Topics: 2020 Budget
Question: Minister, what more can the Government do for women? Is it actually doing enough?
Karen Andrews: It’s absolutely doing enough for women. I totally reject the criticism that this Budget does not support women. We are providing significant funding for businesses – women are business owners. We are committed to making the tax cuts a reality – that will support women. This is just a disgraceful attempt by the Labor party to set women up as political fodder, and this quite frankly is just unacceptable from a party that was very happy to dump Tanya Plibersek as the Deputy Leader for purely political purposes.
Question: But, to get more women into the workforce – because they have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus shutdowns – does more assistance not need to go towards trying to make it easier for them to get childcare access?
Karen Andrews: There is a wide range of support for men and women. This is a budget which supports all Australians; it supports businesses, very widely across the board. But, yes, there are some specific measures in there for women. And can I say that there is over $9 billion in child care subsidies in the first year – that is on top of $900 million in support that was given during the height of the COVID crisis. But let me make it very clear, our priority as our government is to create the jobs that are needed to bring us through the COVID recession in which we find ourselves. And it’s just disgraceful to try and pick off women. Most women want to get out there and do their jobs quietly and efficiently, and they are doing it.
Question: How do you get women back in the workforce though?
Karen Andrews: We do that through retraining packages that we already have in place; the support for apprentices, the support for trainees – that is certainly available to women. There’s support through the Instant Asset Tax write-off, that will create more opportunities, women will be the beneficiaries of that as well. We are not going to set up a contest between men and women – we are here for all Australians. There are specific benefits in the budget for women in STEM, and I am a personal champion of that and we need to get more women into STEM and we are supporting that as well because there is a very strong evidence base that there are not sufficient women going into the STEM fields.
Question: Minister, just on changes to partner visas and a mandatory English test, some people might have to do up to 500 hours of English lessons. Does that not seem unfair?
Karen Andrews: Look, that’s a matter that you really need to raise with the Minister for Home Affairs-
Question: [Talks over] Just on a personal level, does that not seem unfair?
Karen Andrews: Look, this is about making sure that we have people appropriately trained – that’s what our budget is all about. I’m very focussed on making sure that we are delivering for all people here in Australia. And you will need to refer those questions to the Minister for Home Affairs.
Question: Minister, is there an argument for universal free child care in Australia?
Karen Andrews: We provide significant subsidies for child care here in Australia – $9.2 billion worth of support. Many, many families are beneficiaries of that child care subsidy. We want to make sure that we are getting men and women back into work. We are very focussed on where our recovery is going to be, and the work that we have already done with child care reforms has meant that out of pocket expenses have gone down about 3 per cent – that is a benefit. But, let’s focus on creating the jobs, let’s focus on getting men and women back into work.
Question: Do you accept, though, the cost of childcare can be a hurdle to getting people back into the workforce?
Karen Andrews: Not being able to access a job is a hurdle.