My question is to the Minister for Women, Senator Cash, about the gender pay gap. A report released today by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that women in senior management positions earn on average $100,000 less than their male colleagues. This is along with Bureau of Statistics figures that show an average gender pay gap of 24.7 per cent on total remuneration for full-time workers in Australia. All this government has done about the gender pay gap so far is water down the requirements for big business to report, abolish the low-income super contribution and attack paid parental leave. Now that we have a whole six women in a cabinet of 22, when are we going to see a plan to fix the gender pay gap?
I thank Senator Waters for her question. Senator Waters, I can assure you that, when I saw the data that was released today, I also was very disappointed by the data, but I am not going to agree with you in relation to this government not taking steps to actively reduce the gender pay gap. In terms of our commitment to gender equality and getting more women into the workforce—because we know that, if we can get more women into the workforce and, in particular, into those jobs where they can earn a comparable salary to a man—we will take steps towards reducing the gender pay gap.
One of the things that this government is focused on is removing those barriers that force women to make the choices they have to make as opposed to the choices they want to make, because institutional, cultural or structural barriers continue to exist. The government is able to pull some policy levers. Senator Waters, I am sure you are aware that one of those policy levers is in relation to child care. That is why we had the Productivity Commission review of child care—because as a government we understand that, if Australian women and men cannot access affordable, flexible child care, they are not going to be able to participate in the workforce. I am disappointed to say, though, Senator Waters, in relation to the measures we would like to implement, that they are stuck in the Senate, so at this point in time we are unable to offer to Australians the affordable and the flexible and the accessible child care that we want.
Senator Waters, in relation to the gender pay gap, again I am not about to make any excuses for it but, like me, I am sure you were pleased to note that the latest data coming out of WGEA saw the gender pay gap narrow ever so slightly from 17.9 per cent to 17.3 per cent. I am pleased it is trending in the right direction.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. If you want support for affordable childcare, do not take money off other poor people. Data from the ABS shows that the gender pay gap is worse in the private sector, where salaries can be negotiated in secret and gag clauses are often imposed on employees to stop them discussing their pay. The Greens have a bill to allow workers to talk about their pay if they choose. Will the government support this legislation to end pay gag clauses and actually take one step towards reducing the gender pay gap?
I have been very open in my remarks in relation to transparency within the workplace, but at the end of the day the workplace does not need any more red tape from government. That is not how you change culture. What you need to do is work with corporate Australia so they have a proper understanding of the steps that they need to take to ensure that they embrace the changes that are required so we do have ultimately gender equity within the workplace.
Senator Waters, a number of employers have put in place very good policies to address the gender pay gap. One great initiative I believe is, for example, 'de-gendering' resumes—you take the gender out of the resume and you only look at the skill set of the person. Look at Telstra, where all roles are flexible, and ANZ, which pays women an additional $500 in superannuation. I am not going to sit here and condemn corporate Australia. Can they do better? Yes, but they are certainly walking in the right direction.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Today's report also shows that where there are more women on corporate boards the pay gap for employees is smaller, yet government boards are failing to meet their target of 40 per cent women. The Greens and quite a few on the crossbench have a bill before the Senate that would make that target binding in law. Given the evidence in today's report, will the government now reconsider its opposition to that bill and legislate those targets for women on government boards?
Senator Waters, you and I are going to agree on something: the evidence does show that boards that have gender diversity and in particular gender balance in relation to men and women do perform better than boards that do not. I would hope that that is a very clear indication to both the public sector and the private sector that we need to do more to get women on boards. The government is committed to the 40:40:20 target in relation to the number of women on government boards. As I said in response to my question to Senator O'Sullivan, just recently the Prime Minister and I relaunched the BoardLinks program. We have actually moved BoardLinks from the Department of Finance into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet so we have a whole-of-government approach to appointing more women to boards.