also like to thank the Working Group of the Chifley Research Centre for their involvement in bringing together this policy brief – Linda White, Kara Keys, Professor Rae Cooper, Senator Jenny McAllister, and Emma Maiden and Emma Cannen

Finally, this report would not have been possible without the unwavering support of PwC.

They put a top quality team together to bring this project to life.

I would like to thank Frances Maguire and Marty Jovic for giving their senior support and encouragement to this project all the way along.  But I’d especially like to thank the team that did all the work behind the report from the policy identification and research through to the modelling that proves our case – Dr Sharon Ponniah, Shanika Samarakoon and Shomik Dutta.

Thanks for all your help.

I’d now like to ask Marty Jovic from PwC to formally introduce the Shadow Minister for Women – Julie Collins.




Thank you Julie.  As I mentioned earlier, Chifley looks forward to working with you on addressing this grave inequity in Australia.

I’d now like to invite up to the stage our panel of experts and members of the working group for a discussion on the report and some of its implications.

Joining our panel today we have Professor Rae Cooper who as I’m sure everyone in this room knows is one of Australia’s leading experts on gender and work.  Rae Cooper is Associate Dean (Programs), at the University of Sydney Business School and Co-Director of the Women, Work and Leadership Research Group.

Also joining us we have Dr Sharon Ponniah, Director of Health Economics and Policy here at PwC and the lead researcher of today’s report.

And we are further joined by the Chair of Chifley Research Centre, Linda White.  Linda is also an Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union.  In which role she brings special insight to this topic as the ASU were one of the key parties to help win the only successful comparator case under the Fair Work Act the SACs case.

Acting as moderator for this discussion will be Elysse Morgan the host of ABC TVs The Business program.

Please join me in welcoming Elysse, Linda Sharon and Rae to the stage.

About Brett Gale:

Brett Gale is the Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre.