“Gee, it’s surprising this budget hits women the hardest,” said no one ever.
There was Treasurer Joe Hockey, standing proudly in parliament, resplendent in his blue tie, flanked by four women.
(I guess it’s easy to get the Coalition women into such a small space, given there are so few of them. Although I swear I could hear some, knocking on the door outside…)
“It’s time for all of us to contribute,” he intoned, before announcing permanent cuts to welfare, the public service and international aid, and a temporary tax on the rich.
Linking pension increase to inflation instead of wages from 2017, and raising the eligibility age to 70, affects all pensioners.
But almost 60 per cent of full-age pensioners are women, because they have less superannuation than men due to raising children/the gender pay gap/longer life expectancy.
Of course, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs: The Treasurer wants to give people “every opportunity to participate in the workforce” by offering businesses $10,000 to hire over-50s.
It’s a welcome initiative, but many older women won’t qualify unless they’ve been on unemployment benefits, or the Disability Support Pension, for six months.
On the whole, women receive more welfare than men because they do the bulk of the unpaid work in our communities.
Think about it: Who cares for the sick, elderly and disabled?
From 2015, family tax benefits will be tightened, with those on sole incomes – who receive part B – to lose the payment when their youngest child turns six.
And who make up the bulk of sole carers? Women, at a staggering 83 per cent.
”Staying at home should be a parents’ choice but there are limits to how much support the taxpayer can give,” Mr. Hockey said in his budget speech, after smoking a stogie.
Well, where’s the support to help these women transition into the workforce?
The cheap and accessible child care? The training in new skills? The bribes to business? Put simply, where’s the carrot for single parents? Or are they only worth the stick?
Alternatively, “women of calibre” will be looked after under the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
(We’ll have to wait until the Productivity Commission report in July to find out whether this will be scaled back from the new threshold of $100,000, and childcare expanded, as recommended by the Commission of Audit.)
When you look at the big picture of job cuts and creation, the gender bias is clear.
The public service will be slashed by 16,000. Who makes up 57 per cent of the APS? Yep – women.
Job creation centres on infrastructure and defence, which are industries dominated by men.
One of the biggest savings is $7.6 billion over five years from international development assistance, primarily aimed at women and children.
In the words of Cassandra Goldie, the CEO of ACOSS, “All of this will come together in a perfect storm to impact on the lowest income people”.
And who earns the least? Generally, women.
(Perhaps we should be thanking our lucky stars there are so few of us earning more than $180,000 a year. At least we avoid the temporary budget repair levy.)
The federal government is using this budget to set out its ideological agenda.
It is a deeply hardhearted one indeed, punishing the sick (with the Medicare co-contribution and rise in prescription charges), the poor (by tightening welfare eligibility), the aged (through pension changes) and women (of all ages).
There are even petty cuts to the Office for Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy.
Who decides where it will be cut? Our illustrious Minister for Women.
Seen last night, sitting behind his Treasurer, wearing a blue tie and a smirk.