Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Ministerial Statements

Women's Budget Statement 2022-23

4:40 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

Well, observing the last nine years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments provokes an interesting question. What would it take to motivate this government to act on women's issues, to do something? Would the fact that women over the age of 60 are the fastest growing cohort of people facing homelessness be enough? Apparently not. Would it be an intractable gender pay gap or the lack of access to affordable childcare? Nope. Would it be that approximately one woman a week is murdered by a current or former partner, or that a domestic violence incident is recorded by police on average every two minutes? Not that either. It turns out that the only time that this government has been willing to act on women's interests is when there is a political problem to be solved.

Last year the government restored the Women's Budget Statement—cobbled it together in haste after crowds of Australian women across the country came together and marched for justice. Their demands were clear: Australian women want safety and respect in their work, in their home. They want to be full and equal participants in all aspects of society. They want their voices heard when decisions are made. This year's Women's Budget Statement has been pulled together in the shadow of a looming federal election.

This government has spent nine years—nine wasted years—demonstrating to Australian women that it has no interest in the issues and challenges that we face. All we have seen is neglect, political fixes and election patch jobs. It is no surprise—no surprise at all—that after a decade of this Liberal government things have gone backwards for Australian women. Women are facing skyrocketing costs of living, record high childcare fees, stagnant wages, an intractable gender pay gap, insecure work, skills shortages and rising rates of sexual assault.

The Morrison government has failed once again to deliver the serious reforms necessary to pursue women's economic security. The budget does nothing on childcare costs, which are eating a bigger and bigger hole in household budgets. Tweaks to paid parental leave are welcome, but the government is just tinkering around the edges of a scheme that they have tried five times to slash. We have long memories.

The Women's Budget Statement still doesn't provide a firm commitment to making employers report their gender pay gaps to the public like the Prime Minister's own department recommended, and the government makes no commitment to improve pay or conditions for women working in undervalued care sectors like aged care. The Morrison government is still refusing to fully implement the recommendations of the Respect@Work report on sexual harassment in the workplace, and there is no ongoing funding to establish new working women's centres.

Labor acknowledges the long overdue investment in women's safety through the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, but of course we still don't have a final plan or the consultation that underpins it. If you look at the details, the budget shows a short-term sugar hit in the next year just in time for an election, but in each and every year after that in real terms the budget allocation to women's safety declines. It means that in three years the funding will be half of what it is next year. It's reflective of the overall approach because, as I said at the start of my remarks, this is exactly what it looks like when a Prime Minister sees women's safety as another political problem to fix rather than an opportunity to do real good.

Nothing in this budget makes up for a decade of attacks on wages and job security. Seventy-seven per cent of Australian women say the cost-of-living pressures have gotten worse over the last year, and when you look at the details of this budget prices are rising while real wages are going backwards. The average Australian will be $1,355 worse off. We know that Australian women deserve better than this. It is why an Albanese Labor government will deliver budgets that work for all Australians. On this, I'd like to acknowledge the work of my colleague Ms Plibersek, Labor's shadow minister for women in the other place. As part of the Rudd-Gillard government, Ms Plibersek was integral to the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children. Her energy and advocacy have not diminished in any way in the intervening period.

To stop the decline in women's economic security and get women back on track after COVID, Labor will set up an independent women's economic security taskforce to help government make smart, targeted investments, through our first budget and beyond, to advance economic equality. We'll make sure the decisions we make in government support equality through a national strategy to achieve gender equality. We will introduce such a strategy to guide whole-of-government actions on this key metric. Labor will strengthen the Office for Women so that it can oversee the implementation of gender impact assessment and provide advice on policies that impact on the social and economic wellbeing and participation of Australian women. We will introduce gender impact assessments on relevant cabinet submissions and new policy proposals. Labor will deliver an annual women's budget statement—something that should never have been abolished—to assess the impact new budget measures have on women and examine how the allocation of public resources affects gender equality. Labor is committed to half our parliamentarians being women because when more women are at the decision-making table Australian women know their interests and values are being represented. Finally, Labor will provide the sustained commitment that is necessary to address men's violence.

We know that Australian women want a government on their side, and that is what Labor, under Anthony Albanese and his team, will deliver.


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