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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 4809


Ms THWAITES (Jagajaga) (16:06): It is so important that we debate this topic today, because this government has ignored the women of Australia, with the result that we are now experiencing a 'she-cession'. Women have lost their jobs because they work in the industries that have been hardest hit by the shutdown. They've had to give up paid work because they're the ones who took on the job of managing schooling from home and caring for their children. Too many of them have been at increased risk of family violence while at home. And what support do they get from this government? They get a snapback to unaffordable childcare fees and a home builder package aimed squarely at an industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Women deserve better than this. They are tired, they are fed up and they deserve a government that understands their lives, not one that makes it harder. We know that during this crisis service industries, such as hospitality and retail, were hit hardest. And guess what? Those are the industries that employ the most women. ABS data shows that women not only were more likely to have lost their job after COVID-19 compared with men but also lost more wages than men. Almost 200,000 Australian women missed out on JobKeeper because of the design flaws from this government. And now the Morrison government has made specific choices about how they believe the economy should 'snap back'—and those choices are not focused on women. We have the JobMaker scheme, targeted at boosting the construction industry. Well, guess what? At least 82 per cent of construction workers are men. The construction industry did not have a closedown forced upon them during the pandemic. Yet that's the industry the government has targeted with its stimulus package. At the same time, early childhood workers have had their supports taken away from them.

I just feel as though the members in this chamber today have not understood or recognised that. From the other side we've heard from the Minister for the Environment, who seemed to suggest that child care actually isn't an issue that affects women but just an issue that affects people in general. Well, what nonsense. We all know that women take up the majority of childcaring duties. Women are the ones who have to decide whether they can afford to go back to work. In this country, too often they cannot afford to go back to work. I've been part of those conversations in the playground, and I'm sure many people in this chamber have as well, where you sit next to a woman and she says, 'The second one's eight months old now, but we've had the conversation at the kitchen table and my husband and I decided it just wasn't worth me going back to work.' That is the reality of child care in this country. That is the system this government wants us to snap back to. It's a disgrace.

We also heard from the Minister for the Environment that she wished women would just step up—'Step up. It's your fault you're not getting ahead. It's not the unaffordable child care. It's not that you can't find a place. It's not that JobKeeper got taken away from you. It's your fault. Step up.' The member for Reid said that women should look to increase their childcare days. And it is really important—women should be able to increase their days. But, again, there was no mention of the affordability issue that is keeping so many women from being able to do this.

While women have been waiting to find out what comes next from this government, I've heard from women in my electorate who work in the travel industry. They're currently not making any money. In fact, they've told me that at the moment they're essentially working to pay back money. Are they going to be next? They need JobKeeper. They told me the only way they can continue to employ—again, this is a largely female dominated industry—was through JobKeeper. If that's taken away, even in September, before we have international travel, these women are likely to suffer further job losses.

So women in Australia are right to be worried. We've heard already today from the Prime Minister about how he sees women's lives. Apparently, if you're due to give birth and there's no local hospital, what's really going to help you is an upgrade to the highway. Now, look, I've given birth. It was a pretty tough experience, and I don't think speeding down the highway would have made it feel any better. So I say to the Prime Minister: it is time for you to take a good hard look at what your government is doing to the women of Australia. You clearly are not in touch. You're not addressing the issues that they are concerned about. We need affordable child care. We need women workers supported. We need an economy that works for women in this country.