Achieving equality for Australian women will take bold action: Tanya Plibersek on Labor's commitments

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The Australian Labor Party recently released a National Gender Equality Strategy, including a record $660 million commitment to end violence against women. As part of our special federal election series Labor’s Shadow Minister for Women, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Education and Training and Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) provides an overview of Labor’s policy commitments. We extended an invitation to all of the major parties; you can read the Greens platform here.

Equality for Australian women is at the heart of Labor’s mission. If Labor is successful at the federal election, we will be the first national government in Australian history with 50 per cent women in our ranks.

Having a Parliament that reflects our community matters – you get better decisions when there is a more diverse group of people sitting around the table.

I’m proud that Labor has spent the last six years developing the most comprehensive policy on gender equality ever taken to an Australian election by a major party – we want to deliver equality in pay, in opportunity, in leadership and in freedom from violence.

Australia was once a world leader in women’s rights, but we’ve slipped dramatically down the global rankings. The gender pay gap means Australian women are effectively working two months of every year for free. This leads to women retiring with 42 per cent less super and to the terrible situation where a third of older single women are living in poverty.

Ending Violence Against Women

There is no clearer symbol of continuing gender inequality than the epidemic of violence against women. We must address violence in all its forms, so women are safe in their homes, at work, on our streets, on campus and online.

Tanya Plibersek on Labor’s gender equality strategy: “A Labor Government will deliver a National Gender Equality Strategy that will set targets for change, drive measurable action to tackle inequality, and we’ll report on Australia’s progress through an annual update to the Parliament.” Photo supplied.

Tanya Plibersek on Labor’s gender equality strategy: “A Labor Government will deliver a National Gender Equality Strategy that will set targets for change, drive measurable action to tackle inequality, and we’ll report on Australia’s progress through an annual update to the Parliament.” Photo supplied.

A Shorten Labor Government will make a record Commonwealth investment of over $660 million in the Fourth Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, more than doubling current funding and committing to long term change. This funding will be used to build and upgrade refuges, invest in safe and affordable housing, deliver prevention programs and legal services, and boost critical frontline services and practical support to people escaping family violence.

Labor will review immigration and social services arrangements to make sure women and children who are victims of violence while they are on temporary visas can access the support they need. And we will strengthen supports and services at Centrelink, because too often, people fleeing violence are let down by the social security system.

A Fair Go for Working Women

Labor will lead a new national push to help close the gender pay gap. We’ll require large companies – with more than 1,000 employees – to reveal their gender pay gaps to the public, and we’ll ban pay secrecy clauses. It’s no coincidence that the financial services industry, which is one of the biggest users of pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts also has the largest gender pay gap of around 30 per cent. That’s double the national average. A Shorten Labor Government will make sure employees have the right to disclose – or not disclose – their pay.

One of the key drivers of the gender pay gap is that work in traditionally female-dominated industries is undervalued. Labor will legislate a statutory Equal Remuneration Principle and establish an expert Pay Equity Panel within the Fair Work Commission, to make it easier to order pay increases for workers in female-dominated industries. Labor will also reverse cuts to penalty rates – which disproportionately impact women.

Fairer retirement incomes

A Labor Government will invest over $655 million in measures to boost women’s superannuation. We will pay superannuation on Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave for the first time and make it easier for employers to pay extra superannuation contributions to women by amending the Sex Discrimination Act.

We know that too many older single women are falling into homelessness. To tackle the problem, Labor will invest $88 million in a new Safe Housing Fund that will increase transitional accommodation options for older women experiencing homelessness, women and children escaping violence and young people exiting out of home care.

Labor will also invest in building 250,000 new affordable rental homes to provide stable, affordable long-term housing that will benefit thousands of older women.

Support balancing families and caring

To achieve gender equality in the workplace or in leadership, we also need to shift the way we share family responsibilities and caring work. Labor is committed to supporting parents to manage work and care responsibilities and make decisions about how to raise their families based on what is best for their family.

That’s why Labor will deliver massive cost-of-living relief for nearly one million Australian families struggling with the costs of child care with a $4 billion investment in early education.

When Labor was last in government, we introduced Australia’s first ever national Paid Parental Leave scheme and Dad and Partner Pay, to make sure both parents can spend time at home with their newborn baby. If we form government, we will consult with experts on ways to make Paid Parental Leave more flexible to meet the needs of Australian families.

Leading on women’s reproductive health

Earlier this year, I announced Labor’s ground-breaking commitment to a National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy so all Australian women can access legal, safe, affordable reproductive health services when they need them.

Labor will improve access to effective contraceptives to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancy, take national leadership to progress decriminalisation of abortion across Australia, and make sure women can access termination services in the public health system

Restoring National Leadership

A Labor Government will deliver a National Gender Equality Strategy that will set targets for change, drive measurable action to tackle inequality, and we’ll report on Australia’s progress through an annual update to the Parliament.

To make sure that equality is at the heart of our decision making, we’ll place the Office for Women at the centre of a new program of gender-responsive policy making. We’ll bring back gender impact statements for cabinet submissions and legislation – as we have been doing from Opposition – and we’ll restore the annual Women’s Budget Statement.

Achieving equality for Australian women will take bold action. Labor is ready to deliver.

This post is part of the Women's Policy Action Tank initiative to analyse government policy using a gendered lens, and this piece is part of our Federal Election series 2019. Photo credit for the voter’s box in our logo: Flaticon. View our other policy analysis pieces here and follow us on Twitter @PolicyforWomen