‘The first step’: What the Women’s Budget Statement and a majority female government means in practice

‘The first step’: What the Women’s Budget Statement and a majority female government means in practice

Parliament House’s main committee room was packed yesterday for a celebration of the official Women’s Budget Statement and a government comprised, for the first time, of a majority 52 per cent women.

It seems that having more women in power leads to greater action towards gender equality. Now that there’s a majority of women leading the way, this Women’s Budget Statement is the first we’ve seen in a long time that places gender equity front and centre.

This gender responsive budgeting will see 96 per cent of Australian families get cheaper childcare and an 8 week boost to paid parental leave. Women’s safety is also a priority with $1.7 billion going towards support for the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children over the next decade, with a significant investment targeting community housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence or facing homelessness.

While change won’t happen immediately and there’s already calls for improvements in the Budget, the first steps taken offer hope for a more gender equal future. The gathering by government members yesterday was a celebration of progress.

Kicking off the event were addresses from members of the Albanese Labor Government– Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Minister for Women Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

“We have more women in senior positions across power than ever before,” said Albanese. “It makes the government function better because it is more representative of the population.”

“Women’s economic participation isn’t something that just benefits individual women, it doesn’t just benefit families. It benefits all of us.”

Following Albanese’s address, Gallagher made a powerful statement that included honouring the “community effort” that went into the 85-page document addressing gender equity in Australia.

“I’m privileged to be a part of a government where my job is made a lot easier because we started off wanting to achieve a gender equal Australia,” she said. “I don’t have to convince my colleagues of the need for that. It’s been an absolute privilege to work together.”

Gallagher added that she’s already been getting feedback about the document- both positive as well as on areas that need improvement–and reiterates that we should, “see this as the first step on the journey to a gender equal Australia.”

Echoing Gallagher’s praise for the effort that went into the creation of the document was Treasurer Jim Chalmers in his subsequent address.

Chalmers emphasised the importance of turning the work being done towards gender equality into something “routine” rather than “unusual”– a lesson learned from his colleague, Gallagher.

“This shouldn’t be unusual in a country like ours– a first world democracy like ours,” said Chalmers.

“That’s really our task, to make what we’re doing in the Women’s Budget Statement a no-brainer,” he says. “Because it is in so many different ways.”

Delving further into the Women’s Budget Statement, following ministerial addresses, was a panel of experts including Professor at UTS School of Business and former advisor to Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating, Dr Anne Summers AO;  Executive Director of Per Capita, Emma Dawson; Convenor of the Equality Rights Alliance, Helen Dalley-Fisher and Emeritus professor of politics at the ANU, Professor Marian Sawer AO.

The panellists emphasised that gender responsive budgeting needs to be front and centre in the national strategy in order to narrow the gender gap in Australia.

They also stressed that cultural change follows policy change and that the two occur together in a cycle, making this Women’s Budget Statement an important first step to true gender equality.

Countries around the world are taking actionable steps towards gender equality and the panellists say Australia can make great leaps as well by applying gender responsive budgeting and ensuring this is done through an intersectional lens.

Closing out the event with some final statements was Labor MP Sally Sitou who said, “This is a government that we have heard place women and gender equality front and centre of the budget and it’s something that I’m proud to be part of.”

“Finally and most importantly, I want to extend a thank you to everyone in the room tonight– to all the women and women advocates. We have spent so long being so dedicated to the cause.”

 

Women’s Agenda 27/10/22