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Time to Hang up on a Government That Phones in Policy From the 1950s

Senator Jenny McAllister


For over 2,500 days the Liberal Government has failed women.


While we live in hope that they might stop phoning it in from the 1950s, there is no indication that anything has changed during the pandemic. If anything, things have got worse for women. 


The Government has failed mothers by ‘snapping back’ to a childcare system that is one of the most expensive in the world.


They have failed older women by taking no action on the superannuation gap, leaving them to face poverty and homelessness in retirement.


They have failed young women working in insecure and low paying jobs by making many ineligible for JobKeeper.


We know what the Liberals think about working women. They believe women’s economic lives are unimportant and that they would be better served in the home, as we saw Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick allude to last week.


Unlike the Liberals, we don’t hanker for a world where women are locked behind white picket fences, dependent on their husbands.


Labor wants something more for Australian women.


We want our mothers, sisters, daughters and nieces to have every opportunity.


We want them paid what they’re worth, on the day they enter the workforce, and all the days that follow.


We want them to retire in dignity.


We want them supported if they decide to have children.


This is not part of the Government’s plan. We know this because the Government rarely talks about women’s economic equality.


Which is not surprising when the Governments expenditure review committee (ERC) is comprised entirely of men.


I recall on one occasion when I raised the issue of the unfair impact of tax arrangements on Australian women, then Treasurer Morrison responded with the patronising reply, 'We don't have pink forms and blue forms at tax time.'

The Liberal men of ERC may think that women's economic lives are a joke. I can tell you that that is not how we see our lives. Women want and deserve more respect in the workplace. 

The economic recovery following COVID-19 presents an important opportunity to secure a better economic future for women by addressing the inequalities they face.


But the Government is intent on ‘snapping back’ to how things were before.


We don’t want to snap back to a world where women earn 14% less than men.


We don’t want to snap back to a world where women retire with 47% of the super balances enjoyed by men.


We don’t want to snap back to a world where women’s career possibilities are constrained because quality childcare is not affordable or available.


We don’t want to snap back to one of the most gendered labour markets in the developed world.


It is past time that the Coalition Government come to grips with the very great differences between men and women's economic lives and the need for a policy that responds to the experiences of women. 


Note: This article is based on a speech delivered in the Australian Senate.


Jenny McAllister is a Labor Senator representating NSW in the Australian Senate. Facebook Twitter


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