PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
ABC AFTERNOON BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY 31 AUGUST 2022
Subjects: Jobs and Skills Summit, Gender Pay Gap, Stage Three Tax Cuts, Papua New Guinea Bilateral Security Treaty, Gorbachev’s Legacy
GREG JENNETT, HOST: All right, let’s bring in our political panel today and joining us right here in the studio, I’m pleased to say, two Melbournians, Labor’s MP for Wills Peter Khalil is back and independent MP for Goldstein Zoe Daniel joins us today. Welcome to both of you and I think both have involvement, of differing levels, in the Jobs and Skills Summit, so Zoe I’ll start with you. Your particular sessions are focused around gender pay gap. What’s going to come of it, or what suggestions are you going to throw on the table anyway?
ZOE DANIEL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN: Well, I think fundamentally that although the start of the summit is sort of the women’s sessions, tomorrow morning. That these issues need to pervade all of our discussions around jobs in this country. And indeed, I think the gender lens should be put across every piece of legislation to make sure that there is gender equality. There’s been a lot of talk about bringing forward increased access and cheaper access to childcare, I think that has to happen all of the economics are there behind spending money on childcare to empower women to get into the workforce.
JENNETT: Bring it forward by six months. Is that your call?
DANIEL: Yep and look I’m aware that we’re in a budget crunch, but the numbers range from anything from $25 billion out to 2038 to $60 billion out to that time, by empowering women into the workforce. The thing is a lot of women want to work more and they simply don’t because they either can’t access childcare that suits their work schedule or it’s too expensive.
JENNETT: Right, I want to explore other ideas that I think you are bringing to the table, but Peter on that, worthy causes all. In fact, a very quick fix in many ways to labour shortages. If the female workforce can be tapped and brought online faster, why not?
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Look, I actually support Zoe’s advocacy in the lead up to the Jobs and Skills Summit around outcomes for feminised industries. Because you see a big gender pay gap in a lot of these sectors and one of the ways that you can reduce that gender pay gap, get rid of it, is really to support like we did increases in aged care workers’ wages and support early childhood educators and their wages. In fact, in that industry, for example, that sector, 95% women in early childhood educators and they get on average 30% less than sectors that are similarly qualified. So, you need to do that. We actually supported, also cutting the gender pay cap as part of a reform of the Fair Work Fair Work Act. So, I think all of those reforms are very important and something that government is very committed too.
JENNETT: Sure, but on childcare you’ve got this big scheme $5 billion. I think it is that supposed to come in on the 1st of July next year. And there are arguments being put by Zoe and many others that because of the numbers as they stack up, they almost pay for themselves in an economic sense, not a budgetary sense. I mean why not? Why not bring it forward?
KHALIL: Look, why not is a question really of the way the Parliament works and how quickly you can move this type of legislation. How quickly you can bring it forward? There’s obviously a mini budget in October and then another budget in May. I mean, you know this is something you’ve got to put to I guess the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. Above my pay grade Zoe, but you’re a Member of Parliament you can make that advocacy to them as well. But yes, we do need to tackle this area because it is a real issue the gender pay gap and as I said, so many sectors of the economy where women are not being paid as much as men. That needs to stop that needs to change.
JENNETT: Yeah alright, let’s put the childcare bring forward to one side Zoe. But on gender pay gap, there is an argument isn’t there? And I think you’re making it for higher visibility within individual enterprises, about a gap that they may or may not even be aware of. Certainly, outsiders can’t be, under the reporting rules that we generally have in this country.
DANIEL: Yeah, well you can’t manage what you don’t measure right? And so, one specific thing that I’ll put on the table tomorrow, that I think we can do is transparency around the gender pay gap. This is something that’s been done in the UK and in parts of Europe where they do basically a snapshot date and then they calculate the gender pay gap for the following 12 months. What that does, is that it creates transparency in organisations above 250 people, so both public and private. To show just what the gap is within those organisations. So, it creates some competitive pressure. And I think in a competitive job market where people want to work for ethical organisations, ones that are moving on climate action for example, that this would would fly.
JENNETT: So, does that form of reporting fully explain the why’s though? It’s one thing to see a discrepancy in numbers, but there can be many reasons for that inside a workforce part time hours versus full time hours. If you look at the numbers in aggregate, how do you account for those differences?
DANIEL: Yeah, so in the UK system organisations can add a narrative brief to their audit to explain those sorts of systemic issues within the organisation. I would say though Greg, that a lot of women are working part time because of the gender pay gap and the cost of childcare and all those sorts of things. So, all those things are entrenched within the system. But I think too that if we’re going to do this, that we could also include women in leadership within the organisations, flexibility of workplace practices, as well as the gender pay gap. And I see our public service could lead on this too. It’d be really interesting to see what the gender pay gaps look like within government as well as private industry.
JENNETT: I think there might already be a project under way to bring some transparency around the public service on that very score, but transparency, Peter, reporting.
KHALIL: Absolutely you’re right, you got to get the metrics, right. You got to see what’s going on first, to actually have good public policy. Once you’ve done that and whatever improvements need to be made should be made. The commitment that we have as a government to changing the Fair Work Act to deal with the gender pay equity gap, you know, make sure that it’s there, is really important. I think also, Tony Burke is working on ways to help bargaining for particularly feminised industries or sectors. But just on the part time on the casualization, I’ve written about this, you know Op-Eds and things like that. There is all this issue around temporary work visas, people on part time and casual work. That’s just run rampant over the last nine years. You know, Scott Morrison, when he was Immigration Minister, then Prime Minister, they increased temporary visas exponentially and then went around saying oh we’re reducing permanent migration or permanent skill migration, we’re congestion busting. Whereas over 2,000,000 temporary visas were in Sydney and Melbourne. Okay these are people who are socio-economically disadvantaged, migrants for example, women, who work in those part time jobs, that needs to be addressed. That’s something I’ll be raising in the Job Summit in my sessions because we need to get that balance right. There’s obviously the balance between skills and training and migration, but within the migration puzzle, I’m a big advocate of increasing skilled permanent migration, like my parents who came here to become Australians, permanently and long-term generational commitment to the country. Not just on a one or two year visa.
JENNETT: Some people say the price of entry to that debate is a number. Do you have a number in mind?
KHALIL: I knew you were going to ask me about the numbers. You always like asking politicians about numbers. I don’t know what the number is and I’ll tell you why, because it has to be evidence based. You need to look at where the skills shortages are, where the sectors that need people, you need to then work out. There’s also an ethical question. Do we bring nurses in from Third World countries or countries that need them like the Philippines or Nigeria? There’s an ethical issue there as well. We’re a wealthy country, we could probably offer a lot to cover some of our skill shortages, but what about the needs in those countries? So, we have to balance all of these things.
JENNETT: Alright let’s see where they come up with that is on the list of things that could be announced on Friday afternoon. We won’t be able to traverse all of the jobs summit here in our brief session. But stage 3 tax cuts are kind of on the periphery of the summit Zoe and you know, we all know now what Russell Broadbent from the Liberal side had to say about shelving them, cancelling them. Where do you stand?
DANIEL: Well, where I stand is that I think there is a public appetite for a conversation about this. So, where we sit, is that the government saying we’re not going to move. Yet, it seems to me that the public attitude has shifted to the extent that we can talk about priorities. I mean, we talk about childcare for example, the cost of Labor’s package I think was $5.6 billion, so that’s a lot of money to bring forward. But the tax cuts are going to cost, what is it? $244 billion. So, what are the priorities? Where do the priorities sit for the way that we want to spend our money? And whether it should be injected into increasing productivity in the sorts of ways that we’re talking about or via tax cuts is a question that I think we should be debating.
JENNETT: A legitimate question and I’m struck Peter by the silence from the Labor side. It’s kind of our hands were tied, we helped pass the legislation because we had to. And yet as Zoe points out, so many of the discussions we have, are about the expenditure side of the ledger here. And you’re going to wake up one day in July of 2024 and find that the budget is getting $30/20 odd billion less each and every year.
KHALIL: I have to protest about this idea that there’s silence, the Prime Minister has been talking about this he was at the National Press Club the other day and had questions from journalists and addressed that issue. I’m here talking about it. We are talking about this issue and a couple of. (interruption) Well hold on I’m you know let me answer. I think the immediate economic challenges we have now around inflation. They’re not going to be addressed by changing the tax cuts, because they don’t come in until July 1st, 2024. So that’s a fact, first of all. I have been very focused on what we need to be focusing on, which is multinational tax avoidance. I’ve written about this; I’ve published about this. It is unbelievable how these multinationals get away without paying their fair share of taxes. In fact, around one in three, as many as one in three large companies in this country pay 0 tax on profits that they make in Australia. There’s money to be drawn back there.
JENNETT: It’s not going to claw you $24 or $30 billion a year.
KHALIL: OK, but when you’re talking about this, this is really important. That’s what we can do now that’s what Jim Chalmers is looking at in the upcoming budget. This is really important, because apart from the rorts from the previous government, that we can pull back and all of that. There are areas of tax reform that I think need to be tackled, this is one of them. This is one I’m very passionate about, because if you’ve got a small business owner and probably Zoe has in her electorate who’s paying $0.30 on the dollar or whatever it is, $0.25 on the dollar. They can’t squirrel away their money on some offshore tax haven, whereas the big companies, making $500 million in this country not paying a cent of tax on it, unacceptable.
JENNETT: Do you see an injustice in the distribution of these tax cut benefits? That’s one of the primary arguments that people have been raising against it. Obviously, disproportionately it favours higher income earners. Is that where your reservation set in?
DANIEL: Well, that’s part of it. And we know that there are people on low and even middle incomes who are struggling because of the cost of living. So, it seems to run counter to that, too, then give large tax cuts to high income earners. So, I mean there are many people in my electorate who think they pay too much tax. So put that on the table, but I do think that from speaking to people in Goldstein that they recognise that perhaps now is not the time and again it’s time to have a conversation about what the priorities are. On multinational taxes bring it on. You know this this is a conversation that we’ve needed to have, I mean; I’ve raised the issue of windfall profits on gas. That’s a conversation the government doesn’t want to have. That’s one I’m going to keep having because that’s revenue we could claw back too.
JENNETT: Yeah, when you are a trillion dollars down the hole on debt, every bit of revenue helps, doesn’t it? I will just flag briefly that the Prime Minister is due to hold a National Cabinet media conference or post National Cabinet media conference, which we will be bringing to you live. Of course, Prime Ministers are rarely on time, so we’re going to continue our discussion.
KHALIL: You can stay with us because we’re more exciting, aren’t we?
JENNETT: We’ve got you covered until Anthony Albanese emerges. Why don’t we move to some regional diplomacy? Peter, a couple of interesting developments in our region, the Pacific. One is that Papa New Guinea appears open to and so does Canberra, escalating our security arrangements into the form of a treaty. Very unusual, not what we’ve tended to do in our region with smaller neighbours. Why is it time to explore?
KHALIL: Well, there’s a bit of history to this I mean Australia and PNG did enter into discussions around a bilateral security treaty back in 2020, so there’s a context for that as part of our comprehensive strategic and economic partnership with PNG. They’re a very important partner and neighbour and I think it’s actually good that we are getting deeper in our engagement with PNG and all the Pacific countries that, frankly, have been ignored, patronised, treated with a real disrespect by the previous Government. The contrast when Penny Wong and the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, Prime Minister put so much effort and resources into engaging with our Pacific partners has been really very stark. So, I think it’s a good thing that we take this opportunity to work with PNG in those areas.
JENNETT: Does it seem to you Zoe, that having called, as Penny Wong did, the Solomon Islands arrangement with Beijing, you know the greatest foreign security failure in the Pacific since World War Two, we’re now seeing in PNG attempts to ensure that that is not repeated?
DANIEL: Well, yeah, I’m sure that’s part of it. But you know, I haven’t been briefed on it. I know the Minister has said it’s very, very early days. It seems to make sense though, doesn’t it? At a time of very delicate situation in geopolitics, changing power bases between China and the US. And an opportunity, I think under a new government to reset those diplomatic relationships with the Pacific, that there is some strategic advantage to doing this with PNG. And there’s already some work going on with defence in relation to Manus Island, so there’s a synergy there as well.
JENNETT: Yeah, it sort of formalises or locks in something that hitherto has been well vague, I suppose, what our security obligations may or may not be wit.
KHALIL: With PNG particularly? Well, yes, to an extent. And also, it’s not unusual. We do have these types of security arrangements with our near neighbours like Indonesia and New Zealand. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t enter into something similar with PNG to, as you say, formalise in some respects what has been a long standing and very close relationship. All of this really is about the geostrategic shape of the future and making sure that we are the partner of choice for our neighbours, that we engage with them on security, on economic partnership, on cultural exchange and all the areas that I think can be mutually beneficial to our countries. And I think really importantly and that’s what I want to sort of emphasise this, treat our partners with the due respect that they deserve, don’t patronise them, don’t look down on them, which is unfortunately what’s happened for decades. With respect to our Pacific partners, they are coequal, sovereign states and they should be treated on that level. And that’s what our Prime Minister and our Foreign Minister are doing.
DANIEL: Greg just to interrupt briefly. I think one other factor that we need to consider when these sorts of relationships are being developed, is the climate issues that are ahead of us and the impact that they will have on the Pacific. So, there are also some advantages to cementing these relationships. Because our Pacific neighbours are going to need support and really, I mean what we’re doing in terms of security relationships and diplomatic relationships do have to sync up with us meeting our obligations on climate because we know that they’ll be worst affected. But the better and deeper those relationships are, the more effectively we can work together in emergencies, for example as well.
JENNETT: Sure, you know that makes sense. I’m a little torn as to whether I chance my arm at another question, I might go ahead and do it, with the caveat that the Prime Minister could walk out in the Government officers in Sydney at any moment, so we might have to abruptly stop you both. But because you are of a certain age, you will have been old enough to be conscious of the end of the Cold War and Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership at the time, no particular question attached to this Peter, but I’ll start with you. An observational reflection on his contribution.
KHALIL: Yeah, look a remarkable contribution to the global affairs of the 20th century by Gorbachev and one which effectively and somewhat minor miracle in a sense, ended the Cold War. He actually facilitated the end of Cold War without that much bloodshed, which was remarkable, people forget that. He’s revered in the West, obviously because of the efforts that he made, there’s some disdain towards him in pockets of you know, nationalists within Russia, including the current President. But look at the contrast with the leadership between the current President and Gorbachev. He thought about the long-term future of both his country and the world. And set about making those changes through Perestroika and Glasnost, that was really hard. One side note on this Bob Hawke, our own Prime Minister, Labor Prime Minister at the time, was actually instrumental. He was a conduit between Gorbachev, Reagan, Thatcher and later I think Bush Senior, in that whole period of time, it’s a forgotten part of our history. He played a really significant role as a conduit between East and West. To help end the Cold War and so that should be noted as well, Bob Hawkes own contribution.
JENNETT: The influential middle power once again that Australia is. And Zoe I don’t know if you were reporting at the time. I know I was not but hoping too. What are your thoughts?
DANIEL: I actually remember what a weight it was as a child. The spectre of the Cold War over the world, and therefore I think for families that sense of relief when it came to the point that it did without the bloodshed that Peter is talking about. And I’ve been reflecting today on global leadership and how often we see those sorts of leaders now, unfortunately, I think it’s increasingly rare. So perhaps it’s a good day to reflect on those sorts of leadership qualities. I mean, Gorbachev was not a perfect human, but he was a rare man and I think the sorts of tributes that you’ve seen today reflect that. But it also provides a moment for all of us to think, well, what is leadership and what do we want out of our leaders?
JENNETT: Yeah, there is that and there’s also the pondering of the thought about you know what is a legacy when you have someone like Putin come along and kind of turn the tables back on themselves, at least in what we now call Russia. But we’re going to wrap it up there Zoe Daniel and Peter Khalil. The PM has not yet emerged, situation, well they work on Prime Ministerial time. Not our time. But thank you for your extensive thoughts this afternoon. We’ll do it again soon.