Doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Conduct in Parliament House, Manufacturing Strategy

Karen Andrews: Well, good morning. As you've just heard, I have very publicly said that I have had an absolute gutful, and that my conscience will not allow me to remain quiet. There are some specific instances in this building that are absolutely unacceptable. What does it say about an individual that thinks that sort of behaviour is okay? What does it say about a group of people, seems to be men, who have passed around those sorts of photographs and thought that that was okay? Now, I understand that one person has been sacked. The other people who have been part of that group, seen those photos and thought it's okay, it's time for you to leave the building.

We will, as a Government, take these issues, always, very, very seriously. And whilst the spotlight has definitely been on behaviours within this building in Canberra, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are numerous stories of many women right across Australia that speak to the disrespect of women in the workplace. So absolutely, we need to fix these issues here. And I will not remain silent.

But I will also speak up for women right across Australia who are too scared to get on a train at five o'clock at night because they're fearful of their safety; whose parents say to them, and have said to them for years, let us know when you get home, text us, call us, just so that we know that you're okay; that your car has not broken down the side of the road; that you’re going to be safe.

For all those women who have been treated poorly in a workplace, who have been disrespected by men, I will speak up for you. Thank you.

Question: Minister, just on a different issue, the National Skills Commission's industry employment outlook report said that manufacturing is going to be one of the few industries that won't see jobs growth in the- well, in the short-term future. What does that say about our manufacturing plan for Australia?

Karen Andrews: It says that the manufacturing strategy is absolutely right on target. It’s very-

Question: [Interrupts] Even though there won't be jobs growth in that area?

Karen Andrews: Well, we've developed a strategy, a $1.5 billion strategy, which is specifically targeted at building our competitiveness, building our scale here in Australia. It's quite a different approach that has been taken by this Government for manufacturing. We have released half of the roadmaps now. The remainder are still to go, funding has opened for half of the priority areas. We are well on the way to developing a good, strong manufacturing base here in Australia. And I'm not going to allow naysayers to try knock me off course here, because I'm absolutely committed to manufacturing in Australia, absolutely committed to job growth. When we assess each of the projects coming through, jobs will be part of it. But we will also be looking at making sure that we are doing the value-add here in Australia.

Question: Minister, is there any particular behaviour or– is there any particular behaviour that you’ve witnessed or experienced that you are planning to speak up about now? And what do you mean by that? How are you going to do that?

Karen Andrews: Well, like many people across this building and across Australia, they are shocked, appalled, angry at what was disclosed last night. That is unacceptable on so many levels. I’m pleased that it has been called out. I'm disappointed that it had to be a whistle-blower that did it. I actually think that if that behaviour has happened over a number of years, that it should have been well and truly made public before now. And I really do think that those individuals who have been involved actually need to show a bit of integrity and walk themselves out the door now, not wait until they're uncovered.

Question: On the sharing of the images and whoever was sharing them, how can the Government- what should the Government do to identify them? Is it the kind of thing that actually warrants a police investigation? Or is it something that warrants a Government investigation to find out who was sharing the images to basically identify them and tell them to go?

Karen Andrews: Look, I- the first port of call is those people know who they are, so, stop hiding - stand up, get out of the building, time to go - and they need to deal with that first. But that can't be the only response. Quite clearly, we do need to look at what the avenues are to identify who those individuals are. I understand that for the whistle-blower, we have already reached out to that individual to try and find- to see whether or not they can provide more information.  We will do all that we can to uncover that. I can't comment in relation to a police investigation. I'm not directly involved in the action that's being taken at this point in time. But this is unacceptable behaviour and it cannot be just papered over.

Question: How do you feel for the female MP whose desk was featured in one of these videos?

Karen Andrews: I just can't imagine how she is feeling at the moment. It’s appalling. I mean, how do you even try to explain how that would feel for her to know that that was done by one of her staff when she wasn’t in the office? I mean, you’d just be gutted.

Question: Do you accept there is a pattern here that points to the Coalition? Most of the allegations we have seen come within the Coalition.

Karen Andrews: I don't think you can say it is just in one specific area - I genuinely don't think that you can do that. And I really don't think that it's helpful to try and turn this into a political debate. Because if we do, we will not resolve the issue, which is that there are some cultural, systemic things that happen in this building that are unacceptable and need to be dealt with. Now we can either do that openly and transparently, or we can slug it out in Question Time. And I know which way I would support and which way is likely to get the better outcome.

Question: More broadly then, if you don't want to think of it as a Liberal or a Coalition issue, back on that particular act involving an MP’s desk – that’s quite a visceral, pathological sort of act. Is there something broken in this building, in this culture, in this industry, that we're all working in right now?

Karen Andrews: Well, I don't know that that sort of behaviour developed here in Parliament.

Question: [Interrupts] But it happened here –

Karen Andrews: It did happen here, and there are probably a range of circumstances that made that sort of behaviour worse. I think it goes to looking at what the recruitment processes are in here; what support there is for staff; what support there is for Members of Parliament and Senators. There's a wide range of issues that we need to look at. And if you just focus on the one appalling incident, we will actually not resolve the issues in this building, and more broadly across Australia.

Question: You’ve said that serious consideration should be given to quotas. Is that something you're willing to pursue?

Karen Andrews: I've always been quite anti-quotas, because I felt that it was a disadvantage to women, because they would be perceived as only getting promoted, only getting a job because they were a number. And I've always been anti with that because I don't think it helps women. The point that I'm at now is that our processes to attract more women into my party and into the Parliament have not been as successful as they need to be, and we can't continue doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. So I'm certainly open to a discussion about quotas. And I think that we need more women in our party, we need more people- women in Parliament. Parliament needs to reflect the population and that means that as a party we need, we need more. Now, that's not to say that work isn't being done. It just hasn't had the success that it's needed so far.

Question: Do you think that the Government risks losing votes and losing the next election if it doesn't put more women into its ranks? Run more female candidates at the next election? And have more women in Parliament?

Karen Andrews: This can't be about winning or losing an election. This has to be about addressing women's respect in the workplace, and the fact that we have a culture across Australia, and we have clearly a culture in this building that is not bringing the best out of women. And if we are to become a productive nation, we need all the people available to be great contributors here. Now, this is not an economic argument, but that is part of it. And we have to make sure that women are treated equally in the workplace. They have the same opportunities as men, and they have the opportunities to be the best that they possibly can. And quite frankly, at the moment, that opportunity is not afforded to all women.

Question: Minister, can I ask you? Michelle Landry, your Government colleague this morning, has said outside of Parliament that the young fellow concerned with these images who’s been sacked was a really good worker, he loved the place, I feel bad for him about this. Is that acceptable to feel bad for somebody who has done what this person is alleged to have done?

Karen Andrews: I don't feel bad at all for him. The behaviour was appalling. Not more I could say to that.