Malcolm Turnbull’s first budget is a big-taxing, big-spending budget that contains very little in it specifically for women – but if we read the fine print, there is some pleasing attention given to domestic violence victims, childcare funding and women’s mental health.
First – the pills: the Medicare levy will go up by half a percent to make sure the NDIS is fully funded - $55.7 billion over the next 10 years.
Since its inception under Julia Gillard, the NDIS has become bipartisan policy, and its stable funding is a boon for women, who overwhelmingly carry the burden of caring for the less-abled at home.
The government’s much-anticipated housing affordability measures will be welcome for anyone looking for a place to call their own – and research shows single women are outpacing men when it comes to buying property.
Smart women will be carefully examining Treasurer Scott Morrison’s superannuation-funded home deposit measure, where they can use up to $30,000 of voluntary superannuation contributions for a deposit – but young women who are tempted by this need to remember their superannuation is already (statistically) much lower than men’s – on average Australian women retire with about half the super men do.
The government will also invest in childcare, to the tune of $37.3 billion in funding over the years until 2021. This will go some way towards helping mothers return to work – but let’s stretch our memories long enough to recall this is the same government which stopped “double dipping” on maternity leave, massively cutting down the number of months new mothers can spend with their babies.
The homelessness package, part of the housing affordability blockbuster the government hopes will endear it to mortgage and rental-stressed voters - is good news for women. Women bear the brunt of homelessness, particularly older and separated women, and of course, those forced to flee their homes due to domestic violence.
The measures to claw back university debt will be a double-pronged pinch to women – both because more women now graduate from university than men (well done us), and because once they get out into the workplace, they earn less over their lifetimes, meaning the price of entry to the professional workforce is effectively higher for us than it is for our male counterparts.
The budget also gave us a big mental health package, which specifically includes provision for women suffering from post-natal depression - $80 million has been earmarked under the National Disability Insurance Scheme ledger to help people with mental illness, including eating disorders – which overwhelmingly affect women - and PND.
The Family Court system has been broken for a long time, and the government seems to have finally acknowledged this, commissioning a review into its workings, as well as $80 million in funding to boost family law and domestic violence services within the family justice system, which includes $3.4 million for additional domestic violence units.
Allegedly violent men who self-represent at court will no longer be able to cross-examine their (alleged) ex-partner victims – something which has long been a source of immense distress for women caught up in family violence.
Overall, with its funding for the needy, women have fared reasonably well from the 2017 budget.
However, there was nothing to address the gender pay gap or female poverty – both issues which continue to hold Australian women back from reaching true equality.