International Women's Day
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak about International Women's Day. As have others have, I commend the member for Newcastle for her motion. I also commend the speakers who have been in advance of me. All the speeches have been wonderful.
I enjoyed kicking off this International Women's Day week this morning with a breakfast with the Speaker and MPs from Fiji. Our Speaker hosted a breakfast and it was really wonderful to hear about what is happening in Fiji, to hear the progress that they are making. Unfortunately, only 16 per cent of Fiji's parliament is comprised of women. But they have achieved that so far, so let us hope that they will get to 50 per cent in the very near future.
International Women's Day is a celebration of the great achievements of women throughout the world and throughout our history, from women's suffrage to reproductive rights. It is because of the work of giants of women that has taken place in the past that I am able to stand in this chamber and speak today. In this place, I carry the dreams, the work and the sacrifice of other women and I want to thank them. At the time of our Federation, it would have been novel, perhaps inconceivable, that women would stand in this great chamber. It is thanks to many famous, and not so famous, women that I can be here, that we women can be here today. It is also thanks to my working-class matriarchy that I can be here today. It is thanks to my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother. It is because of their hard-headed determination and that of others like them that I have been able to run a successful business, sit on boards and be elected to parliament. I want to thank them.
While we have much to celebrate, there is so much more that has to be done. We must continue to fight for equal pay. Australian women are earning less today than they ever have before, when compared with their male colleagues. According to ABS data from August last year, the gender pay gap has soared to above 18 per cent. The data show that male salaries have increased by 2.9 per cent over the past year while, alarmingly, women's salaries have only gone up by 1.9 per cent.
We must also fight to improve the representation of women on boards and in the parliament. Research shows that improving diversity on boards, including increasing the number of women, has a positive impact on the performance of an organisation. I have witnessed this firsthand through the boards I have been a member of, both at the commercial level and at the not-for-profit level.
We must also continue to fight to end violence against women. Violence against women in Australia is a deep-rooted cultural problem; and it is shocking. One in three women in Australia has experienced physical violence, almost one in five has been subjected to sexual assault and one woman is killed by her partner or former partner every week. We have to have a zero tolerance approach and we need to call out family violence when we see it.
I also want to ensure that women have the financial literacy to plan for a comfortable retirement. I often speak with women, many of whom are in the private rental market, are on low incomes and have very limited superannuation. They are facing a bleak retirement. I am worried that too many women have not planned for their future beyond work. I am worried that too many people do not have a plan for their retirement. Since I was elected, I have spoken on many occasions to women and encouraged them to understand how much superannuation they have so they can work out how much they need for their retirement and how much they need to put away each week. Understanding the detail of what they need for their retirement will allow them to better plan for their futures. And as I say to young women all the time, 'A man is not a financial plan.'
Finally, we must work to protect the human rights of all women and girls all around the world. In Afghanistan, we are experiencing a transition at the moment. I am very concerned that the hard-fought-for gains that have been made by the international community, involving the loss of life of many in the international community, will erode, evaporate and amount to nought. I am very concerned that women need to be around the table in the discussions with both the Taliban and the government to ensure that they have a say when they do transition to a post-international community environment. More women need to be sitting around the table negotiating on their futures in Afghanistan, not setting the table, and we need to ensure that those women do not end up being dinner.
We have come a long way in the last 100 years, but our achievements have barely touched many women in developing countries like Afghanistan, where female literacy is still very, very low in many provinces and female and infant mortality is still extraordinarily high. We still need to fight to ensure equal rights and equal opportunities are shared by all our sisters throughout the world.