It was billed as the budget for women. But was it? The government’s package for women cost $3.4 bn and ran to an unprecedented 81 pages.
But does it stand up to the coffee shop test?
If you have young children or are caught in a dysfunctional relationship, it certainly was. The child care payments will allow thousands of women to step back onto the work ladder without crippling costs of looking after the offspring.
And the government has at last conceded that it needed to do much more for those trapped in relationships that don’t work or are even physically abusive.
But the superannuation gap is still a yawning chasm and needed to be dealt with using sop up payments, special payments while women are caring for children and out of the workforce.
And while the low income tax cuts will help women, many of whom have jobs paying less than their male counterparts, some still feel a little let down after such a momentum of publicity about equality.
Here’s what the 2021/22 said about female finance:
The 2021‑22 Women’s budget Statement provides a $3.4 billion so that women can be “safe from violence, economically secure, realise their potential and enjoy good health”.
Says the Treasurer: “We have established a dedicated Cabinet Taskforce, bringing together key ministers, including all women in the Ministry, to apply their expertise, and the experiences of their communities, to better coordinate, inform and address critical issues facing women in Australia.
“Women in visible positions of leadership are vital as role models to bring about cultural change, and to ensure respect for women in the workplace. That is why the Ministry changes announced on 29 March 2021 maintain the record representation of women in Cabinet for an Australian Government.”
The 2021‑22 Women’s budget Statement builds on previous commitments and is focused on three priorities:
- women’s safety;
- women’s economic security;
- women’s health and wellbeing.
The Budget statement says: “The Government is steadfast in its commitment to reducing and preventing family, domestic and sexual violence.
“Preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment is central to advancing both women’s safety and economic security and is a priority for our Government.”
Supporting victims of violence
The $1.1 billion package of initiatives includes:
- Financial support for women and their children who leave a violent relationship; and
- Additional emergency accommodation for women and children experiencing family and domestic violence.
Assistance to navigate the legal system
The Government is also committed to providing legal support for women to access justice and navigate the legal system. This includes:
- $129 million in increased funding for legal assistance services, to ensure that women can access the justice system;
- $101.4 million to increase access to Children’s Contact Services, to ensure that separated parents are able to safely manage the contact and changeover of their children;
- $85 million to expand family law frontline services to ensure that each family law court with a permanent judge has access to Family Advocacy and Support Services; and
- $60.8 million to directly fund reform of the family law courts, to significantly shorten the time separating families spend in litigation.
Safe at work
The Government is implementing the Respect@Work Report response, working with the states and territories and employers to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Government is committed to building a culture of respect in Australia, including creating safe and supportive working environments. The Government will provide $20.5 million for the implementation of the response to the Respect@Work Report.
This includes funding of $5.3 million for initiatives such as primary prevention programs and research into sexual harassment.
In addition, this budget will provide funding for frontline support to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Government is providing $6 million to enhance the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to better prevent and respond to workplace sexual harassment.
The Government is providing $26.2 million to improve the safety of online spaces for women and children. This includes:
- a new program supporting children experiencing technology-facilitated abuse;
- funding to bolster the eSafety investigations team;
- a pilot program to develop cutting edge software to investigate intimate images shared without consent; and
- a new National Online Safety Awareness Campaign.
Affordable child care
The Government is investing an additional $1.7 billion in child care, to increase the subsidy for the second and subsequent child. The annual cap will also be removed from 1 July 2022. Reducing disincentives to work will add up to 300,000 hours of work per week to the Australian economy, the equivalent of around 40,000 individuals working an extra day per week. This change is expected to boost the level of GDP by up to $1.5 billion per year, with 250,000 Australian families expected to benefit.
This builds on the Government’s existing funding for women to participate in the workforce, including $9.7 billion in annual child care support, $2.3 billion in annual paid parental leave and a further $359.4 million through the 2018 and 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statements.
Security in retirement
The Government is committed to improving retirement incomes for women. The removal of the $450 per month superannuation threshold will expand the superannuation guarantee, improving coverage and increasing retirement savings, particularly for women.
The Government is providing a pathway to home ownership by establishing the Family Home Guarantee to support single parents with dependants (who are predominantly women) to enter or re-enter the housing market.
Women in leadership
Having women in visible positions of leadership is central to cultural change, ensuring respect for women in the workplace and providing role models for women in their chosen careers.
Building on the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement, the Government is providing $38.3 million to expand the successful Women’s Leadership and Development Program.
Funding will help improve outcomes for women in areas such as job creation, economic security, safety and international engagement.
This funding will enable successful Women@Work projects to continue. This will help ensure girls and women, including those from diverse backgrounds, are able to pursue the careers of their choice.
Quality career outcomes
The Government is supporting women to reach their potential in the workforce. It is investing $43.6 million to enable women to pursue STEM qualifications and is expanding the National Careers Institute Partnership Grants program to provide more career opportunities for women.
Encouraging participation in sport
The Government is providing $17 million to inspire girls to play sport taking advantage of Australia hosting the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2022 and the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup in 2023. Funding is also assisting women to become accredited as coaches or officials and encouraging more Indigenous women to participate in sport.
The Government is committed to ensuring Australian women can access the services they need at every stage of life for their health and wellbeing.
The Government is providing $16.6 million for ongoing programs that cover maternal, sexual and reproductive health, and $5 million for pelvic pain and endometriosis support.
$13.7 million is being provided to the Women and Infants Research Foundation, to expand nationally across Australia from a successful Western Australian trial. The program aims to reduce the rate of pre-term birth, which is currently over eight per cent.
The Government is supporting Medicare funded genetic testing for pregnant women at risk of having a child with a serious genetic disorder, as well as treatment for women with breast defects from breast surgery, breast cancer or congenital breast deformity.
Gynaecology services funded by Medicare will be reformed to ensure women receive best practice healthcare, and face lower out-of-pocket costs.
Women will have more affordable access to essential and lifesaving medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). From 1 April 2021, the Government has funded amended PBS listings for women with certain types of breast cancer. Without the PBS subsidy, patients might pay around $50,000 per course of treatment. Instead, women will now pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card.
These measures are part of the Government’s record funding for health, with total spending to increase from $98.3 billion in 2021-22 to $103.2 billion in 2024-25.
Cultural and linguistic diversity
The Government will provide $10.3 million to extend the Temporary Visa holders payment pilot for women experiencing family and domestic violence. The Government is also investing $29.3 million in migrant and refugee women’s safety, social inclusion and economic participation.
In addition, the Government will provide $6.8 million for better family, domestic and local level prevention initiatives for diverse communities.
Funding for Indigenous women and their families
The Government will invest $57.6 million to better support Indigenous women and children who have experienced or are experiencing family violence. Funding will improve the capability of service providers, facilitate co-designed, place based initiatives to reduce family violence and implement a new dedicated Indigenous survey.
The Government is also providing $63.5 million for 2,700 places at Indigenous girls academies, helping Indigenous girls to complete year 12 and realise their potential. In addition, $13.9 million will fund local approaches to social enterprise-driven solutions for Indigenous women’s economic recovery.
Funding will contribute to the Closing the Gap targets and better outcomes for Indigenous Australians. It will complement measures that will be announced in the Commonwealth’s Implementation Plan.
Women with disability
The Government will invest $9.3 million in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls with disability.