Women lose in 2017 Budget

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Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and others at the launch of the Women’s Budget Statement 2017, 11/5/17, Parliament House (Image

An IA reader wanted to know how the 2017 Budget affects women. Political editor and IA press gallery correspondent Dr Martin Hirst went in search of answers in Canberra.

WELL, I DIDN'T KNOW THIS, but from 1983 to 2013, the annual budget papers contained a statement about how the fiscal and financial decisions would affect women — either positively, or negatively.

It was a tradition started by Paul Keating under Labor and continued right up until the election of Tony Abbott in 2013.

There was no government statement of the budget’s impact on women in 2014. However, the ALP decided to continue the tradition from opposition.

This year, IA was invited to attend a morning tea to launch the “Women’s Budget Statement 2017”, held in the Labor Party rooms.

It was a packed house of some 200 MPs and invited guests, Tanya Plibersek, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen made brief speeches, which seemed to inspire the sympathetic crowd and I had a glass of water — but no cucumber sandwiches, lamingtons or chopped salami.

The unmistakable theme of the morning tea was that, in general, most women will be worse off under the 2017 Budget than they would have been without some of the signature policies, such as giving corporations a $50 billion tax cut and pushing up fees for university students.

As Bill Shorten noted in his comments to the morning tea, women are “going backwards” under the Coalition Government.

Mr Shorten said:

“The Treasurer says there are better days ahead, but there are only worse days ahead for women who work in retail, or hospitality.” 

It’s hard not to agree when you look at some of the data.

Inaugural ALP Women's Budget Statement, Thursday, 11 May 2017

A freeze on funding for the National Women’s Alliances, which will further marginalise women’s voices in national debates.

Since the 2013 election, Australia has dropped nearly 30 places in the Global Gender Gap survey.

The continuing freeze on Medicare rebates disproportionally affects women. Research shows that women are more price-sensitive to seeking medical help than men.

More than half of all tertiary students are women and they will be paying more for their degrees, women then tend to go into lower paying jobs and will therefore be disproportionally hit with having to repay their fee-help loan from the earlier graduating salary threshold of $42,000.

The Coalition’s thimble and pea trick on tax cuts also disadvantages women, the removal of the Budget Repair Levy will benefit almost three times as many men as women, but the new Medicare levy increase affects everyone.

Labor has also identified inequalities in the housing affordability provisions of the Budget because of structural barriers to women being able to access them. Lower incomes, pay inequality and child-care responsibilities all impact more on women.

Changes in income support measures, such as Newstart parenting payments and so on, also negatively impact women who, for example make up 94 per cent of parenting payments. Cuts to Family Tax Benefits also disproportionally affect women.

Women also make up the vast majority of pensioners and carers and cuts in these areas will mostly be borne by women.

Labor is pledging to fight many of the cuts in the Senate and so there is no guarantee that many of the measures having the worst impact on women will not be either stalled or amended.

ALP Senator for Western Australia Louise Pratt spoke exclusively to Independent Australia about the impact of the 2017 Budget on women.

You can follow political editor Doc Martin on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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