Interview with Jim Wilson

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Travel bubble between NZ and Australia; women’s safety and economic security.
06 April 2021

Jim Wilson:

Meantime, New Zealand has finally agreed to a trans-Tasman bubble, with their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing just a few moments ago that quarantine-free travel will begin between Australia and New Zealand from Monday, April 19. And joining me now live is the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Women, Marise Payne, who is a good friend of the program. Welcome back to the program, Minister.

Marise Payne:

Thanks very much, Jim. Welcome back from Tasmania.

Jim Wilson:

Yes. And I'll ask you about my hiking boot thing and whether you can actually sympathise with me as far as the hiking boots go. We'll leave that for a little bit later. Let's start with this women's Taskforce. Your first meeting today, how did it go?

Marise Payne:

It was a very good first meeting today, Jim, and a lot of opportunity for discussion of some of the key issues that we are working on. I think it's important for us to make sure that the taskforce is able to both coordinate and accelerate our efforts to deliver for Australian women right across the country. It's also a really good chance to take stock of what we're already doing, whether that is in the next National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children or the implementation of the key priorities under the Women's Economic Security Statements of both 2018 and 2020. What I also noticed out of today is the opportunity it gives us to identify gaps, to make decisions on how to fill those gaps, targeted policy approach across government that has a real and genuine impact on the issues that we know present the greatest challenges to women and girls in Australia, and of course, to acknowledge that this has been a very difficult past two months. And I think what it's underscored for us as a government and frankly, for us as a nation, is the depth of issues that impact so many women, particularly in relation to harassment and to violence and particularly in relation to workplace issues. So, very focused on that as well.

Jim Wilson:

You're a senior minister. What do you see and what came out of that meeting, in your opinion, in your mind, as the number one priority in moving forward?

Marise Payne:

Difficult to perhaps split hairs on women's safety and on economic security, because in many ways, women who have greater economic security are often in a better position or a different position from those who may be described as more vulnerable in terms of their ability to protect themselves, and frankly, to deal with some of these issues. But women's safety and women's economic security would be the two most important issues.

What I have also acknowledged, though, in all of these discussions, is that the behaviour of perpetrators must be called to account, and we absolutely acknowledge that here in our own workplace. And I know that as we bring forward the responses to the Respect@Work inquiry, which will be happening in a very short period of time, that that is an important component of these steps.

Jim Wilson:

Do you think some of these titles that have been- that have now been formed as- or basically given to some of your colleagues? Is it overkill? Is it a sign of tokenism, do you think? And will it really- will it bring about real change?

Marise Payne:

Absolutely would not agree that it's overkill or tokenism. And in fact, you just asked me to identify what the most important issues out of today's discussion were, and if they are women's safety – and I believe they are – and women's economic security, then having a minister who has that responsibility in her own portfolio area – that is the Minister for Families and Social Services Minister Ruston, and now also the minister with the formal title of Women's Safety – having a minister in the Treasury portfolio with that responsibility for women's economic security. And I've seen this over the years, that it is definitely possible to have discussions – of course, it is – on those issues without those titles. We've done it for a very long time. But I think the focus that this brings and the absolute laser-like focus that it brings on those issues from those ministers and from this taskforce and from the whole of Cabinet is very, very valuable.

Jim Wilson:

What do you make of the criticism of some of the members of this taskforce, in particular, Amanda Stoker who’s been- who’s hit back at some of her critics, in particular Australian of the Year Grace Tame and also actor Magda Szubanski who’ve criticised the appointment of Amanda Stoker as the Assistant Minister for Women – what do you make of their criticism of the Minister?

Marise Payne:

Jim, I work very well with Senator Stoker. We’ve been colleagues for some time now and I’ve known her for many years. But I absolutely respect the right of individuals to hold their own views, of course I do. I have great respect for Grace Tame. I've met Grace. I've listened to her very powerful story. I've been in a room of a thousand people when you can actually hear the literal pin drop, given the very compelling nature of her story and the message that she is sending to Australians. And so her advocacy on preventing violence against women and children is so important for us. I think debate is important. I think it needs to remain respectful. And I think that the work that we want to do, including with Assistant Minister Stoker, is about addressing the sorts of issues that Grace Tame raises.

Jim Wilson:

Let’s talk about the latest Newspoll data. The Libs and the Coalition have lost ground in WA, in Queensland. How concerned are you about that?

Marise Payne:

Well, Jim, I've been in parliament for a long time. I've seen a lot of Newspolls in my life. The election isn't due until next year, and I think at this stage, Newspolls are not a crystal ball. They don't tell us much about an election to be held in the future. And frankly, for Australians who are concerned about their job, their health, their families, their communities, they probably end up as fish and chip wrapper, to be honest with you, or bin liners. But..

Jim Wilson:

[interrupts] But it hasn't been a great month for the government, has it? I mean, I know you say that this new women's task force is a proactive move in the right direction, but it hasn't been the best month for your government.

Marise Payne:

It's been very, very difficult. And I don't think any of us are in denial of that, that I'm certainly not. I have found it to be one of the more difficult periods, if not the most difficult period I've spent in this parliament. But what I have said and will continue to remind people of, no matter how difficult we find it, as parliamentarians and as members of the government, to be working on these issues as they are coming forward. It is a thousand times more than that, more difficult, for those women particularly, who have experienced harassment or experienced violence. And for me and for our government, they are absolutely at the forefront of my approach and my thoughts in all the work that I am doing. I am focussed on delivering across government, whatever the policy area is, and making sure that we are delivering to the Australian people.

Jim Wilson:

Your reaction to the news this afternoon, a short time ago from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about this New Zealand travel bubble with Australia, which will come into effect from midnight on Sunday, April 18. There's one big if here from the New Zealand Prime Minister who said people will need to plan for the possibility of travel disruption if there is an outbreak in Australia. It's a big if.

Marise Payne:

Well, we're used to dealing with hotspots here, I suppose. I mean, we've seen them, in fact, preceding Easter around Australia, a number of places in Australia, as we know. And of course, New Zealand has absolute authority to retain that control over their own borders as you would expect, including the attention to their capacity to suspend the quarantine free flights. But I will say that one of the things that we have had to do in recent weeks and months is to do the same thing in the other direction, if you like, where there have been issues in Auckland or other parts of New Zealand. We have had to make these assessments based on health advice. But I am very pleased at the decision announced today by Prime Minister Ardern. We've had 25,000 people from New Zealand travel to Australia on quarantine free flights since October last year. I think that's a good indication of really the special nature of the relationship between our two countries and the desire that there is for this travel to occur. So, I'm very pleased about it.

Jim Wilson:

Where do you think the next country to- that we’ll be able to travel to? Is it Singapore, is it parts of Southeast Asia? Is that on the cards, do you think, in coming months?

Marise Payne:

Well, there are ongoing discussions, as you might imagine, particularly with the Chief Medical Officer and his team, the AHPPC, about what countries are possible. We are already doing a lot of very important work to make sure that we are able to bring some of our Pacific workers to Australia. I know there's a lot of enthusiasm amongst my friends in the Pacific for seeing travel opening up between Pacific countries and Australia. And New Zealand's decision is very important for that, as you could imagine. And then, of course, as you say, there are countries in Southeast Asia who will also be very keen. I am hearing a lot from my colleague foreign ministers around the region on these matters.

Jim Wilson:

Minister, as always, thank you for your time this afternoon.

Marise Payne:

Thanks very much, Jim.

Jim Wilson:

That’s the Foreign Minister and Minister for Women, Marise Payne.

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