Thank you very much, Mr President,
I rise to provide a ministerial statement on the 2022-23 Women’s Budget Statement and I do so with great pride, Mr President.
I acknowledge my colleagues in the Women’s portfolio – the Minister for Women’s Safety Senator Ruston, the Minister for Women’s Economic Security Senator Hume, and the Assistant Minister for Women, Senator Stoker. I acknowledge the Prime Minister as co-chair of the Cabinet Taskforce for Women’s Safety and Economic Security.
Mr President, the Morrison Government’s commitment to improving the lives of Australian women and girls is founded on the right that each and every one girl and woman in Australia has to be safe and healthy, and to be treated equally. Equality is the foundation of a cohesive community and a strong, productive, prosperous economy.
The Women’s Budget Statement released with the Budget overnight builds on the strong foundations established by last year’s record investment of $3.4 billion in women’s safety, economic security and leadership, and health and wellbeing.
Our further commitment of $2.1 billion includes both new initiatives and the extension and expansion of initiatives that are underway and delivering. Our 2022-23 commitment brings our total investment to more than $5.8 billion since 2018 to improve the lives of women and girls across Australia.
Mr President, today women’s workforce participation has reached the highest level recorded at 62.4 per cent, with 1.1 million more women in work today than in 2013.
The gender pay gap has narrowed to 13.8 per cent which is significantly lower than the then 17.4 per cent gap that we inherited when we were elected in 2013.
We know the rates of violence against women remain unacceptably high, but we can see that awareness of family, domestic and sexual violence is improving and attitudes towards women are changing. And this government is working continuously with states and territories, with stakeholders, with frontline organisations, with communities, with victim survivors and many others to reduce those rates.
Currently, about 250,000 families with more than one child under five are benefitting due to our changes in relation to the childcare subsidy, from reduced out-of-pocket costs on child care, giving them greater flexibility and choice in the way they live and run their lives.
The Australian Government is committed to an Australia that is free from violence against women and children, and where women are safe at home, at work, at school, in the community and online.
This Budget includes a further $1.3 billion to improve outcomes for women’s safety. And I particularly acknowledge the Minister for Women’s Safety, Senator Anne Ruston for her leadership in bringing this package forward. This brings the Commonwealth’s investment in women’s safety to $2.5 billion to support the transition to, and implementation of, the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.
We know that ending violence requires the efforts of all levels of government, of business, of non-government organisations and of the community, and frankly of individuals of course themselves.
Our investment is targeted around prevention, early intervention, response and recovery.
Minister Ruston and I have been clear and consistent: to end gendered violence, we must prevent it from happening in the first place. That is why this Government is investing over $200 million in prevention initiatives.
We are expanding the role of the national prevention organisation, Our Watch, and extending the strong, successful Stop it at the Start campaign.
We are establishing a new national consent campaign, and investing more strongly in community-led prevention programs.
While we pursue that important goal of reducing and ultimately ending violence against women, it is critical that women have access to frontline services and get the support they need.
The Government is building on last year’s commitment, providing a further $480 million to response services.
That includes $240 million to extend the Escaping Violence Payment providing up to $5,000 for women escaping violence and beginning a new life.
That funding has already supported around 37,500 Australian women.
We are also committing new funding of over $290 million to enable victim-survivors to rebuild their lives.
In the New South Wales Illawarra region, we are investing $25 million to establish Australia’s first women’s trauma recovery centre. This will be a safe place for those women who have been in the most unsafe of situations. And we acknowledge those leaders who have been part of that work in the Illawarra in particular, in bringing this forward in this budget.
We are also spending $100 million on a further phase for the Safe Places Program for emergency and transitional accommodation, delivering about 720 new places.
For women who find themselves in violent households, the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program provides support to safely remain at home. Around 30,000 women will be supported this way.
We recognise, too, importantly, that the digital world is increasingly unsafe for women and that why this Budget provides over $31 million for online safety initiatives led by Julie Inman Grant, the eSafety Commissioner.
We will begin Phase 2 of the National Online Safety Campaign to help keep women and children safe online, and support the eSafety Commissioner to establish an Online Safety Community grants program for education and support projects for community, sporting and faith groups.
Women’s economic security
As a Government, we also have a strong focused on improving women’s economic security and I have referred to those factors of women’s workforce participation, the narrowing of the gender pay gap previously and I would also remind the Senate of the nearly 50-year low we see in women’s unemployment. These are important achievements, but we recognise that there is more to do.
This year’s investment of over $480 million in women’s economic security will focus on improving flexibility and choice for women in Australia. It will also support their entry into more diverse industries, into jobs of the future and into leadership positions.
We are investing over $346 million to establish Enhanced Paid Parental Leave (PPL) for Families. It will enable eligible working parents to share up to 20 weeks of fully flexible leave.
We are encouraging fathers to take Government paid leave in conjunction with employer-funded leave, in the same way in which women are currently able to do.
The Government is also broadening the paid parental leave income test to include a household income threshold of $350,000 per year.
Practically, this means eligible families will have full control over how they choose to use their paid leave, empowering them again to make decisions that work for them.
Further measures in this Budget are focused as well on helping women into higher-paying and diversified sectors.
Significant demand is forecast for the tech workforce. We are providing $3.9 million over two years to support more women into digitally skilled roles. This demonstrates our Government active creation of pathways for women to pursue, for example, a mid-career transition into higher paid careers in the tech workforce.
Achieving gender equality more broadly continues to be a priority for the Australian Government.
Earlier this month, our Government fulfilled a commitment from last year’s Women’s Budget Statement, releasing our review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
We will implement all ten recommendations of that review.
The Budget provides further resources for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to implement those recommendations, and to support the private sector – the largest employer of women in Australia – to close the gender pay gap and increase women’s workforce participation.
Madam acting Deputy President, we know that having women in leadership positions ensures more balanced decision-making, provides role models and mentors for the next generation of young girls and it works to reduce the gender pay gap.
We are making a further investment of over $18 million for the Women’s Leadership and Development Program because we know that great leaders also start young.
We are expanding the successful Future Female Entrepreneurs program to develop and grow women’s core entrepreneurial skills. Australia has world-leading female entrepreneurs – for example Melanie Perkins, the CEO and co-founder of the tech start-up Canva, and Kayla Itsines, who is using the power of technology and Apps to become one of the world’s most successful online fitness entrepreneurs. Future Female Entrepreneurs is an opportunity to grow even more of them.
To support women facing unique barriers to leadership and employment we are also expanding the Future Women’s Jobs Academy.
I do believe that you can’t be is if you can’t see it. To aim high, it helps to see others who have had and taken the opportunity to lead and achieve and I am very proud of the role of the Women’s Leadership and Development Program in what it is doing across Australia, touching tens of thousands of Australian women in its work. And on International Women’s Day I launched a new Women’s Leadership and Development Program open competitive grants round, inviting organisations to apply under the Lead and Succeed grant opportunity that will support projects that will address structural and systemic barriers that can impede women’s employment and progression to leadership.
Health and wellbeing
The health of women and girls is critical to their overall wellbeing and their ability to fully participate in society and the workforce.
In this Budget, we are investing over $330 million over four years to support the health and wellbeing of women and girls at every stage of their lives.
We are investing in endometriosis support, in breast and cervical cancer screening and support for families who have experienced stillbirth or miscarriage.
I would venture to stay Madam acting Deputy President that there is not a senator in this place, or a member in the House of Representatives who has not through their personal life, their family life and their professional life, encountered a woman who is dealing with those challenges, particularly the ones that I have specifically mentioned here today. And as a member of the government I have seen the response to these announcements to be deeply moving and profoundly important for the many women who deal with issues such as endometriosis and of course the many who deal with cancer diagnosis of breast and cervical cancer.
Addressing inequities in health care, not only between women and men, but between different groups of women and girls, is a key focus of our National Women’s Health Strategy.
We are investing $4.2 million to fund community-led initiatives and organisations to support women and girls at higher risk of poorer health outcomes, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, on migrant and refugee women, on older women and women with disabilities.
Madam acting Deputy President, I bring the Women’s Budget Statement here this afternoon in this ministerial statement, the second Women’s Budget Statement delivered by the Morrison Government.
Its focus is important. Its focus on women’s safety, on women’s economic security, on women’s leadership and development is important for Australian women and girls. But in doing so, I acknowledge, and I believe my colleagues acknowledge that although we have made substantial progress in the development of these Women’s Budget Statements, and their predecessors, the Women’s Economic Security Statements, that we know there is more to do. And that’s why these plans are in this Women’s Budget Statement and that is our commitment to the future for Australian women and girls.