Minister Rishworth interview on the Australian Politics Podcast with Paul Karp


PAUL KARP, HOST: Welcome, Minister Rishworth.


PAUL KARP: Now the Albanese government has announced it will pay super on paid parental leave. How many parents will benefit from that? How much do they get and what does it cost?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly I would say that any parent taking the government paid parental leave scheme will attract the 12 per cent superannuation which is due to be introduced on the first of July 2025. Approximately 180,000 families qualify for paid parental leave each year. Obviously, the way families divide that up differs depending on personal circumstances but 180,000 families do apply for paid parental leave each year. In terms of what it will be set at obviously, it'll be paid at 12 per cent as of the first of July 2025. That's what this super guarantee will be then. And that's what people will receive in their account. In terms of the cost we’re going through the detailed budget costings as we go through the Budget process. But there are a number of elements that we need to cost in not just the 12 per cent but the administration costs as well.

PAUL KARP: There’s been a lot of pressure to do this. It was a recommendation of the Women's Economic Equality Task Force. The Jobs and Skills summit in 2022, it was a big consensus item. The Treasury was a bit down on this idea in 2020. It suggested to the Morison Government that it would make a small but not significant impact on retirement savings, and that some of the benefit would be eaten away by retirees getting less pension. So just how big an impact does this make for parents at the point that they retire?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I’ll make a couple of points we've been improving the Paid Parental Leave scheme in a number of ways, including extending the number of weeks. So obviously, in 2020, there was only 18 weeks of Government Paid Parental Leave. We are now talking about 26 weeks that our Government has introduced. So obviously more time off means that there is more weeks that super will be paid on. Of course, when it comes to retirement savings this isn't the silver bullet that will fix the 25 per cent difference from women's retirement savings compared to men's but it will put thousands of dollars into the retirement savings of those taking the unpaid care at the time someone has a baby. So I think it is a very important part of addressing the retirement savings gap. As I said we've not only just been sitting on the number of weeks, we've increased the number of weeks and obviously that will mean increasing the number of weeks that superannuation will be paid on.

PAUL KARP: I did some back of the envelope calculations. Twelve per cent on the current rate of paid parental leave would be about $106 a week. You'd expect it to be a bit higher than that because that payment will be indexed for the next year or two. And the Treasury said in 2020 it would cost about $200 million – that was when the guarantee was 9.5 per cent. When it goes up to 12 per cent, I'd imagine it's about $250 million. Are those dollars and cents about right do you think?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're of course working through all the costings as part of our Budget process. Of course there will be costs to pay, the superannuation on Paid Parental Leave, but there's also the administration costs of course which we have to factor in. So the final fine tuning will be as part of the Budget process. But in terms of that amount, that's the amount that you've identified that will be paid in to someone superannuation account. But of course, the real benefit of superannuation is that compounding interest and putting those numbers and dollars in early and the compounding effect really will have a sizable impact on retirement.

PAUL KARP: This starts from July 2025. Some parents might be a bit confused if it's an idea whose time has come, why not start sooner? It would absolutely sail through Parliament. Does it really take Services Australia more than three months to work out where to deposit the super? Or is there an element of pushing spending off for a year to protect the surplus this year?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We, number one, have been improving Paid Parental Leave at every budget. So in the October budget, we made sure that Paid Parental Leave was more flexible for parents had more generous means testing and was able to be taken over a longer period of time and promoted shared care. Then we've got legislation in front of the Parliament right now to extend to 26 weeks of care. So that's our second tranche. The next tranche is of course, superannuation. We do have to get legislation through the Parliament. That will be legislation that will be making changes to superannuation legislation as well as Paid Parental Leave. It will have the administrative arrangements with the ATO as well as Services Australia. So I think we don't want to over promise and under deliver. This is an absolute deliverable outcome on the first of July 2025, but does not ignore the fact that we have been making constant improvements since our Government had has been elected to the Paid Parental Leave scheme. As we've seen this as a key priority.

PAUL KARP: I want to ask about the cost of living, the Albanese Government carved up the stage three income tax cuts in a way that was much more generous for low and middle income earners. But people below the tax free threshold of $18,200 and many on government payments don't get anything from that. Will the next planks of the cost of living relief measures have something for them?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Let's be really clear, before we changed the tax cuts, our first big spending item in the Budget last year was actually to raise income support. So it was to raise Jobseeker, it was to extend parenting payment, it was to increase a whole lot of other payments across the system. It was the biggest increase in rent assistance in 30 years. We also of course, previous to that, had the energy support, or the energy payment or discount of bills, which was provided particularly targeted at concession cardholders. The tripling of the bulk billing incentive, once again focused on concession card holders as they are usually both pensioners and low income or those on income support. So what we've seen is actually our real focus on supporting those on the lowest incomes and through our strengthening of the safety net. We also for example, doubled the nil rate of Jobseeker. The nil rate is when you might try a job, you used to lose your concession card after 12 weeks. We doubled the period of time you could earn money and keep that concession card. So they have been really important Budget measures. The previous Budget if we look at just the rent assistance, the income support, the extension of the single parenting payment, was close to $9 billion. And that was a significant investment that we made at the last Budget. Obviously we're always looking at what we can do to help people with the cost of living and we'll continue to do that at every budget as the Prime Minister has outlined previously.

PAUL KARP: Last year, the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee called for a substantial increase in the rate of Jobseeker, suggesting 90 per cent of the age pension would be an appropriate level. Instead, people got $40 a fortnight base rate increase plus indexation, so $56. Are you ready to take another step towards adequacy of that payment in this year's Budget?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We set up the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee to provide advice before every Budget and they've been working very hard and I'd like to acknowledge the work that they've done. They made a number of recommendations, one which was to increase income support, which we have done. Not to the extent that they recommended. We also, as I said, made an increase to rent assistance, which has actually moderated rent increases that otherwise would have happened if we hadn't taken that action. And so what we've done is really had a positive impact when it comes to supporting people with cost of living. But we will continue to engage with the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee on their recommendations before each Budget and take their advice into consideration.

PAUL KARP: There was a report in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Thursday about ministers have been spending proposals rejected by the Expenditure Review Committee and you were one of the ministers that was reported to have been knocked back. Should recipients of government payments and other citizens who interact with services in Australia be worried about that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that the Albanese Labor Government has a strong track record on delivering for Australians. I think if you look at what we have delivered, I spoke about income support, the tax cuts that are going predominantly to low and middle income earners, we've got a really strong track record of delivery. When it comes to Cabinet processes, I'm not going to comment on Cabinet processes. But what I would say is the Prime Minister has been very clear he runs a traditional Cabinet Government, and that is one where ministers are responsible for their own portfolios and goes through the normal Cabinet processes. He's not a Prime Minister that has become a minister for everything secretly so he can interfere, but it is a pretty traditional Cabinet Government that he has put into place. And certainly as a Minister, I take that trust very seriously and execute my responsibilities. But I think I think if we're talking about is this Government delivering on a strong plan for the country? I think the answer is yes, we are doing that. We're doing that when it comes to cost of living. We're doing that when we are thinking about the future. A Future made in Australia about investing in skills and TAFE, for example. So there are some really strong building blocks of investment that our Government is doing and it's smart investment and it's setting our country up for the future while helping people with cost of living today.

PAUL KARP: Last Saturday Labor won the Dunkley by-election after the death of former MP Peta Murphy. One of her biggest contributions in her time in Parliament, was a report calling for a ban on gambling ads to be phased in over three years from December 2023. And what's the hold up there? And when can Australians expect a Government response to that report?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There were 31 recommendations, from memory, of that report. So while banning advertising was certainly one of the recommendations, there were 31 recommendations. So as a Government we're taking it really seriously and working through those recommendations. Some of those recommendations we've already just through the course of our reform already in train, have addressed. For example, pre verification was something that was addressed. Which means that you have to, or the companies need to know who's gambling before they can let you gamble to make sure that you're not on a register. We've implemented a Bet Stop which has had thousands of people exclude themselves. That's the national self-exclusion register. And we brought in legislation to ban the use of credit cards. Some of these issues that we’ve explored were already in train and so we are implementing many of those elements. But of course, we will consider the rest of the recommendations, take them very seriously and respond.

PAUL KARP: Any steer on timing though? What progress have you made talking to states and territories about the recommendations?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:    I've had a meeting subsequent to the report to speak with states and territories around the reforms, to give them some idea. There was a lot of intersection with a number of recommendations with states and territories. But I'd say there was a really cooperative approach that was signalled at that meeting, and I'll keep working with my state and territory counterparts on the progress that we've made and that will help inform our Government's response.

PAUL KARP: The Communications Minister Michelle Rowland met the Belgian Gaming Commission, which raised advocates hopes that the Government is looking at a total ban, not a softer model, a ban during game time and caps at other times. It's been almost nine months since the Murphy report now, can you shed any light on whether the response will be one of harm reduction or harm minimisation?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think our focus is about minimising harm. I think that when you look at minimising harm, there's many facets, many elements that do look at harm minimisation. And we will work through that. I think Minister Rowland is meeting with lots of different people, as I am, to really get an understanding of how best we can support people. But harm minimisation has been at the focus of our of our Government's agenda.

PAUL KARP: I want to ask about the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. Could we start please with a reflection on how big a problem violence, particularly against women by current and former partners is?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is really significant. Intimate partner violence is still one of the most significant contributions to violence. And, obviously, it doesn't just affect the individual, it ripples through communities, it ripples through societies. Sexual violence is part of that gender-based violence as well. We're seeing really horrifying reports of sexual violence as well. So look, it continues to be a significant problem, but one we're absolutely determined to tackle. We have our National Plan in place. We now have Action Plans that all states and territories have signed up to and we continue, through actions right across the Government, to address this issue. I have to say, the work that the Attorney-General is doing across states and territories on coercive control, whether it's the work that Minister Clare has done when it comes to sexual violence on campus, whether it's the work that I'm doing right across the board in prevention, early intervention, response and healing and recovery. These are really important areas we need to tackle. Unfortunately, they are often complex and so we are not seeing the numbers turn around as quickly as we would all like. But we are determined to keep working on this issue and turn the tide.

PAUL KARP: What are those prevention measures in your portfolio that will contribute to the aim of ending violence in one generation?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: One of the key areas is around community attitudes around rigid gendered stereotypes, and attitudes that condone violence against women. We regularly track some of the information about this and there is concerning evidence coming out that young people in particular are having a lot of those negative or harmful gender stereotypes reinforced not in the real world but actually online, with the likes of social media influencers perpetrating or encouraging really quite negative stereotypes. So we've been investing in looking at how we can combat some of those negative influencers. We've just funded and we're working to find the right provider for Healthy Masculinities, to provide a counter to some of those really negative stereotypes that we're seeing online. So it is a big challenge and it's an emerging problem that we have to address but we know that when it comes to rigid gendered stereotypes when it comes to negative attitudes towards women and attitudes that condone violence against women, we know that often will lead to more violence and we need to address those attitudes as part of prevention.

PAUL KARP: Is that the Andrew Tate effect is it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is definitely influencers that are very overt, but there's also a lot of casual, gender stereotyping sometimes in these influencers. There is sometimes quite graphic, but sometimes it is casual comments, casual attitudes, casual, casual sexism, that is being reinforced online. But certainly there's some overt influencers, like Andrew Tate that actually are really impacting young people and their views around condoning violence and indeed, rigid gendered stereotypes.

PAUL KARP: You mentioned rigid gender stereotypes as one of those causes of violence. How do you take that on without it becoming grist for the culture war mill. Because, you know, you look at something like the gender pay equity gap reporting the other day, even that was weaponised by Coalition Senator Matt Canavan to argue that boys are being driven into the arms of Andrew Tate. So how do you promote healthy masculinities and counter the gender stereotypes without it becoming a culture war argument?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think what Matt Canavan did was really disappointing. I have to say. When excuses are given about why people are following Andrew Tate, I think it's really poor form. But I think it comes down to a simple concept that I don't see how anyone can disagree with, and that's respect. You know, respect of people, no matter what their background, respect of people, and respect of different genders.  Having respectful relationships and providing that respect shouldn't be controversial. That certainly shouldn't be something that is turned into a culture war. So while Matt Canavan has behaved, you know his comments were really disappointing, I think when it comes back to healthy relationships, respectful relationships, that shouldn't be a point of contest or something that is used in culture wars.

PAUL KARP: I was speaking to a survivor of child sexual abuse recently in a different context about stripping the Order of Australia from deceased recipients and they were be angry at the Stop It At The Start ads. Because one of them depicts a conversation between the mother and child and they felt that it put the onus on the child to make complaints, when in their case, you know, adults could have done more to protect them. Now, I don't want to go into one case or one ad but I just wanted to use that as a launching off point about what does the research say about the effectiveness of those campaigns? Do they work at changing attitudes towards violence?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Stop It At The Start campaign as one that is supported adult people in young person's life to have conversations, have been very effective. So the Stop It At The Start campaign has always been about supporting adults – and now their whether that be parents, whether that be other adults, like sports coaches, teachers, other adult important adults in a in a young person's life – have actually shown to be really effective at supporting them to have conversations. Because if it's not called out, if adults don't know how to have those conversations, then we're not going to see changes of behaviour. So the Stop It At The Start campaign has been really focused, been backed up by a lot of tools that has supported adults to have those conversations and has shown to actually ensure adults have a better understanding about what respect looks like and what to call out when they see bad behaviour.

PAUL KARP: That's all we have time for. Thank you so much for joining us.