Release type: Speech


International Labour Organization - Plenary Address, Advancing Social Justice


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

Distinguished representatives from Governments, Workers and Employers groups from around the world.

I am honoured to represent the Australian Government and present its views on "Advancing Social Justice" at this most significant global tripartite forum. The International Labour Organization plays a crucial role in advancing social justice across the globe.

I am also honoured to lead a tripartite delegation representing the voices of Australian workers and employers.

We agree with the Director-General that the ILO’s unique tripartite approach provides strategic opportunities to advance social justice.

In the past week, Australia has ratified the Violence and Harassment Convention and today, I have the honour to lodge Australia’s ratification instrument for the Minimum Age Convention.

In a time marred by compounding global challenges – the fallout from COVID, global inflation and enormous cost of living pressures for millions – a focus on tripartism has never been so important.

The Australian Labor Government is prioritising a labour market that is fair for all and leaves no-one behind.

It is vital that workers can participate equally in safe, secure work with decent pay – while being given the opportunity to access the right skills and training to improve their opportunities in a changing economy.  

A key focus of our Government's first year in office has been constitutional change that would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution, and create a direct "Voice" to the National Parliament for Australia’s First People.

To understand their history and unique challenges, we must listen.

The Voice would be a group of elected Indigenous representatives who advise the Australian Parliament and Government on matters directly relating to First Nations Australians.

Another focus has been improving gender equality.

We want to increase the representation of women in historically male dominated and better paid industries, while strengthening wages and conditions for workers in professions dominated by women.

Care industries are historically among the lowest paid. 

Yet caring for the sick and our elderly, supporting people with disability and providing high quality care and education to pre-school children is so vital to our communities.

This year Australian aged-care workers received a 15 per cent increase – funded by our Government - in recognition of the historic under-valuation of the important work they do.

Making sure that women are supported through paid maternity leave will mean more of our skilled workforce can balance having a family while maintaining a working life. 

Which is why we will increase government-funded paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2026.

We must also support parents who want to return to work after a break to raised children.
Which is why we are reducing the cost of childcare.

We’ve strengthened our anti-discrimination framework, by putting a positive duty on employers to prevent sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work.

We’ve also changed the law to provide all Australian workers with the right to ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave.

Workers should never have to choose between their safety and a salary.

Like many countries, Australia is facing cost of living pressures.

Our government is focused on increasing wages by supporting the lowest paid, revitalising collective bargaining and closing off legal loopholes that are used to undermine bargained outcomes.

Giving more people more access to skills and training is key to ensuring a just transition from traditional industries to emerging ones, especially in clean energy.

As Australia’s Minister for Skills and Training, I’m proud to say we’re removing the barriers to accessing life-changing vocational education and training.

We are delivering almost half-a-million free vocational education and training places in industries of the highest skills needs.

In the first five months alone, more than 150,000 Australians have enrolled. I am pleased to say that around 60 per cent of these Australians have been women.

To support our agenda to make Australia a renewable energy superpower and to achieve our net zero goals, the Government has announced it will establish a Net Zero Transition Authority to drive change.

We are re-focusing the way we support apprentices by ensuring their well-being is the key focus.

We will boost mentoring and support so that more apprentices can complete their training and gain secure and rewarding work.

In Australia, around 20 per cent of adults face significant challenges with reading, writing, numeracy and digital skills – holding them back in work and life.

We are determined to support these Australians by making access foundation skills training easier.

Collective global action means addressing challenges that face all countries.

Australia is pleased to strengthen links and work on shared challenges in our region.

We will continue to support work toward global standards for quality apprenticeships. 

The Australian Government looks forward to working with you all to forge a socially just path for our future.

Thank you.