Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Women’s Budget Statement Breakfast, Parliament House, Canberra

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

Good morning.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

It’s good to be here among so many people committed to advancing the status of women.

Among the Parliamentarians here today are members of the Federal Labor Party Status of Women’s Caucus Committee. It works across portfolios to find positive solutions to issues of gender inequality.

I would particularly like to acknowledge Senator Louise Pratt and Amanda Rishworth MP – the Chair and Secretary of the Committee.

Also present is a range of representatives from the Canberra community and its dynamic women’s sector.

And we have public servants from across a range of Federal Departments and Agencies.

I want to say a big thank you to those of you from the Office for Women. You’ve worked tirelessly on the Women’s Statement, the equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill – which was passed by the House of Representatives on Monday – and many other pieces of work since I became Minister for the Status of Women last year.

Today is a great opportunity for women and men from across sectors to connect and discuss what we’ve achieved and how far we have to go when it comes to gender equality in Australia.

And we’re doing this at a historic time. In Parliament House today, we have Australia’s first female Prime Minister in Julia Gillard and the largest number of women of all time in Federal Cabinet and in the Ministry.

Women’s Statement

I was very pleased to work with the Prime Minister in developing this year’s Women’s Statement.

It doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive outline of all that has been done for women – but it does highlight some of our key achievements. And these are substantial.

It shows how the Government’s hard work and strategy have advanced gender equality and women’s economic security.

The Women’s Statement outlines our strong intention to step up our responses to gender inequality anywhere.

It strengthens our commitment to improving women’s workforce participation and their economic outcomes, through highlighting skills development and other key issues for women.

This Government is proud to have continued the Labor Party’s long legacy of advancing the status of women by introducing practical supports, such as affordable and accessible child care and the introduction of Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme.

We have also committed $86 million to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 – a single, unified strategy bringing together government efforts to reduce violence against women.

And we have boosted women’s economic security through the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 and our target for women to make up at least 40 per cent of positions on Australian Government boards by 2015.

These are big reforms that will build strong foundations for the future.

2012-13 Federal Budget

The Government’s main objective with this year’s Budget was to manage the economy responsibly and to return us to surplus while at the same time spreading the benefits of the mining boom.

The Budget also builds on the work we have already done to improve the economic security of women and to advance gender equality, particularly through higher workforce participation.

It delivers greater support for working women and their families. We have:

  • Boosted Family Tax Benefit Part A payments from July next year
  • Introduced the Schoolkids Bonus
  • Invested an additional $225.1 million over four years for the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance Program
  • Tripled the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,200 Provided $54 million over four years to encourage more young women to study mathematics and science at school and university
  • Continued our support for Working Women’s Centres, first funded by Labor in 1975.
  • Invested an extra $55.7 million over four years in the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters
  • Committed a further $16.5 million over four years to UN Women.

Gender Equality for Women Program

Already in the month since the release of the Women’s Statement 2012, I’ve been pushing ahead with important new work in my women’s portfolio.

This morning, I am announcing the Australian Government is making an additional investment of more than $900,000 under the Gender Equality for Women Program for a range of measures to help bridge the gender pay gap and to support girls and women. We are:

  • Investing $225,000 for a second round of 70 Australian Institute of Company Directors board diversity scholarships, as announced by the Prime Minister last week.
  • Providing $150,000 to the YWCA to extend its successful pilot program Every Girl to 10 communities across the country. The program helps girls between 9 and 14 from disadvantaged communities to improve their self-esteem and build their leadership abilities.
  • Spending $51,625 to determine how to best support emerging women leaders in the community sector.
  • Putting a further $100,000 towards the Sports Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women Program, to enable more women to access accredited training and education in sports management.
  • Funding $50,000 for a joint project with the Australian Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the Male Champions of Change, aimed at boosting women’s leadership in male-dominated industries.
  • Providing $89,106 to better understand how to promote women’s participation in the labour force and help inform the development of the new National Workforce Development Strategy.
  • Committing $52,500 to examine the reasons for the first year pay gap between male and female graduates from university and vocational education and training.
  • Giving $60,000 to the 1 Million Women organisation for the development of resources to assist women in reducing their costs of living.
  • Investing $125,000 on incorporating gender equality into policy training and online modules for the Australian Public Service.
  • Committing $39,000 to enhance each portfolio’s capacity to meet the gender balance target of at least 40 per cent women on Australian Government boards by 2015.

As the Women’s Statement says, all Australian Government Ministers and Departments share a responsibility for delivering equality for women – in partnership with industry, the non-government sector, the broader community and, of course, the women’s sector.

I look forward to working with you to take these and all necessary steps to keep building a better and more equal Australia.

Thank you.