Why Won't the Government Talk about the Budget's Impact on Women - Terri Butler MP, Labor for Griffith

Why Won't the Government Talk about the Budget's Impact on Women

I recently asked the Minister for Women why the government won't talk about the impact of the Budget on women.

You can read the full speech below.

It is a pleasure, given we are speaking about women today, to acknowledge that in the gallery is UK Labour Councillor Erica Lewis. She is well known to many people in this building, not just because of her work with UK Labour, but because of her many, many years with the YWCA right here in Canberra. She is a long-term advocate for women. In great contrast to her work, this government's work in relation to women has been completely panned. In fact, Women's Agenda has said, 'Women have been largely forgotten in the 2018 budget, and there is nothing that directly addresses the economic disadvantage of Australian women.' Fair Agenda, Domestic Violence New South Wales, the National Association of Community Legal Centres and No to Violence said that the level of funding for frontline services was 'bitterly disappointing and potentially dangerous'. There was little in the budget for women and there was very little analysis of how the budget impacts women. The National Foundation for Australian Women said the fact sheets produced were not a gender based analysis but a listing of initiatives that may benefit women, minus any data.

At budget estimates, the Office for Women was unable to answer questions about the gendered impacts of key budget announcements, because they just didn't know. The front page of the economic security fact sheet that the Office of Women produced featured the Personal Income Tax Plan and talked about how it would benefit women. When we asked the office at estimates whether gender analysis had been done on the impact, we were told the office hadn't seen any analysis and we should ask the Treasury. The Treasury said they hadn't done it. Analysis that Labor commissioned from the PBO showed the financial benefits of stage 3 of the package overwhelmingly benefit men. Three-quarters of the tax cut will go to men on high incomes. Minister, why did you put income tax cuts on the front page of your women's economic security fact sheet if they actually benefit men disproportionately? Why isn't the government considering the impact that major economic policy will have on women? Do you think the impact of your income tax cuts are gender neutral, like the Treasurer, Scott Morrison does?

Evidence presented to a Senate inquiry by tax expert Professor Miranda Stewart last week showed that your tax policy, combined with your childcare changes, will create 95 per cent effective marginal tax rates for women returning to work after having children. Professor Stewart said it was extraordinary that second earners went back to work full-time at all. A mother going back to work for a third day will only keep $10 out of every $100 earned that day. If you work a fourth day, you only get $5. The childcare changes are the main policy the government has announced to boost women's workforce participation. The evidence now shows that there will be negligible financial benefits for secondary earners to work an extra day. So I ask the minister: why isn't the government analysing the effective marginal tax rates created by your policies? Do you think it's okay that a woman would only gain $5 for going back to work an extra day? Have you recalculated the workforce participation impact of your Jobs for Families Child Care Package? How can the government claim one of its top priorities in women's policy is boosting workforce participation, when your own policies are creating disincentives for women to return to work?

Just two days before the budget was released, the government leaked a mystery economic security story that they were committing a mystery sum of money to policies that they hadn't decided on yet and that they wouldn't tell anyone about for another five months. Then there was no mention in the budget itself of this mystery policy. Minister, it looks a lot like you realised there was nothing in your budget for women and threw together a last minute announcement to try to save face. Labor welcomes the government finally taking an interest in women's economic security, but your own Office for Women said at budget estimates that the policy is in extreme infancy. So I ask the minister: after five years of coalition government, why do you need another five months to figure out what your women's economic security policy is? How much funding has been set aside in the contingency reserve for your economic statement? Have any actual policies been agreed to, or were you just allocated a lump sum for your last minute policy panic? When will you be announcing your economic security statement? Will you be doing any consultation with stakeholders about what should be in the statement? Will the Office for Women be preparing it?

The Office for Women stated at budget estimates that they didn't produce the women's budget fact sheets published on the Office for Women website. I ask the minister: can you confirm that the women's budget fact sheets were produced by the Treasury? Why weren't they produced by the office? Does the office not have the capacity to produce that gender analysis of the budget? If they were produced by the Treasury as a budget document, why weren't they included on the budget.gov website? There are a range of other questions I would like to ask for women, but I ask the minister to consider these questions at this time.

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