Colour head shot of Katy Gallagher, current Minister for Finance.

Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher

Minister for Finance

Television interview - Sunrise

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT

Gender pay gap; Housing; Cost of living; May Budget

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: The Albanese Government is looking to deliver on its election commitment to help close the gender pay gap in Australia. The latest data shows the average weekly gap for ordinary full-time earnings is around 13 per cent. While it is the lowest level ever, the annual difference over the course of a year balloons out to more than $26,000, or 21.7 per cent.

Well joining me to discuss is Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher. Morning to you Minister. The first gender pay gaps report will be published next month. What will this report help with, and how will it work? Because on the current trajectory, we're looking at 26 years to reach pay parity.

SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thanks for having me on. This is a really important change that's coming into play. So from February for all businesses, over 100 employees, they'll now need to report their gender pay gap publicly and it will be reported publicly and really what we're trying to do with this change that the parliament passed is make sure that, you know companies are aware of what their gender pay gap is, and they're taking steps to reduce it because basically, it's just not fair. We want women to get a fair crack at jobs and opportunities. And at the moment, there's a big gender pay gap. Even though it's closing, it's not closing fast enough.

BARTHOLOMEW: When this was introduced in the UK, similar legislation, it had a big impact because essentially, we’re kind of naming and shaming the companies that are doing a really great job with gender pay, and the ones that aren’t doing so well. What impact do you think it will have on those companies?

GALLAGHER: That’s right, so when it was introduced in the UK,we saw quite a significant reduction in the gender pay gap, partly because companies were aware of what was happening, you know you don't necessarily look at this at a granular level until you are publicly reporting it. I mean we are not really about naming and shaming, the results will be public and so in a sense, how people interpret that will be open to them, but what we are keen on is companies look at it, see what it is and then take steps to reduce it and make sure that women are being treated equally and fairly in the workplace.

BARTHOLOMEW: Like many women, you wear many hats, so let's put on your finance minister hat now and talk about this housing crisis affecting everyone right across Australia at the moment. We have new pictures just in from Melbourne, have a look at this, this is the lineup for one rental, a one-bedroom apartment in that city, but it is impacting everyone. Economists say you won't be able to reach this new target of 1.2 million new homes simply because there aren't enough tradies around to build them. Do we need to think more laterally about how we address the housing crisis because this is ongoing, minister?

GALLAGHER: Yeah look I think we have to come at the housing issues, they are really about supply, it comes down to supply and then how you can construct the houses you need to construct from a variety of ways which is what we are trying to do, whether it be through the skills and training sector with apprenticeships, whether it be through councils and how they are approving developments, whether it be through the states and land release, the Commonwealth can play a real leadership role, but the levers are shared across the board, and so we are really leaning in on this, I can't think of another thing, area, that we are not trying tackle this from, but it's a huge national effort and we have just got to drive supply, that is the answer, we've got to drive supply, get more supply and that will help ease some of the pressures we are seeing out in the economy.

BARTHOLOMEW: And spare land too, has the federal government come looked at available land? I know NSW has done that, particularly in Bega they found land that was used for a Tafe and are now re-purposing that for affordable and social housing. Does that need to happen on a federal level too? Can we free up more land to build these homes when we get the tradies?

GALLAGHER: Well, we’re certainly able to do that, and in the finance portfolio, I've been having a look at that. And we know that the Defence Minister Richard Marles has been looking at the Defence estate as well. And we're always keen to work with states and territories where they have you know, and we've done it in the ACT I know from my own experience where there is land available to look at to be reutilised as housing, the Commonwealth is very open to those discussions with the states and territories.

BARTHOLOMEW: It's a bit of lateral thinking in that space. Finally, let’s look towards the May Budget, we know so many people are doing it tough, particularly after overspending over Christmas that's going to continue into 2024. What will you be looking at in terms of helping middle income earners and people who are struggling at the moment because an ANU report shows that middle income earners are essentially earning less than before the pandemic because of the impact of interest rates and expensive lifestyles, Minister?

GALLAGHER: Well, what we've seen, so you know, in our first couple of Budgets, we've been trying to repair the Budget, get it in better shape, but also look at where we can make a difference without adding to inflation. So you saw that with the energy bill relief, childcare, some of the cheaper medicine proposals, but you know, the Treasurer and I have been very clear, the Prime Minister has been very clear, we have a look at how the economy is traveling, what's happening with inflation, and we are acutely aware that cost of living pressures, particularly for those with mortgages, who've been really feeling the impact of those interest rate increases is where the crunch is being felt right now. And the Prime Minister has, I think, been very clear in the last couple of days that he's wanting to consider more ways that we can assist those households with those pressures. And we'll be doing that in a sense, the work on the Budget began at the end of last year and we'll go right into it, you know, in the next couple of weeks.

BARTHOLOMEW: Yeah, a very delicate balance economically moving forward. Thank you so much for your time this morning minister, we really appreciate it.