Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spent 30 minutes explaining his Budget to the nation last night. Just five minutes was spent on women.
In those five minutes, he suggested around $2 billion in measures for women’s security and health issues – things like alleviating domestic violence ($1.3bn), enhancing skills and the treatment of cancer.
Worthy causes and vote winning ideas.
But there was nothing which would significantly change the financial security of Australian women into the future.
There was some good news: Single parents (mostly women) will now be able to access the full 20 weeks of paid parental leave; couples will get greater flexibility in deciding how paid leave is divided between them (thought some suggest this will mean fewer men will chose to be primary carer).
And of course, women stand to benefit from cost of living measure, and a few of the tax offsets. And the one off $250 bonus for pensioners and welfare recipients and te $1,500 tax cut for 10 million earning under $126,000 a year.
There is $107 million over five years to promote women in leadership, including $37 million to support women in trades.
But that’s small change and does nothing to address the most important central issues affecting tens of thousands of women right now – gender equality in pay and super savings – see no progress at all.
There isn’t any excuse for this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking Australia is on the ropes as a result of the pandemic or the war in Europe.
We have one of the best performing economies in the world, with the lowest unemployment rates in decades and wage rates predicted at last to rise.
Sure, the cost of living is rising. But wages are also expected to rise.
No, what happened here was a cynical exercise in political opportunism. Josh knows people are focussed on the supermarket and the bowser. So he’s tossed a few coins into the pot – it only lasts six months – to alleviate that immediate pressure.
But don’t think Labor is any better.
Not only did Labor’s Jim Chalmers shamefully repudiate its policy of paying super on parental leave, a policy it took the election last time out, but it is planning NOT to challenge the government on this vital issue.
Chalmers were challenged after suggesting the policy was now dead in the water – and immediately backflipped, saying Labor was still to decide.
When Really Simple Money rang today to ask about the future of the policy, we were told Labor would decide after the Budget – effectively giving Josh the lead.
Let’s see what’s in the Labor Leader Anthony Albanese’s Budget reply. But don’t hold your breath.
Here are the facts: One third of Australian women end up with little or no retirement savings after a lifetime of work or bringing up kids, and women aged 55 and over are the fastest growing group in the country.
Hesta, the largest superannuation fund dedicated to Australia’s health and community services sector (mostly women) said:“Our super system has a persisting gender blind spot that sees women retire with almost a third less super than their male counterparts.”
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said: “Eighty percent of HESTA members are women, and those who raise children continue to pay an unfair financial penalty through inadequate super balances, leaving too many vulnerable to poverty as they age.”
Ms Blakey added there are important reforms Australia’s next Government should deliver in its first term, including paying super on Commonwealth paid parental leave and introducing a superannuation carer credit for new parents to help get their super balances back on track following unpaid parental leave.
The super fund said almost eight in 10 members supported a super carer credit where the Government makes a super contribution to fill part of the super gap that arises during unpaid parental leave.
“Women predominately take on the primary caring role, making an enormous contribution to our economy and society through raising children,” Ms Blakey said. “Our super system needs to recognise this by helping new parents get their retirement savings back on track, ensuring they’re not penalised with financial insecurity later in life.”
The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) was also disappointment at the Federal Government’s failure to take more action to improve retirement savings outcomes for women.
AIST CEO Eva Scheerlinck said the Government had missed another opportunity to improve the fairness of the superannuation system by not introducing the measures the peak body for profit-to-member funds had been calling for on behalf of millions of working Australians.
“We’re disappointed the Government has failed to take action such as introducing super on paid parental leave, assessing the financial coercion of women using the early release of super scheme in the early days of the pandemic, and more effectively addressing the gender pay gap,” Ms Scheerlinck said.
“This is in addition to-recommitting to the legislated timetable for increasing the super guarantee (SG) increase to 12% by 2025, which would help all working Australians.”
Ms Scheerlinck said parental leave was the last paid leave without super, a situation which disadvantaged women most because they accounted for more than 90% of all parental leave taken by primary carers.
“For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 67 cents on average, and women have 40% less superannuation on retirement and live longer,” she said.
“Closing this anomaly would allow parents to continue building their retirement savings while taking time out of the paid workforce to care for children and family.
“Although the Government has extended the length of paid parental leave by two weeks in this Budget, it’s disappointing this was not accompanied by an announcement it would include super.”