This Election Has Been Good For Women
There is a significant difference between this election and its predecessors: the attention being paid to women and women’s issues is much greater. Both major parties have record numbers of women contesting the election, many of them in secure seats. There has also been considerable thought put into policies that will advance the economic security and social position of women. On Sunday, on the eve of the start of pre-polling, Labor relaunched its campaign after the Easter and ANZAC Day break by announcing a $4 billion boost for childcare funding. This will provide a hand-out for families with household incomes up to $174,000, who use childcare. It is estimated that from July 2020, 887,000 families will benefit from the policy. The policy will give families with household incomes up to $69,000 a year a subsidy of $2,100 per child, which will effectively mean that childcare is free for them. For families between $69,000 and $174,000 the subsidy will be approximately $1,200. Bill Shorten also announced that a Labor government would increase the wages of childcare workers by 20% over eight years. This is on top of any wage increases granted by the Fair Work Commission. There is of course a chance that wage increases will lead to fee increases but Mr Shorten says that he will introduce price controls over the childcare industry. It will remain to be seen whether this policy can be implemented in a way that has a positive impact on women’s lives. The Coalition also had an announcement on Sunday: it announced that it would freeze the immigration humanitarian intake at the current level of 18,500 refugees a year but in a policy change they said that 60% of the quota would be filled by women. On Friday, Labor announced that it would spend $600 million on additional domestic violence measures over the next four years. The Shadow Minister for Families and Communities, Linda Burney, told journalists that a substantial proportion of the funding will be spent on providing shelter for victims of domestic violence. She said that many of these shelters would be built in the regions and that special arrangements would be made for women with male teenage children or who needed to care for animals. Earlier on Labor announced that it would fund women’s superannuation contributions when they were on parental leave. For their part the Coalition has implemented a policy that allows women to make top up payments to their superannuation accounts when they are out of the work force. Unfortunately Labor says that this measure is a tax loophole and they will revoke it. Finally, as we predicted, Labor has made an announcement that it will change Medicare to include dental services. Initially the free dental services will be extended to seniors who are on the pension or who hold a senior’s health card. They will be entitled to $1,000 worth of dental treatment every two years. Eventually the concession will be extended to all Medicare card holders. Now that women are prominent on the political landscape it is odds on that the approach to politics will change. There is likely to be more emphasis on social and environmental issues but cost of living will still loom large in the minds of both male and female voters. Bill Shorten will continue to appeal to women at a social and environmental level. He will offer them security for their children and the prospect of better opportunities. Scott Morrison will play on his strengths as a family man with a supportive wife. If women want something different to these scenarios, then now is the time to speak up. Today’s Newspoll shows the gap between Labor and the Coalition narrowing to 51% to 49% on a two party preferred basis. This reflects Bill Shorten’s poor performance in the first two weeks of the campaign. Expect Labor to deluge us with big announcements over the next two weeks.