Joe Hockey, Australia's treasurer, speaks during a news conference inside the budget lock-up at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Mark Graham
Terrorism. Drought. Iron Ore.
Those were the headlines last night from Joe Hockey's second Budget.
But they were not the headlines women needed to read.
Instead of showing us the money, there is a clear indication that the money will run out.
There was also no news of ways to ensure women could make their way back into the workforce. And no news of a fair and equitable paid parental leave scheme. Instead, women who were counting on being able to combine their employer's scheme with the government scheme to get maximum time with their babies may find themselves writing to their senators, imploring them to knock back the government's plan to slash access.
When Joe Hockey said, "so today we have taken steps to continue repairing the Budget with sensible savings and a prudent approach to spending," what he really meant was cuts to those services which support the vulnerable.
So here are the top ten ways in which this Budget hurts women. And that's before we get to spend weeks combing through the figures to find exactly where the billions of dollars of cuts are coming from.
1. The government tried to get the bad news out of the way first. But mothers have long memories. Tony Abbott's paid parental leave for women of calibre (and others less worthy) has now been downgraded to paid parental leave where it is most expedient. About half of new mothers will lose access to the full $11,500 available under the federal government's existing scheme from July 2016. On the way to announcing the changes, Abbott and co used words like double-dipping, rorting and fraud. There's still time to squeeze another one out before the cut off date – or better still write to your senator and explain why motherhood is not a crime.
2. Changes to childcare will see the most vulnerable kids excluded from childcare. Parents can now get 24 hours of the means-tested Child Care Benefit per child each week without no work or study test – but that will change. If you want to be eligible for childcare subsidies, you will need to work or study. But some women are entirely marginalised from either work or study – and it's their kids who may need the most support.
Lisa Bryant, an early childhood consultant, says: "We know that especially for vulnerable children, early education care is vitally important."
"The Minister has made it clear that looking for work will be an acceptable activity to pass the new Activity Test that access to subsidised childcare will depend on. However the three tiered activity test which provides more funded childcare for women the more hours they work is complex.
"The uncertainty of how much care a mother will be eligible for will make some women - especially those in casual jobs - hesitant to re-enter the workforce."
3. Community legal centres work in the front line, protecting women from domestic violence. Liana Buchanan, Executive Officer of Federation of Community Legal Centres in Victoria, says funding looks to increase next year – or at least stay the same – but then it drops away in 2017.
Her view: The government has deferred cuts to front line services until after a federal election but is still maintaining its plans to decimate free legal help including helping women escaping family violence."
She also says that the figures are being reported in an entirely different way this year for the first time – making it very difficult to accurately compare, year on year.
4. Planned cuts to family tax benefits (but we'd have to imagine they'd end up stuck in the senate just like most of last year's planned cuts). And other proposed changes to Family Tax Benefit B? As Chris Bowen told Stuart Bocking of 2UE last night, "That's a cut once children turn six. Kids don't get cheaper once they turn six."
Nope. They have to leave home before they get cheaper. And that's more likely to be 26.
5. The 2015 Health Budget is a bloodbath, says Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Public Health Association of Australia. He says $1.7 billion worth of funding cuts have been flagged across funded programs over the next four years, particularly targeting 'Health Flexible Funds".
He says: "The Flexible Funds are how we fund specific services for women, shelters, services that act to prevent violence against women.
"That money goes to the most vulnerable in our community, single mothers who rely on the front line services which will be affected."
6. Yes, we needed to get our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme sorted. But removing over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol from the PBS will have an immediate and costly effect on those living in constant pain– and Alison Verhoeven , Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association, says that's mostly women.
"It might only be one or two dollars each time, but for those living with chronic pain such as those with osteoarthritis, changes to the listing of over-the-counter medicines such as slow-release paracetamol will impact their budgets.
"The PBS savings have a sting in the tail."
7. The part of the public service that cops the biggest brunt of insecurity around jobs, health and education are those who work at the Department of Human Services. Nadine Flood, the federal secretary of the public sector union, says Human Services has once again been ignored by the Federal Government.
"Women both rely on – and make up most of the workforce – at Human Services.
"Our customer aggression surveys show staff at Medicare and Centrelink face an unprecedented level of abuse.
"This Budget does nothing to address the waiting times," says Flood.
And new insecurity around childcare changes and parental leave will do nothing to stop the abuse either.
8. No serious attempt to fix employment participation – which is toughest for women who have caring responsibilities.
John Falzon, the national CEO of St Vincent de Paul, says this Budget continues to ramp up inequality.
"The childcare package is a case in point where the government could find money to fund nannies for the rich but only at the expense of the poor.
"As far as employment participation goes, there is a big zero in this budget."
He says the government has a punitive attitude to those who've been locked out of the labour market, such as those with disabilities or sole parents.
"The language is around trying to encourage sole mothers into the workforce through punitive measures.
"Childcare subsidies will only be given to those who are in work – the government is not acknowledging the value of caring or that the labour market is unfriendly to people with family responsibilities"
"This budget is no down payment on fairness. It has papered over the unfairness of last year.
9. And guess who will be hardest hit by this attack on the charity sector? Yes, women, who dominate the not-for-profit and community sector, will be most affected by a decision to cap salary sacrificing at $5000. It was one way of compensating for the poor pay and long hours in the sector but the government claims it was being exploited.
Wouldn't you love to have a long look at exactly how politicians exploit their benefits?
10. Superannuation. The government trumpeted its inaction on super tax perks. And the gap between women's super and men's super has turned into a chasm.
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