Release type: Transcript


Joint Doorstop with the Prime Minister, Eagleby, Queensland


Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Minister for Employment
Minister for Women
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Senator for Western Australia

BERT VAN MANEN: I'd like to welcome the Prime Minister. I'd like to welcome the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, Wilhelm Harnisch from Master Builders and Brett from Paynter Dixon. But most importantly, I'd like to welcome the young ladies that you see around us, who are women in construction and that's why we're here today, to launch Women in Construction and to talk about the importance of having women in what traditionally would be called non-traditional roles for women.

It's critically important we create opportunities for women in our workforce. So thanks everybody for coming along today. This a terrific opportunity to celebrate what these young ladies are doing in the construction industry today and it's a terrific testament to the opportunities that Painter Dixon have provided. I would like to hand over to the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you very much, Bert, and it is great. What a great project and we are here on Yugambeh land and we acknowledge their elders past and present and all the Aboriginal people here today. This a great project and Paynter Dixon are leading the way by employing more women in this traditionally very male industry. Women in construction is a great venture, a great initiative, an industry-led initiative and Wilhelm Harnisch from the Master Builders Association will say a bit more about it in a moment. As will the Minister for women and the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, on my right. But this a critically important part of our agenda. Ensuring higher levels of female participation in the workforce, particularly in areas where, as Bert said, have been traditionally dominated by men, is critically important. Right across the board, diversity is important and gender, respect for women, equal opportunity for women is vitally important to ensure that we get the best out of our 21st-century economy and our economic plan continues to deliver strong growth and strong growth in jobs. That is the objective of our economic plan for our 21st-century economy.

Now one of the important elements too, is ensuring that the rule of law prevails in the construction sector. It's important that workplaces are respectful and that there is an end to bullying and thuggery. Now regrettably, the construction sector has not been one where the rule of law has prevailed everywhere. Indeed 70 percent of industrial disputes are in the construction sector and there's a reason for that. There is a reason for that because a number of unions have been able to ignore the law, ignore the provisions of industrial agreements and get away with it. Because the Labor Party, when they came into Government, abolished the strong cop on the beat, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and that's why we have, as I said, 70 percent of all industrial disputes in the construction sector.

Now we can fix that. We will have at the election a clear choice. A Coalition Government - a Turnbull Government returned to office - will ensure that the Australian building and communication commission is restored and once again the rule of law will prevail and there will be greater opportunities on building sites for women, for men, for tradies for contractors for everybody who wants to just get ahead and work hard in a respectful, law-abiding environment. That’s the future we're offering. One that will deliver stronger growth, more jobs in this 21st-century economy. Michaelia.

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT: Thank you, Prime Minister and it is fantastic to be here today, in particular with Wilhelm Harnisch from the Master Builders Association of course Painter Dixon. But more than that, with a number of women who are forging incredibly successful careers in the building and construction industry. Today of course we are here to announce a government and industry partnership in terms of getting more young women into the building and construction industry and that is of course the Advancing Women in Building and Construction. This is an industry-led initiative and Wilhelm will of course say a little more about that later. But the Turnbull Government is committed to increasing women's workforce participation, for so many reasons.

We know that we need to meet our G20, 25 by 25 commitment. But we also need to urgently address the gender pay gap. How we do that, is in particular by getting more women into what are traditionally known as male-dominated roles. We say enough is enough. We want to see cultural change and that's why we're here with Painter Dixon today. A third of their construction team are women. That is a fantastic effort and I know that their going to do more to increase those numbers.

We know that at the moment just 11 percent of employees in building and construction are women and in terms of the exit rate from the industry, the rate of women exiting is 40 percent higher than men. That is why industry-led partnerships, like the Advancing Women in Building and Construction are just so important. In particular, though, as the Prime Minister has said, we need to see cultural change. This is the one industry in Australia where it has been proven time and time again that workplace laws do not apply. It does not matter if you're a man or if you are a woman. No person in Australia should have to come to work in an industry where the rule of law and workplace laws do not apply. That is why we as a Government are committed to seeing the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. We need to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and respected in this industry.

But great to be here today and very excited that this is a government and industry-led partnership to increase the number of women in building and construction. Wilhelm?

WILHELM HARNISCH: Thank you, Prime Minister, and thank you Minister Cash. Master Builders is really pleased to partner with the Turnbull Government in making sure we have more women come into this industry. We have an exciting program that we developed in conjunction with Minister Cash. The industry, regrettably, only has about 1% of women in our workforce. This is something we need to turn around. What we will be doing is, as we know we are denying young women and women generally the opportunity to take part of an exciting industry, an industry that is set to grow and we would really like to see more women take that opportunity as key players in our construction industry.

In terms of the Advancing Women in the Building Industry programme, it is a very exciting programme. One of the things that we identified are a number of cultural barriers to both the Prime Minister and Minister Cash has talked about. There's an inbuilt bias particularly by middle and senior managers, against women coming into this industry. So I'm really very proud of the way Paynter Dixon has taken the lead in having a high ratio of women in their company and they are to be congratulated.

But we need more companies like Paynter Dixon. We need more people at the senior managers level to encourage more women to come along. So the program is about a whole range of targeted education programs at middle managers in particular, also at parents, also at teachers but also at practitioners and of course we're going to work with women themselves in making sure that they are aware of the opportunities that exist in this building industry. One of the key aspects of this program is that we will award special scholarships for women to enter Master Builders’ building simulation centre. It is a state-of-the-art, world learning centre where they can get real-life experience on a building site where they're exposed to a whole range of building challenges including industrial thuggery, in terms of dealing with that.

So in closing, can I thank the Prime Minister and Minister Cash for their confidence in Master Builders. We look forward to working with this Government in making sure that we lift the 1 percent participation rate of women in this industry to come close to 50 percent.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, women may hold up half the sky but all of the senatorial sky today is held up by women. The other Senator is Jo Lindgren from Queensland. Jo come and say a - You've got some family here today?

SENATOR LINDGREN: I do. I have some distant cousins standing over there and I would like to welcome you to Yugambeh country, Prime Minister and Minister Cash.

Today is a wonderful example of how the Turnbull Government is working with industry to improve outcomes for women and women's participation in the future in the workforce. This project, Jimbelunga is a very important project for Indigenous health and also shows how the Turnbull Government is working very hard to improve indigenous health outcomes. So I welcome you Prime Minister, I welcome you Minister Cash to Yugambeh land today and I thank you, I thank from my bottom heart for helping my people improve Indigenous in this area.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you Jo. Thank you very much. Now come and have –


PRIME MINISTER: Now, Paynter Dixon. Now he can - how good a boss is he?

GRACE THOMPSON: Oh he’s pretty good.


PRIME MINISTER: He’s pretty good, alright well there you go. Ok, alright. Do you want to tell us how he is?



PRIME MINISTER: Come on Grace, tell us about Paynter Dixon and how – the difference between it and other firms in the construction sector. You know, what you found here?

GRACE THOMPSON:  Well I’ve been with Paynter Dixon for a year now. As someone who started an architecture degree four years ago, I was always being pigeon-holed into just being design or sent to residential where you'd only be employed working for yourself. But being part of a team, I have been told that I can be part of a whole project and learn how to work on teams and learn how to carry a project through from design into construction and I have been given great mentors like Amanda who help us and teach us how women, even though we may be not the typical role, we have special skills that make us unique and can offer to the construction industry.

PRIME MINISTER: Well Amanda, come and tell us what do you say to all those young girls who are thinking about what they're going to do? What do you say about the opportunities in the construction and building industry?

AMANDA SSCHLOSS: I would definitely say don't be afraid. Don't let the men intimidate you. Confidence is the key. Come in and get your hands dirty because it's a great industry to be in. We have a director, Brett, who is just always by our side. He has an open-door policy. I'm pregnant and there was no fear in telling him I was pregnant. We've worked a strategy to return back to work and I'm also - I get a job to mentor this little superstar which I thoroughly enjoy.


PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s fantastic. Well done Brett. You're a sensitive new-age employer. Do you have anything to add to these big raps you're getting?

BRETT JOHNSTON: I think the ladies have spoken to me. At the end of the day it is about embracing cultural change and awareness and keeping an open mind with anything. The sky's the limit. The women today - we've got women in senior management. As we said earlier a third of our construction management staff are women and we're promoting the change and other success and the growth of our business. To continue to embrace that and be flexible with work hours I think it’s a testament to my team and to the women for embracing it.

PRIME MINISTER: Very good. Well thank you and well congratulations to Paynter Dixon and congratulations Wilhelm.


PRIME MINISTER: Master Builders and ladies. So you have some questions for us?

JOURNALIST: Would you say that the role of the unions and a lack of an ABCC has somehow hampered women’s access to the construction industry?

PRIME MINISTER: Well certainly it hampers everybody's access and it's clear that it does hamper women's access to the industry because a more - well, as you were saying, you know don't be intimidated by men. Clearly one way to avoid being intimidated is to ensure that the rule of law applies. Workplaces should be respectful and they should comply with the law. That doesn't matter where the workplace is but particularly in the construction sector there has been a huge problem and you saw this in Brisbane city just a few days ago where the city - where all the jobs in the city were shut down. The rule of law must prevail everywhere in Australia and the construction sector is no exception. We know how to do it. We've done it before with the Building and Construction Commission and a Turnbull Government re-elected on July 2 will return the ABCC and that will return the rule of law to the construction sector.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister are you hoping to have the budget appropriation bills passed by the end of the next week? Or are you happy to have the debate flow into the week after?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the, we’ll deal with all of that next week. Clearly we'd expect appropriation and supply to be dealt with in the appropriate way.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Well what Labor is proposing to do is another, is effectively another tax. They're going to - in order to deliver a near doubling of our emissions target, they will have to very significantly increase the cost of energy, the cost of electricity and all other power. So that is going to be another break on the economy. Now let me make a couple of points about climate change. I take climate change very seriously. I take global warming very seriously. I take the challenge that the world faces to reduce emissions very seriously and that is why in Paris we committed, I committed to Australia reducing its emissions by 2030 by 26 to 28 per cent. Now that's a big number because we've got a strong population growth, in terms of per capita reductions of emissions it is more than 50 per cent.

So it is a very substantial commitment. All countries of the world made commitments together. So we're all working together moving forward and that's clearly what you've got to do because if one country strikes out on its own it's not going to make any difference. It has got to be a global effort. You know a tonne of CO2 has the same effect in the atmosphere whether it's emitted in Brisbane, or Sydney, Shanghai or London. It has got to be a global effort.

What Labor is proposing to do is unilaterally nearly double the commitment that we're making without any commitments from other countries so they're going to unilaterally double it, unilaterally double the burden on Australians and of course that comes with a very big cost and the reality is the approach we're taking is a responsible one. Responsible for Australia, for jobs, for our economy and the environment so what will happen is there will be future conferences and I have no doubt emissions targets will move up in to 2040 and 2050. They'll move up in the decades ahead but they should move up together. We should move up with the world because if the world does not move together then you won't get the outcome. So this is yet another economic handbrake that Labor is putting on our economy, another restraint on jobs to add to all the other job-destroying measures that they're proposing. Their investment tax, their housing tax, right across the board. Everything Labor is proposed so far is going to make it harder for Australians to get ahead, harder for Australians to get a job.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister what will be the practical outcome of the effect of the Manus Island court decision?

PRIME MINISTER: This is a matter that we’re, there's obviously initially a matter for the PNG Government. We were not a party to the litigation as you know, but this is something that's under consideration. We're getting briefed on it and I'll meet with the Immigration Minister later today to go through it.

JOURNALIST: Whose responsibility is the [inaudible] those people, PNG's or Australia's?

PRIME MINISTER: Well they are - Manus Island is part of Papua New Guinea. The responsibility is the PNG Government's but naturally we will work with them, support them, but it's a matter that we've got to go through the judgement, got to go through the implications, what the options are for the PNG Government so I can't provide a definitive road map from here but - right today, but we're getting briefed on it and I'll be discussing it with Mr Dutton later today.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Can I tell you it's a very high priority and there is no stronger advocate of the action on the M1 than this man here. Bert van Manen. Very passionate and he's so tall he's hard to ignore. But, no, it is very high on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. It is being looked at very carefully and we'll have more to say about it in the weeks ahead. OK, thanks a lot.