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Image: ACOSS. L-R: Sam Page, Cassandra Goldie, Marian Baird, and moderator, Georgie Dent of Women's Agenda.

Our laws hurt women and kids: female leaders

For far-reaching International Women’s Day, a chat between an early childhood leader, an anti-poverty spokeswoman and a gender equality researcher fittingly included a spectrum of gendered concerns.

Sam Page, chief executive of Early Childhood Australia, Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), and Marian Baird, a professor of gender and employment relations at Sydney University perched on sofa chairs to discuss ‘how new federal laws leave women and children worse off’.

They are, of course, referring to the government’s omnibus bill, which remains stuck in the lower house. The bill encompasses additional childcare subsidy funding, to be paid for with cuts to welfare and paid parental leave.

The three-woman panel wasn’t happy about this. They believe the package bill never should’ve been assembled.

“Economic modelling by PwC on the childcare package demonstrates it pays for itself in three to four years”, Page said.

Besides, they argued welfare and paid parental leave shouldn’t be pruned at all.

To support this, Goldie highlighted Australia’s seemingly shocking rates of poverty. According to her organisation’s research, almost three million of us live below the (income) poverty line. She noted that single women with children often bear the brunt of this misfortune.

“The [omnibus] bill will directly hit the incomes of the lowest income families, including single parents and their children”, she said.

Sam Page added that some think we need welfare cuts due to a ‘middle class welfare’ problem.  Admitting this used to be the case, she claimed it no longer exists.

And, Page noted, childcare subsidy funding grounds the entire debate. The government wants to trim paid parental leave to increase female workforce participation, yet this will naturally occur with higher childcare subsidies.

What Page is saying sounds ironic: by splitting the omnibus bill, the government could more holistically address women and children’s issues. But as a childcare leader and a single mother, perhaps she knows what’s best.

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