Parental Leave and family tax benefits
The government continues with their policy of stripping women of any top up payments for paid parental leave from their employer. This means that 80 000 new mums each year will need to make the choice between staying at home to care and returning to work to financially support their family.
Many families have planned on being able to take the 18weeks government funded PPL and extend their parental leave using the leave entitlements that they have negotiated with their employer. This would get families closer to the 26weeks of parental care that is internationally recognised as the minimum standard to promote the health of the mother and the developmental needs of newborns.
This government, under Tony Abbott, came into power on the back of significant promises to make comprehensive parental leave a reality. They have reneged on every promise.
Low income families receive a double hit as a result of substantial cuts to Family Tax Benefits including cuts of
- $1700 per year for single parents with children over 13
- $726 per child per annum (FTB-A) and $354 per child per annum (FTB-B) by phasing out end of year supplements
- Up to $3000 -$5000 per annum by abolishing the School Kids Bonus
Right now, many women are living their final years in poverty. Women make up more than half of Australia’s aged pensioners. Also women have less superannuation than men because of them being excluded from superannuation historically and because of interrupted work patterns due to time out to care for families.
- The average superannuation payout for women is half that of men.
- One in three women retire with no super at all.
- In Australia, women working full-time today earn 18 per cent less than men.
Women retire earlier, live longer and have less super, therefore they rely more heavily on the aged pension.
The government has made significant cuts in this area that affect women directly including
- Increasing the retirement age to 70 years by 2035. This means more women are likely to live in poverty in the years between retirement and gaining access to the pension.
- Changing assets test.
Superannuation is also not paid on the government’s parental leave payment, meaning women are falling further behind.
Community Legal Services
Community legal centres provide vital services to women escaping family violence, but they are being stripped of their funding under Malcolm Turnbull's Government.
Every year, 160,000 people who need help, including thousands of women affected by family violence, are denied the legal services and support they need because of inadequate funding. The system is broken, and the dedicated people providing community legal services are powerless to fix it. They simply need more resources.
But Malcolm Turnbull's Government will cut $35 million from Community Legal Services between 2017-2020, meaning even more women will be turned away from the help they need.
In addition, Commonwealth funding for Working Women’s Services in Queensland, South Australian and the Northern Territory, will end on 30 June 2016. This represents a cut of $ 1,133,000. These services have existed under governments of all persuasions in the past, providing vital information and assistance to women who have no means or capacity to seek advice elsewhere.
The shortage of affordable and high quality childcare means many Australian women find it difficult to return to work after having a child. It is unfair, and further exacerbates gender pay inequality.
But the Abbott/Turnbull government has tied any increases to childcare funding, to cuts to family payments and paid parental leave - literally trading one child’s needs off against another.
Under the proposed childcare package 1 in 3 families will be worse off.
And even as their skills are more sought after than ever, childhood educators are being denied the pay and respect they deserve.
The Federal Government should be investing in high quality childcare for every family, to support children's development and their parents workforce participation, but Malcolm Turnbull clearly does not view it as a "jobs and growth" priority.
There is no proposed fee relief on the costs of childcare until 2018 and beyond, and the 2016 budget failed to provide any funding to continue the Universal Access to Preschool program beyond 2017; a huge backwards step for Australia.
Hoping to avoid controversy prior to the election very little was said about higher education funding in the last budget however funding cuts of 20% to universities and deregulation of student fees, leading to courses which cost $100,000, are still government policy.
As a result, any student whose parents cannot afford the enormous cost of upfront university fees will either be denied an education, or be burdened with decades of debt. The wealth divide in Australia will widen as working class kids seeking a professional career are shackled to debt before they've even begun their careers.
The government also proposes to reduce HECS repayment thresholds meaning more will need to paid back sooner, even when on incomes as low as $ 40,000. So graduates who dedicate themselves to social and community work, or who have children, will be the hardest hit by debt. This will disproportionately impact on women.
$152 million has been cut from the Higher Education and Partnership Programme (HEPP) that specifically provided assistance to support disadvantaged students.
The government also propose to promote access to university funding, a model that failed spectacularly in vocational education and training. The stories of students being exploited by disreputable private providers are now regularly in the news.
Women's access to higher education is at stake.
When taking over as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Australians that he will treat family violence as a national priority. In fact in the latest budget gives little priority to the issue. The budget included only an extra $33 million to address violence against women and children nationally - compared to the $572million Victoria has committed.
In addition to the cuts to the vital community legal centres, $270 million has been cut from funding to community services which means many that provide vital support to women were defunded or had to scale back services.
$44 million each year has been cut from capital funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. This means reduced funding to build accommodation and shelters for those fleeing family violence.
There are 4.5 million workers in Australia who rely on penalty rates to make up their regular income. Women make up the majority of these workers who include nurses, midwives, retail workers and hospitality workers. Cuts to weekend penalty rates for workers such as nursers can mean a substantial cut in their actual take home pay.
Although the Liberals are currently shy about their intentions for Penalty Rates, they have repeatedly stated that they view weekend wages as a "burden".
Women in Australia continue to take home on average $77.70 less than there comparable male colleagues, just because they are women. Cuts to penalty rates in female dominated industries will see this wage inequality grow.
In other ways, like restricting a fair wage outcome for Commonwealth public servants, the government also compounds the unfairness for women as the majority of workers impacted by these restriction of public service bargaining are women.
Gonski school funding
Despite promises before the last election, the Federal Government has refused to commit to the last two years of Gonski funding and to a needs based funding model for schools. This means an effective cut of federal government funding to schools of $29 million over the next decade, with kids not getting the individual attention they need to thrive.
It also means that more Commonwealth government money will continue to go to wealthier schools.
According to the Budget papers, private schools will receive 62% of the $600 million in additional funding in 2018 and 2019 and public schools 38%.
As a result, low-income women with children will continue to see their children miss out, and teachers will continue to be frustrated by under-resourcing.
Medicare & Bulk Billing
The most recent federal budget slashes bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology. This means that patients are likely to be charged upfront for important tests like pap smears, mammograms, x-rays and blood and urine tests. We know for women who have tight budgets this will mean putting off testing.
The result? Poorer health outcomes for lower-income women.
Women make up 60% of all GP visits in Australia. They also take on the role of ‘health care manager’ for our families, so it is women who will notice the cuts to health first.
This government has put an effective freeze on the amount the government pays GPs for their services. This has led to out of pocket expenses (via co-payments) for patients as doctors become less able to rely on bulk bilking to cover costs.
By abolishing the Child Dental Benefits scheme, this government has taken $1 billion away from Commonwealth spending on dental care.
The government has also refused to guarantee future funding to secure the Breastfeeding Helpline and the National Perinatal Depression initiative.