Labor has published its 2015 Women's Budget Reply.
Budgets should plan for the future – a future of opportunity, jobs and wealth for the Australian people. This Budget fails the fairness and the future test for Australian women. Putting in place a policy agenda to enable the realisation of full participation for Australia’s women and girls requires leadership and a recognition that not everyone has ‘won the lottery of life’ – there are real barriers to achieving social and economic equality. In doing so we will enrich and benefit our nation. There is much to build on. Since 1987, women have outnumbered men graduating from higher education, comprising 60% of graduates in recent years. Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. But we still have a gender pay gap of 18.8%. Women will retire with much less. Women are still underrepresented in decision-making and in Parliaments, and make up only 14% of the Abbott Ministry. The participation rate for women with a child under 15 years old is well below the average (OECD, 2014). Since last year’s Budget, G20 nations set a new target to reduce the gender gap in workforce participation by 25% by 2025. Meeting this target and enabling the full and equal participation of women in education, work and decision-making will enhance our productivity and competitiveness. The Grattan Institute estimates that if Australia had the same female workforce participation rate as Canada, Australia’s GDP would be about $25 billion greater. This year’s Budget does not rise to meet this challenge. It lacks the vision and long-term strategy required. And it keeps all of the unfairness of last year’s Budget. Whether it’s the GP Tax, $100,000 degrees or cuts to the pension – all have a disproportionate impact on Australia’s women. This year the failures continue, with this Budget featuring the mother of all broken promises – Tony Abbott’s commitment to a ‘signature’ Paid Parental Leave scheme. The 2015 Budget cuts Paid Parental Leave for 80,000 Australian women, child care support for mums and family payments. Budgets should be fair, honest and responsible. Fairness means asking those with the broadest shoulders to do the most, not leaving the heavy lifting to those Australians least able to carry the load. Being responsible is ensuring we are making the right education investments to drive the skills of the future, affordable and accessible healthcare, strong superannuation and a fair pension. And leadership is needed on the significant issues facing women, like tackling the scourge of violence against women head on, not putting it in the too hard basket or cutting the vital community services that support those who are most vulnerable to have a secure and fulfilling life. For Australia’s women and girls, the stakes in doing so are high. Labor reiterates its commitment, today and tomorrow: to build a policy agenda that give our women and girls the best chance of participation in all spheres of Australian life.