STATEMENTS BY SENATORS – Gender Equality, Tuesday December 6, 2023

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (13:56): We are told that the so-called gender pay gap has fallen for the second year in a row, hitting a record low of 13 per cent. But, by law, men and women must be paid the same wage for performing the same or comparable work. Why is there a gap? Is there a gap at all? The government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency claims that the gap is created by discrimination and bias, lower wages for female-dominated industries, a lack of workplace flexibility and higher rates of part-time work. But there is one glaring difference that they fail to mention: worker fatalities by gender.

Every year, Safe Work Australia compiles the data, and the sad fact is that the rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers is 28 times higher for men than for women. Out of 194 people killed at work in 2020—which are the most recent statistics that we have—186 were men and eight were women. That’s because the most dangerous occupations—machine operators, labourers et cetera—are dominated by men.

Worker fatalities are also concentrated, obviously, in male-dominated industries. Agriculture, forestry and fishing had the highest rate of fatalities, followed by transport, postal and warehousing, with construction in third place. And it’s not just deaths. The incidence rate for serious injuries was almost twice as high for men as for women. In reality—and this is the reality—a big part of the pay gap between men and women amounts to what I would call ‘danger money’. Men do more dangerous work and often end up paying with their lives. There is no such thing as the gender pay gap. There are only differences and different choices, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.