House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


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

12:27 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | Hansard source

For all the rhetorical flourishes and crazy interjections from the Labor Party opposite, I'm grateful to receive the question from the member for Higgins and am also very keen to respond to the questions that have been raised by members opposite, because they actually go to the same thing: what is the government doing in the Women's Economic Security Statement—both the 2018 statement and the 2020 statement—that builds on our earlier messages? Our overarching objective is to return Australians, women and men, to work and to boost prosperity as Australia emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. With that in mind, the 2021 budget provides $98 billion of response and recovery support under the COVID-19 response package and the JobMaker plan. It brings the government's overall support to $507 billion.

Increasing women's workforce participation is an economic and social priority. I mention the core economic effort that we are making. The JobMaker plan aims to drive down the unemployment rate and drive stronger economic recovery for all Australians. The 2020 Women's Economic Security Statement builds on the government's COVID-19 economic recovery plan by providing the targeted, tailored and specific support needed to help women overcome barriers to full participation in the economy, and it significantly builds on the 2018 statement, which was an initiative of a previous Minister for Women in the member for Higgins' own electorate. That shows that our commitment to women's economic security did not just arrive in this budget, it's been there for a long time.

In this budget, the $240 million package over five years covers a wide range of measures to provide targeted support for women, to strengthen their employment opportunities, their pay, their participation and the flexibility that we all demand in our workplace and in our lives, because women all have different choices. They make different choices about family, work, training and early childhood education at different stages in their lives. What we aim to do and what we will do is support those choices, as and when they happen.

The statement that the member mentioned focuses on five key priority areas: to repair and rebuild women's workforce participation and further close the gender pay gap; to bring greater choice and flexibility for families to manage work and care; to support women as leaders and positive role models, such as the member for Higgins and the examples that she brings from her electorate to this parliament; to respond to the diverse needs of women; and to support women to be safe at work and safe at home.

We will invest $50 million in the women at work program to help restore and exceed the level of women's workforce participation, which was at a record high pre COVID. It expands on the existing Women's Leadership and Development Program to create jobs and employment opportunities for women, including those from diverse backgrounds.

The Morrison government will establish a respect at work council to provide practical support to employers and employees to prevent and address sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. We know it's a barrier to women's workforce participation, particularly for women working in male-dominated fields, and the government is committed to eradicating it from Australian workplaces.

Our existing commitment to women's safety is well known. On 29 March we announced a $150 million domestic violence support package as part of our COVID-19 response. The package is in addition to the $340 million the Commonwealth had already invested under the fourth action plan. Since 2013 we've invested over $1 billion to prevent and respond to violence against women and their children.

The 2020 Women's Economic Security Statement includes investment across other portfolios: building female founders, to support start-ups and women entrepreneurs; the paid parental leave work test to provides flexibility for parents at this difficult time; the ParentsNext program, again supporting parents with children; and the expansion of our women in STEM programs through cadetships and advanced apprenticeships to create those STEM career pathways for up to 500 women, who will become beacons their communities. As I said earlier, the package builds on the 2018 Women's Economic Security Statement, and it complements the wide range of existing government supports, including JobTrainer. It will support women into jobs now and help drive economic growth in the future.


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