Thursday, 25 March 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021; Second Reading
In 2019, at the International Women's Day breakfast, the Prime Minister said he wanted to see women rise, but not at the expense of men. Sadly the appropriation bill before us, Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 reflects this sentiment. It does little to advance or invest in the opportunity, equity and safety of women. In this legislation, the Morrison government had the chance to acknowledge the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on women, and they have chosen not to. Child care, hospitality, aged care, education, travel—these are all industries that have been left high and dry by this government. All these sectors are important to the wellbeing of families and the productivity of our nation. It is a shame that the government views their funding as a cost rather than an investment.
On Sunday JobKeeper is set to end. This will devastate many small businesses and family businesses across my electorate, especially those in the tourism and travel sector. Travel agents employ 40,000 Australians. 30,000 of these employees are women. I have spent much time over the past couple of months with these hard-working women who run many of the travel agencies across my electorate. Without JobKeeper, they have told me they're afraid they will be unable to keep the doors open. Last week I spoke to Greg, who owns a travel agency in Waurn Ponds. He's working four jobs just to keep afloat. He has six staff, and five of those are women. They're all worried they're going to lose their jobs on Monday.
Earlier this week I asked the Prime Minister in question time why he would rip the economic support away when we know that the travel agency industry is unlikely to recover until next year at least. The Prime Minister responded that it was all okay, nothing to see here, because the government had done a deal for the airlines to offer half-price flights. Half-price flights will do nothing to help Liz, Lyn, Nicole, Matt, Jess and Kim. The travel agency industry needs JobKeeper to be extended, or at least to have a very targeted support package, and this package should be included in the budget.
The child care sector has also not fared well under this government. Child care and early education centres mostly remained open during the pandemic, but child care was the first sector to lose JobKeeper in July last year, leaving many child-care centres around this country running at a loss. While the Morrison government provided some relief to child-care centres throughout my home state of Victoria's lockdown, it wasn't enough. As only 30 per cent of the sector is categorised as full time, it left casual employees ineligible for support payments. With fewer casuals available, other staff are now having to work longer hours and pick up more shifts to fill the shortages. We're staring the down the barrel of a crisis in this sector, devaluing the critical work of our child-care workers. I wish I could say I wasn't surprised the Morrison government had chosen not to invest in this sector as a means of boosting the economy, but I guess that is what happens when there is only one female on the coalition's Expenditure Review Committee.
An investment in child care is an investment in women, it's an investment in families and it should be a priority in this budget. Otherwise we'll continue to hear stories like Pawandeep's. Pawandeep is a young woman who lives in Grovedale in my electorate. She desperately wants more work. She wants to work additional days, but the cost of doing so is holding her back. By not addressing the prohibitive costs of child care, this government is holding women back from returning to work.
Aged care is another example of a profession dominated by hardworking women that this government is failing to invest in. Just last week, a 30-strong delegation of nurses and personal-care workers came to Canberra. They'd hoped to meet with key decision-makers across the entire parliament. The delegation was only able to secure one meeting with the government MP. It was a coalition backbencher. The royal commission reflected the great need for investment and for better staffing within the sector. I urge the Morrison government to act on the commissioner's findings, and not leave this to collect dust like the probes that have come before it. What is needed is a plan with teeth—a plan underpinned by compassion and by real funding. Our aged-care employees and loved one in the sector deserve nothing less.
The latest Workplace Gender Equality Agency report shows men take home $25,000 a year, or $242 a week, more than women on average. The surge in casual and part-time work since the peak of the pandemic is only widening this gap. The Centre for Future Work suggests that if the data was properly measured, the pay gap between all workers would be an alarming 31 per cent. Women's employment dropped almost eight per cent between February and May last year. Compared with January 2020, women's employment is lower by about 53,000 jobs while male employment rose by 7,000 jobs. The pay gap will only increase unless something is done to address the rise in casual, insecure work and childcare costs. If we want women to advance, there must be an investment to make it happen.
Speaking of investment, wouldn't it be good if this government stopped ripping funds from the National Disability Insurance Scheme?
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 11:12 to 11:24