Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Howard Government helps Australian women balance work and family

The Howard Government has taken the lead on issues that impact on women as they strive to balance their work and family commitments.

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator Kay Patterson, will attend the Commonwealth, State, Territories and New Zealand Ministers’ Women’s Conference in Adelaide tomorrow, to address issues impacting on women.

‘The Howard Government understands women have differing needs across their life span which also depends on their circumstances, their age and where they live,’ said Senator Patterson.

Work and family balance is an important issue for many women. To assist with this the Howard Government has delivered a fairer and simpler financial assistance system, which is providing more financial support to Australian families than ever before.

The recent 2004-05 Federal Budget increased these benefits further with a lump sum payment of $600 per child paid on July 1 and an ongoing $600 per child increase in the level of Family Tax Benefit (FTB Part A) payments (from and including the 2003/04 financial year). In addition we have increased eligibility so more families can benefit.

The Howard Government has committed more than $8 billion to child care over the four years from 2004/05 to 2007/08. This year’s budget continues the Howard Government’s unprecedented commitment and support for child care services and is aimed at affordable, accessible child care.

Australian families now receive an average of $7000 per year in FBT Part A and B. This is in addition to any child care benefits they may receive.

‘New mothers are also being supported through a new Maternity Payment of $3000, paid to all mothers to assist with the costs of new born children,’ said Senator Patterson.

‘Today I visited Ashford Community Hospital, and a playgroup at Glandore Community Centre and spoke to mothers about the Maternity Payment, the bonus and the increase in FTB. All of them welcomed these lump sum payments and said they would be using them for a variety of purposes including paying off their mortgages, setting up a savings fund for their children and fitting out the baby’s room. They all emphasised the value of a lump sum payment and that a fortnightly payment could be more easily ‘frittered away’.’

The Howard Government is committed to providing increased employment opportunities for women and supporting them to return to work.

The number of women in employment has increased by 20% since 1996 and unemployment amongst women has fallen from 7.6% in March 1996 to 5.9% in July 2004.

‘None of this would be possible without the Howard Government’s sound economic management which has resulted in record social dividends in assistance for families,’ said Senator Patterson.