Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Women's Budget Statement 2022-23
by leave—I rise to provide a ministerial statement on the 2022-23 Women's Budget Statement and I do so with great pride.
I acknowledge my colleagues in the Women's portfolio—the Minister for Women's Safety, Senator Ruston; the Minister for Women's Economic Security, Senator Hume; and the Assistant Minister for Women, Senator Stoker. I acknowledge the Prime Minister as co-chair of the Cabinet Taskforce for Women's Safety and Economic Security.
The Morrison government's commitment to improving the lives of Australian women and girls is founded on the right that each and every one girl and woman in Australia has to be safe and healthy, and to be treated equally. Equality is the foundation of a cohesive community and a strong, productive, prosperous economy.
The Women's Budget Statement released with the budget overnight builds on the strong foundations established by last year's record investment of $3.4 billion in women's safety, economic security and leadership, and health and wellbeing.
Our further commitment of $2.1 billion includes both new initiatives and the extension and expansion of initiatives that are underway and delivering. Our 2022-23 commitment brings our total investment to more than $5.8 billion since 2018 to improve the lives of women and girls across Australia.
Today women's workforce participation has reached the highest level recorded at 62.4 per cent, with 1.1 million more women in work today than in 2013.
The gender pay gap has narrowed to 13.8 per cent which is significantly lower than the then 17.4 per cent gap that we inherited when we were elected in 2013.
We know the rates of violence against women remain unacceptably high, but we can see that awareness of family, domestic and sexual violence is improving and attitudes towards women are changing. And this government is working continuously with states and territories, with stakeholders, with frontline organisations, with communities, with victim survivors and many others to reduce those rates.
Currently, about 250,000 families with more than one child under five are benefitting due to our changes in relation to the childcare subsidy, from reduced out-of-pocket costs on child care, giving them greater flexibility and choice in the way they live and run their lives.
The Australian government is committed to an Australia that is free from violence against women and children, and where women are safe at home, at work, at school, in the community and online. This budget includes a further $1.3 billion to improve outcomes for women's safety, and I particularly acknowledge the Minister for Women's Safety, Senator Anne Ruston, for her leadership in bringing this package forward. This brings the Commonwealth's investment in women's safety to $2.5 billion to support the transition to and implementation of the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.
We know that ending violence requires the efforts of all levels of government, of business, of non-government organisations and of the community, and, frankly, of individuals, of course, themselves. Our investment is targeted around prevention, early intervention, response and recovery. Minister Ruston and I have been clear and consistent: to end gendered violence, we must prevent it from happening in the first place. That is why the government is investing over $200 million in prevention initiatives. We are expanding the role of the national prevention organisation, Our Watch, and extending the strong, successful Stop it at the Start campaign. We are establishing a new national consent campaign and investing more strongly in community-led prevention programs.
While we pursue that important goal of reducing and ultimately ending violence against women, it is critical that women have access to frontline services and that they get the support they need. The government is building on last year's commitment, providing a further $480 million to response services. That includes $240 million to extend the escaping violence payment, providing up to $5,000 for women escaping violence and beginning a new life. That funding has already supported around 37,500 Australian women.
We are also committing new funding of over $290 million to enable victim-survivors to rebuild their lives. In the New South Wales Illawarra region, we are investing $25 million to establish Australia's first women's trauma recovery centre. This will be a safe place for those women who have been in the most unsafe of situations. And we acknowledge those leaders who have been part of that work in the Illawarra, in particular, in bringing this forward in this budget. We are also spending $100 million on a further phase for the Safe Places program for emergency and transitional accommodation, delivering about 720 new places. For women who find themselves in violent households, the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program provides support to safely remain at home. Around 30,000 women will be supported this way.
We recognise, too, importantly, that the digital world is increasingly unsafe for women, and that is why this budget provides over $31 million for online safety initiatives led by Julie Inman-Grant, the eSafety Commissioner. We will begin phase 2 of the national online safety campaign to help keep women and children safe online and support the eSafety Commissioner to establish an online safety community grants program for education and support projects for community, sporting and faith groups.
Women's economic security
As a government, we also have a strong focus on improving women's economic security, and I have referred to those factors of women's workforce participation and the narrowing of the gender pay gap previously, and I would also remind the Senate of the nearly 50-year low we see in women's unemployment. These are important achievements, but we recognise that there is more to do. This year's investment of over $480 million in women's economic security will focus on improving flexibility and choice for women in Australia. It will also support their entry into more diverse industries, into jobs of the future and into leadership positions.
We are investing over $346 million to establish enhanced paid parental leave for families. It will enable eligible working parents to share up to 20 weeks of fully flexible leave. We are encouraging fathers to take government paid leave in conjunction employer-funded leave, in the same way in which women are currently able to do. The government is also broadening the paid parental leave income test to include a household income threshold of $350,000 per year. Practically, this means eligible families will have full control over how they choose to use their paid leave, empowering them, again, to make decisions that work for them.
Further measures in this budget are focused, as well, on helping women into higher-paying and diversified sectors. Significant demand, for example, is forecast for the tech workforce, so we're providing $3.9 million over two years to support more women into digitally skilled roles. This demonstrates our government's active creation of pathways for women to pursue, for example, a mid-career transition into a higher-paid career in the tech workforce.
Achieving gender equality more broadly continues to be a priority for the Australian government. Earlier this month, our government fulfilled a commitment from last year's Women's Budget Statement, releasing our review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. We will implement all 10 recommendations of that review. The budget provides further resources for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to implement those recommendations and to support the private sector—the largest employer of women in Australia—to close the gender pay gap and increase women's workforce participation.
We know that having women in leadership positions ensures more balanced decision-making, provides role models and mentors for the next generation of young girls and works to reduce the gender pay gap. We're making a further investment of over $18 million for the Women's Leadership and Development Program, because we know that great leaders also start young. We're expanding the successful Future Female Entrepreneurs Program to develop and grow women's core entrepreneurial skills. Australia has world-leading female entrepreneurs—for example, Melanie Perkins, the CEO and co-founder of the tech start-up Canva, and Kayla Itsines, who's using the power of technology and apps to become one of the world's most successful online fitness entrepreneurs. Future Female Entrepreneurs is an opportunity to grow even more of them.
To support women facing unique barriers to leadership and employment, we are also expanding the Future Women Jobs Academy. I do believe that you can't be it if you can't see it. To aim high, it helps to see others who have had and taken the opportunity to lead and achieve, and I'm very proud of the role of the Women's Leadership and Development Program in what it is doing across Australia, touching tens of thousands of Australian women in its work. On International Women's Day I launched a new Women's Leadership and Development Program open, competitive grants round, inviting organisations to apply under the Lead and Succeed grant opportunity, which will support projects that address the structural and systemic barriers that can impede women's employment and their progression into leadership.
The health of women and girls is critical to their overall wellbeing and their ability to fully participate in society and the workforce. In this budget, we're investing over $330 million over four years to support the health and wellbeing of women and girls at every stage of their lives. We're investing in endometriosis support, in breast and cervical cancer screening and in support for families who have experienced stillbirth or miscarriage. I would venture to say that there's not a senator in this place or a member in the House of Representatives who has not, through their personal life, their family life or their professional life, encountered a woman who is dealing with those challenges, particularly the ones that I've specifically mentioned here today. As a member of the government, I have seen the response to these announcements to be deeply moving and profoundly important for the many women who deal with issues such as endometriosis—and, of course, the many who deal with diagnoses of breast or cervical cancer.
Addressing inequities in health care, not only between women and men but between different groups of women and girls, is a key focus of our National Women's Health Strategy. We're investing $4.2 million to fund community led initiatives and organisations to support women and girls at higher risk of poorer health outcomes, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, on migrant and refugee women, on older women and on women with disabilities.
I bring the Women's Budget Statement here this afternoon in this ministerial statement—the second Women's Budget Statement delivered by the Morrison government.
Its focus is important. Its focus on women's safety, on women's economic security, and on women's leadership and development is important for Australian women and girls. But, in doing so, I acknowledge, and I believe my colleagues acknowledge, that, although we have made substantial progress in the development of these women's budget statements—and their predecessors, the Women's Economic Security Statements—we know there is more to do. That's why these plans are in this Women's Budget Statement and that is our commitment to the future for Australian women and girls.
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.
I want to make a very brief statement in regard to the Women's Budget Statement and the statement Senator Payne just made. I think whatever work we do in this space needs to start in this place. I'm thinking of the lady we farewelled on Monday and I'm thinking of the very strong lady who spoke very clearly, very emphatically, very confidently and very accurately last night in her adjournment speech, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. That's my only comment.
I rise to take note of the Women's Budget Statement for 2022-23. I want to start by saying that the Morrison government have seriously bungled their last chance to show they have what it takes to provide women's safety and economic security. The half-measures and spin put into the budget announcement yesterday are seriously underwhelming. But it's no surprise, because there is an election looming. It's no wonder that the Morrison government are desperately trying to improve their standing with Australian women, who have abandoned them in droves.
Some of the announcements are a step in the right direction. We particularly welcome the allocation of $25 million to the Illawarra Women's Trauma Recovery Centre, which in fact the Greens have championed—and I want to acknowledge the great work of our leader in the Senate, Senator Larissa Waters, who's not here with us today. But this budget is really a large grab bag of minimal measures that fall well short of what we know it takes to make women safe and ensure the economic security of women here in Australia. I say this because in my sector—the sector I came from when I joined the Senate—funding to address gendered violence falls well short of what women's organisations say is needed, what they have told this government time and time again.
It is the Greens who have committed to calling for what the sector are asking for, which is $1 billion per annum for frontline services to meet the existing demand. It is unconscionable to underfund services which will stop women being killed in this country in the epidemic of domestic violence. Whilst awareness-raising and training are absolutely crucial, they should be in addition to rather than instead of frontline and specialist services that the sector says it needs to meet the critical shortfall in supporting women and children who are fleeing family and domestic violence in this country.
The government's so-called 'enhanced' paid parental leave plan also does not increase the PPL payments. It doesn't add superannuation contributions and does nothing to actually incentivise shared care. In fact, it may have an opposite or perverse effect, leading mothers to take all 20 of their parental leave while fathers take none. But the Greens have an alternative: 26 weeks PPL payments which would match salaries of up to $100,000. Superannuation would be added along with use-it-or-lose-it incentives built in to encourage shared parenting.
The $100 million promised for crisis transition and affordable housing is pitiful and small compared to the $7.6 billion investment the sector says it needs to provide emergency and permanent housing for women, particularly for older women at risk of homelessness. The much-trumpeted expansion of the family home guarantee is no help, because it simply will increase house prices and encourage people to get into debt they just cannot afford.
Again this government has shown a lack of commitment to addressing family violence against First Nations women. Instead of a dedicated, stand-alone national plan to end violence against First Nations women in this country, they say there will be a First Nations action plan sitting underneath the national plan. This is clearly not what we—Senator Thorpe, sitting here, and I—have been asking for. But they've also baked real cuts into community controlled First Nations family violence services over the forward estimates and delivered no funding at all for the sector's peak body. That is a disgrace.
This budget will not close the gender pay gap. Child care is still not free, care work is still undervalued and the minimum wage and income support payments, which women and men receive, are still too low. This budget will not deliver economic security for women in this country. I welcome the additional funds for the Human Rights Commission to monitor the Respect@Work recommendation, but this is still being undermined by the broader cuts to the commission's budget.
The fact is that there is still no commitment to the key recommendation of a positive duty to all employers to make workplaces across this country safe for women. Australian women have spent nearly a decade trying to convince this government that their safety and economic security are issues that must be taken seriously. We have marched. Last year was the March4Justice on the front parliament lawn. But, in place of divisive and material action, we have been served talkfests, cabinet reshuffles, flowery speeches and shiny baubles by a toxic, arrogant government that treats women as a PR problem to be managed.
This was the PM's last opportunity to stand up for Australian women, and once again he has failed. He has failed because, unfortunately, he's a sexist dinosaur, and it's long past time to give him and his boys club the boot. The time is now.
Question agreed to.