Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for Women’s Economic Security, Senator Hume. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Liberal-National government is supporting the economic prosperity of Australian women as we reopen Australia and secure our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Senator HUME (Victoria—Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy and Minister for Women’s Economic Security) (14:30): I thank Senator Henderson for her question and her ongoing support for the future prosperity of Australia’s women. On this day, where we recognise the importance of protecting Australia’s women from violence, we should also acknowledge that the Morrison government is very much backing Australia’s women to reach their full potential. We know that when women succeed, Australia succeeds. When women participate fully in the economy, it’s not just good for us; it’s good for all Australians. The Morrison government has put money where our mouths are, investing $3.4 billion of new funding through this year’s Women’s Budget Statement, including investments in women’s safety, economic security and health and wellbeing.
Women are at the forefront of supporting the economic recovery from COVID-19. Under this government, the women’s workforce participation rate is on an upwards trajectory, even in the face of the short-term impacts of lockdowns and the pandemic. We are achieving this by creating more choices and more chances for more Australian women. The Morrison government has invested $1.7 billion to improve the affordability of child care by increasing the childcare subsidy for families with multiple children. We know that these are the parents, the majority of whom are women, who face the greatest challenges and disincentives on returning to work.
We have also removed the annual subsidy to support the choices of Australian families when it comes to making the decision about balancing work and care. These changes are estimated to directly benefit around 250,000 Australian families, adding up to around 300,000 additional hours of work per week. That figure is the equivalent of around 40,000 individuals working an extra day per week, with a boost to GDP of around $1.5 billion every single year. Our focus is always on practical outcomes that make a real difference to women’s lives—not thought bubbles, not headlines. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Henderson, a supplementary question?
Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:33): Can the minister outline to the Senate how the government is supporting Australian women to secure their economic future?
Senator HUME (Victoria—Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy and Minister for Women’s Economic Security) (14:33): The Morrison government understands that the role of government is as an enabler and as a standards setter. That is one reason why we’re supporting more women into leadership positions and jobs for the future. We know that ‘women in STEM’ is not just a tagline. It’s a lived reality and a priority in order to create the digital economy of the future. Careers in STEM are in demand and, crucially, are one of the highest-paid sectors of our economy.
Our government is committed to ensuring that there are more talented, educated and ready-to-lead women in the pipeline. We are investing $42.4 million over seven years to support more women with higher-level STEM qualifications. We’re also supporting industry led programs, like Skill Finder, to provide flexible microcredentials that are in high demand. Additionally, we’re partnering with universities to offer scholarships and identify STEM fields with the highest growth potential to support women into the jobs of the future. These programs build on the successful Women’s Leadership and Development Program, where we committed a further $39.8 million. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Henderson, a second supplementary?
Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (14:34): Can the minister explain the importance of a collaborative approach across government and industry in reducing barriers to improving women’s economic security?
Senator HUME (Victoria—Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy and Minister for Women’s Economic Security) (14:34): Again, thank you, Senator Henderson. The Morrison government recognises that reducing the gender pay gap requires targeted policy and partnership between government and the private sector. But, before I talk about what’s ahead, let me point out where we’ve come from. When we took office, the gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent, and now it is 14.2 per cent. There is more to do, and as a government we believe that implementing policies should in fact shift the dial—policies not put in place for show; we believe in implementing policies that shift that dial, not policies that give millionaires free child care but ones that have real substance.
Opposition senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Minister Hume, resume your seat. Order on my left. I couldn’t possibly hear what the minister was saying. Once the chamber is silent—Minister, you have the call.
Senator HUME: That’s why we put policies in place that actually shift the dial, not ones like Labor’s plan to give millionaires free child care. That’s why we put the Women’s Budget Statement in place and committed to a full review of the Workplace Gender Equity Agency to determine how the government can further encourage the private sector to do its bit to close the gender pay gap. (Time expired)