19 Sep 2018 speech

I am pleased to speak on this matter today because our government has a very strong record of introducing real measures to help women to ensure that they are financially secure not just in retirement but right throughout their lives. This is an issue that young women are increasingly aware of—the need to be financially secure throughout their lives. More and more young women are thinking about what they need to do to ensure their financial security from the start of their working life right through to when they retire.

Young women around Australia are taking responsibility for their financial security and for their financial literacy, and they're informing themselves about how they can best look after themselves and prepare for their future. In fact, I was recently contacted by some thoughtful young women, Georgina Southcott and Miranda Stahl, who are year 9 students studying the issue of equality in the workplace, particularly equality of income. For many industries where there is an award in place or where there is legislated pay, like we're paid here in parliament as members of parliament, women and men are already paid equally. Where a job is not subject to set wages, one of the key things, we know, is to help women gain the skills they need to negotiate and bargain when it comes to their incomes so that they can get the best deal for themselves.

Our government is taking a range of steps to improve economic security for women, whether these women are school leavers, jobseekers, new mums returning to the workforce or senior Australians nearing retirement age. Unlike those opposite, we on this side of the House know that no-one gets superannuation if they're unemployed. You need to have a job to earn money to put into your super and to top up your super. So we are supporting women—and, in fact, all Australians—to get a job. So I say to Georgina and Miranda: one of the most important things that we are doing for women in Australia is making sure that they can get a job. Almost one million jobs have been added to the Australian economy since September 2013, when the Liberal-Nationals coalition came to government, and, significantly, 58 per cent of these jobs went to women. In the year 2015-16 alone, around 90,000 more women than men joined the labour force. By contrast, when those opposite left office, when the Labor Party were kicked out of government, women's full-time employment was going backwards.

What we're doing on this side is helping women access the job market by providing affordable and accessible child care, because we know this is one of the biggest barriers for a lot of women returning to work. We've started the national rollout of the ParentsNext program, which helps eligible parents prepare for employment, with approximately 96 per cent of participants expected to be women, including around 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. In the May budget we committed $64.3 million to establish a Jobs and Market Fund to grow the National Disability Insurance Scheme workforce and service providers, because we know that women make up almost 80 per cent of employees in the health, social assistance and disability-care industries. We've extended the pension work bonus to allow pensioners to earn more income without reducing their age pension, and mature aged women will benefit from expanded access to the Restart wage subsidy, offering an incentive of up to $10,000 to encourage businesses to hire and retain mature aged employees. Women aged 45 to 70 will benefit from the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program.

When it comes time for women to retire, our government has provided a superannuation system with flexibility, sustainability and equity. We introduced the low-income superannuation tax offset to support the accumulation of super for low-income earners. We have levelled the playing field by scrapping restrictions on who can make personal deductable contributions, benefiting 800,000 Australians, including those women working in roles without access to formal salary-sacrificing arrangements. In fact, in 2015-16, almost 320,000 low- and middle-income-earning women were paid $100 million in co-contributions. And we, of course, have the Protecting Your Super Package, which will help many, many women. Also, we are assisting 1.6 million women who are still contributing to low-balance accounts by helping to protect their super as well. We know the biggest risk to some of our senior Australian women is actually those opposite and their retiree tax, which is going to do so much damage to people who've worked hard and saved for their retirement.