There was a hive of activity in Parliament today as those who received one of 143 prized tickets to the jobs and skills summit made their way to the Great Hall. Business leaders, union representatives, advocates and prime ministers (and a few politicians) came to discuss Australia’s economy and jobs.
The Albanian government was strict on who could receive a ticket – although it increased the number from the previous cap of 100 – and did not allow guests to transfer their tickets. (Despite the lust for tickets, Crikey counted about 10 empty seats.)
Four rows of tables run parallel on each side of the stage, five rows face the stage, and there are three rows of chairs at the back.
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The hubbub died down when everyone took their seats; some already looked tired as full employment, rising productivity and equal opportunity and pay for women were discussed.
Women’s participation in the labor market, changes to immigration and real wage growth are the main topics today, so it was fitting that Gender Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins made her mark on the front row facing the stage, with ACTU executives Sally McManus and Michele O’Neil in the row behind her.
Politicians got prime seats, with prime ministers and chief ministers leading on the right (although independents were further away) and federal ministers on the left. Anthony Albanese and Dominic Perrottet faced each other across the room.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce’s flight appeared to arrive on time – he was in the penultimate arch at the back, away from tourism forum chief Margy Osmond, who was next to the boss deToll, Christine Holgate.
Holgate said this morning she wanted to see the 55 recommendations in Jenkins’ Respect @ Work report implemented immediately to improve gender parity, and Osmond called for the age of working holidaymakers to be raised to 50 years to strengthen the tourism workforce.
Canberra’s net worth rose dramatically as Australia’s richest man, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, was two places behind prime ministers, as was Australia’s second-richest man, the boss of Visy Recycling, Anthony Pratt (who scored a shoddy seat in the back row). Forrest told reporters upon arrival that he wanted to see vulnerable Australians counted in unemployment figures, but avoided questions about the climate.
Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar was on the opposite side, behind Jobs Minister Tony Burke.
The government worked hard to ensure a representative guest list – but unfortunately the attendees were overwhelmingly white. Business leaders and union representatives had an equal number of tickets, and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said more than 50% of attendees were women. About 15% of the participants were academics and a further 12% came from lobby groups. Only 14 deputies are present – in particular, Peter Dutton declined an invitation.
As an advocacy organization for disabled women Australia underlinedisabled women were not represented (although disabled men, including Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, were).
Few young people won a seat and will rely on youth advocate Yasmin Poole for representation. None of the Big Four bank executives were invited, represented instead by Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh. The Australian Unemployed Workers Union was not invited and banned from demonstrating outside Parliament today.
It proved difficult to get people to sit down after a brief morning tea break.
Albanese spent most of his time going through documents with Terese Edwards of the National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, and Farquhar spoke at length with Georgie Dent, executive director of The Parenthood.
Then, before lunch: discussions on negotiation and company agreements and the creation of safe, fair and productive workplaces.