Budget brickbats and bouquets

Australia has not had a Women's Budget Statement since it was dropped in 2014 by then Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Tony Abbott. While many felt it was insufficiently resourced the principal around the statement was important. 

Why do we need a women's budget statement? Surely the budget impacts equally on men as well as women?
According to the highly respected National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), the statement is critical for gender equity and for meeting our obligations to women and girls around the world. NFAW, the non-profit body from which Women on Boards grew, has stepped into the breach to provide a gendered budget analysis for the past three years. Its analysis is due out in 10 days or so.

Australia was a pioneer in gendered budget analysis. From 1983 to 2013, the federal government produced a Women’s Budget Statement, while state and territory governments were also among the first in the world to scrutinise annual budgets for their impact on women and girls.

As this excellent article in Women's Agenda in 2016 reads: "Most government policies these days look gender neutral. But in substance, government policy often has a different impact on women and men, in distributing benefits and burdens of taxes and spending."

In the lead-up to the 2017 budget a number of groups including NFAW, ActionAid Australia, the Women’s Electoral Lobby and Fair Agenda, are urging Australians to sign their petition demanding the statement be reinstated. 

As Susan Ryan said, the Statement is needed in order to tell us just how well the budget is meeting the needs of women. “The Budget had been designed by men, for men and before the Statement was introduced, everyone assumed that would work for women as well. It didn’t, obviously.”

As we all know, the federal budget impacts tax and spending in areas such as work, childcare, health and education differently for all Australians. It also impacts different socio-economic groups differently and frequently women and children are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to the capacity to access resources to solve life’s challenges.

However, despite there almost being no mention of women in this years’ budget there is positive news for women. Women’s refuges will receive long-term funding under a new Commonwealth/State funding arrangement - the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA). Beginning in 2018/19 the new agreement aims to improve the states’ accountability with mutually agreed, measurable actions between the Commonwealth and the States.

Congratulations to the Women’s Electoral Lobby who has worked vigorously for the past two years to ensure that women’s refuges are funded long-term. For too long the short-term funding of women’s refuges has resulted in a lack of crisis accommodation for women and girls escaping violence and abuse. The attention of state and federal governments to addressing domestic violence has been very welcome in recent years. Thanks to tireless campaigners such as Rosie Batty and other men, women and children whose lives have been forever impacted by violence and abuse, the real cost of this scourge in our society is starting to be measured and its impacts addressed. 
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