The Morrison government decided to make a budget statement for women weeks before the budget

Something was confirmed earlier this week in the Senate Estimates that many of us have long suspected: The 2021 Women’s Budget Report was hastily concocted in less than a month.

At the Senate Economic Legislation Committee on Tuesday, Labor Senator Jenny McAllister asked Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and her department officials a series of questions to determine the timeline – and work – leading up to the development of the 2021 women’s budget statement, the first in seven years since the coalition government abandoned traditional accounting for major budget announcements in terms of impact on women in 2014.

April 6e There was the first meeting of the new Women Task Force, the phalanx of new women ministers that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has appointed for all matters of women’s affairs after a few months of scorching headlines about the performance of his government in this area. And it was only shortly after that the Treasury had a meeting with the Women’s Bureau to discuss “the different ways in which the package of measures targeting the safety, security and well-being of women could be brought together.” “.

“Less than a month before the budget is tabled, we decide we’re going to have a budget report for women, is that right,” McAllister asked. “Yes” was the answer.

It wasn’t until April 19e, according to Senate testimony of estimates, that staff were seconded from the Women’s Office to help the Treasury develop the statement.

All of this could explain why, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, emails were sent from the Treasury to the Department of Health asking for “urgent” comments on “anything” in the field. of women’s health that the ministry had already rolled out, which could be included in the statement. The kick-off: the ministry only had 24 hours to respond.

“It was just for ‘context’ and ‘staging,’ Treasury officials said during the estimates. Okay then. If you buy this, I have a nice used East German car. used that I would like to sell to you.

And all of this could explain why two of the 18 new initiatives to promote women’s economic security were in fact large grants for Matildas football matches and the FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup.

Now I’m all for women’s sport and women’s sport funding, but the link to women’s economic security as a group of the $ 17 million investment escapes me. It’s more than a little cheeky of the Morrison government to suggest that there is one, and it sounds like a government looking for anything, anything, to put in the ladies column.

Overall, what does this rushed process tell us about how seriously the Morrison government takes gender equality issues – including women’s safety, economic security, and health? In other words: What does this rushed process tell us about the extent to which the Morrison government still does not understand and continues to believe that the band-aids and tricks will suffice?

The short answer: a lot.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that as recently as early this year the Morrison government still didn’t take these issues seriously; they simply brushed aside the outcry from many ‘credible women’ over last year’s budget, all of whom claimed it had failed the women (who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic) and moved on.

There was bluster that the “budget is not gendered” and “women drive the roads” and Morrison and Co. honestly thought they could put the problem – and the concerns of 51% of the population. population – behind them.

It was not until April, following reports that a staff member had been raped in a minister’s office, historic rape allegations were made against another government minister and photos were revealed. was disclosed of rather misogynistic and somewhat unprofessional behavior on the desk of another female minister that the penny dropped. It was not going to go away.

And even then, is that the best they can do?

I wrote previously for Women’s Agenda as my litmus test for the 2021 budget – which would indicate to me that the Morrison government really took to heart the backlash from last year’s budget, especially the critics that it didn’t had failed to deliver to women – was a significant paradigm shift in the way they understand gender inequality and seek to address it.

I realize now that it was too optimistic to expect this level of engagement. Next year, and there will be a next year as Simon Birmingham has confirmed that there will be a Budget Report for Women 2022, I will be looking for an indication that a little over three weeks or so of thought and effort has taken place. been enshrined the declaration.

I appreciate that I am a hard scorer. But on this point, I am ready to note on a curve. Yes, it is setting the bar low enough and it is very sad that it is necessary. But we are where we are.

Kristine Ziwica is a regular contributor. She tweets @KZiwica

Dorothy H. Lewis