Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Budget highlights for women in 2004-05

“The 2004-05 Budget reflects the Australian Government’s strong ongoing commitment to the women of Australia across all spheres of government activity. It outlines the initiatives in the current budget over a range of portfolios and highlights initiatives to provide choice and support for women”, Senator Patterson said today.

“Women make up 51 per cent of our population. They provide the majority of care in family situations, not only for children, but also for family members who are older or who have disabilities. A central challenge for women is to achieve a quality balance between their work and caring roles. We have invested further substantial resources in families, child care and assistance to carers to better enable women to meet this challenge and exercise choice”, Senator Patterson said.

“Women on average live longer than men, so economic security and aged care are important issues for them. A special group of women – widows of servicemen – need ongoing support and recognition. We also need to continue to concentrate our efforts on supporting indigenous women and those suffering domestic violence and sexual assault. This Budget also delivers on these important areas for women,” Senator Patterson said.

Senator Patterson said the new budget measures included the following highlights:

As part of the government’s More Help for Families package, more than $19 billion over five years:

The package includes the following elements:

  • an increase in the rate of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) (A) of $600 per child to be paid as a lump sum upon reconciliation of entitlement following the end of the financial year, commencing in respect of the 2003-04 financial year. The annual lump sum will be available, if required, to offset any overpayment of FTB that may have occurred during a previous year;
  • in order to provide an immediate benefit, a lump sum payment of $600 per child will be paid before 30 June 2004 to all families receiving or eligible for FTB(A) in the 2003-04 financial year:
    • this means eligible families will receive $600 per child before 30 June 2004 and be entitled to a further $600 per child after the reconciliation of their 2003-04 entitlement. As a consequence most families will be eligible for an additional $1,200 per child in the next 12 months;
  • a reduction in the income test taper rate for the maximum rate of FTB(A) from 30 per cent to 20 per cent, with effect from 1 July 2004. This builds on the reduction of the taper from 50 per cent to 30 per cent undertaken in The New Tax System. This will improve work incentives for low and middle income families, in particular, as it means that for each additional dollar of income in this range, only 20 cents rather than 30 cents of FTB(A) is withdrawn;
  • more than doubling the income test threshold for FTB(B), so the secondary earner in a family can earn $4,000 a year (currently $1,825) before the benefit is reduced. The income test taper is also being reduced from 30 per cent to 20 per cent:
    • this will improve rewards from work for families where a second earner wants to take up or increase part time or casual work (often a mother returning to work after having a child), providing additional assistance for those combining work and family responsibilities;
    • it, too, builds on the income test relaxations for FTB(B) in The New Tax System;
  • Mothers returning to work after the birth of a child will also be assisted by the quarantining of FTB(B) payments. This means that the income they earn after returning to work will not affect FTB(B) received earlier in that year; and
  • the introduction from 1 July 2004 of a new Maternity Payment, paid as a lump sum, of $3,000 for each new born child. This will be a universal payment to all families (usually the mother). This payment will increase to $4,000 from 1 July 2006 and increase again to $5,000 from 1 July 2008. This new payment will incorporate the existing Maternity Allowance and the Baby Bonus, with the Baby Bonus still available for births prior to 1 July 2004.

More support for child care including:

  • extra child care places: 40,000 additional outside school hours care places (OSHC) and 4,000 additional family day care (FDC) places, including 10,000 OSHC places and 2,500 FDC places announced in December 2003;
  • funding to establish child care services in high need rural, regional and indigenous communities and support the inclusion of children with additional needs into quality child care;
  • funding to support around 4,200 additional playgroups;

Additional support for families in the budget includes:

  • $365.8 million over four years from 1 July 2004 to continue and refocus the Stronger Families and Community Strategy with an emphasis on improving early childhood outcomes;
  • $56 million in 2004-05 to fund the Family Relationships Services Programme for a range of family relationship support services;
  • $13.6 million over four years to extend the National Illicit Drug Strategy – Strengthening and Supporting Families Coping With Illicit Drug Use Programme to provide assistance to families with members coping with, or at risk of illicit drug use;

Tax cuts worth $14.7 billion over the next four years

  • New tax cuts will increase the levels of income at which people start to pay the 42 per cent and 47 per cent tax rates. This will ensure that over 80 per cent of taxpayers face a top marginal tax bracket of no more than 30 per cent for the next four years;

For carers, the majority of whom are women, more than $460 million over five years including:

  • $255 million for an additional one-off payment of $1,000 for those on Carer Payment and $600 for those receiving Carer Allowance, to be paid before 30 June 2004;
  • $106.9 million over four years from 1 April 2005 to extend eligibility for the Carers Allowance to carers who provide substantial levels of care but do not currently live with the person for whom they provide care, assisting an additional 13,270 private carers;
  • $72.5 million over four years to provide increased respite for ageing parents who care for adult children with a disability;
  • $26.6 million over four years to provide young carers at risk of prematurely leaving school, or the vocational equivalent, with additional respite, support and information services;

Significant increases in assistance for those in aged care facilities or working in aged care, the majority of whom are women:

  • as a result of the government’s response – costing about $2.2 billion over five years – to the Hogan Review of Residential Aged Care, older Australian women will be the primary beneficiaries (over 70 per cent of people receiving residential aged care are women);

To boost the retirement savings of women and their families:

  • $2.1 billion over the next four years to increase the maximum government superannuation co-contribution from $1,000 to $1,500, to match a $1,000 personal contribution, and broaden access to the scheme, to encourage low and middle income workers (many of them women) to save;

For widows of servicemen, over $100 million over five years, including:

  • $78.3 million over four years from 1 January 2005 to provide rent assistance to 11,500 war widow/ers, the majority of whom are women, in private accommodation, $22.5 million over four years to increase funeral benefits from $572 to $1000 and $525,000 to fund a one-off payment to former PoWs of the North Korean forces or their surviving spouses; and enhanced benefits for widows under the new military rehabilitation and compensation scheme;

Elimination of Violence Against Women

  • Funding of $6.5 million over 2 years (including 2003-04) to enhance the planned national campaign for the elimination of violence against women;

For indigenous women, $76.5 million over four years, including:

  • $22.7 million over four years to expand the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services programme from 13 to 26 services in rural and remote areas, to assist Indigenous adults and children who are victims of family violence and sexual assault or those who are at immediate risk of such violence;
  • $37.3 million over four years for the Family Violence Partnership Programme to support a number of state/territory and local projects which address Indigenous family violence, particularly in remote areas;
  • $16.5 million over four years to target the development of the leadership capacity of Indigenous women commencing 1 July 2004;

Improving women’s health:

  • an additional $3.2 million over four years for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to examine the social, behavioural and economic determinants of women’s health and the use of health and related services at key points in women’s lives;
  • a Rural Health Strategy worth $830.2 million over four years to increase access to health care services and encourage more GPs and health professionals to work in rural and remote areas;

To help women who run small businesses:

  • Around 740,000 small businesses and 30,000 non-profit organisations below the registration threshold and voluntarily registered can now report and pay GST annually instead of quarterly; and

In immigration:

  • increased funding of $27.4 million over four years (including a capital component) to develop innovative alternative immigration detention accommodation strategies for women and children.

“In addition to these new initiatives, a range of ongoing initiatives are currently being successfully implemented by the Government across a range of portfolios to provide more choices and support for Australian women.”