Women’s Equality side-lined in Federal Budget

Sydney – 7 October 2020: Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia, (WELA) finds little hope in the Morrison Government’s Federal Budget’s meagre funding allocations to address women’s social and economic inequality.  

After an anaylsis of the budget documents WELA National Convenor, Emma Davidson, commented. “The Treasurer had one priority job in preparing this historic budget: to stimulate the economy so that all Australians could recover from the unparalleled impact of COVID-19. He fundamentally failed at this task.”

“Women, and those who rely on women to be financially secure and able to fully participate in building personal and national prosperity, have been left on the side of the Treasurer’s super spending highway.

“The Morrison Government failed to grasp the impact of structural barriers being faced by women despite acknowledging these in the budget speech. The meagre measures do not translate into investment in equality for women. This was in the face of an array of trusted economists with women’s rights organisation briefing the Government on the issues."

It is clear there was no gender impact lens focussed on the budget and no appreciation that its jobs, skills and manufacturing sector initiatives were ignoring female dominated industry sectors. Investment in social infrastructure should have been a priority for the recovery.  

“This Federal Budget offers little more for women than a summary of prior announcements with a few programs extended in the much touted Women’s Economic Security Statement. It totals $231 million over four years (Budget Paper No.2). That amounts to about $57 million annually across all the programs. Tokenistic and totally inadequate for the level of demand!” commented Ms Davidson.

“Women were the first to lose jobs as this economic crisis began. Then women shouldered even more unpaid caring work. Women also experienced increased levels of domestic and family violence, and impact on their mental wellbeing due to the increased workload and financial pressures.”

Caring Industries Ignored

“What we needed from this Federal Budget is a revaluing of care work, and funding for the support services that enable women to live safe and fulfilling lives. This includes access to affordable, quality childcare, participation in secure and long-term employment, rather than casual and part-time work. The caring industries rely on women employees, and this reality will be tested to the limit, especially in aged care, child care, disability care and community care.”

“Instead, we have tax cuts that will benefit high-earning men much more than the small fraction of high-income earners who are women.”

“We see incentives for job creation in male-dominated trades, as well as space and defence industries, but not in care work. While the  Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Industry Cadetship program is a welcome opportunity for women to transition to a higher paying career, it will benefit only 500 women.”

Failure to recognise the universal benefits of childcare

“It is deeply disappointing that there is no continued access in this Budget to JobKeeper for childcare workers, and subsidies that enable free childcare. Extending the Coronavirus Supplement to those on Carer, Disability, and Age Pension would also support significant numbers of women on low incomes and help them avoid housing insecurity.”

“Universal access to childcare was a proven gamechanger early in the Government’s response to COVID-19, yet it was ripped away quicker than any other measure. The measures announced in the budget are not universal. They are confined to Indigenous and disadvantaged children, and only for 15 hours per week for 40 weeks per year. This does not enable greater workforce participation for these women who need capacity to work 50 weeks per year.”

Historic levels of homelessness for women

“There is also nothing new in this Budget to increase support or create long-term funding certainty for specialist housing services for women experiencing domestic and family violence, despite the increased demand for services as a result of the ongoing economic crisis.

“Nor is there increased funding for desperately needed social housing, which would have created jobs in the construction industry.

“The Morrison Government continues to treat women living in poverty and at growing risk of homelessness as if it is their choice. This is their blinkered view that the only way to resolve social problems such as poverty and housing stress is for more women to be in paid work. But, they need the Treasurer’s helping hand to take the first steps. The Job Seeker payment needs to be extended beyond the end of the year and wage subsidies need to go to the over 35 year olds.

“We want more jobs for women across all industry sectors. We want incentives for job creation across all industry sectors. Until we have a Federal Government willing to address the barriers to women’s participation in paid work, and a proper valuing of care work whether paid or unpaid, the social and economic problems caused by our growing inequality gap will continue and we will continue to pay for them.”


Media contact and interviews with the National Convenor Ms Emma Davison call: 0459 901306

ABOUT WEL

The Women’s Electoral Lobby is a national, independent, non-party political, feminist lobby group that for 45 years has worked tirelessly to improve the position of women in society.

WEL lobbies politicians, unions, employers, educationalists and other institutions on policies that promote equality and seek to change attitudes and practices that discriminate against women.

www.wel.org.au 

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Universal childcare a key pillar for Australia’s COVID-19 recession recovery

(Sydney) 22 June 2020 –
Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) calls on all governments to urgently re-calibrate pandemic recovery plans to include a gender lens, starting with reversing the shortsighted decision to scrap the supports for early childhood learning and care (ECL&C) temporarily installed during the pandemic. WEL today released the WEL view on Government’s Pandemic Response, joining social and economic experts to lobby governments to correct their course immediately.

WEL NSW executive member, Dr Mary O’Sullivan, urged the Australian Government to take a social infrastructure investment recovery position that prioritises social and economic investment that delivers benefits to the community as a whole and supports women’s employment.

Dr O’Sullivan said, “If we are facing a recession like no other, with women’s employment and financial security seriously hit, why wouldn’t you prioritise a social infrastructure recovery plan that supports women’s employment and carries multiple and proven long-term benefits for children and for women’s safety and security. Why would you willfully ignore an opportunity to reap the financial and social benefits of investing in children and in women’s participation in the workforce so that all Australians can equally participate in the road to economic recovery

“Many Australians were shocked by the Prime Minister and Education Minister’s June 8 announcement to cut support for the early childhood learning and care industry through JobKeeper and income subsidies allowing fee free services on July 12.” 

“The Prime Minister provided no convincing rationale for the decision to target childcare as the first industry to remove from JobKeeper. This time neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Education acknowledged - as they had when they announced ‘free’ childcare on April 2 - that early childhood learning and care workers were ‘essential’ and ‘vital’ to Australia’s COVID-19 effort.

“It beggars belief that the Government would knowingly take a decision to reverse the supports they have provided the early childhood learning and care industry during the COVID-19 response. Despite the transition arrangements put in place until September, ripping up these sensible and effective changes is likely to have an immediate impact on children –especially disadvantaged children and on women’s participation in the workforce.

“We have a moment in history to rebalance our social and economic objectives, with government playing a leading role through COVID-19 recovery led investments and reforms. Women are first serious casualties of the recession, along with young people and it is likely to have an inter-generational impact.”

A social infrastructure led recovery should:

  1. Prioritise investment in employment incentives for the caring industries, most of whom have large numbers of women within the workforce
  2. Commit to build a truly universal early childhood learning and care system for all Australians by maintaining the Jobkeeper supports for 12 months, permanently abolishing the activity test and beginning a transition through provisions in the 2020 and 2O21 budgets to subsiding up to 95% of childcare costs for parents.
  3. Prioritise and build social housing for women

 

 

 

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Domestic Violence Services – Short-Changed in Rescue Package

(Sydney) 28th May, 2020 – Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) while welcoming the additional funding to domestic violence services announced recently by NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, asks, why is the amount so paltry when it is meant to be spread across 180 different women’s services, 84 of which are women’s refuges?


WEL NSW spokesperson, Jozefa Sobski, lamented the lateness of this additional funding and its tokenistic nature. Ms. Sobski said, “This allocation of $21.6 million will see some services receive as little as $3500, with no service receiving more than $150,000. A funding boost does not mean an increase in ongoing funding which is what is needed. All it will do is relieve a little of the tremendous burden that has been placed on already fully stretched services to address COVID 19 impacts. The Government cannot be serious in giving this additional amount so much fanfare.”


WEL has spoken with some of the recipients of this “boost” and they are adamant that funds can cover only the most urgent needs and not for very long. All services are experiencing increasing complexity working with women fleeing domestic violence.


A six month “pop-up” safe house in Manly is being created to give highly vulnerable women and their children temporary and emergency accommodation.


Ms Sobski comments, “Why Manly and why a “pop-up”? Is the Government taking the situation around the state in so many affected communities seriously, when one part of the funding is going to a “pop-up”? We need permanent facilities, like refuges to be adequately funded and staffed. We don’t need endless small funding packages which do not allow for adequate planning or appropriate recruitment of qualified and experienced staff. Services need to build their capacity. They need certainty. Is this “pop-up” a new model of delivering domestic violence support services? Where has this model been trialed? What is the evidence for its effectiveness?


There is nothing in the package for women on temporary visas. There is a token gesture to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people with a disability, multicultural communities. LGBTIQ communities and women living in rural and remote communities.
Frontline support services and women’s refuges will be the major recipients of this additional money, but no details of the eventual proportions to be allocated to them were provided in the Minister’s announcement. WEL hopes that the additional money will be built into the State Budget for these essential domestic violence services on a continuing basis.

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Family Law System reform and resources needed now

MEDIA STATEMENT - 13 March 2020

FAMILY LAW SYSTEM REFORM MUST BE RESOURCED NOW TO MAKE WOMEN AND CHILDREN SAFE

(Sydney – 13 March 2020) Women’s Electoral Lobby’s (WEL) representatives will appear before the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System today to demand urgent action to reform the Family Law system, to ensure women and children are safe during and after the process of decision-making.

WEL supports the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Family Law System Review report’s 60 recommendations given to Government in April 2019. Other recent reports on Family Law by parliamentary committees and experts working in the system, and the Women’s Legal Services, Australia five step Safety First plan provide a framework for action now.

WEL executive member, Jozefa Sobski, urged the Australian Government to get on with reforming and adequately resourcing the system because women’s and children’s lives are at risk every hour in too many communities.

“We believe the previous work of legal experts and parliamentarians offers sensible solutions to some intractable problems,” said Ms Jozefa Sobski.

“Since the Federal Government received the ALRC report, women and children have been killed, and many have been traumatised by more violence. The Family Court needs to be able to respond to the significant demand on its services, which includes playing a frontline role in addressing the deeply rooted behaviours that inform some men’s inability to self-regulate and adapt to a world of equality,” said Ms Sobski.

Recent reporting data reflects only a portion of the reality of abuse and violence women and children experience. “If women have no trust in the court system, or a dependable and safe place to retreat to rebuild their lives, then the alternatives can be life threatening and life altering.”

“We are committed to keeping a spotlight on the current fractured and siloed system which leads to women and children fleeing domestic and family violence falling through the cracks, and their high- risk situation being exacerbated by delays and decisions of the Family Court or legal advisers.

“We understand how the current under-resourced system impacts on women and children’s safety. Inadequate resourcing and the stresses on the judiciary and court, family and domestic violence support services also contributes to long delays and often leads to unsatisfactory outcomes for all parties.

“We advocate for one pathway for dealing with the complex dynamics of family law matters and therefore support a single specialist court. We want a just and fair system for all.

“We make a plea for an extension and expansion of the Family Advocacy and Support Service so that it covers remote, rural and regional Australia and relevant suburban areas.

“The dedicated professionals who service the family court system also need further support and training. We support the call for mandatory continuing professional development on domestic and family violence and its complex dynamics for all Family Law workers. This is a specialist field of law, where maintaining a mandatory minimum level of accredited training in core competencies to underpin engagement and support of highly vulnerable women and children, is a necessary requirement.” Ms Sobski said.

The solutions are well known by the Australian Government and every State and Territory government. Family Law reforms need to be delivered and supported by the appropriate level of resources.

-ends-

See WEL's Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System, December 2019 - HERE.

Media contact: WEL spokespeople Ass Prof Catherine Gander and Jozefa Sobski are available for comment by contacting, Jenny Muir [email protected]

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Family Violence Crisis Response at risk

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS RESPONSE AT RISK IF SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY WORKERS LOSE EQUAL PAY FUNDING

(Canberra – 05 March 2020) More than 200,000 social and community workers, are at serious risk of losing their jobs if the Australian Government cannot provide surety for the 2012 Fair Work Commission equal renumeration order, which is due to expire in 2021.  

In the lead up to International Women’s Day (8th March) the Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia (WELA) joins a coalition of national organisations calling on the Australian Government to recognise and finalise its commitment to gender pay gap for these workers, most of whom are women. #trustthewomen #equalpay

“In 2012 the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made an equal remuneration order (ERO) for social and community workers, providing pay increases up to 45% over 8 years, to address the gender-related undervaluation,” said WELA National Convenor, Emma Davidson.

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Religious Discrimination draft bill is cruel and breaks good faith agreement with Australian women

 

View the Media Release PDF here.

 

Sydney 10th February 2020 – Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia (WEL) is disappointed that the second exposure draft of the Federal Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill includes no substantial amendments in response to Australia’s subject experts, including submissions made by WEL and many expert legal, medical and community groups.


WEL spokesperson, Dr Mary O’Sullivan, stated, “WEL has a number of key concerns about the Attorney General’s second attempt at addressing religious discrimination. Central to these is that the draft Bill fundamentally undermines advances made by Australian women since the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984, together with the other Anti-Discrimination Acts at Commonwealth and state level.”


WEL’s submission on the second draft of the Bill highlights the grave risks for Australian women inherent in the Bill and calls for a significant review in consultation with subject experts.

“With the promise of preventing religious discrimination, this cruel piece of legislation will actually green light the opposite by:
• licensing and granting protection for public speech and written materials in workplaces and public life that can be denigrating, derogatory, humiliating and intimidating to women;
• permitting the introduction of faith tests and discriminatory conditions for employment in women dominated industries of education, health, aged care and religious charities. This will also further impact women in health services, as many have faith-based ownership or
management. (79% of the healthcare and social services industry workforce are women and the education and training industry has 63.4% women); and
• substantially interfering and further confusing state law on abortion, to the extent to which Australian women have a right to access reproductive health services, without any impediment,” said Dr O’Sullivan.


“Alarmingly, the Bill would allow people of one religious background to make derogatory statements about other faith communities in the name of their religious belief,”
“This also has serious implications for the very communities most in need of protection on the grounds of religion. Jewish and Muslim communities have suffered a rise in attacks in Australia,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

The WEL submission expresses strong concerns for Muslim women adopting religious and cultural dress, who already suffer disproportionate verbal and other attacks, and bear the brunt of racial and religious discrimination on top of sex discrimination.
“By imposing a new, unorthodox and intricate layer of complaints, defences and exemptions on existing Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, the Bill will further discourage women victims of discrimination from coming forward to seek justice,”’ said Dr O’Sullivan.

WEL urges the Australian Government to consider the Bill in the light of the good faith agreement with 12.9 million Australian women it is trying to advance across Government. We respectfully request that the Government rework the draft Bill to remove all of the significant impacts on
women. WEL will continue to work closely with Australia’s civil society leaders to collaborate and maintain its advocacy for all Australian women. WEL will seek a meeting with the Minister for Women, Marise Payne and the Attorney General Christian Porter address these concerns.
-ends-

 

Media Inquiries: contact Jenny Muir to arrange media comment or interviews with Dr Mary
O’Sullivan on 0415 401 200.

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Abortion Reform Realised

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Dear MPs: Pass the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2019

MEDIA RELEASE

WEL urges NSW MPs to pass the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019

Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Women’s Electoral Lobby is delighted that the NSW Parliament will begin debate on the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 on Tuesday 6 August and urges MPs to support its passage.

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Homelessness grows for older women aged 55+

MEDIA RELEASE

Homelessness has grown by 31% for older women aged 55 plus

Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Dr Jane Bullen from Women’s Electoral Lobby has called on Commonwealth and State governments to respond Australia’s homelessness crisis for women, who are often invisible and amongst the poorest and most vulnerable of those experiencing homelessness, as part of National Homelessness Week (4-10th August).

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NSW Budget: Bricks and Mortar with No Heart

MEDIA RELEASE

WEL NSW Regrets Budget of Bricks and Mortar with No Heart

(Sydney) 18 June 2019 - Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW expressed deep disappointment with the NSW State Budget, describing it as a triumph of steel and concrete over the needs of vulnerable members of the NSW community.

WEL Executive member and Violence Against Women Action Group leader, Jozefa Sobski AM, said there is little to write home about on the NSW Government’s investment levels in social services and support for struggling communities in NSW.

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