Women's Economic Security

I will always support and advocate for the advancement of women in Australia. However, I think this motion needs to also reflect on and recognise the role of the previous coalition government in leading the pathway for the ongoing progression of female workforce participation and implementation of the Workplace Gender Equality Act review, amongst other very important initiatives. The House knows that the coalition government, from 2013 to 2022, had a strong record on jobs growth, with 1.9 million jobs created, 60 per cent of which were taken up by women. Female workforce participation rose by 3.5 per cent to a then record of 62.2 per cent, and this was despite a similar drop in the figures over the period of the previous Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.

I am really passionate about women's workforce participation, particularly amongst women who are from lower-socioeconomic situations, often due to no fault of their own. In a previous career, before politics, I worked in community housing, and I started a program called WISH, which was Women In Social Housing, to support these women—where there was often intergenerational welfare—into work through mentorship and support. We saw that employment literally changed lives.

The previous, coalition government delivered a review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act in 2021 and moved towards recommendation implementation with $18 million. The two most recent coalition budgets saw over $5 billion for women's initiatives across leadership, safety, workforce participation and health outcomes. During the last government we also saw 300,000 more children go into child care, which of course assisted working parents, and we saw a near doubling of support for families accessing child care, to $11 billion from $6.2 billion at the end of the second Rudd government.

The coalition's women's policy is now being led by our deputy leader, the honourable member for Farrer, as the shadow minister for women, and she has taken charge in ensuring that women's issues are at the forefront of policymaking. Recently it was my pleasure to lead, for the coalition, the consideration in detail of the recent appropriation bills debate on the women's portfolio under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In that contribution, I noted the disappointment of business and of women who want to re-enter the workforce when this Labor government did not renew the Career Revive program in the previous budget. The program was in place from 2019 and ran out of funding at the end of the previous financial year. This is a shame, as it did support businesses in attracting and retaining women returning to work after a career break.

In the most recent budget, the Labor government have attempted to badge increased bulk-billing incentives and the Workplace Incentive Program as women's health measures. Women need more from this government. That's why the Leader of the Opposition, in his budget reply speech, announced $4 million for Ovarian Cancer Australia to continue its vital work. Further, the coalition announced that we would, if elected, allocate $5 million to review women-specific healthcare items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. Our hope is that the review would identify what best practice women-specific medical services are not on the schedule, and ensure that clinically effective services and treatments remain affordable and accessible.

Something I am extremely passionate about as I go around the country speaking to people about mental health, particularly young women, is the Medicare subsidised psychology sessions, which were cut by this government from 20 to 10. This particularly impacts young woman. This is another policy aspect the coalition has taken a lead on. If we are returned to government—when we are returned to government—we will restore the 20 sessions for all Australians on a permanent basis.

One very unfortunate target the Labor government is not meeting is its commitment to create 500 additional frontline community roles for reducing domestic violence and providing safety for women. Despite progressing funding for this election commitment in the October budget with a pledge to ensure 200 workers on the ground in the previous financial year, we don't know how many are on the ground now. I did ask a question about that in a previous speech, and it would be fantastic to get an update. There are really high rates of domestic violence in my community of Western Sydney, and this is an issue that I see as being very important—keeping women safe across Australia.

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