Apparently, the women of Australia were short-changed by the federal budget last week — as it contained “no strategy or vision” for the advancement of Australian women.
Indeed, one article even claimed the budget process is clearly “failing” Australian women and lacks a ‘gender lens’ — and what Australia needs is a ‘women’s budget’.
But these assertions are ridiculous for two reasons.
First, women are stakeholders in the economy just as much as men. Women work hard, pay their taxes, run their own businesses, and invest in assets. Women are also consumers in the economy just like men: they are affected by house prices, power bills and transport congestion.
So it seems bizarre, if not downright condescending, to pretend that women don’t care — or have no reason to care — about a healthy economy, more efficient taxes, better infrastructure, or good fiscal management.
After all, millions of women will benefit significantly from the government’s tax cuts announced in the budget (if the tax cuts are ever legislated, that is) – including more than two million women who earn above the median income. Why do women’s advocates ignore or downplay this?
Secondly, using a ‘gender lens’ is a reductionist way to evaluate the Budget. We should be cognisant of the impact of government policies on women. But equally, that should apply to policies that are more likely to affect men, children, the elderly, disabled — or any other demographic group.
Regardless, public calls for the budget to focus more on women often prove to be a thinly disguised call for more government spending. This not only undermines the credibility of the idea but sits at direct odds with many Australian women who believe in responsible government.
And that relates to a further point: women are not a homogenous group when it comes to their views on policies. They are free-thinking individuals. Women have different values, political opinions and priorities, which will inform their opinions on the budget.
Clearly, the budget isn’t sexist. But suggesting that women should only care about a pre-defined set of ‘women’s issues’ certainly is.
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