Federal Budget repackages, rebrands and re-announces

3 April 2019 - Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia is disillusioned with the number of missed opportunities in the 2019-2020 Federal Budget. WEL National Convenor, Ms Jozefa Sobski, noted that there were no new and significant measures to address critical issues having an impact on women in Australia.

Ms Sobski said, “Overall there is nothing much for women in this Budget other than things that had already been announced. The Government missed a significant opportunity to pay more than lip-service to the needs of half of Australia’s population, given that the issues and ways to address them are well known.

Economic inequality faced by Australian women on a daily basis is pervasive, and it needs significant structural attention by the Federal Treasurer and government, not a continual tinkering with the problems.

“The Treasurer’s highly promoted ‘tax cuts’ are of far less benefit to women because of pay inequity. Far more women will receive a tax benefit of $5 a week, not the higher cuts, which will not help with cost of living pressures,” said Ms Sobski.

WEL’s analysis has identified glaring inequalities for women who are vulnerable and dependent on social welfare, and who are directly affected by the inaction of this government. For women who are recipients of the cashless debit cards, the budget is opaque, as the details of this program are commercial in confidence.

“What we do know is that women receiving the Northern Territory Income Management program will be moved onto the cashless debit card where a higher percentage of their welfare support will be quarantined. Living below the poverty line, trying to exist on welfare payments should not come with a further punitive burden.

For unemployed women whose youngest child is over eight, there is no help at all. Newstart hasn’t calculated a standard rate rise and this group of women who live close to the poverty line and struggle every day to pay for food and shelter need welfare compassion. It is no longer an option for our political leaders to ignore the destructive impact current Newstart payment levels have on people’s lives. 

“We advocated for funding for 15 hours of pre-school each week, which was included in the budget for four-year-olds, and neglects three-year-olds going to pre-school. Once again, the Government missed the opportunity to address the inadequacies of the current child care subsidy and to tackle the fundamental systemic issues.

“Another missed opportunity, and an obvious issue in the childcare sector is the need to improve pay and conditions for mostly female child care workers. When the Government addresses this issue, the range of issues which impact women’s workforce participation will start to be addressed,” said Ms Sobski.

The Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow initiatives, which simply transfer funds from one program to pay for a new program, do not address the issue of targeted funding to improve women’s participation in trade areas of training dominated by men, in which there is a high skills demand.

WEL has long advocated for significant funding and service commitment to address the critical levels of domestic and family violence in Australia. The Federal Budget failed to extend existing commitments and address the need for long term funding for core services, in particular, women’s refuges.

“The Government’s Fourth Action Plan was announced over the past couple of weeks. We congratulate Minister O’Dwyer on securing some funding for this plan, however there was no new money to address long-term areas of critical need in the Federal Budget.

WEL notes that many of the initiatives counted as the Government’s commitments to domestic violence in the Budget were announced six months ago, such as the $75.4M forKeeping Women Safe at Home.

“It’s important to look at key areas of domestic violence funding over time under the Abbott-Turnball-Morrison Government federal budget commitments. The numbers don’t lie, the 2014-15 budget committed $144 million per annum for capital works for domestic violence crisis housing, but then funding was cut. So, returning $75.4m to this year’s budget still leaves us down over $350m on where we would have been without the cuts.”

WEL is contributing to the National Foundation of Australian Women’s Gender Lens report, which is due out on Friday 5th April 2019. This will provide Australia, and the Treasurer, a more comprehensive view of the 2019-2020 Federal Budget from the perspective of all Australian women.

“We have advocated for significant change over the years in the key areas contributing to women’s inequality. Not much will change until we have a government which is willing to take comprehensive and continuing action with adequate resources dedicated to achieving solutions,” concluded Ms Sobski.