Politics with Michelle Grattan: Kate Jenkins on the women's agenda

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In the week of the National Summit on Women’s Safety, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins joins the podcast to discuss progress – and lack of progress – on issues of vital importance to Australian women.

Last week, the government passed aspects of Jenkins’ Respect@Work report into law. Of the 12 recommendations which called for specific legislative reform, only six were enacted. In particular, the recommendation for placing a “positive duty” on employers to protect employees against workplace harassment has not been adopted. This cherry-picking has attracted considerable backlash.

Jenkins intends to continue pressing the government on the six unimplemented measures.

“When they gave their full response to the 55 recommendations in April [the government] did indicate they would do some legislative reform now and they would take longer to consider the other six.”

“So they haven’t said no to me right now, and I am going to hold them to their commitment that they will continue to consider those reforms.”

The women’s safety summit came when the conversation about this issue is front of mind, following marches early this year, sparked by the Brittany Higgins’ allegation of rape in Parliament House, and the allegation of historical rape against Christian Porter, which he denies.

Jenkins says achieving gender equality is an issue in “many other Western countries” but Australia ranks 50th on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index.

“We started in 2006 at, I think it was, 15. So […] other countries have been really moving at a faster pace than we have.”

“We are world-leading in terms of […] educating women and girls. So the problem does tend to arise once those women leave university, get streamed into lower paid jobs, get expected to stay at home, don’t have access to good, flexible, affordable childcare. There’s a whole range of things that then build up in the Australian community. And I think it’s time we change that.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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