2GB MONEY NEWS
THURSDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal Budget leaving women behind; Budget in reply.
BROOKE CORTE, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is Labor's Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. Hi, Andrew, welcome to Money News.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Brooke. Glad to be with you.
CORTE:Now, Scott Morrison is saying this is a budget for all Australians and the government is adamant it's not gendered. Do you think women have been ignored?
LEIGH:I do. I think that women haven't gotten their fair share of the budget response. This has been a human capital crisis. It's particularly adversely affected the services sector, but the budget responses neglected health and education, neglected the services sector. You've got a desultory women's economic security statement - about as big as you'd expect from a prime minister who names his chooks after former prime ministers’ wives - and you haven't got the investments in childcare, in family violence, in sexual harassment, in aged care, in all of those female dominated sectors where women have been suffering so much of the burden of COVID-19. They haven't been receiving the attention and the response.
CORTE: Not everyone's going to agree with you looking at a budget in that way. I mean, women do own businesses and hire people. They pay tax. Women use infrastructure, they build houses, they've had JobKeeper, they've had JobSeeker. So some might feel it's not actually appropriate to view measures in a budget through a gender lens.
LEIGH: It's absolutely appropriate to have a gender lens and indeed in 1983 the Hawke Government put in place a women's budget statement, which continued all the way through the Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments before being scrapped by Tony Abbott. Since then, it's fallen to Labor to produce the women's budget statement, which was announced this morning and Anthony Albanese made very clear in releasing it some of the gaps that are there for women. I think if the Coalition had a women's budget statement, it would be very clear to them where the gaps were - gaps such as cutbacks in domestic violence services, where we know that the cuts to community legal centres have caused huge problems. The Treasurer told Parliament last year that the gender pay gap had ‘closed’. Any woman listening to this show will know that that's simply not right. The cuts to childcare subsidies left a quarter of families worse off, and we know childcare is one of the core drivers of women's labour market participation. So it's not just great for kids, it's also great for productivity in the economy.
CORTE: Yeah, in fact it is quite simple because all the data and all the research finds that if you have affordable childcare, that is the best way to achieve greater participation of women in the workforce. So will you make it free, Andrew Leigh?
LEIGH: You’ll have to wait for Anthony's budget reply tonight, but you'll see substantial announcements there reflecting Labor’s long commitment to the early childhood sector. We recognise the early childhood sector is playing two roles, Brooke – it is freeing up women to be able to participate productively in the workforce, to continue a career rather than having a long career break that can put mums well behind their male counterparts. But it's also education. Early childhood is not babysitting. We have to ensure the high quality of the sector. Again, this is a sector where most of the workers are women who don't get the respect and the pay they deserve, and where raising the standards and the quality in early childhood can pay huge dividends for kids further down the track. It's not like education suddenly starts when kids get to primary school. It’s there right from the beginning, so investing in early childhood pays great long run returns.
CORTE: Okay, so I’ll be expecting to see an increase in the pay of childcare workers based on what you've just said, because they are very poorly paid. We already spend $9 billion a year this government does anyway. How much are you willing to spend?
LEIGH: You’ll have to wait on all the details until the announcement. Not long now, great speech just around the corner. But what you'll see reflect Labor's long time commitment to this sector.
CORTE: Now, women over 45 were the most likely to be on JobSeeker even before this crisis. Older women have been the fastest growing group of homeless people in recent years. What would you do if you were Treasurer to specifically assist middle aged women?
LEIGH:I think it's important to recognise two issues there. One is continuity of employment, and we know that older women are being left out of the wage bonuses, that their JobKeeper payments will be phased out, that the wide subsidies will then only exist for employers taken on workers aged 35 and under. So they'll be placed at some disadvantage there. You'll also have an incentive for employers to engage in greater automation, which may end up crowding out some of these older workers. Also Brooke, we need to be doing more on superannuation. We know that women’s superannuation balances tend to be lower than men and it’s particular issue for single women. So we need to make sure that there's better access to superannuation and that superannuation accounts have lower fees. Investing in superannuation is vital for all the women. I did say ‘two things’, but the third is social housing. Older women are the fastest growing group falling into homelessness, so investing in social housing doesn't just deliver construction jobs - it also delivers the security of a roof over your head.
CORTE: Alright. Dr Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. We'll hear about it all in specifics soon. Thanks for your time here on Money News.
LEIGH: Always a pleasure, Brooke. Thank you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.