By Tanya Plibersek

10 March 2022




SUBJECTS: International Women's Day; Women in politics; Labor's plan to teach respect and consent in schools.
MURRAY JONES, HOST: It's 846-4CA. Well as we know just in the last couple of days, Tuesday to be precise, International Women's Day. A lot of talk not just here at the radio station, but right across the country, and I guess it's monumental in so many ways that this event is picking up just so much steam over time, but there are some concerning aspects - we'll come to that in just a sec. To talk about some of the reflections about what happened for International Women's Day, Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek joins me this morning. Good morning Tanya, always nice to talk to you. 
JONES: Now, I believe you've been in Cairns recently, we'll come to that, but look particularly in your role as the Shadow Minister for Women - there was something quite concerning that I did see in the Cairns Post just yesterday morning. It was a text to the editor and I think it's a good example of the world that, unfortunately, we are still living in. This is what was printed yesterday: "if this is women's week" and it wasn't, it was International Women's Day, "when is men's week? Will all the equality ladies be happy to go to the frontlines if we need conscription as the Ukraine conflict escalates into World War 3?" That's a great example of just the misunderstanding of exactly the plight that so many women are in these days, Tanya.
PLIBERSEK: Well International Women's Day is about equality. It's not about women getting special treatment or better treatment. It's about making sure we achieve equality. And when I was in Cairns talking to some of the women's organisations and charities up there, Murray, they were talking about some of the challenges that women in Cairns are facing. For example, finding emergency accommodation if they're victims of domestic violence. I guess on International Women's Day we reflect on what we've achieved, but also the challenges that still remain. And those challenges include the fact that one in three Australian women will experience domestic violence, one in five will experience sexual assault. You know, it's actually more common for an Australian woman to be a victim of sexual assault than to be a smoker. If you just think about that, it blows your mind, doesn't it? 
JONES: Sure.
PLIBERSEK: Forty percent of women, so two out of every five, have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years alone. We've got to get better than that, right we've got to do better than that. And it's not about special treatment, it's about just being equal. And it's also not a competition between men and women, because equality is good for men and women. If women are out there in the workforce earning a decent wage, enjoying their work, takes a little bit of pressure off men to be the traditional breadwinner, never at home with their kids and their family. Equality is good for men and women.
JONES: Particularly in your role, I guess, you've been able to be a shining light in so many ways. When you look back through history - 1998, which was what 24 years ago now, you are first elected as the member for Sydney. Every election since you've managed to stay in that position. Firstly, congratulations. I think you're the longest-serving woman in Parliament, since 1998, a great achievement. But I mean, are you seeing some of those changes as time goes on, are things actually getting better, particularly in Parliament, but overall, do you think so for women? 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I do. I mean I'm the longest-serving woman in the House of Representatives and I have seen huge changes in my time in parliament. Like it's still not good enough when we have incidents like the one we heard so much about with Brittany Higgins, but it is a different place to the place that I joined in 1998. You know, if the blokes saw two of us women talking together in the hallways in 1998 they'd have to make a joke about  "Ooh the ladies are taking over the place." Now that the Labor caucus is - we're about half female now, we've almost achieved half/half in the Labor party. That makes a huge difference to the tone of the place, to making sure that we've got women staff, that they're safer as well. But more importantly, the policies for Australian women. There's a reason that under Labor more than eighty percent of Australian families would get cheaper childcare. There's a reason that we're focused on the gender pay gap and changing our industrial relations system to make sure women in low-paid industry like childcare, like aged care, like, disability support services are paid a decent day's pay for the very hard work they do. Having more women means that we get the policies right for men and women.
JONES: Just reflecting that letter to the editor, that I just read out to you a couple of minutes ago, which unfortunately shows an old way of looking at things, and things have changed quite dramatically. Something else that you've been involved in the last couple of days and a major announcement yesterday is respect. And respect is something that a lot of people say is missing right across the community in various various contexts, particularly even when it comes to youth crime. Talk to me a little bit more about this respect initiative and the type of dividends it's likely to pay right across the community. 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well, we've said Murray, that if Labor's elected we will invest $77 million to teach respect in our schools. So with little kids that's about all of those basic skills - sharing, taking turns, resolving conflict without pulling your fists out - and as kids get older, talking to them about respect in their romantic and sexual relationships. We still have too many young women who are raped while they're still teenagers. We've got too many blokes who think that that's okay. So working with kids from an early age, what we hope to do is change these trends. We have to have better policing, we have to have better court processes. We have to take violent criminals off the street. But if we can prevent crime in the first place by teaching our kids better, then surely that's something that we should be doing as a society. And we've got a lot of evidence about what works to change attitudes and change behavior. I spoke a minute ago about smoking rates, right? It's more common for a woman to be a victim of sexual assault than to be a smoker in Australia, but after the Second World War, half of all Australians smoked. What did we do? We not only changed the laws, we the attitudes. So that today, if you ask the average ten-year-old what do you think of smoking? You know, they think it's a bit gross and it's not something that they even contemplate for their future. We have to change attitudes too. And Murray, I'll just say one other thing about that letter you were talking about, when Labor was last in government we removed all of the barriers to women being able to serve in roles in the military. So, if you're fit enough, if you're strong enough, if you can physically do the work that's expected of you, shouldn't matter whether you're male or female. We have women serving on active deployment in every operation that Australia is involved in at the moment. We have women in senior roles in policing, in emergency services, in some of the toughest jobs that you see in Australia today. We have women in construction. We have women in mining. We have women in a whole range of non-traditional areas doing a fantastic job. And I think the letter writer that you're referring to kinda misses the point a little bit because what women are asking for is not special treatment, it is equality. And that means the opportunity to serve their nation, to serve their nation at home, overseas, in dangerous situations, they're already doing it. 
JONES: And when it comes to that glass ceiling that we often talk about, and I think sadly that letter is a reflection of the misunderstanding about the institutional. There's so many things that are going against women in this community and society, but thankfully some incremental changes. Always inspirational talk to you, and you brought up some really prescient and really interesting points this morning. Shadow Minister for Education and for Women, Tanya Plibersek, make sure you drop in and say hi next time you're in town, as always great to talk to you.
​PLIBERSEK: ​Always great to talk to you too Murray.