Speech: State Labor Conference 2015

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and paying my respects to their Elders past and present.

I say it and I mean it.

I’m not acknowledging a lifestyle choice.

I’m acknowledging the oldest continuous culture known to human history.

Can we thank our Deputy Leader, our Deputy Premier, for his words today and his work – making Victoria the Education State.

In the room today, of course, can we welcome Party President Rupert Evans and State Secretary Noah Carroll – fresh off a win.

Noah was the campaign director, but he knows we couldn’t have done it without the members of our campaign team – the members of our Community Action Network.

To everyone who filled a shift, worked the phones, knocked on doors, and stood on streets.

To every man and woman, young and old, who gave their time and their toil to a cause that’s greater than us all.

Our party says thank you and I say thank you.

To every nurse, every firefighter, and every paramedic, teacher and tradie who joined us.

To every candidate, every delegate – every member of our movement, every member of a union.

I was proud to stand by your side.

I said on election night that some wanted an election all about unions, all about workers, all about their families.

And that’s exactly what they got.

During that campaign, we rallied with the people who’d been left behind.

We stood up for the families who were failed.

We spoke to the kids who wanted a skill, who wanted a job, who wanted to build a better life for themselves – with their own hands.

We put people first.

And they gave us a great responsibility: the right to form a strong and stable majority Labor Government.

The people of Victoria didn’t just change the Government.

They started something that will change our state.

They asked for better schools and stronger TAFEs, to give their kids a chance.

They asked for more trains and fewer level crossings, to get home safer and sooner.

They asked for a health system that cares for them and the people they love.

And today, I can tell you – we’re getting on with it.

One of the proudest moments of my professional life came on the first day of our Labor Government.

I was down at St Vincent’s hospital with a dozen paramedics.

Like our firefighters and nurses, paramedics carry a weight that most of us could not.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when their own Government – their own employer – abused them, attacked them, betrayed them.

Paramedics and their patients.

Lives were lost and it simply had to stop.

That’s why, on the first day of our government, I stood side-by-side with these men and women and proudly declared:

War is over.

Today, we’re working with paramedics – not against them – to save the minutes that save lives.

And we’ve begun the hard work to recruit additional firefighters. To equip them. To protect them.

Because after all, they protect us.

And the dangerous, and perhaps deadly, Fiskville Training Centre?

It has closed once and for all.

Today, Victoria’s nurses and midwives have, for the first time in four years, a government that respects their work.

Today, the emergency funds are flowing into our TAFE system, bringing our campuses back from the brink – helping them survive, helping them thrive.

And today, we’re harnessing the power of the government’s purchase to secure local jobs and local skills.

Because we’re focused on employment growth in Victoria – not on the other side of the world.

We’re getting our state back to work.

We’re getting our transport system back on track.

Medical cannabis is one step closer.

Adoption equality is one step closer.

Water is flowing into Lake Toolondo.

Cattle are out of the High Country.

Melbourne Metro Rail will be a part of our future.

And deadly level crossings will be a part of our past.

At our last State Conference, I gave the most important speech I’ve ever given.

I announced our plan to establish Australia’s first Royal Commission into the country’s number one law and order crisis.

Family violence – our national emergency.

And today, that Royal Commission is fully underway.

It will give us the answers we need.

Because more of the same policy will mean more of the same tragedy.

We have led the way, we will make the change, and that will save lives.

The Royal Commission came from speaking with thousands of Victorians.

Those conversations convinced me that we had to act.

But they also convinced me that outcomes for women start with attitudes toward women.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Let me tell you about some of the public institutions that help our state get things done.

Hospitals, the guardians of our health.

Courts, the guardians of our justice system.

TAFEs and universities, the guardians of our future.

From the Commissions and Agencies and Services that review and reform and make sure no one misses out.

To the galleries and museums that make us the cultural capital of the nation.

These are the organisations that dictate the day-to-day lives of every Victorian.

Their success determines ours as a state.

Their performance determines ours as a people.

So it concerns me – it does – when they aren’t as good as they can be.

When they aren’t representative of the people they serve.

It concerns me when their leadership doesn’t reflect contemporary Victoria.

Many of the boardrooms of our public bodies are lacking a balance of skills, a balance of views, a balance of experiences, a balance of knowledge.

Because they’re lacking perhaps the most important balance of all.

They’re lacking women.

A lot of people in this room made a lot of noise when Tony Abbott found only one seat at his Cabinet table to represent 11 million Australian women.

But we’re fooling ourselves if we think the problem starts and ends there.

Our Cabinet is very different. I’m proud of that.

But get this – when it comes to women on major government boards, the Federal Government performs better than Victoria.

I’m not proud of that at all.

And it’s even worse – because we’re going backwards.

Female representation on major government boards in Victoria has fallen from 40 per cent to a little over 35 per cent in four years.

Consider these facts:

In Victoria, women make up 80 per cent of the workforce in the health and social care industry.

But the proportion of women on the board of Melbourne Health? Less than a quarter.

Women make up 69 per cent of the workforce in education and training.

But the proportion of women on the Council at RMIT and Victoria University? Less than a third.

More Victorian women are graduating from university than men, here in the ideas capital.

But Melbourne University? Proportionally, it has fewer female Council members than any other university in Australia.

And it doesn’t end there.

Public Transport Victoria – less than a fifth of its board are women.

Treasury Corporation, less than a quarter.

The Country Fire Authority, less than a quarter.

The Supreme and County Courts, less than a third.

But all of this – it isn’t their fault.

It’s our fault.

Government appointments, after all, are made by the government.

We do have a target, an intention, an aspiration.

A well-meaning goal for better representation on all government boards.

It was implemented six years ago – and yet, we’re going backwards.

I’m tired of targets like these becoming an increasingly eloquent measure of our failure.

It’s time to turn that target into something tangible.

Into something real.

That’s why I can announce, from now on – under the Andrews Labor Government – no less than 50 per cent of all future appointments to all paid government boards, and all Victorian courts, will be women.

It’s not a target.

It’s not an aspiration.

It’s an assurance.

Of all the appointments my government makes between now and November 2018, at least one half of them will be women, and I’ll be held accountable for it.

This is a step forward for our state:

Public institutions that actually represent the public.

It means balance.

It means better decisions.

It means reaching deeper into a growing pool of talent – training more people, from different backgrounds, to become economic leaders of our state.

We talk about the lack of women on corporate boards – well this is the first step to fixing it.

I’m not going to tell companies how they should run their affairs, but I do have something to say about this attitude that there ‘aren’t enough qualified women going around.’

I don’t agree with that.

But even if you accept that argument, isn’t it time we did something about it?

What I’ve announced today will mean, that by the end of 2018, no Director of an ASX 200 company will be able to look me in the eye and tell me there aren’t enough women in our state who are qualified to join them at their table.

And if you think this is some token gesture, then you simply don’t understand.

I’m sick of walking into meetings and seeing a room full of blokes sitting around a table.

How does that help the progress of our state?

How does that guarantee the best decisions?

And how does that influence the culture of an organisation for the better?

The fact is, when organisations lose diversity, they lose touch.

And eventually, we all lose out.

Because bad attitudes produce bad results.

Not just in organisations, but in our society.

Some are obvious, some are hidden, some are destructive – all need to be challenged.

That’s why I want to make this very clear:

Under this Government, equality is not negotiable.

Last year’s election was not simply about defeating our opponents.

It was all about winning the right to govern.

To reform, rebuild and reshape our state.

To make sure that every Victorian can reach their full potential.

Because only then will we all reach ours.

Victorians voted for a positive plan and the team with the energy to deliver it.

They voted for better schools and hospitals. Better public transport.

They voted for skills, for jobs. For action on family violence.

They voted to put people first.

And make no mistake – we are getting on with it.