Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Breakfast with Tim Shaw

SUBJECTS: Chief Minister’s Export Awards, women in the public service, quotas, third seat, grand finals

SHAW: Women in our community represent more than 50 percent of the workforce. They represent the backbone of many Canberran families. But what are we doing about equality of opportunity? Not only in the Australian Public Service but right across the ASX 200 board level. We spoke to Elizabeth Proust the Chair of the Institute of Company Directors, and I found out that 59 percent of the Australian Public Service workforce are women. Yet only 25.4 percent of women are sitting on boards of ASX companies. Something has got to change and I want to get Gai and Zed's take on that. We've got Secretary of the Department of Employment, Renee Leon, we've got Kathryn Campbell, Secretary of DHS. We of course have Frances Adamson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. What is the Australian Public Service doing so well to be able to support women right through their trajectory in their careers to see that 59 percent of the Australian Public Service are women? Is it targets? Is it quotas? Or is it merit? Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, good morning.

BRODTMANN: Good morning Tim, good morning Zed

SHAW: And Zed Seselja, ACT Liberal Senator, good morning to you Zed.

SESELJA: Good morning Tim, good morning Gai.

SHAW: Can we first go to some extraordinary Canberra businesses that are world leaders in export. I was at the ACT Chief Minister's Export Awards last night, a very proud Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Gai Brodtmann. You know $539 million in exports alone, including high exports of education. As the Federal Member for Canberra, what is your comment on that?

BRODTMANN: Well, it’s terrific news and congratulations to all those businesses that took out awards, and all those businesses that were finalists. Canberra is really amping up its export industry across a broad range of fields. In education as you have mentioned, in health services. I see real opportunities in public policy and public administration, financial management and ICT. We have some world class industries here that were recognised last night. Congratulations to everyone involved.

SHAW: When I heard Bruce Armstrong, CEO of Aspen Medical, tell us about the extraordinary work of Aspen. You know they have set up that hospital facility in Mosul, of course very dangerous. But for every thousand patients that come through there, Bruce Armstrong told us last night that there was less than a four percent mortality rate. The World Health Organisation asked for tenders and here is a Canberra company, a private company, serving at a world class level. How does that make you feel as the Senator for the ACT?

SESELJA: Very proud, I think Glenn Keys and the team do an outstanding job at Aspen Medical, so congratulations to them. I think for many years now they have been doing just amazing things, amazing service as you say to other parts of the world that are doing it tough. And it’s a great export market for Australia, and a number of other exporters. When we have debates about things like free trade, these exporters from Canberra are benefitting because they are going into China, they are going into Korea and opening up those trade barriers means that great service industries in Canberra are well placed to take advantage. And we're really seeing that with some outstanding local companies doing amazing things.

SHAW: You know Gai, what was interesting for me when I heard from Dr Stephanie Fahey, CEO of Austrade. Austrade of course providing through the Australian Government mechanism, and you of course, through your experience with Foreign Affairs and Trade, know that work being done at that international level is so critically important. But what I am seeing here is the close working relationship the ACT Government has with Austrade, particularly the Chief Minister who paid tribute to Brendan Smyth who has been engaged after a political life in the Assembly to now work in that international role as Commissioner. This is a first for the ACT, and it just shows the bipartisanship, where the Chief appointed Brendan Smyth to that role. What is your comment on that bipartisanship, on the growth of opportunities for Canberra businesses internationally?

BRODTMANN: It is incredibly helpful and we do generally have a bipartisan approach when it comes to national security issues, on foreign policy issues and on cyber security issues. I have just been at a two day conference in Sydney on cyber issues and generally we do have a bipartisan approach. But what it underscores is the fact that we do need to work together in the national interest to ensure that we maximise these export opportunities for our nation's prosperity, our nation's growth and our nation's future.

SHAW: Zed, 59 percent of the Australian public service are women. Was it targets? Was it quotas? Or is it merit? What is your view of that extraordinary figure? 152,095 people are employed in the Australian Public Service since June 30, and of those, 59 percent of these employees are women. At all levels below executive level 2, yet at the top jobs the proportion of women in senior executive positions has crawled from 36 percent in 2008, to 43 percent. Is that good enough Zed Seselja?

SESELJA: I think we have seen in the Federal Public Service great strides and you made the point of some of those outstanding women are leading departments. One of those is in the department that I have some responsibility for in social services, Kathryn Campbell. I welcomed her to the department just this week, and you know Kathryn is outstanding, as are any number of those other senior women. Not just at the secretary level but right throughout. I think Tim that culture is as important as anything in this question. If you look at the public service we are seeing women feeling like they can thrive and get right through to the top of departments in pretty large numbers and that of course will inspire other women. But that creates a sense that gender shouldn't be a barrier and we should be striving for that in our organisations. I look at politics in the ACT and we have seen two different approaches. With quotas in Labor and no quotas in the Liberals. About half of elected representatives for both parties are women and we in the Canberra Liberals have done it quite proudly without quotas. We have got some outstanding women representing us and I think it has come down to the culture, the grassroots democracy, one vote, one value. Which has seen some really great women putting their hands up, so there is a number of great ways you can do it. But my belief is if you have a culture where all people have opportunities then women of course will do outstanding things.

SHAW: Gai Brodtmann.

BRODTMANN: There are a range of factors that have seen representation increase for women in the public service. The majority of them are below the EL2 level, so we do have a challenge in the more senior levels. It comes down to flexibility in the workplace, shining a light on performance. That is vitality important and why the Australian Institute of Company Director's recent report is so valuable. Because it is shining a light on what is actually happening on our ASX 200 boards.

By shining a light we can then work out how we are going to achieve the target of 30 percent, I think it was by 2018. So shining a light is very important, mentoring is very important, having role models. Having women in these senior positions means that women think 'ok I can do that' and also looking, as Zed said, at the culture issue, but also questioning this notion of what is actual merit.

Because merit can be construed in some cases as being based on bias. People see merit as “people who look like me”. So we need to be very careful about that. We need to think laterally about recruitment and think laterally about what’s needed for the future. Listening to Elizabeth Proust, she was mentioning the fact that we need to look at what boards need to be addressing in the future, and that largely relies on teams and women are terrific team players.

SHAW: Yes, well said. Should we have legislative approaches Zed Seselja, to avoid and get rid of gender pay gap? You and I both know that the gender pay gap exists. Now Elizabeth Proust, and looking at her stellar career working in the Victorian Public Service. She doesn't favour legislative intervention relating the gender pay gap. What is your take?

SESELJA: Well look I think that obviously to a degree we do. When it comes to legislating it is absolutely against the law to be deliberately discriminating between men and women doing the same job. So there are all sorts of laws, and that is absolutely as it should be. In terms of legislating going further than current law, I have some sympathy for what Elizabeth said. I will again go to our local assembly. I think we look at diversity and just under a tick of 50 percent of the Liberals in the ACT are women, but if you look at the diversity of both men and women coming from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds as well. You couldn't legislate that, you couldn't have a rule that said you had to have a certain number coming from Asia or here or there. You get it through a positive culture that allows people to thrive, and diversity, yes gender is so important, but so is cultural backgrounds and what people have done in their previous work environment. Having a diversity of experience is really important and you just can't legislate those sorts of things. But if you've got a culture that gives people a fair go regardless of who they are, then I think you will really get a lot of diversity and you'll get the absolute best people.

SHAW: Gai, just briefly, legislative intervention on the gender pay gap.

BRODTMANN: The gender pay gap is a complex issue and it's not helped when Government's slash penalty rates. On the broader issue of targets versus quotas, targets are what we should stick with and try and get to those particular levels. I mean we have targets in the Labor Party, targets of 50 percent for government boards, targets of female women pre-selected by 2025. We've led the way on that and we've got an enormous number of women in Parliament as well in executive positions.

SHAW: Alright quick yes or no, should the third Federal Seat here in the ACT be a woman Gai Brodtmann?

BRODTMANN: That's really up to the pre-selectors. I'd like to see a really strong group of contenders and I would like to see some terrific women in there. We have plenty of great women in the ALP.

SHAW: Zed Seselja.

SESELJA: I think it should be a Liberal.

SHAW: Ah, should be a Liberal woman! Is that what you're saying thank you very much?

SHAW and BRODTMANN:  *Laughing*

SESELJA: I would be very happy for it to be a Liberal woman I think that would be a great improvement.

SHAW: Alright congrats on the new DSS building in Tuggeranong opened in this week. And Gai as you mentioned you were at the SINET Conference in Sydney this week, and you're hosting a coffee catch-up tomorrow at the Sakeena's Cafe between 10am and 11am at Cooleman Court I'll have to head down. Now both of you, what is your favourite NRL or AFL Grand Final moment? Gai Brodtmann.

BRODTMANN: Canberra winning in '89.

SHAW: Zed Seselja

SESELJA: I've got two. '89 Grand Final, but also 1997 because my brother goes for Manly, when Newcastle Knights beat Manly in the last minute to win the Grand Final.

SHAW: Oh stop it. I'm an old Sea Eagles fan! Thank you so much for your time and I'll catch you both soon.