E&OE - PROOF ONLY
JOURNALIST: You have two daughters, what sort of world do you hope they grow up in?
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: I always say that the most important thing is to try to give our daughters the same opportunities as our sons. So I hope they grow up in that world, and I hope they grow up in a world where men and women are truly equal.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that we’re actually getting there? Every year we say “oh, we’ve done so well but there is more to go”. When are we going to stop saying that?
WONG: Unfortunately progress always takes longer than we want, doesn’t it? But if you think about the lives that our grandmothers lived, or our mothers, there were very different opportunities to the ones we have.
It wasn’t that long ago that women were legally paid less than men for the same job. Remember, we were the first place in the world women could stand for Parliament. We were one of the first places in the world women could vote. It’s taken a long time for us to make a lot of progress, but we have come a long way. We know there’s more to do. We know we have still got the gender pay gap. We know that women will still retire with much less than men and we have unacceptable levels of family violence. But there is no doubt we have more opportunities and that is because of the women who came before us.
JOURNALIST: Kate Ellis’ decision – Julia Gillard said it came as a bit of a surprise but she understood. What message do you think that sends to people who might have been considering a career in politics?
WONG: I take Kate’s own words. She said to women everywhere if you are considering standing for politics you should do it. Politics is about effecting change. After 14 years she has made a choice which is about her family and that is a choice that every women has, that every person has. We all make choices about our lives and what, at any point, is our priority.
I’d say to women, you saw Julia Gillard today, and we see what her having been in politics means to our country, and what it means in particular to women everywhere, but also to men – that women can lead and that is a great thing.