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Choice and opportunity: Labor's better deal for Australian women [policy document]



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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

Page 1

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY

Policy Document

Mark Latham and Labor Opportunity for all www.alp.com

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women Mark Latham MP Federal Labor Leader

Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Attorney-General Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women

19 JULY 2004

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

Page 1

Australian women make up 52 per cent of our population and contribute significantly to all fields of our nation’s endeavours.

Women occupy leadership positions in the community and in the corporate world, as well as performing vital roles in both the paid and unpaid workforce. Australian women are world sporting champions, international film stars and ambassadors for solving poverty in our region’s developing countries.

Yet Australian women are still under-represented in senior management in both the public and private sectors, and our workforce remains highly segregated with women clustered in the caring professions, lower paid and more casualised industries.

The pay gap between men and women has grown in the past 8 years and women are still struggling to gain access to flexible work conditions that allow them to balance their work and family responsibilities. The harsh reality is that women do not have equal bargaining power with employers, particularly when they require greater flexibility to meet their family commitments.

Significantly, women remain the primary carers of young children, elderly parents and disabled members of our community. They also represent the vast majority of sole-parent families living in poverty, and one in four women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their life.

Australian women deserve more support and opportunity and it is up to all of us to address these problems.

Labor believes that all women should be given the opportunity to achieve their goals and where extra support is required for women to tackle barriers put in their way, then appropriate assistance should be provided.

The reality and diversity of women’s lives must be considered in developing policy and legislation at the Commonwealth level. Women’s voices and experiences must be included in this process, not treated as separate or marginal as they have been under the Howard Government.

Unlike the Howard Government, Labor will not ignore Australian women or take their contributions for granted. We believe in equality and opportunity for all Australian women.

Labor presents a better alternative for Australian women and outlines in this document some of the steps we will take to improve opportunities and assistance to women in all walks of life across our community.

Labor pledges to work for a country where:

� women have economic security and independence;

� women are safe, free from violence and able to get the health care they need;

� both the paid and unpaid work of women is recognised and valued;

� there is support for a diverse range of work and family choices made by women and

their families; and

� women are acknowledged, treated equally, listened to, supported and encouraged to

participate fully in the community.

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

1. Protection from Violence and Exploitation

Labor is committed to eliminating violence against women in our community and will ensure the Commonwealth has a strong focus on violence prevention. Dealing with violence after it has happened is leaving it too late. At a time when sexual assault reports are increasing and domestic violence appears to have reached epidemic proportions, Australian women should not have to beg their Commonwealth Government to take this issue seriously.

A Labor Government will ensure that eliminating violence against women is made a top priority and that an effective national effort is made to educate the whole community so that women no longer have to live in fear of violence or sexual assault.

In Government, Labor will:

� Speak out about violence against women, showing real leadership in the

community on this issue.

� Ensure that the specific needs of Indigenous women facing violence are

addressed, and that Indigenous-specific programs will have a focus on preventing violence against women.

� Give a voice to women affected by violence, by funding a national peak

advocacy group to advocate against all forms of violence against women.

� Grant permission for public use of unreleased materials produced for the

“No Respect, No Relationship” campaign.

� Conduct a national Women’s Safety Survey in 2006 (to provide a 10 year

comparison with the 1996 survey).

� Review the Commonwealth’s Sex Trafficking initiative, to include greater

support to victims and more evidence-based approaches from overseas to prevent trafficking.

� Consider ways to reform and improve Supported Accommodation

Assistance Program (SAAP) services for women and children escaping domestic violence through direct consultation with those working with victims of violence.

� Establish a National Commissioner for Children and Young People to

advocate on a range of issues for children and young people, including their safety from violence and exploitation.

� Introduce a National Working With Children Check to protect children from

convicted paedophiles.

� Undertake law reform initiatives to adequately protect women and children

from family violence, including an express provision in the Family Law Act that safety is a priority.

� Ensure that the family law system promotes fair and safe outcomes

between men and women.

� Ensure that community safety funding will have the prevention of violence

against women (in families and the community) as one of its objectives.

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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

2. Improving Health and Wellbeing

Labor understands the critical importance of access to affordable health services for women and their children. We know that women use Medicare services 50% more than men over their lifetime, and 100% more than men during their child bearing years. The Howard Government’s changes to Medicare and downgrading of women’s health initiatives will leave women making choices based on their income instead of their health care needs.

Only Labor will deliver a Medicare system that ensures women get the health care they need over the course of their lives.

In Government, Labor will:

� Ensure women get the healthcare they need over the course of their

lifetime, during child bearing years and later in life, recognising that women live longer than men.

� Lift the national rate of bulk billing from 68 to 80 per cent, giving more

affordable access to doctors for more women.

� Increase the Medicare rebate by an average of $5 for every bulk billed

consultation, no matter who you are or where you live.

� Introduce Medicare Teams for health hotspots (including rural areas

where bulkbilling is in freefall) and ease pressures on local hospital emergency wards.

� These Medicare teams will provide 100 per cent bulk billed services to the

communities where they are located, and women in these communities will be major users of these new services.

� Strengthen the Commonwealth role in women’s health by supporting the

national women’s health program, which is currently under threat from the Howard Government.

� Include Indigenous women’s health as one of the priority areas in the

women’s health policy and undertake a national audit of women’s health services and programs (including Indigenous women’s services/programs).

� Include a new category into the Public Health Outcomes Funding

Agreements (PHOFAs) of “Promoting Women’s Health” which would support programs that deliver health services to women, particularly those in rural communities, sexual assault services, alternative birthing services and specifically targeted programs such as culturally appropriate health services for refugee and immigrant women.

� Support a focus on preventative health programs for women in these

PHOFAs, so that preventable diseases such as osteoporosis can be better managed.

� Make funding available for external breast prostheses to women after

a mastectomy.

� Provide mothers with greater certainty about their children’s health by fully

funding all recommended vaccines, including pneumococcal, chicken pox and new polio vaccines.

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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

� Introduce a National Health Reform Commission to drive the

implementation of long-term fundamental reform of Australia’s health system.

� Promote positive health by encouraging participation and improving

equity for all women and girls involved in sport and recreation activities at all levels.

� Invest $300m in Dental Care over four years to provide up to 1.3 million

more dental procedures.

3. Strengthening Economic Security and Independence

Labor is committed to improving the employment and workplace opportunities for women in order for women to meet the financial challenges of this century and to give them greater economic security and independence. In a world where women have higher levels of education than before and many families have a greater reliance on dual incomes to pay the bills, our employment and education policies must take the reality of women’s lives into account.

Labor recognises that without the security of permanent work, many women are unable to plan for the future or even meet their basic financial commitments of rent or mortgage repayments. Without equal pay, and with frequent moves in and out of the workforce due to childbearing and raising families, many women are struggling to make ends meet.

Labor understands the importance of economic security and independence for women of all ages and backgrounds.

In Government, Labor will:

� Encourage more secure employment and give regular, long term

casual workers (the majority of whom are women) the ability to request permanent status.

� Work to raise women’s pay and ensure data is collected by Government to

enable progress to be identified and measured.

� Actively promote pay equity by:

—establishing a pay equity fund to support parties in equal pay cases and support corporate best practice;

—abolishing divisive individual workplace agreements (AWAs);

—supporting the role of the award safety net; and

—protecting women’s ability to be represented in collective bargaining negotiations.

� Make changes to the Trade Practices Act to support small businesses

and directly assist owners of micro and home-based businesses of whom 60 per cent are women, a sector which represents a majority of all small businesses.

� Introduce the Simpler Business Activity Statement (BAS) Option for

businesses with a turnover below $2 million, reducing time spent on tax

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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

compliance and record keeping, allowing women small business owners to spend more time on developing their business and time with their family.

� Make sure women get access to their full superannuation entitlement

by banning exit fees from superannuation funds, which often take thousands of dollars out of the pockets of people who have saved for their own retirement.

Labor is committed to high quality education and employment support for women and girls because of the greater options and opportunities for economic security and independence this provides, and will:

� Fix the Job Network, to deliver improved employment services and support

for women looking for work.

� Give greater training opportunities to women in non-traditional trades by

retaining the additional financial incentive for employers targeting women in these areas.

� Establish Mature Age Career Centres and a Rapid Assistance Service to

help older women, currently missing out on employment assistance, join and return to the workforce.

� Help mature age women establish their own business through the

expansion of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.

� Through the Youth Guarantee help keep more young women in school and

make sure that they move into training, an apprenticeship or a job. We want young women climbing the ladder of opportunity not languishing on unemployment benefits.

� Funding all schools on a needs basis towards a national standard of

resources. This will ensure that young women have the resources they need for a 21st century education.

� Implement a plan to assist struggling schools which will give schools in

battling communities the funds to attract and retain the best teachers and help teachers and students benefit from good school discipline.

� Reverse the Howard Government’s 25 per cent HECS hikes, and abolish

$100,000 degrees. Women on low incomes and those who take time out of the workforce to care for their families are amongst those who have been hardest hit by these cost increases. Labor will stop the Howard Government from imposing more and more debt on women students.

� Continue to support women’s advancement and participation in public life

and by 2008 will make 20,000 new university places and 20,000 new TAFE places available each year.

� Support the enormous contribution made by the teaching and nursing

professions in our community and create over 3,000 new nursing places and over 4,600 new teaching places where shortages of trained staff are increasing.

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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

4. Supporting Better Work and Family Balance

Labor knows that there is no more important job than that fulfilled by families. Currently women are shouldering a great deal of the burden of trying to combine family and work responsibilities. Labor believes it is not good enough to stand back and expect families and particularly working mothers to cope on their own.

Labor will help ease the pressures on families and on working mothers by delivering a new deal for families which responds to their need for paid leave at the time of each child’s birth, better access to childcare, and more family friendly workplaces.

In particular we acknowledge that working mothers want more options in order to achieve a better balance between work and family commitments.

In Government, Labor will:

� Fund a new $2.2 billion Baby Care Payment that provides a payment of

$3000 for all eligible mothers, whether they are in the workforce or at home. The payment will rise to $5,380 by 2010 which is the equivalent of 14 weeks’ pay for people on the federal minimum wage (after tax).

� The Baby Care Payment delivers on Labor’s commitment to introduce 14

weeks paid maternity leave and around nine out of ten new mothers are expected to receive the payment.

� Acknowledge the importance of workplace conditions in achieving a better

work and family balance for women.

� Encourage employers and employees to negotiate working arrangements

that include the consideration of family responsibilities.

� Give women greater flexibility to return to work part-time after having

children by encouraging the Industrial Relations Commission to provide an entitlement for mothers to request a return to work on a part-time basis, which employers would not be able to unreasonably refuse.

� Monitor, and if necessary strengthen, protection for pregnant women in the

workplace and give breastfeeding women the protections they were denied by the Government in recent changes to the Sex Discrimination Act.

� Reform the family payment system to make the rules fairer and simpler,

ensuring families are paid their correct entitlement week to week when they need it most and not slugged with debts at the end of the financial year.

� Implement a long-term, strategic national plan for investing in the early

years of childhood.

� Ensure that accessible and affordable child care is delivered through

improved planning and funding for Commonwealth child care places.

� Seek improvements in the wages and conditions of children’s services

workers, and develop strategies to improve the retention and recruitment of qualified workers.

� Acknowledge and support the growing role of grandparents in supporting

working women by sharing the care of their grandchildren.

Labor will release a detailed child care policy in the lead-up to the election.

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AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY 19 JULY 2004

Policy Document

Choice and Opportunity: Labor’s Better Deal for Australian Women

5. Improving the Status of Women

Labor believes that all members of our society should enjoy equal status and that gender discrimination should be a thing of the distant past. Despite all of our achievements, Australian women still continue to be discriminated against in many areas of life.

Labor has a strong record in Government of delivering reforms that advance the status of women in our society. Whether through legislation or government structures and policies, Labor has consistently pushed for improvements and equality for women in order to enhance their status and the wellbeing of the community as a whole.

In Government, Labor will:

� Engage in regular dialogue with women’s groups across the country on

policy and program issues to ensure that adequate consultation occurs on decisions affecting women and that Indigenous, refugee and immigrant women’s voices are heard in this process.

� Support and strengthen the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission (HREOC) to ensure that equality, and the rights and interests of women, are promoted and protected.

� Ensure that Sex Discrimination Act provisions are widely publicised and

enforced, to ensure all women are free from discrimination and harassment in the home, in the workplace and in the broader community.

� Outlaw vilification on the grounds of religion, race and sexuality.

� Undertake a comprehensive audit of Commonwealth legislation to identify

and remove discrimination on the grounds of sexuality (with the exception of the Marriage Act).

� Sign the Optional Protocol on the Convention for the Elimination of

Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to allow complaints to be taken to the UN once all domestic avenues have been exhausted.

� Ensure that a Women’s Budget Statement is prepared by Government

every year and included as part of the official Treasury Budget Papers.

� Recognise women’s contributions in the armed services through the new

Volunteer Defence Service Medal, which requires a minimum of three years service as opposed to the Government’s medal for six years service which excludes most women who served our country.

� Ensure that Government uses its purchasing power to bring about

equitable practices, such as the equal briefing policy Labor will introduce in the provision of legal services.

� Continue to support and promote women through political and

parliamentary structures.

� Encourage the increased representation of women in the public service, in

particular at SES and agency head level.

� Reintroduce a measure into the appropriate ABS data collection sets to

measure levels of unpaid work by women in the home and the community.

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The Howard Government’s Record

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The Howard Government’s Record on Women

For eight years, the Howard Government has not taken violence against women seriously enough—now it is doing too little too late.

One in four women in relationships experience domestic violence, and approximately 80% of victims of domestic violence are women.

Sexual assaults have increased every year since 1995 with the highest rates of sexual assaults reported by girls aged 10-14 and the second highest in the 15-24 age group.

Current levels of violence against women are a national disgrace, particularly in rural and remote communities, and especially in our Indigenous communities. The true extent of violence against women has not once been statistically measured by this Government, allowing the problem to be swept under the carpet and ignored.

� In 2002 Howard removed $10 million from women’s programs to pay for

the Government’s “Be Alert Not Alarmed” fridge magnet campaign

� In 2003 Howard cancelled the “No Respect, No Relationship” anti-violence

campaign, despite international recognition of the quality of the campaign and two years of development

� More than six months later, a new campaign was released but instead of

a message about preventing violence the revised campaign refers people to get help after an assault has occurred or a relationship has already turned violent. This is in direct contradiction of all the research behind the original campaign

� Indigenous Family Violence initiatives have virtually ground to a halt due

to little Government commitment, despite evidence of violence in Indigenous communities being of epidemic proportions

� The government’s sex trafficking initiative failed to heed international

expert advice, and key non-government organisations involved in providing support to victims of trafficking are not included

� Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiatives and pilot programs have

no ongoing funding after July 2005

The Howard Government’s Record on Women

Page 2

� The government has repeatedly refused to sign the optional protocol on the

Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

� Despite Labor offering to take a bi-partisan approach to the issue of child

abuse, the Government has declined and refused to implement national standards for protecting children from abuse

The Government has continued to destroy Medicare and bulk-billing, despite knowing that women use Medicare services 50% more than men over their lifetime and 100% more than men during their childbearing years.

� The Howard Government’s destruction of Medicare and bulk-billing

rates mean Australian women and their families now pay more for a visit to the doctor

� The average out-of-pocket cost is now $14.92 for each visit

� Bulk-billing rates are at an all time low of 68 per cent across the country

and much lower in some areas

� Further decline in bulk-billing rates will result in greater upfront fees for

women, and will put greater pressure on access to Medicare services

� The Howard Government has abandoned any commitment to the

universality of Medicare and introduced a so-called safety net. This safety net is flawed, with a two-tiered threshold that requires some Australians to spend $300 before they become eligible and others to pay $700 out-of-pocket

� Women in rural areas are finding it increasingly difficult to find a GP,

let alone one who bulk-bills or who can provide emergency services

� Life expectancy for Indigenous women has decreased since 1996, and is

now 62.8 years

� Twice as many low birth-weight babies are born to Indigenous mothers

� The Government ignored advice from its own expert committee about the

need to fully fund childhood immunisations including pneumococcal, chicken pox and new polio vaccines. Only after Labor announced it would do so has the Health Minister come even half way to matching this commitment

� Half a million Australians remain on waiting lists to get access to a dentist

� Despite over 10,000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer each year,

the Government has refused Labor’s call to provide breast prostheses free of charge to women in public hospitals

The Howard Government’s Record on Women

Page 3

Women in the workplace have been treated like second class workers under the Howard Government, allowing the pay gap between men and women to grow and the financial security of many women to be eroded.

� Since 1996, the gap between men and women’s total average wage has

grown from $229.10 per week in 1996 to $310.90 per week—in other words, over $16,000 per year less than men

� Women’s earnings have significant implications for their immediate and

long term financial security which have not been addressed by the Howard Government

� The number of women in casual work has grown by close to 19 per cent

since 1996—that’s nearly 1.2 million women in Australia today who have no access to paid leave to look after their families, no guarantee of ongoing work and find it almost impossible to get a loan for a home or a car

� 27 per cent of women aged 25-54, the key child-bearing and child-rearing

years, are in casual jobs

� Women’s growing participation in the workforce has contributed to massive

increase in tax revenues collected by this Government, however only around 12 per cent of women earn more than $52,000 leaving 90 per cent of working women out of reach of this year’s tax cuts

� Secondary earners in dual income families attempting to move from

welfare to work will see their effective marginal tax rate increase from 87 to 93 per cent due to the stacking of FTB-B and Partnered Parenting Payment tapers

The Howard Government’s skewed funding priorities in education and shocking management of employment and training services continue to work against women across all ages and occupations.

� Since 1996 the Howard Government has slashed $5 billion from

universities and HECS fees have nearly doubled. Mr Howard is letting universities hike them up by another 25 per cent

� In this year’s budget there was no increase in funding above indexation for

2.25 million children in Government schools, no new University places and no new TAFE places

� There are not enough TAFE places which are vital to the re-skilling and

lifelong learning of women at different periods of their lives—around 20,000 women are turned away from TAFE each year

� Even if women do get a place, the average HECS fee has nearly doubled

under the Howard Government and if the Government is re-elected most students will face another 25 per cent increase and student loans will be slugged 20 per cent interest

The Howard Government’s Record on Women

Page 4

� All this adds up to many women missing a place or not being able to afford

tertiary education in the future—a serious problem for the advancement and education of women

� Australia needs thousands of additional nurses and teachers but under

Howard, this year 4,000 aspiring nursing students and 7,000 aspiring teaching students were turned away because there weren’t enough places

The Howard Government ignored work and family issues for more than eight years—the PM’s “BBQ stopper” was a fizzler.

� Mr Howard knows that more than 50 per cent of mothers are in paid work

by the time their youngest child is two years old, and 70 per cent are back in the workforce by the time their youngest child is three

� He should know that 34 per cent of all working women are in jobs without

leave entitlements—sick leave, annual leave or compassionate leave

� But even when a secret report to Federal Cabinet revealed that Howard

Government policies were making life tough for working families, the Prime Minister ignored its recommendations

� Only when Labor announced its groundbreaking Baby Care Payment,

did the Government take any action

� The current family payment system cannot pay families their correct

entitlement week to week. In the last three years, 52 per cent of payments have been paid incorrectly

� Each year around 600,000 families—a third of all receiving payments—

receive a debt averaging $900

� Since June 2002, the Government has known about child care shortages of

47,800 in Outside School Hours Care, 46,300 in Long Day Care, and 37,600 in Occasional Care (from ABS statistics). Despite this they waited over 2 years before delivering on any of these places and even then ignored long day care entirely

� Child care workers remain one of the lowest paid groups in our community

and the Government has refused to actively address this problem, showing how little they value this work

� The regressive Baby Bonus was a policy disaster—it failed to deliver a cent

to one in three new mothers and the vast majority received less than $500

� The Government has failed to deliver a strategic national plan for investing

in the early years, including child care services, despite numerous reports urging this as a priority