Paid parental leave vital to gender equality, says Elizabeth Broderick
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Paid parental leave vital to gender equality, says Elizabeth Broderick

The gender pay gap will continue to widen if the government's changes to paid parental leave are passed by the Senate, the outgoing federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has warned.

Ms Broderick also called for targets for women in Parliament saying it was clear they were under represented.

Vacancy: Previous sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Vacancy: Previous sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

"If you want more women in Parliament you have to put in what I call temporary special measures," Ms Broderick said at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"Without a target you won't make progress."

Ms Broderick will finish her eight-year term as commissioner on Friday. The government is yet to announce her successor.

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She made a plea to the Senate not to pass the government's changes to the paid parental leave scheme, the same scheme which she campaigned for at the beginning of her time as commissioner.

The government's amendments are designed to save nearly $1 billion over the forward estimates by winding back the ability of new parents to access both the taxpayer-funded 18 week minimum wage paid parental leave scheme and any employer provided entitlements.

"I think any move to pare back the support that you need at a time when you're welcoming a new baby into the family, or to pare back women's ability to come into paid work, will mean that we just reinforce some of the gender gaps that currently exist for women," Ms Broderick said.

"Having a strong paid parental leave scheme is absolutely fundamental to women making progress in our nation."

Ms Broderick said she would like to see her successor take on the issue of pregnancy discrimination as well as continuing work on family violence.

"Domestic violence and violence against women and their children is....the gravest human rights abuse that's happening here in Australia today and if you just look at the data, the fact that two women a week this year have been murdered by men they know, most likely their intimate partner, is just beyond belief," she said.

Ms Broderick said she was finishing her time as commissioner optimistic of the changes that had taken place but aware of the work on gender equality that still needed to be done.

"Gender equality is not a battle of the sexes, it's a battle for equality, a battle that men and women must wage side-by-side. The empowerment of women is about the empowerment of humanity," Ms Broderick said.

For help or information regarding domestic violence call the Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732. Online you can visit www.1800respect.org.au

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Stephanie Peatling is a senior writer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House