With the 2019 Federal election coming so soon, we are shining the spotlight on the major parties and their comparative efforts to improve gender equality in Australia.
Historically, Australian women have continuously fought to have our lives and needs reflected in Government policy. Arguably, we haven’t seen it done particularly well since the Whitlam Government’s significant social policy reform in the 1970s. “For years, we have been thrown scraps by politicians who treat us as an interest group” writes Jacqueline Maley for The Age, “or a cute minority who can be bought off with a rehash of childcare funding or an announcement about breast cancer research”.
This election, we’re not only up against ongoing stagnation on the issues we care about, but actually having the clock wound back as our safety, reproductive health, bodily autonomy and financial security remain in the hands of our politicians (who are mostly men and say things like “if you have a go, you’ll get a go”). Meanwhile, accessing abortion still depends on our postcode and pollies are out to stop ‘rorting’ mothers accessing paid parental leave from ‘double-dipping’.
Just have a go, women.
With regards to current state of play, Jozefa Sobski AM, Convenor of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL), hit the nail on the head when she said;
“There is a widening “fairness gap” between Australian women’s rights to equal opportunities and equal treatment (as set out in Australian legislation and international conventions Australia has signed) and women’s daily and lifetime experiences. Girls increasingly are encouraged to believe they will experience equality and are all too often disappointed. Economic and social policies and systems that advantage men and disadvantage women are widespread. There is an inadequate understanding of how women and men are affected by existing and proposed or announced policies and initiatives of the major parties with the exception of those specifically directed to women.
Australia is a wealthy country, heading in the wrong direction towards increasing inequality and failing to meet the needs of its poorest people for a decent standard of living.”
As the election looms large, our attention remains firmly fixed on these matters of women and girl’s equal representation, economic security and health and safety.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) 2019 Federal Election Scorecard shows the Coalition’s lack of commitment to gender equality in its election promises. The Coalition’s all about jobs, however, and can boast a bottom-line highest rate of women’s participation in the workforce (60.6% during tenure) as a tick for gender equality. The Coalition has also made a public commitment to invest $78m into emergency accommodation and Safe at Home programs for women and children impacted by family violence and $82m for frontline services. However, Labor and the Greens outmatch this by more than double.
The Opposition have committed to a national strategy to address homelessness and provide low-income housing, and have announced an Indigenous health package. They’ve also committed an unprecedented $660m to federal domestic and family violence funding. Their proposal to increase the wages of childcare workers (without raising costs for families) is a game changer as it not only goes some way in reducing the gender pay gap but acknowledges the value of care work, and quality care work at that.
The Greens are demonstrating the most progressive social policy strategy for improving gender disparity. They’ve pledged to invest in public housing, free education, low-cost access to essential community services, and most significantly in what’s being called The Climate Change Election, climate change action. The negative impacts of climate change disproportionately affect society’s most vulnerable, being mostly women and young Australians. Across the world, young people are unrelenting in their pursuit of progressive climate policy.
Here’s our Government Policy Wishlist (and as long as this may be, these items are all essential to equality):
- The provision and sustainable funding of specialist domestic and family violence services for women escaping domestic violence or otherwise at risk of homelessness that are specialised, competent, accessible, culturally appropriate and safe
- Domestic violence leave be extended to 10 days and be fully paid leave
- A sustainably funded and properly implemented National Health Strategy for women’s maternal, sexual and reproductive health; chronic conditions and preventative health; healthy ageing; mental health and health impacts of violence against women and girls
- An equitable taxation system that works for middle- and low-income earners and as well as second income earners
- The complete revision of the superannuation system as a suitable retirement income system for all Australians, including the development and implementation of accumulation pathways for all income earners as well as carer credits
- A substantial increase of social services payments such as Newstart to reflect the cost of living for young people, single parents, older Australians and Australians living with disabilities, bringing them above the poverty line
- The abolition of ParentsNext
- Abolishing the extended waiting period for newly arrived migrants access to social service payments
- Stable funding and educational support for TAFE institutions to safeguarding vital pathways into work for women re-entering the workforce, for migrant women and women from low socioeconomic backgrounds
- Affordable rental housing and targeted social housing for the full range of diverse groups of women and children at risk of housing insecurity or homelessness
- Increase the representation of women with disabilities in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and access to mainstream employment
- Sufficient funding for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, to protect women with disabilities in domestic, medical, institutional, residential, support and prison settings
- The extension of parental leave pay to 26 weeks and partner pay to a minimum of 4 and to include superannuation
- The elimination of the gender wage gap by thorough investigation and address of unequal remuneration across industry, and by amending the Fair Work Act to provide a stronger focus and clearer guidance on equal remuneration
- Accessible and quality childcare available to all children irrespective of parents’ income, location, workforce participation, cultural or ethnic background through planned provisions, capped fees and better pay and conditions for early childcare educators and carers
- Comprehensive, inclusive and progressive sex education in schools, including emotional intelligence, gender and sexuality diversity and menstrual education
- Free menstrual products in all schools
- Strengthening women’s representation at decision-making levels by scrapping ‘meritocracy’ discourse and introducing quotas that legislate 50% of parliament and all publicly listed boards be occupied by women
- Action on climate change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet 2030 targets, enhance environment protection and waste and recycling schemes, and greater investment in renewable energy
- Collaborative engagement with advocacy organisations, such as yours truly, to inform public policy that goes to the heart of gender equity-economic status, violence against women, discrimination, poverty, and unfair treatment under the law.
This is as achievable as it is necessary. It is as Maley writes, “nothing short of a fundamental change to traditional family structures, and the tax policy based on those structures, will achieve genuine equality, and if that sounds radical, so be it.”
We’re after systemic change. For a government that demonstrates a working understanding of women’s lived realities, and trusts us as reliable witnesses to our own lives. One less about ‘politics’ and more about policies that deliver nationally consistent and adequately funded programs to cut through social inequality. We’re pushing for a government that truly understand that when we move marginalised people from margin to centre, everybody is better off.
With this wish list in mind and democracy snag in hand on Saturday, join us in taking our concerns to the ballot box.
Check out the following scorecards ahead of May 19:
- 2019 Election Scorecards from Other Organisations (compiled by WEL)