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.This was stopped in 2014 under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
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, stepped into the breach to provide a gendered budget analysis since May 2017.
WOB is proud to support these significant reports which are accessible via the links below.
Summary of the 2018-2019 Gender Lens on the Budget Report.
Budget 2018-19 is not a great Budget for Women.
That said, it is the first Budget for some time when there have been two women (Sen. Michaelia Cash and Kelly O’Dwyer) members of the Expenditure Review Committee, and where the Minister for Women (O’Dwyer) is an avowed feminist and has expressly required the Office for Women to assist her in her role on the ERC.
Experience has taught us that sometimes as much work can go into preventing or subverting initiatives (expenditures or savings) in the ERC which might be hostile to women as goes into achieving positive measures for women.
So many initiatives which we consider might be of positive benefit for women are not in this Budget.
There remain however notwithstanding some individually beneficial measures (cf. changes to superannuation) not a few measures which will be desperately bad for women -- consider the proposal to garnishee welfare payments of beneficiaries who have unpaid fines … consider the rate at which this will impact Indigenous women, who already crowd our jails on non-payment of fines, or on women with intellectual disabilities.
Other measures have both beneficial and disincentive elements: Measures that reduce the tax payable by low income earners will disproportionately benefit women, as 85% of female taxpayers earn less than $90,000 compared to 72% of male taxpayers (ATO, 2018).
However the tax offset increases the effective marginal tax rate by 1.5% for taxpayers within the taper zone, which increases work disincentives for women and other low-income taxpayers. The potential to increase workforce participation by part time workers through a lower tax rate is therefore moderated by the effect of the taper rate.
We noted the Budget Statement circulated by Minister O’Dywer. We noted also her statement shortly before the Budget that we might expect a September Statement from her on measures to enhance women’s economic security. We understand that funds are in the budget for this Statement, even though its shape is not yet settled.
In the spirit of helpfulness, our budget analysts have put together some proposals for Minister O’Dwyer to consider for the September statement. We would be delighted to work collaboratively with her to progress some of the these.
At the top of our concerns is the total absence of effective policy and program responses to make housing more affordable and accessible. This affects the effectiveness of extending home care for the aged, crisis services for women and children impacted by domestic violence (especially Indigenous women), people’s ability to benefit from the NDIS- and their capacity to live while in receipt of Newstart – the problems are vast. Families, young adults, children, homeless women, are living in appalling poverty because of housing policy failure. No woman can be economically secure without affordable accessible housing.
Some specific initiatives for consideration in the September statement are set out below. We commend them to the Minister.
- NFAW recommends that a comprehensive gender-responsive national housing strategy be developed, as set out in our full list of recommendations. As a matter of urgency, we recommend that interim funding be provided to:
- increase the level of Commonwealth Rent Assistance to better meet the needs of renters;
- increase capital available through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement;
- increase and maintain the availability of remote housing; and
- support the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.
- NFAW recommends that the Australian Government match the Victorian Government’s $1.9 billion funding commitment as the best indicator of the quantum of funding required over the period of the Fourth Action Plan to achieve significant improvements in women’s safety.
- NFAW recommends that the Government provide additional funding to the Fair Work Ombudsmen to allow it to address high levels of non-compliance with basic workplace standards.
- NFAW strongly urges the Government to restore the funding of the five Working Women’s Centres.
- NFAW urges the Government to commit itself to fund a recurrent Time Use Survey.
- NFAW recommends that in its funding decisions and priorities the Government recognise and act on the significant role of TAFE in delivering a range of programs for women and girls.