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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5222

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (16:54): I am very pleased this afternoon to be able to put some questions to the ministers in relation to the very important portfolio areas that they represent. I certainly know that many members of my electorate have been and are ongoing beneficiaries of your respective portfolios. I would like to reflect on those benefits they have received and also inquire about the initiatives this government has pursued in advancing the cause of the economic and social participation of women. Needless to say, that objective is pursued right across government. I particularly seek to ask FaHCSIA.

Constituents in my electorate have been the beneficiary of the Paid Parental Leave scheme in no uncertain terms. A good section of my electorate is made up of very young families and people who are planning to have families in the near future. To date, I understand there are around 2,150 recipients and claimants of paid parental leave. Paid parental leave is a really transformative initiative that this government has driven. It stands in quite stark contrast to the grab-bag of whatever it is that is being presented by those opposite in paid parental leave. We are providing women with some certainty.

I note, for the benefit of the member for Mayo, there are around 1,400 paid parental leave recipients or claimants who are likely to be beneficiaries of our scheme in his part of the world. It is marvellous to know that he is here this afternoon and has the opportunity to hear about the benefits of paid parental leave and about women's economic and social participation in the FaHCSIA portfolio.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Ms SMYTH: It is good to see the member for Mayo interjecting on such an important topic as workforce participation by women, which is obviously what our paid parental leave scheme is all about.

Mr Briggs interjecting

Ms Macklin interjecting

Ms SMYTH: But I do not know what yours is these days, member for Mayo. It changes by the moment.

In addition to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, I know that ministers have done great work together with a number of their other ministerial colleagues in increasing the childcare rebate from 30 to 50 per cent and lifting the cap on the total amount of childcare that parents can claim. So these are two incredibly practical measures for women seeking to return to the workforce and women temporarily departing the workforce to have families.

In addition to that we have introduced significant measures such as raising the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $18,000, which clearly impacts the circumstances of women who are in part-time and casual work. In fact, 70 per cent of those in part-time and casual work are women so this stands to be a very considerable benefit.

There are also a number of other initiatives that the government and its ministers have embarked on including the Workplace Gender Equality Act, where employers of 100 or more employees must report on pay equity and flexible work arrangements. Obviously a great deal of work has been done in advancing the cause of pay equity.

I was recently able to go and visit a number of families in my electorate who have been the beneficiaries of our very considerable investment in social housing towards the northern end of my electorate. I can think particularly of one woman who had split up from her partner. She is a nurse. She has a number of children and she is involved in a range of volunteer activities in charity work. Social housing has turned her life and her circumstances around. It has given her some economic and social certainty and security, and it has given her family an extraordinary boost.

With all of that in mind, I ask the minister this afternoon why have women's economic and social participation been so important in the context of this budget right across the term? What measures in particular have been advanced to enable women to have greater economic and social participation?