Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Cash) to a question without notice asked by Senator Moore today relating to domestic violence leave and work-family leave.

I specifically asked the minister about the issue of domestic violence leave in the public sector and also more widely in the community. In relation to the public sector, the minister said that it certainly was not her role to be engaged in issues around public sector bargaining; this was the responsibility of individual agencies. When I pressed further about what was happening in other areas of the community, particularly some of our leading corporates, where domestic violence leave is now becoming a standard provision in some of the leading corporate agencies, she again said that public sector bargaining was simply an issue for the public sector agencies themselves.

When I went further-through the three steps-to the second supplementary question, and asked whether the minister would directly support an entitlement of five days of paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards, she said at that stage that the Productivity Commission report was coming through, that she would take note of that and in due course would then give some consideration to the issue of domestic violence leave.

Today Minister Cash was a very popular recipient of questions. She received questions from Senator Waters about issues around the gender pay gap and she also received a question from Senator O'Sullivan. Of course, Senator O'Sullivan was very keen to have a male's voice in the conversation. We know that from past experience, in Senate estimates last year. It is on record that Senator O'Sullivan felt it was important to have a male voice in the process of Senate estimates. In the minister's responses she then talked about issues of structural, cultural and institutional barriers to having women being involved in their workplaces.

Mr Deputy President, in going back to my own question-before you take the point of order you may have had in your mind-my point is that the minister said that, on the issue of public sector bargaining, she would not intrude because it was the responsibility of individual agencies. Domestic violence leave is an issue of core importance. A Senate committee identified that, when it came to family violence, the link between women and their employment was a key issue with respect to their safety into the future. When we are talking about issues around domestic violence, employment-solid, secure employment-remains an important element for women.

In the public sector, some departments already had this leave entitlement. I think it is a core responsibility of the minister to look at this being stripped out of agreements and put into policy. We know that the department and the minister herself have been very active in looking at the issues of domestic violence in our community. A range of policy changes have been put in place, and the minister referred to those in other answers she gave today.

Our proposition is that when we have already identified, through the evidence provided to our inquiry, that work has already been done in key agencies such as Telstra, NAB and Virgin, where they have seen the need to actually put this into their core conditions of service, surely there would be an expectation that the government of the day, the government that had identified the need to respond to women's fear about losing employment and having no secure income, would say that they would lead in this area in the public sector, that they would entrench this kind of condition in entitlements. They would not wait for yet another Productivity Commission report or another round of interviews or processes that would say 'We know domestic violence leave works. We know it is an entitlement that would actually be valued.' Why doesn't the government include in their response to domestic violence issues in Australia a commitment to five days of paid domestic leave in people's national employment standards? Don't wait. Don't actually cover it with rhetoric. Take on directly the institutional, structural and cultural barriers around security and ensure that everyone, workers in the public sector-which was the direct element of my question-but also in the wider community could have this as a paid entitlement in their workplace. (Time expired)