Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
I'm very happy to participate in this consideration in detail. I want to make particular reference to the women's budget statement. I note that the 2021-22 budget has a landmark $3.4 billion package of new initiatives to improve outcomes for women's safety, economic security and leadership, and health and wellbeing. The government is investing $1.1 billion in funding for women's safety, $1.9 billion in initiatives to support women's workforce participation and economic security, and $351.6 million in health and wellbeing initiatives.
I've been asked a couple of times over the last month why we need a separate women's budget statement. On the issue of safety, the facts are that women are more likely than men to be victims of family, domestic and sexual violence. As we have seen this year, physical and sexual abuse against women is not something that happens somewhere else. It is not limited by demographics, by suburbs or by professions; it can and it does happen anywhere. Anytime or anywhere it happens, it is wrong. According to official statistics and surveys undertaken by the ABS and other bodies over the last five years, on average one woman is killed every nine days in Australia. One in four women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a current or previous intimate partner since the age of 15. The rate of police recorded sexual assaults against women is almost seven times higher than that for men. Approximately one in two women aged 18 and over have experienced sexual harassment over their lifetime, and nearly 40 per cent have experienced it in the workplace over the last five years. One in six women will experience financial abuse in their lifetime.
The COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, coincided with an onset or escalation of violence and abuse against women, with two-thirds of women who had experienced it during the pandemic saying it had either started or escalated during this time. These are appalling statistics. There never was, is not now and never will be any justification for any form of violence against women. This should be the only answer needed as to why we need to invest significant money, focus and effort in addressing women's safety.
On the issue of women's economic security, the facts are that, despite women participating in higher education more than men, and having done so for the entirety of this century, women still only hold 18.3 per cent of CEO positions in Australia, only 14 per cent of board chairs and 30 per cent of all board positions. Women are paid less than men, and women, on average, have 22 per cent less in their super balances at retirement.
As someone who believes firmly in equality of opportunity, individual choice and individual responsibility I can happily accept that there will be differences in outcomes between people where those differences arise out of people's own decisions and actions in life and provided that they represent outcomes of real choice and real opportunity, but these statistics are underpinned by evidence that there are still hurdles and barriers that are impacting on women's capacity to make real choices and be equal and full participants. There are still limitations on that goal of real choice and real opportunity, which limits the ability of women to fully realise their potential.
Full and open participation of women is a matter of social and economic necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted women through the escalation of violence, abuse and economic insecurity. It also highlighted the importance of women's workforce participation to our economic recovery and prosperity. The Women's Budget Statement has initiatives to combat violence against women, tackle sexual harassment in the workplace, further increase women's participation, narrow the gender pay gap, give families greater choice and flexibility to manage work and care, increase women's financial security and improve women's health and wellbeing. I ask the minister to outline how the initiatives in the 2021-22 budget will deliver practical and real outcomes for women in Australia.