Valuing the role of parenting

1 August, 2023

Well may you say that you have good news for all women in Australia and well may you say that 53 per cent representation in this government means a better outcome for women across this nation. That will be a scorecard for later on.

But I do want those in government to take note of this. When they praise themselves for increasing the single parenting payment, they may be forgetting that the mover of this motion was in the parliament when the single parenting payment was reduced and that people like me railed against the single parenting payment being reduced, as it threw thousands of children into poverty. They said, 'It was a great success, removing that money from those women.' When I asked why, they said, 'Because then thousands of them moved into work straightaway.'

So, under the Labor administration, they had to walk away from their children, who they were caring for up to that age, or put them into abject poverty. They had to find a job anywhere, any job—not a job they wanted; any job. I would put to you that, yes, it's clear by the figures that we have more women in full-time work.

But I would question whether that should be the evidence of success for women, families and, indeed, society as a whole. I would question instead, with the evidence of families struggling to make ends meet and the escalating cost of living occurring under the leadership of this government, whether it's forcing conversations in the household to say: 'Darling, we cannot survive with one of us working. We'll lose the house. We'll take the kids out of the private Catholic school and put them in the public school, which is going to save us $2,000 a year per child. We're going to have to make some decisions. What do we do?' And, if the interest rates go up any higher, what are they going to do then?

They're not prepared for this. They're not prepared for these interest rate rises. They're not prepared for the power price rises. They're not prepared for the utility costs rising. I spoke to a woman the other day, and she said: 'I've stopped buying firewood. I'm sitting there with a small electric heater and a rug on.' She was taking extra shifts in the bar that she worked in in Gippsland—as much work as she could get—but she said, 'I cannot afford the firewood any more.' So she's not lighting the fire.

I would question the costs for mothers who have been forced back into the workforce long before they would have chosen to go back. They might want to go back into the workforce. In this inquiry we're doing on Workforce Australia at the moment, we're finding women that are out of work and do want to go back to work, but they have barriers. Some of those barriers are insurmountable and unseen.

I would question the cost for families who have been forced to outsource the critically important role of caregiver for their children to ensure that they have enough money to put food on the table. We can reduce the cost of child care, as a government—you'd hope—but have you increased the opportunity for our society to be a lesser place? Indeed, I would question the cost for our society if we devalue and neglect the critical contribution that women make outside of full-time work, often in unpaid roles providing stability to thriving communities. These communities rely upon mums that are at home.

There's so much to say. I think the wellbeing report by the government, under the Treasurer, Mr Chalmers—I know what it's like to struggle in life, managing children. I see my children doing it every day, and they're working full time. There's got to be a lot accountability for people, Australia and the way that we work for women.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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