Where Are The Policies For Women?

We’ve heard a lot in this election about paid parental leave — but how well do the policies of the Australian Labor Party, the Coalition, and the Greens meet the broader needs of women? While there has been progress, there is still much work to be done, writes Emma Davidson

Violence against women continues to be a real problem for women from all socio-economic groups and cultural backgrounds. While the Government’s National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children is a very significant step toward addressing the relentless epidemic of violence against women and girls, some parties have not committed to adequate and long term funding for the plan.

Both the ALP and Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave policies have been debated in the media, but the Greens also have a policy that meets the recommendations of women’s organisations. Women want paid parental leave that is fully costed and comprehensively funded, flexible and extended up to six months, includes superannuation and a paternity leave component.

Pay equity is still a problem, with women working full time earning, on average, only 83 cents in the dollar earned by men. While all three parties have made public statements about the importance of pay equity, not all parties have a commitment to reduce the gender wage gap. This includes a commitment to meeting the recommendations in the House of Representatives Report Making It Fair, as well as fair work conditions and equal pay for community sector workers.

One fundamental area that needs work from both the ALP and Coalition is a Human Rights Act for Australia, bringing domestic laws in line with our international obligations. In fact, the Coalition has indicated it will not fund an initiative to consolidate and strengthen anti-discrimination laws.

Health is another burning issue for women. While the ALP has promised a National Women’s Health Policy, they have failed to deliver the funding to implement it. In a disturbing step backwards for women’s right to choice over their own healthcare, the ALP and Coalition passed legislation that gives private doctors the right to veto a woman’s informed choice to access private midwifery care.

Time is running out for women in the 2010 Federal Election. Can we put gender equality on the agenda and make women count?