National Foundation for Australian Women. Budget 2016-17: A gender lens.

The National Foundation for Australian Women has prepared an analysis of the Budget 2016-17 with what it calls a ‘gender lens’. An executive summary of this analysis follows. A link to the full document can be found on ‘the budget’ button: www.nfaw.org.  

Budget 2016-17 fails to bring Australian women into the centre of the economy and pushes many further into poverty. Cuts to overseas aid hurt vulnerable women in our region.

The budget is far from fair, with just a touch of the white picket fence. It provides tax breaks for the wealthy, while low to middle income families are hit by ‘zombie’ savings from the Abbott-Hockey horror budgets. It is lacking in investments in education and training reforms which might drive innovation and jobs.

Health spending is being heavily cut. By the end of week one of the election campaign the Government was trying to negotiate a compromise with the medical profession on its pathology ‘savings’. Savings measures in Health will disadvantage women, particularly those with chronic conditions, far more than any benefit from the handful of modest measures to change some approaches.

Notwithstanding $100m for a national awareness strategy, services for women enduring or exiting domestic violence are suffering funding cuts. Delays will increase in the Family Court. New funding and eligibility changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme will disproportionately disadvantage women while pushing costs of services for those left outside back onto state and territory hospitals and law enforcement systems.

The proposed taxation benefits for female small-medium enterprise (SME) entrepreneurs are oversold, with most of the returns going to SMEs with male heads.

Superannuation changes are the only single area where changes are beneficial for women, and are welcome, notwithstanding the seeming presumption that women will have partners willing to transfer money into their super. As the recent Senate report said, a husband is not a retirement plan.

Overall, in an environment where many economists have reservations about the underlying economic assumptions of the budget, philosophically it is a document based on Reagonomics – the theory of trickle down.

We have recommended that given the critical importance for women of sound fiscal policies which will support social infrastructure, the Government reconsider many of its decisions, and in particular consider both revenue as well as prudent spending approaches.

Careful, expert, non-partisan analysis of this budget has led us to make recommendations across a range of policy areas – workplace relations, health, education, housing, domestic violence, taxation, superannuation and more, as well as some related to machinery of government and data collections which we hope will both improve capacity to properly analyse the impacts on women and girls.

We appreciate that during the election campaign promises will be made by the Opposition and Government. We will analyse those in due course. Should the Government be returned, then the savings outlined in this document will most likely be introduced. Should the Government not be in control of the Senate again (as is commonly the historical case) then the forward estimates of savings may once again be held up with problems for achieving a balance by the forecast date.

We urge the Government to reconsider many of its approaches, and to produce more substantial approaches to bringing women fully into the economy.

The National Foundation for Australian Women calls on both Government and Opposition to respond to our recommendations as set out in the following pages.

Editor

Marie Coleman AO PSM DUniv (Hon.), Chair of the National Foundation of Australian Women (NFAW) Social Policy Committee. Street address: c/- Duesburys Nexia, 60 Marcus Clark Street, Canberra, ACT, 2601.

Contributing authors

Professor Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment Relations, University of Sydney Business School

Jennifer Bushell, NFAW Social Policy Committee

Marie Coleman AO PSM DUniv (Hon.), Chair of the National Foundation of Australian Women (NFAW) Social Policy Committee

Joanne Crawford, Senior Research and Policy Advisor, International Women’s Development Agency

Dr Mary Crawford, President NFAW, Visiting Scholar, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Frances Davies, NFAW Social Policy Committee

Dr Helen Hodgson, Associate Professor, Curtin Law School, Women in Social Economic Research Cluster, Curtin University

Angela Jackson, NFAW Social Policy Committee

Dr Madeleine Laming, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Murdoch University

Helen L’Orange AM, Deputy Chair, Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) Australia

Dr Kathy MacDermott, NFAW Social Policy Committee

Ruth Medd, Chair, Women on Boards

Prudence Mooney, Policy and Campaign Coordinator, WEL New South Wales

Joan Ross, NFAW Social Policy Committee

Sue Salthouse, Council Member, University of Canberra

Stephanie Serhan, School of Accountancy, QUT

Linda Simon, National Convenor, Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE)

Jozefa Sobski, Convenor, WEL New South Wales, and member of WAVE

Professor Miranda Stewart, Professor and Director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, and Professor at the University of Melbourne Law School

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