Warning: This article contains references to family and domestic violence.
“Gender inequality is holding Australia back.”
This is the first sentence of The Federal Government’s 2022 Women’s Budget Statement. This budget statement outlines that Australia has a 14.1% gender pay gap, that inequality creates gender-based violence, and that Labor will use its influence to tackle these issues moving forward.
“The Government is putting gender equality at the heart of policy and decision making,” said Labor’s document.
“The 2022–23 October Budget includes significant commitments and investments to support structural changes to systematically advance gender equality and further strengthen the Australian economy. It delivers more affordable child care, expands paid parental leave, amends workplace relations laws to help narrow the gender pay gap, and increases funding to end violence against women.”
So, this was the Federal Government’s commitment to improving the lives of Australian women through its national spending. But how did folks react to Labor’s financial promises?
Well, the likes of Banksia Academy’s Founder, Melanie Greblo, believe that the federal budget makes some good steps forward.
As Greblo said, “The Albanese Government’s first budget makes critical investments into some key public and private structures and systems where gender inequity and inequality are seeded, which is terrific. Starting at the source and reducing inequalities there is so important. There is $1.7 billion to fund the recommendations set out in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women, and serious investment into childcare. This is all very positive.”
However, Greblo believes that more needs to be done. Monash University’s Dr Blair Williams also thinks this. Williams is a lecturer in Politics and International Relations, whom The Latch interviewed on October 24.
Moreover, even the Federal Government doesn’t think that its first budget is a magic silver bullet.
As Labor said in its 2022 Women’s Budget Statement, “This first Women’s Budget Statement of the Albanese Government is the beginning of our commitments to gender responsive budgeting and gender equality, but it is not the end. We will listen to feedback on how we can continue to put gender equality at the centre of actions and investments.”
Nonetheless, what more could the Federal Government do to make Australia a more equal society? Let’s jump into the nitty gritty:
Labor Needs to Innovate in the Childcare Sector
“For single mothers, of whom the majority are victim survivors of domestic and family violence, the childcare we offer is often not fit for purpose or flexible enough,” said Greblo.
This means that some mothers have to choose between working a night shift while leaving their children at home or not having enough money to survive. Moreover, this is just one example in a sea of complex situations.
Greblo also said, “This would be a good time to really innovate when it comes to childcare reform, beyond extending paid parental leave. We need ambitious innovation that reduces all of the multiple barriers to the women who want and need to work and are at most risk of the long-term impacts of abuse.”
She then suggested that to make a difference for these women, the Federal Government should listen to their voices and then fund what they ask for.
Labor Needs to Put a Federal Cap on Rent
Williams believes that putting a national cap on how much rent a tenant can be charged would transform the lives of Australian women. This is because Australia’s current rental crisis is negatively impacting a lot of women across the country.
“Women are more likely to rent, especially in their older age because circumstances in their earlier life meant that they have less superannuation, they don’t have a mortgage, they have to keep renting, or they live on a pension. They don’t have enough money for the crisis that we’re experiencing.”
Related: Labor and Women’s Wellbeing — A First Budget Deep Dive
Related: It’s Almost Impossible to Rent a Home in Australia Right Now
Labor Needs to Make Its Welfare Payments Above the Poverty Line
Back in September, the Labor Government raised the amount of money that it’s providing Australians who need welfare payments. For instance, single parents on the Parenting Payment scheme started getting an extra $38.90 each fortnight.
However, the Acting Chief Executive for the Australian Council of Social Service, Edwina MacDonald, wasn’t impressed with this increase. This is because the people in our welfare system are still earning an amount of money that means that they’re legitimately impoverished.
“Currently, JobSeeker is at $46 a day, Youth Allowance is at $38 a day, and what we need in order to bring it up to the poverty line is to bring it up to at least $70 a day,” said MacDonald.
Over a month later, Williams also expressed that we need to increase how much folks in the welfare system earn. She has additionally stated that doing so will help a lot of women.
“Something that would have an impact would be increasing welfare payments to above the poverty line. And the government did that at the start of the pandemic, showing essentially that poverty is kind of a choice made by the government. They can lift these people out of it if they so choose to,” said Williams.
“I think that [increasing welfare payments] would have a massive impact on many women in this country. Particularly because single mothers are far more likely to be in poverty than any other group.”
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