Equality for all women – at work, at home and in the community: The Greens' Larissa Waters on gender equality

Action Tank election graphic.png

The Greens recently released a women’s equality policy and a policy for closing the gender wage gap, including a commitment to bring back the Women’s Budget Impact Statement. As part of our special federal election series Greens spokesperson for women, Co-Deputy Leader and Senator for Queensland Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) provides an overview of key commitments across six policy domains. The Women’s Policy Action Tank has also extended an invitation to Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party to share their vision for improving women’s lives; you can read Labor’s contribution here.

Despite decades of progress towards equality, many women still experience sexism and discrimination at work, home and in the community. The Greens will put in place legal, workplace and economic reforms that directly address the key causes of inequality for women in Australia and globally.

Stop the epidemic of family and domestic violence against women

We are experiencing a true national security crisis - one in three women experiences family and domestic violence (FDV) in their lifetime and, on average, one woman every week is killed by her partner or former partner. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised from domestic violence. Government investment in essential family and domestic violence frontline services is grossly inadequate, and many legal services, shelters and support services report that they simply do not have the resources to help everyone who needs it.

Larissa Waters explains the Greens platform on gender equality: “The Greens want all women to be safe, valued and treated as equals in private and public life, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender identity or sexuality.” Photo supplied.

Larissa Waters explains the Greens platform on gender equality: “The Greens want all women to be safe, valued and treated as equals in private and public life, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender identity or sexuality.” Photo supplied.

The Greens will provide full funding for frontline service responses and primary prevention to make sure that no survivor is turned away when they need help. We will create a new ten-year, $5.3 billion National Partnership Agreement on Domestic Violence and Violence Against Women between state and federal governments. This plan would provide 10-year funding certainty for frontline response services and radically boost their funding by investing $2.2 billion over four years as part of the 10 year commitment.

As part of that 10 year funding commitment, the Greens will increase and provide long-term secure funding support for Our Watch and ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety), the national primary prevention and cultural change experts.

The Greens would commit an additional $200 million over four years to a Survivor Grant fund, which would give up to 50,000 FDV survivors grants of up to $4000, helping approximately 1,000 survivors each month. The grants would be accessed through existing family violence services and be able to be used on the household staples, safety support technology, medical costs and more.

The Greens will also legislate to ensure all workers are entitled to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave, so that no woman has to choose between getting paid and being safe.

Make abortion safe, accessible, legal and free

Access to affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception, is part of every woman’s right to control her own body. The Greens will continue to work at federal and state levels to ensure abortion is safe, free and legal in all Australian states. The Greens want all women to have improved access to reproductive health and abortion services, including access to abortions in public hospitals within a reasonable distance of their homes. To achieve this we will provide $15 million to fund the additional cost to public hospitals, as well as to cut out-of-pocket costs, and invest in improved data collection on termination rates.

We will advocate for the introduction of safe-zones, so that women who have an abortion are not subjected to harassment for undergoing medical procedures.

We will ensure that counselling is be made available to all who request it, but it will not be mandatory as it is in some states. The Greens will introduce legislation into parliament to mandate transparency in advertising for counselling services, and ensure that federal funding is strictly spent on unbiased counselling.

Address the housing and homelessness crisis for older women

The largest growing cohort of homeless people is older women, with huge increases in the number of women seeking housing and homelessness support services. The Greens have a plan for policy reform to make private housing more affordable and to make public housing available to all who need it. We will reform unfair tax breaks, strengthen renters’ rights, and invest in social housing to build 500,000 new public and community homes. We will also increase funding for crisis and temporary housing services as part of our $5.3 billion National Partnership Agreement on Domestic Violence and Violence Against Women. Dedicated resources to build transitional housing and crisis services for women is a key part of this plan.

Keep women safe from harassment and discrimination at work, online and on the street

Women have the right to be free of sexual harassment and discrimination everywhere, whether at work, online, at places of study, or on the street - no matter the time of day or what they are wearing.

The best way to stop harassment, discrimination and violence is before it occurs. The Greens support primary prevention programs and men’s behaviour change programs, like the Change the Story framework for primary prevention developed by Our Watch.

But change must start earlier, in our schools, where Respectful Relationships programs are already embedded in the National Curriculum but are often under-resourced or delivered infrequently. The federal government must work with States and Territories within the education system to support its rollout.

The Greens will also work federally with State and Territory governments for a nationally consistent sexual education curriculum, which closes significant gaps in the education of young people in issues such as consent, respect and safe sex. Sex education must also incorporate principles of diversity, including consideration of LGBTIQ+ relationships, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people living with disabilities and First Nations Peoples.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently undertaking the fourth National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The Greens are committed to scrutinising its recommendations and pushing for any recommended legal changes to keep women safe from harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

We would also task the Sex Discrimination Commissioner with providing advice on:

-          giving access to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for state-based employees; and

-          the success of France’s cat-calling laws which ban street harassment, and whether a national approach could be taken in Australia.

Fix the gender pay gap and improve economic security for women

Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work. Achieving equal opportunity for all genders, while supporting financial and workplace security, must be a priority.

We have a comprehensive five point plan on ending the gender wage gap with measures at every stage of women’s lives.

The Greens would:

1. Boost women’s financial security through equal pay for equal work to boost women’s financial security;

2. Legislate to protect the right to request family friendly, flexible workplaces;

3. Value the work of carers through extended paid parental leave, with superannuation;

4. Provide more affordable and accessible early childhood education to more children; and

5. Reform superannuation for fairer retirement.

Improve global equality for women through our development program

The Greens will reverse the trend of slashing aid budgets under successive Coalition and Labor Governments.

In terms of gender equality, the Greens are committed to ensuring that our aid program is specifically designed to raise the status of women globally. We support a suite of measures aimed at achieving global gender equality, including setting funding and performance targets for gender equality investments in our aid program, setting stand-alone funding targets for women’s rights organisations, increasing Australia’s funding for sexual and reproductive health rights, developing an adolescent girls action plan and requiring the Minister for Foreign Affairs to present an annual gender equality report to Parliament.

Concluding comments

The Greens want all women to be safe, valued and treated as equals in private and public life, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender identity or sexuality. We acknowledge that transgender women and gender diverse people often experience compounded sexism and discrimination, which The Greens will address in our comprehensive LGBTIQ+ policies.  

We are committed to achieving equality for all women, including through housing, financial, and workplace security.

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