Straight from the Senate - Issue 23

5.00pm | June 09, 2017


1. Yesterday Labor Leader Bill Shorten MP wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offering bipartisan support for building Australia’s clean energy future.

This afternoon Dr Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, released his review into Australia’s energy system.

Mr Turnbull now has a clear opportunity to reform Australia’s energy system, at a time when reform to secure a clean energy future is desperately needed.

Labor is ready to work with him to build a reliable, affordable and clean energy system for Australia. 

2. I’ve been chairing an inquiry into the relocation of the APVMA to Barnaby Joyce’s electorate during an election campaign. Today we tabled our final report.

The report chronicles a scandalous disregard for the financial and human costs associated with relocating this vital agricultural resource.

The Coalition has argued this move is to support regional jobs. Unfortunately, the regional communities all over Australia who’ve had local jobs slashed through cuts to the Tax Office, DHS, Veterans Affairs and many other agencies are unlikely to agree.

Its hard to avoid the conclusion that the relocation of this agency to Mr Joyce’s seat was all about just one job – his own.


This week Labor announced support for an Australian Modern Slavery Act and an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
 Labor announced its plan to tackle slavery alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Business Council of Australia and the Salvation Army. Far from being a thing of the past, it estimated there are 45.8 million people currently held in modern-day slavery. 4,300 people are estimated to be living in slavery in Australia in forced labour, debt bondage and sex work. Labor Leader Bill Shorten MP stated “An Australian Modern Slavery Act would require major Australian companies to publicly report on the steps they are taking to tackle slavery in their business or supply chain. For the first time, Labor is making it crystal clear that big businesses need to know what is happening in their supply chains."


This week the Senate Inquiry that I chaired into Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women’s economic equality delivered its report.

The report was covered by The AustralianThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age and The Financial Review.

We’re all familiar with the glass ceiling that restrict women’s rise to senior roles. The glass walls contributing to the gender pay gap receive much less attention. This is why I established this inquiry.

The inquiry received over forty stakeholder submissions and held two public hearings. In those we heard that Australia has a highly segregated workforce by international standards. In 2015-2016 six in every ten Australian employees worked in an industry dominated by one gender.1

Australian women are concentrated in feminised industries and occupations where they are valued less and paid less. Occupation and industrial segregation is the second most significant contributor to the gender pay gap after sex discrimination.2 As the ratio of male to female employees in an industry increases so, too, does the average wage. KPMG found that for every 10 per cent increase in the ratio of men to women in an industry, the average wage increases by 1.9 per cent.3

Despite having seen no progress on the gender pay gap over the last twenty years, government officials confirmed to the committee that the Government has not developed any strategy to close the gap.

Its time to do more than measure the gender pay gap – we need to act.

The report from the inquiry makes nine recommendations, which can be summarised as follows:
1. A national policy framework to achieve gender pay equity in Australia including a pay equity target and an advisory structure to guide implementation across government agencies.
2. Amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to improve its capacity to address equal remuneration
3. Restore, protect and extend the functions of the Pay Equity Unit (PEU) under the Fair Work Commission
4. Update the National Career Development Strategy and the Australian Blueprint for Career Development to ensure gender sensitive career guidance in an aim to address gender segregation in career choice
5. Undertake a national evaluation of all programs and initiatives aimed at increasing women’s participation in STEM
6. Review the recent United Kingdom Gender Pay Gap Reporting initiative to understand the ways in which Australia can improve its reporting of the gender pay gap
7. Review labour force data with focus on the job classifications used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in collaboration with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, trade unions and academics
8. Recommence the ABS Time Use study

1 WGEA, Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard, Key findings from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2015-16 reporting data, November 2016, p.11,, (accessed 8 June 2017).
2 KPMG, She’s Price(d)less, The Economics of the Gender Pay Gap, Update report prepared for Diversity Council Australia and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, October 2016, p., Diversity Council Australia, Submission 18.1.
3 KPMG, She’s Price(d)less, The Economics of the Gender Pay Gap, Update report prepared for Diversity Council Australia and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, October 2016, p.11, Diversity Council Australia, Submission 18.1.

In Labor,

Jenny McAllister