House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail

12:21 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am very pleased to follow up on questions regarding Australian women and what this government's not doing to further advances for Australian women. Women working on the frontline, in predominantly underpaid and undervalued roles, have carried Australia through the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this women also experienced the worst adverse economic and social implications at the peak of the crisis. Since February 21 per cent of the female workforce, or 1.3 million women, have lost work or are experiencing pressures on their capacity to retain paid work. Women's workforce participation has disproportionately decreased with 115,000 women leaving the labour force altogether.

The government chose to exclude short-term casuals from JobKeeper, including hundreds of thousands of jobs in the female-dominated sectors that experienced the worst impacts of the shutdowns, such as tourism, arts, hospitality and retail. Cuts to the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement in September also had a disproportionate impact on women. Women are losing $137 million more per fortnight than men, with an estimated $465 million taken from their fortnightly incomes compared to $328 million for men. Women with dependants and older women already face pronounced risks of poverty and homelessness, now made worse by these cuts.

The superannuation early release scheme has increased risk to women's already inadequate economic security. More than 1.7 million women have stripped $13 billion from their retirement incomes. Over 300,000 women have emptied their accounts entirely. More women under the age of 20 years and between the ages of 36 and 55 have made withdrawals compared to men during COVID-19.

The pandemic has also dramatically increased the caring burden on households, especially parents juggling their jobs, homeschooling and caring for children. ABS data suggests this increased child care and household burden was disproportionately borne by women.

Women are also experiencing risks of violence. 1800RESPECT received 1.5 times more calls in 2020 than in 2019. Half of the women experiencing abuse told an Australian Institute of Criminology survey that the abuse had become more extreme since COVID-19. Frontline service providers have reported an increase in women experiencing violence for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to all of this, the Morrison government has failed to produce a meaningful plan to make sure that women don't go backwards as a result of this pandemic. The Morrison government has racked up $1.1 trillion of debt, but the Prime Minister's Women's Economic Security Statement contains just $240 million in spending on small initiatives over a five-year period and is without a plan to improve participation of women in the workforce. This is equal to just 0.024 per cent of the trillion-dollar debt racked up by the Morrison recession.

More broadly, the 2020 budget contains no new funding for frontline domestic and family violence service providers that support women and children escaping violence. There is a $1 million cut from the government's anti domestic violence education program in Australian schools, Respect Matters. There's nothing new to address the gender pay gap, nothing on superannuation and women's economic security in retirement, nothing on child care and nothing for social housing. The 2020 budget doesn't contain a single measure that directly addresses women's long-term and structural economic disadvantage. The government's response to criticism of this was what? 'Women can drive on roads too.' It's not just the 2020 budget that is the government's failing of Australian women—

Dr Allen interjecting


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