Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Women Ignored By Latham

In last night’s Budget reply speech Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, seemed to forget about women altogether.

Despite an earlier doorstop with The Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women, Ms Nicola Roxon, where the ALP accused the Howard Government of forgetting women, Mr Latham’s speech contained no policies for women at all.

In contrast, the Howard Government Budget contains a significant number of measures which will improve the lives of Australian women including the Maternity Payment, Family Tax Benefit changes, income tax cuts, benefits for Carers, more generous Superannuation arrangements, changes to Medicare and a boost in funding to aged care, to name a few.

During the ALP doorstop, Ms Roxon said: “The Government hasn’t even bothered to put out a women’s budget statement this year, and we think that shows that women have just been forgotten”.

Senator Patterson said: “If Ms Roxon had looked at the Office of the Status of Women’s website on Budget night, she would have seen a quick reference guide to the Australian Government’s Budget initiatives benefitting women and a copy of my media release.

“I made a conscious decision not to release a women’s Budget statement. Instead I used a more modern, user-friendly post-Budget publication outlining the Australian Government’s achievements for women.

“These changes will ensure that the Government communicates with women in a more up-to-date and accessible way.

“This booklet was available on office of the Status of Women’s website on Thursday, May 13.

“I would like to correct Ms Roxon’s statements about the defunding of organisations by the Office of the Status of Women. This is blatant scaremongering and I find it hypocritical from the party that pledged to cut seven government agencies and 13 government programs in the Budget reply.”

The Howard Government funds four Secretariat organisations, which represent over fifty women’s non-government organisations, which provide a range of advice and views. Additionally two specialist research centres, the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House and the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, are funded to provide up to date research and advice on domestic and family violence and sexual assault.

“Ms Roxon has also misled the public once again about the Howard Government’s ground-breaking Elimination of Violence Against Women campaign by claiming the Prime Minister has cancelled the campaign,” Senator Patterson said.

“Both the Prime Minister and I have repeatedly stated that the Government is proceeding with this campaign, and yesterday the Prime Minister committed to launching the campaign.

“Ms Roxon claimed the Budget ignored the issue of violence against women. To the contrary, the campaign received a $6.7 million boost in Tuesday night’s Budget.

“The Howard Government takes the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault very seriously and since 1997 has allocated more than $73 million to this area.

In a doorstop on Tuesday evening the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward said, ” I think tonight’s got some great wins in it for Australian women.”

“I suggest Ms Roxon reads the Budget documents carefully before commenting again publicly,” Senator Patterson said.