It should have been an early warning signal. The Women's Statement wasn't even broadly distributed in time for the budget. Journalists received printed out pages bound together by butterfly clip on Tuesday night, but those copies were only by request. Butterfly clips.
As soon as the budget landed, Australian women were furious. It was clear they had been left out of any economic reckonings, left out of the design, left out of the planning. And it didn't take long for them to fight back. Georgie Dent, executive director of parenting lobby group The Parenthood, tweeted: "Women, who comprise slightly more than half the population, who have carried Australia through this pandemic and borne the brunt of the adverse financial & social implications of COVID19 get 0.0385% of the $600B+ spend. There's no way that's not shocking. But wait! There's more!"
Update. The PM's office takes issue with what it describes as "blatant factual inaccuracy" in this tweet. 'Nothing in the budget is gendered,' is their view.— Georgie Dent (@georgiedent) October 7, 2020
To clarify $240million over five years is the only targeted money for women in this budget. https://t.co/HW2gtqyjTI
The next morning, Dent, who has three jobs, three children and one husband, received a disturbing call from a prime ministerial staffer. I am not naming him, because this is clearly not his fault alone. But his response shows he works in an environment created by men, for men, about men. It's the company he keeps. Men are the default and the rulers. Women are a side issue. Just check out the sausage fest in parliamentary decision-making.
Anyhow, enough of systemic sexism and barbecue analogies. Here is what this staffer said to Dent in his attempt to censure her. He said the government took issue with her tweet and an article on Women's Agenda. He said the characterisation of the $240 million set aside as the only money specifically targeting women was wrong. She was reprimanded and told that as a public figure, what she said mattered. He said her tweet was blatantly factually inaccurate and should be "factually accurate". She stood by her view that the budget didn't address women's needs and said many others were making that point.
To which he responded: "No one credible is saying that."
The PM's staffer clearly has credibility in one field - delivering patronising comments to women who are actual experts in their field. For his benefit and for his master's benefit, please let me recap the arguments of a small handful of #crediblewomen who think this budget sucks for women. No wonder the hashtag started trending nearly immediately.
These women represent the kinds of institutions and organisations the Prime Minister normally embraces. I have left out the fabulous ratbags and those with lived experience, because this government would never consider those people credible. Insert eyeroll here. So, here goes.
Women make up 52 per cent of the economy, and they appear to be responsible for cooking and cleaning for the other 48 per cent.
The president of Chief Executive Women and non-executive director on a number of boards, renowned socialist Sue Morphet, was clear: "Australian economic recovery needs more opportunities and job creation for women ... older women appear to have been forgotten in this budget. It is particularly challenging for older people to re-enter the workforce after losing their jobs. This budget does little to provide opportunities for older women and harness their contribution to recovery."
Nicki Hutley, economist and partner at Deloitte Australia, was equally scathing. Women, she said, were not just badly hit by the recession, they were already struggling in terms of participation. She says the budget was an opportunity missed.
"Women need to have support to get back to work. For every hour of paid work, we do twice as many hours of unpaid work, compared to men," she said.
"The women's initiatives were laughable and many were recycled."
EY Oceania chief economist Jo Masters said there were no specific measures in the budget to support women who had lost their jobs or left the workforce.
"There were direct measures for young Australians but no direct measures for women," she said.
"We know that lack of affordable and universal access to childcare is a key barrier to female participation in the workplace."
Masters has two daughters in their teens. She is worried about what the future holds for them.
And how did Angela Jackson, lead economist at Equity Economics, interpret the budget and its engineers?
"They have a male toolkit for economic recessions," she said.
"They didn't consider the impact on care industries, on hospitality or on retail."
Why do we need a female toolkit or a gender lens? "Policies do not apply equally across the population," says Ming Long, a funds management non-executive director.
MORE JENNA PRICE:
What about the Committee for Economic Development of Australia's chief executive Melinda Cilento, clearly a ratbag? She says women have been hit harder in terms of job losses and are discouraged from looking for work.
"In this uniquely pink recession and given that access to and affordability of childcare are barriers to taking a job or increasing hours of work for women, many hoped and thought the government would tackle these in the budget - it is disappointing that they did not," she said.
"Failing to address access to and affordability of childcare in this budget was a missed opportunity."
And let's not even think about the horror of the cuts to JobSeeker, which is keeping women from poverty. As Cilento put it: "This is a glaring omission during Australia's first recession in 30 years."
I did find one fan! The Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne (who has been nearly invisible during this entire process), announced that included in the budget is funding for the expansion of Master Builders' Women Building Australia program. So the women Master Builders are happy. The lovely spokesman tells me women make up about 11 per cent of the building industry, and 1 per cent of those on the tools are women. Speaking of construction, "The boost to direct employment from a 1 per cent GDP investment in care industries is almost five times greater than the direct employment generated in construction," Melinda Cilento says.
There are 6 million women workers in Australia. Women make up 52 per cent of the economy, and they appear to be responsible for cooking and cleaning for the other 48 per cent. The government has completely ignored the impact of the pandemic on women by failing to support them. I'm looking forward to Labor's promises on free childcare. And, sorry not sorry to harp on about this for decades, where is the funding for domestic violence and for women's legal services? How many women have to die before this gets real attention from a Coalition government?
This government wants a brocovery, but women should remember this slight at the next election.
- Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist.