It’s easy to forget that just over a week ago Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down his first budget. Not long after, the Prime Minister fired the starters’ gun on the July election, so there wasn’t much time to check in detail what the budget offered Australian women or whether it treated you fairly.
The Opposition’s shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, laid out Labor’s plans for the budget in Canberra yesterday, giving us a fresh opportunity to look at what the major parties think about Australian women.
It’s clear the Turnbull Government still doesn’t get it when it comes to treating women equally or fairly.
Financial security is a big issue for women: not only do you earn less but you have fewer dollars to put into in your superannuation account. Last week’s budget was meant to encourage women back to work by providing better childcare and improving superannuation.
The Government claimed the budget would “help” women build up a better retirement nest egg by extending a scheme that it initially tried – and failed – to scrap. The scheme, originally created by Labor when it was in government, will provide around two million women on low incomes with a refund of the higher taxes they pay on some super contributions.
That’s not “help” but fixing a distortion in the superannuation system.
Good news for super:
- Allowing workers to put more funds into their spouse’s super
- Letting women with less than $500,000 in super make “catch-up” contributions
However these changes won’t help if you don’t have a spouse or can’t afford to put extra super payments away.
There was no good news either in the budget for those of you with children, or planning to start a family.
Bad news for mothers and women hoping to start families:
- The Turnbull Government stuck to the Abbott Government’s decision to stop new mothers from topping up base level, taxpayer-funded parental leave with payments from their employer. There will be no “double-dipping” under a government that Malcolm Turnbull leads.
- There was also zip in the budget for childcare; in fact the Government postponed improvements to childcare subsidies that were promised in last year’s budget. Now the increases won’t apply until July 2018. This is because the Government plans to cut other parenting payments and family tax benefits to help pay for the changes. It blames Labor for the postponement of the subsidy increase because the Opposition won’t support these other cuts.
What about funding to combat domestic violence? Surely the Turnbull Government put its money where its mouth was on this critical national issue?
Well not exactly.
Bad news for violence against women and children:
- The Government’s Women’s Safety Package provided $100 million for an advertising campaign, GPS trackers and an expansion of the national family violence counselling and information service. But it did not restore funding to legal centres and services cut by the Abbott Government.
Bad news for tax cuts:
- Only one in five women will earn enough to get the cut, while one in three men will benefit. Women with families but who earn less than $80,000 will get no tax cut and no childcare relief for another two years.
Single women on low incomes will still have little or no superannuation. And if any woman is experiencing domestic violence, there is a good chance she won’t be able to find legal support or another place to stay because of cuts made by the Abbott Government that have not been reversed by Malcolm Turnbull.
In contrast, the Labor Opposition has more women-friendly policies, but is yet to fully spell out how it will pay for them.
Good news for mothers and women hoping to start families:
- Labor is opposed to the Government’s proposed cuts to family tax benefits
- Labor supports new mothers getting parental leave payments from both the government and their employer
Good news for violence against women and children:
- Labor has promised $70 million to combat domestic violence, including $50 million for frontline legal services.
Good news for women at work
- Through its industrial arm, the union movement, Labor is also focused on getting better pay and conditions for working women.
The Prime Minister said on International Women’s Day earlier this year that gender equality was an economic and social priority for Australia, noting that when a woman is empowered, the whole economy and community benefits.
Mr Turnbull challenged his audience to do “all we can” to ensure women get the same economic and social opportunities as men, are respected, have a strong voice, are financially and economically secure, and are safe from violence.
The Turnbull Government’s first budget did not live up to this challenge. However it still has around eight weeks left during the election campaign to convince Australia’s women that it can do so.