I am proud to join my work sisters in supporting this piece of legislation. I thank them for their earlier contributions. This bill is yet one more example of the Albanese Labor government methodically bringing into effect an election commitment that was signed off by the Australian people in May last year. This time our commitment was and is to take positive and affirmative action to close the gender pay gap. The bill before the chamber starts this process by publishing gender pay gaps, boosting transparency and encouraging actual action to close the gender gap in organisations across our nation. However, I point out that the measures we are talking about only apply to those businesses with 100 or more employees. Small businesses at the moment have enough challenges and so will be spared from this process.
The legislation we are debating gives effect to the recommendations of the 2021 review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act, which included introducing gender pay gap reporting at the employer level instead of at the industry level. The review identified where further action was needed to strengthen the act and enhance the Workplace Gender Equality Act's ability to improve the quality of data and the level of support provided to employers.
To set the scene, in 2022 Australia's national gender pay gap was 14.1 per cent. In practical terms, as of May last year the average weekly full-time earnings of a woman in Australia across all industries and occupations was lower than the equivalent for men by $263.90 per week. To compound matters, women have on average 23.4 per cent less super than men when they arrive at retirement age. This is both a strain and a constraint upon the whole of the Australian economy. The gender pay gap alone represents a cost of $51.8 billion a year to the economy.
In 2021 a review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 made 10 recommendations that would help Australia accelerate towards workplace gender equality. There was broad consultation before and after the review and consultation and support for employers will continue. But something has to change, and change will start with this bill. Better information, reporting and transparency will play an important role in helping to reduce the gender pay gap. If you can't measure you can't manage it. Everybody in business knows this maxim—sadly, not everyone opposite.
Providing better information and transparency has never really been on the agenda for those opposite, on pretty much everything and anything, whether it was a certain Prime Minister secretly giving himself a few extra ministries or a couple of MPs in the Nationals knowing about this secret but then saying nothing; or the member for Fadden who, as minister, was advised as early as July 2019, by the secretary of his department as well as acting chief counsel, about robodebt being unlawful. Armed with this knowledge he still allowed this cruel robbery to continue through August, September and October. It was not until November that he stopped the robodebt juggernaut. Speaking of hiding, how about the member for Hume hiding rises to electricity prices from the public until two days after the election, or more recently the member for Dickson trying to hide from the voters of New South Wales and the voters of Aston that he is actually the Leader of the Opposition. He was trying to hide that he was a proud senior member of that Morrison government, hide that he was on the Expenditure Review Committee—the small select group that made all of those cruel budget cut decisions. I am happy to remind all Australians who is leading the coalition. It is the bloke trying on the red budgies every day here in question time.
For the LNP transparency is a dirty word, but transparency helps good government. It doesn't hinder it. It is something that can provide data and information for the public and workers about what the actual gender pay gap is in their organisation.
The bill will allow the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to publish gender pay gaps of relevant employers for each reporting period. This simple act of transparency will help promote accountability and, importantly, encourage accelerated action and change within these organisations. What organisation will want its workers and wider public to know that they are one of the nation's worst when it comes to paying women the same as men? I can tell you that if you are that business you'll be making changes quickly to fix it because good quality workers are scarce at the moment, they're at a premium and business will do what they can to retain and attract.
It is envisaged that if this legislation passes the first release of the gender pay gap will be reported early next year and will be based on the current reporting period of 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. When the first report is made public employers will have the opportunity to include statements providing context for their data. They can also outline any planned actions that they are or will be taking to address their own gender pay gaps.
The Workplace Gender Equality Act entails working with employers in the lead up to the first report to make sure they understand what's going to be made public and how they can make, if they wish, relevant statements that can inform that data. The public will be able to see these statements along with the organisation's data to give context and an insight into how they plan to improve the situation in that workplace to close those pay gaps. They will be able to do this as the data being reported on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's website will be in an easily searchable and digestible format. So if you or a family member work for a particular organisation you can jump on the site and find out how your employer is doing when it comes to gender pay rates. This will make it clear to workers how their organisations are doing with regard to gender pay gaps, and allow women who are in organisations that are doing poorly to ask why and basically ask their employer: what are you going to do to fix it?
The WGEA will also be able to improve accountability within organisations, as this bill will allow the WGEA to require relevant employers to provide certain reports, such as the executive summary report and industry benchmark report, to all members of their governing body. This will deliver the most current information as soon as practicable to the governing bodies to help make decisions and take action where their organisation may be failing in regard to gender pay equality or, conversely, help them celebrate their successes in reducing their gender pay gap through actions they've initiated—carrot as well as stick.
The bill will also look at strengthening the focus on gender equality. It will see a change away from the current wording of 'minimum standards' to 'gender equality standards'. The change reflects the increased ambitions of these measures to strengthen gender equality, improving outcomes for both women and men in the workplace. We will also see an important administrative change, with the head of the WGEA to be known as the chief executive officer. This was recommendation 9.2 of the review and helps avoid confusion with company director roles and align the language of the act and the WGEA with the language of modern businesses. The legislation also amends the act to align it with the 2013 instrument by including sexual harassment or discrimination on the ground of sex as gender equality indicators in the act. This is an important alignment to include these indicators.
Finally, these changes will also support the full implementation of the [email protected] report. People may wonder how these reporting requirements affect the day-to-day operation of businesses large and small, and the short answer is they won't. That's because there won't be any increase in the reporting burden to business; these changes simply draw on data that is already provided. The remade instruments action changes to actually make reporting easier for employers. One of the outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit was to include these measures to businesses with 100 or more employees. This is consistent with the current coverage of the WGEA, so it maintains consistency through its dealings with businesses—so, no extra burden on employers, but also lets smaller businesses look at the larger landscape in their sector.
This will mean that unlike in the past, where whole industries were reported, individual employers will now be reported on. This will deliver greater transparency within industries. Those employers doing the heavy lifting in a particular industry will be seen for doing that and, hopefully, will then be rewarded by workers voting with their feet and heading towards their doors, while others, who are not lifting a finger for better opportunities for women, will have the spotlight shone more brightly on them, possibly for the first time. In a perfect labour market, workers might then vote with their feet out the door towards better workplaces. It will mean industries will look within for solutions and opportunities to do their business better, making our workplaces smarter and more modern. They can look to similar businesses who are achieving equality when it comes to pay rates. They can look at what they're doing differently, see what works for them and set out a path to improve equality within their own business, whether it be in Moreton, Solomon or anywhere in between. You have to agree that that's a win for everyone.
In regard to non-binary data collection, the government does not intend to legislate for this at the time. By not committing to recommendation 7.2, this allows the government time to explore and consult on the pathways for introducing mandatory data collection on non-binary people. It's important that, as we move forward, we protect their privacy and safety in their workplaces, making sure this is front of mind when future collection of data is introduced, whenever that might be. This will be actioned through research and consultation on the collection of additional diversity data, such as what already occurs with people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, culturally and linguistically diverse communities or people with disability. In the meantime WGEA will continue to collect data on non-binary employees on a voluntary basis, as it has done since 2021.
The Albanese government will also not legislate for the addition of a new gender equality standard requiring employees to commit to report against and achieve specific targets showing their progress on achieving gender equality. The development of these gender equality targets requires further close consultation with businesses and other stakeholders. The Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, is working to develop a further legislative package for introduction at a later date. It is envisaged that this new package would include measures to give effect to outstanding legislative recommendations. To sum up, these changes, with a few more still to come, will lead to a reduction in the gender pay gaps we now see. This isn't just good news for women; it's good news for the economy and the nation, and I recommend the legislation to the chamber.