It’s great to be here also amongst the mining industry on this day for a couple of reasons. First of all is because of the great achievements that I think have been achieved here in the minerals industry when it comes to the advancement of women. Now, I have been doing a bit of advancement of women lately myself. And Linda Reynolds is here as evidence and proof of that, joined by Melissa Price and Michaelia Cash. There are now seven women in my Cabinet, which is the highest number of women ever in a Cabinet in Australia’s history. The fact that three of them are from Western Australia – three out of the seven – I think speaks volumes about Western Australia.
And so it’s great to have them all in my team. They’re doing a tremendous job across a range of very difficult and very important portfolios. The other reason is because I understand – my Government understands, Mathias and I understand, and Steve, and Slade, who’s here as well, that… you mentioned I had two girls. That’s true. And what Jenny and I want for our girls is for them to have all the choices in life that you would hope that they would have. Mathias I know he feels the same way about his family and all of us do. And for them to have those choices, something has to happen. And that is our economy has to be strong. You look around the world, where women face their biggest challenges and struggles – they’re in the developing countries of the world. Prosperity brings with it its opportunities, of course it does, for every person. But it particularly brings the ability and the power to be able to increase the standing and opportunities for women around the world. And that’s true here in Australia.
And so I applaud the minerals industry for doing two things. One is contributing to Australia’s prosperity. Not just here in Western Australia, but all around the country. The mining industry in Australia makes Australia stronger. That’s why I support it. I know there are others who don’t. I know there are others at the moment who want to attack the mining industry and talk it down, say that it doesn’t have a future. That’s just dead wrong. When you attack the mining industry, you are attacking Australia’s economic future. Whether that’s in North Queensland, whether it’s here in Western Australia, whether it’s in the Northern Territory, it doesn’t matter where you are. If you’re not a friend of the mining industry in Australia, you’re not a friend of prosperity in Australia. And I’m a friend of prosperity in Australia, because I know what it delivers for Australians and I know what it particularly delivers for women in Australia. A more prosperous country is a stronger society where we can invest $328 million in countering and combating domestic violence in this country, where women can start businesses, grow, take opportunity that they’re seeking, take ownership of their economic future. The programs like the Esther Foundation I was at yesterday can see young women reclaim their lives, reclaim the things that have been taken from them, by having the support of a generous society, because they raise their funds from a generous community and they’re supported by us as well. So, a more prosperous country is good for Australia and it’s particularly good for Australian women. And to have a more prosperous country, you’ve got to have, in this country, a very strong minerals sector. So, that’s the other reason I was very keen to be here today.
One of the other female members of my Cabinet, Kelly O’Dwyer, said at the Press Club last year, our Minister for Women, “Gender equality isn’t about pitting girls against boys.” See, we’re not about setting Australians against each other, trying to push some down to lift others up. That’s not in our values. That is an absolutely Liberal value, that you don’t push some people down to lift some people up. And that is true about gender equality too. We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall pace is maintained. So Kelly said, “It isn’t about pitting girls against boys or women against men. It’s not about conflict,” she said. “It’s about recognising that girls and women deserve an equal stake in our economy and our society.” And that’s what we’re achieving and we still have a long way to go. It’s a powerful message that we all need to understand.
CME, in its efforts to highlight the achievements of women, particularly through the Women in Resources Awards, is to be something to be absolutely commended. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the nominees today. The Inspiring Girls Initiative, which connects female students with women working in this industry, I think, is a tremendous initiative, showing them the range of opportunities that they can grab if they want a career in mining and energy. And we want to ensure that they have the opportunity to have careers in this industry and in so many others. A job-creating economy will make our families stronger, it will make our communities stronger.
Last year, we released the landmark Women’s Economic Security Statement. It’s about backing women to boost their skills and employability, start their own businesses, and importantly give women more options to secure their financial independence when they need it, whether they are starting a career, a family, or in retirement. Increased flexibility for paid parental leave. Supporting entrepreneurship opportunities for women, and the STEM program for girls. And allowing catch-up superannuation contributions if returning to work after a break for family reasons. The Women’s Economic Security Statement has been the next instalment of our delivering for women across Australia. The record level of female participation in the workforce, the record low in the gender pay gap in Australia, the record number of women going into jobs – more than half of the 1.2 million jobs, well over half, have gone to women. As our economy has grown, women have been going faster in terms of securing those opportunities, which we always want to see them achieve.
Now, Karen Andrews is one of the other female members of our Cabinet, and to the great thrill, I think, of most in this room, she’s also an engineer.
And they’re the women we have in our team. From different backgrounds. Great skills. In business, in law, in the community, in the military, right across our team you will find women who have brought great skills and abilities. And we’re selecting more, particularly since last August, and we’ve had 19 women now who have been selected as candidates. And coming into the Senate, Wendy Askew, from Tasmania, will be joining Mathias and the team when we’re back in Parliament. She’s formally taken up that position now. I’m pleased to see that happen. Of course, we’ve got further to go, but the women in our party who are achieving particularly out here in the west have been blazing the trail. And I know so many will follow in the trail that they’ve created for women in our Party. And my commitment as the leader of this Party is to ensure that continues and for it to gain momentum, for it to get stronger. I think that’s the record I’ve demonstrated since taking over the job last year. I only want to see that continue to grow into the future.
So I wish everybody a very happy International Women’s Day and to remind everyone that the great state of Western Australia is a state that has for so long in our country driven out prosperity and we need to ensure that continues in this state and you cannot do that unless you’re prepared to back the mining and resources industry in this country. If you’re not prepared to do that, you’re not prepared to back prosperity in this country. You’re not in a position to be able to support the services that Australian rely on and women rely on. How have we got the highest ever level of bulk billing in Medicare in Australia’s history? Because we’ve got a strong economy. How have we got 2,000 medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, all of these incredibly life-destroying illnesses? Because we’ve got a strong economy. And so my plan is to focus on ensuring that we have a strong economy in the future, because I believe that will advance women’s interests here in this country and the program we’ve got to accelerate women’s interest in this country will only see a stronger future for my girls, for all of your girls and all the girls who are here. Happy International Women’s Day.