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‘Women drive on roads’: Government defends Budget

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 14: Senator Michaelia Cash during a press conference in the Senate Courtyard at Parliament House on May 14, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Today is final day of a special parliamentary sitting, after parliament was adjourned due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Parliament is set to resume in August 2020.  (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Michaelia Cash has defended the 2020 Budget. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

The Government has defended its 2020 Budget amid claims the $240 million allocated to women’s economic security was a “slap in the face”.

Speaking this morning, Families Minister Anne Ruston said every item in the Budget was available to women, including youth wage subsidies and extra university places.

“Women can take advantage of driving on the new infrastructure and roads,” she said.

"To suggest the budget doesn't focus on women, I think, is wrong."

The Budget does contain support for the paid parental leave scheme, with a changed work test opening up more access to Australians.

However, the major stimulus boosts have been in the construction and infrastructure sectors, which are typically male-dominated.

That’s despite women making up the majority of job losses in 14 of the 19 hardest hit sectors.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash echoed Ruston’s statements, saying Australian women will benefit from the tax cuts and other measures.

“Women are in small business, in business generally. They will benefit from our investment measures. Women drive on roads,” she told Today.

“They will benefit from our infrastructure spend. And in my own portfolio of skills, we have a massive $1.2 billion investment in 100,000 new commencements for apprentices and trainees.”

51% left behind: Albanese

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Budget wasn’t good enough, describing it as having left “51 per cent of our population” behind.

“How [is it] that you can produce a budget with a trillion dollar debt, with a $215 billion deficit… and not have initiatives directed, particularly to address the fact that it is women who have particularly suffered under the Morrison recession,” he said.

Albanese said Australia needs specific strategies designed at boosting women’s economic security, given women are overrepresented in the casual and part-time workforce, which was particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

He also said the Budget needed to have a “gender lens” which assesses policy measures based on who they help most and whether they could be targeted to benefit both groups equally.

“We know that women still earn less than men. We know that they retire with superannuation balances that are on average 47 per cent less than men,” he said.

“What’s the Government’s solution to that? Encourage a raid on superannuation for people who are desperate to get by and put food on the table,” he continued, noting that the majority of Australians who have raided their super are women.

Albanese is due to present Labor’s Budget reply on Thursday evening, amid speculation it will have free or near-free childcare for low-income families as a pillar.

Labor treasury spokesperson Jim Chalmers hinted at the move today, saying: “There’s hardly anything [in the Budget] for women, nothing for childcare, nothing substantial for public housing, nothing substantial for cleaner and cheaper energy, and nothing substantial for aged care.

“It really beggars belief that you can spend that much money and rack up a trillion dollars in debt and still not address some of the obvious challenges in our economy now and into the future.”

For more Yahoo Finance stories on the 2020 Federal Budget, visit here.

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