5 things the federal budget did for women, and 5 things it didn’t

The government was always going to have to spend big on women's safety, and it did.

By Sally Spicer


The government was always going to have to spend big on women's safety, and it did.

By Sally Spicer

On Tuesday, a triumphant Treasurer declared from the dispatch box that Australia is coming back.

What followed, though, was not a return to the Coalition’s pre-pandemic normal. The party’s ideological bastions of austerity and fiscal conservatism were nowhere to be seen as Josh Frydenberg read out a high-spending economic plan with plenty of winners and very few losers.


The budget is built on a set of assumptions – a big one is that the whole country will be vaccinated by the end of the year.

On our current trajectory, that seems unlikely.

After blood clots forced a major change to who gets AstraZeneca in April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “while we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.”


Even if we are all vaccinated, the budget assumes that the borders will be closed until mid-2022 at least.

It’s also worth noting that this is later than the last budget predicted. Then, the government predicted that international travel would be off the cards until at least the end of 2021.

So put that Bali trip with the girls on hold.


This feels like a pre-election budget. There’s something for everyone.

The days of debt and deficit are gone too, and it feels like the Coalition has gone out of its way to neutralise policy areas where it’s usually weak to a Labor attack – think aged care, childcare and social issues.


The headline spend is $17.7 billion dollars for aged care.

This is a significant investment to reform an indisputably broken system.

But does it go far enough? It’s hard to say.

In April, The Grattan Institute estimated that $10 billion a year is needed for proper reform.


Tax breaks are being extended for another year.

The $7.8 billion offset will see 10.2 million low and middle income earners pocket:

  • Up to $1080 if they’re single and earning less than $90000
  • $2160 for couples

Increased subsidy payments for childcare – particularly for families with two kids in care at the same time.

This is folded into a $3.4 billion package for women’s safety, economic security, health and wellbeing.

But remember: this is not just for women, it’s for families!


$20 million to implement all 55 Respect@Work report recommendations.

The government received this landmark report by Sex Discriminator Commissioner Kate Jenkins in January 2020 – 16 months ago.

Image: Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins (right) during International Women’s Day Parliamentary Breakfast in the Great Hall at Parliament House on February 25, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Credit: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

After the cultural reckoning that engulfed Canberra – and the nation – in recent months, the government was always going to have to spend big on women's safety, and it did.

$1.1 billion, to be exact. This will go towards:

  • Providing financial support to women escaping abusive relationships
  • Key frontline domestic services including crisis accommodation and hotlines
  • Anti-violence campaigns
  • Support for women’s legal centres
  • Prevention and education
Image: Brittany Higgins and Lisa Wilkinson at the March 4 Justice in Canberra, Australia. Credit: Jamila Toderas / Stringer

A $652 million boost to the aged care workforce.

Why is this a bonus for women?

Because it is, overwhelmingly, a female workforce. 87 percent of workers in residential care services are women.


More money for women's health.

$148 million will be focused on breast cancer treatments, endometriosis and genetic testing of embryos.


No investment to reduce inequality and address wage stagnation – both challenges that hurt more women than men.

Although the budget paints the picture of a healthy economic recovery, wages are only set to grow by 1.5 percent until 2023, and 2.5 percent at best in 2024-25.


Anyone hoping for climate action will be disappointed but probably not surprised.

No significant environmental funding in sight, and no new commitments to move us towards lower emissions faster.

As for net zero emissions?

On Tuesday Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reaffirmed the government’s goal to get there “as soon as we possibly can, preferably by 2050”.


No investment or reform for women's economic security specifically.

There’s no change to paid parental leave, no work to reduce the gender pay gap, and no pay rises for the caring professions.


No support for the decimated university sector.

Last year, the federal government invested $1 billion in university research to compensate for a drastic shortfall in international students.

This time, there was no such luck.

When coupled with the end of JobKeeper and a $1.2 billion rescue package for the tourism and aviation sectors, the university sector is one of the biggest losers in this budget.


No money for new quarantine facilities like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

This will sting for the states – especially Victoria, which recently asked the Commonwealth to help fund a purpose-built quarantine hub in Melbourne’s north.

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