Media Release by The Hon Julie Bishop MP

Greater choice and opportunities for women

Australian women will benefit from the Howard Government’s 10 years of sound economic management.

The Australian Government has eliminated net debt for the first time in 30 years. By eliminating net debt, the Government has freed up resources to meet other priorities – priorities that will improve choices and opportunities for Australian women of all ages.

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues, the Hon Julie Bishop MP today welcomed initiatives in the 2006-07 Budget, and said they acknowledged the important role women play in society.

Highlights for women in this Budget include initiatives to support women in making choices most appropriate for themselves and their families:

  • Significant and far reaching tax cuts, at a cost of $36.7 billion over 4 years. Changes will benefit low income earners, particularly those in casual and part-time work, most being women, and provide additional incentives to participate in the workforce.
  • The government is raising the amount that families can earn to $40,000 before their Family Tax Benefit Part A payments begin to be affected. This will provide additional assistance to almost half a million Australian families at a cost of $993 million over four years.
  • The Large Family Supplement to families is being extended to families with three children.
  • $60.2 million over four years to uncap Outside School Hours Care and Family Day Care places, which will enable places to be provided wherever there is demand, assisting women’s choices about their work and child care arrangements.
  • $9.4 million in 2006-07 for Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care, with continued top up funding of around $3.5 million each year until 2010.
  • Older Australians should share in the prosperity they have helped to create. An additional one off payment of just over $100 to older Australians, including aged and service pensioners and self funded retirees eligible for a Seniors Concession allowance will be paid by 30 June 2006.
  • To recognise the special, selfless contribution carers make, the Budget will deliver those receiving a Carer Payment a one-off lump sum payment of $1,000 in 2005-06 and for those receiving Carer Allowance there will be a one off lump sum payment of $600 this financial year.
  • The Government is investing further in a high quality health and aged care system. Initiatives in this budget will help to underpin Australia’s health and aged care needs now and into the future. In 2006-07 the Government will spend $48 billion on health and aged care, up from $20 billion in 1996-97.
  • The Government recognises the importance of improving services to assist those in the community with a mental illness. This budget delivers a major funding boost of $1.9 billion to the mental health system. The Government will work with the States and Territories at the next Council of Australian Governments’ meeting to ensure that people with mental illness can access the full range of services and support they need.
    • More than $224.7 million over the next five years will go towards respite care to assist families and carers (the majority of whom are women) of people with a mental illness.
  • $10.6 million over four years to extend incentives for employers of higher level New Apprentices in key growth areas such as child care and health.
  • Extension of the Crisis Payment for victims of domestic violence to support them staying in their own homes, as an alternative to establishing a new home.
  • Introduction of two pregnancy counselling measures to provide professional, non-directive counselling to women. This includes $35.6 million over four years for a Medicare item to cover pregnancy counselling by qualified GPs and other allied health professionals and $15.5 million over four years for a National Pregnancy Support Helpline.
  • Increased flexibility for family trusts, particularly benefiting widows and divorced spouses who remarry.
  • Changes to the capital gains tax small business concessions will reduce compliance costs and increase eligibility particularly benefiting individual women small business owners and partners in small businesses.
  • A simplified and streamlined superannuation plan proposes to exempt Australians aged 60 or over from any tax on their end benefits where these are paid from a taxed superannuation fund. The proposed benefits are increased retirement incomes and improved incentives for older Australians to stay in the workforce. As women have lower average superannuation benefits than men, the proposed plan is expected to result in better retirement incomes for women over time.

“These measures reflect the Howard Government’s commitment to improving the lives of women throughout the Australian community,” Minister Bishop said.