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International Women's Day: 2003; Australian women hit Howard's glass ceiling.

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Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Minister for Children and Youth Shadow Minister for Women


In celebrating International Women’s Day this year, Australian women have a lot of achievements to be proud of.

Much of what has been achieved is in spite of this Federal Government, not because of it. Many women feel that instead of continuing to develop, they are treading water. M E


The Government track record is poor, and some of the key indicators such as access and costs of child care, rising household debt and stagnation in addressing pay inequity speak for themselves.

In contrast, Labor has long been an advocate for advancing the status of women. Happily, many of our successes are simply taken for granted by today’s young women.

Labor drove the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation, a woman’s right to work when married, greater participation in higher education, and argued strongly for equal pay.

Under the Hawke/Keating Governments, Labor was responsible for: o a National Agenda for Women o introducing the Superannuation Guarantee Levy, bringing the coverage of working women’s superannuation from 24% up to 85% by 1996 o a six-fold increase in the number of child care places o creating a Maternity Allowance payment for new mothers.

In Opposition Labor has continued to advocate for women’s interests by: • calling for, and committing to, a national Paid Maternity Leave scheme • moving to provide protection for pregnant and breastfeeding women through the Sex Discrimination Act

• insisting that the Government sign the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women • calling for improved access to child care and greater investment in children

After 7 years under John Howard’s Coalition Government, women and their families are under increasing pressure - and still don’t have an equal place in the community or in Government.

Please see some of the lowlights attached.

7 March 2003

For more information call: Nicola Roxon or Matt Nurse on (03) 9687 7355 or 0417 386 535


For more information call: Nicola Roxon or Matt Nurse on (03) 9687 7355 or 0417 386 535

Women in the Workforce - undervalued and under attack • Equal pay for women is yet to be achieved • Women still earn on average 67% of male earnings, or $271 less per week. • In industries dominated by women, the gap is as wide as 54%. • Women earn less across every single occupational group • Part time work is growing and becoming increasingly casualised. In the last 20 years:

o the number of women working full time has fallen nearly 24% o women in part time work have increased by 31% and casual work has increased by 22% • Despite this, the Government continues to attack rights for casuals and those employed by small business (mostly women) - repeatedly seeking to change dismissal law and remove protection

Child Care Problems Increase • Child care is still not accessible or affordable for many women needing to return to work. There are at least 50,000 child care places short across the country • Minister Vanstone admits that high child care fees make going back to work part time hardly worthwhile.

Her figures show that with fees of $8340, a part time worker on $15,000 will be left with only $1660 more than if she didn’t work

Government Appointments Disappointing • Only 2% of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet staff are senior executive women • There are now no women High Court judges (one less than 1996) • There are only four women Federal Court judges (one less than in 1996) • Only 2 out of 17 Departmental Secretaries in Government are women

Family Payments and Finances Squeezed • Negative savings show that as at March 2003 Australian families are now spending more than they earn • A GST and high cost of living is hurting women everywhere (and tampons and sanitary products are hit with the GST, despite strong lobbying for an exemption)

• The Government’s “Baby Bonus” shown to be big on rhetoric, short on delivery • 600,000 families stuck in government’s Family Tax Benefit debt trap

Women as Carers Neglected • The majority (70%) of carers are women. Most carers are of workforce age, but due to their commitments are not able to work and depend on a government pension, benefit or allowance. • The Howard Government has done little to improve the quality of life for carers, and has shown no interest

in developing a national strategy for carers.

Concern about level of Information and Advice on Women • The series of ABS Australian Women’s Year Books reporting on a wide range of women’s statistics was cancelled by the Howard Government after 1998, leaving a huge hole in comparative reporting on the status of women in this country

• The top adviser to the Government on women, the Director of the Office of the Status of Women, has just resigned, leaving the position unfilled • This Government slashed funding for non-government women’s organisations, and is now funding only four women’s peak groups.