Women are unquestionably destined to exercise more and more influence upon practical politics in Australia…In the educating of the electorate in liberal ideas they have for many years been an effective force. Now we have an organisation in which all distinctions have gone, and with men and women working equally for the one body …
The Federal Women’s Committee (FWC) was established at the inaugural meeting of the Liberal Party Federal Council in August 1945. The FWC was incorporated in the Party Constitution as an official component of the Party in October 1946, and has had representation on the Party’s Federal Executive since that time.
The voting membership of the FWC comprises the Chairman of each State and ACT women’s section, the female Federal Vice-President of the Party and the President and Immediate Past President of the FWC. Observer members include the Party’s Federal President, Immediate Past President and the Federal Minister for Women.
Each State and Territory Division of the Liberal Party has a women’s section, with constituted powers and representation at senior Party levels. The sections have been influential over the years and instrumental in the development of many of the Party’s major initiatives for women at Federal, State and Territory levels.
As the peak body representing women in the Liberal Party, the FWC has been active in promoting women for elected office, advocating policy, advising on a wide range of issues, assisting in election campaigns and performing a vital role in the enduring success of the Liberal Party. Much of the FWC’s efforts are unsung but they are crucial to the development of a truly representative nationwide party organisation.
ACHIEVEMENTS FOR WOMEN
As Sir Robert Menzies led Australian politics into a new era, the Liberal Party introduced a number of policies that continue to influence the lives of Australian women today.
Among the achievements of the Menzies Government between 1949 and 1966 were policies on child endowment and a national health scheme. In the Holt, Gorton and McMahon Governments between 1966 and 1972, the Liberal Party introduced policies protecting deserted wives and introduced equal pay legislation.
Between 1975 and 1983, the Fraser Government introduced a family income supplement scheme to help lower income families and signed the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. This later led to the establishment of the Sex Discrimination Office.
From 1996 to 2007, the Howard Government significantly increased opportunities for women by creating an additional 2.3 million jobs, more than half of which (almost 1.2 million jobs) were filled by women.
The Howard Government introduced a number of family-friendly policies, including the introduction of the Baby Bonus, substantial increases in the rates of family benefits, the provision of extra childcare places, the introduction of the childcare tax rebate and the encouragement of flexible family-friendly work practices.
The Howard Government helped women to better prepare for their retirement, including through the introduction of the Superannuation Co-contribution. The Morrison Government is building on this, by enabling women who take time out of the workforce to make catch-up contributions after they return to work. We are also progressing reforms to protect superannuation which will benefit the financial security of millions of Australian women:
- Around 2 million women who hold low balance, inactive accounts will be protected from erosion through excessive fees and inappropriate insurance;
- Around 6 million women who are still contributing to low balance accounts will also see hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of savings; and
- 3 million women will have their retirement savings boosted by around $2.5 billion thanks to being proactively reunited with their lost and low, inactive balances.
The Liberal Party is committed to an Australia where women are full and active participants in all spheres of public and private life. At the end of the Howard Government, around one-third of Government Board positions were occupied by women.
In 2016, the Turnbull Government set a target of women occupying 50% of Australian Government Board positions. This target is on track to be met with 45.8% of positions (the highest proportion ever) currently held by women.
Ensuring the safety of all Australians is the first priority for government and the Coalition has led concerted efforts to tackle domestic violence. The Howard Government’s dedicated Women’s Safety Agenda funded prevention, health, justice and services.
Since 2013, the Government has invested over $1 billion to prevent and respond to violence against women and their children.
This investment is helping to: improve frontline services; improve the legal system; ensure better, safer use of technology; and drive cultural and behaviour change.
The Government has guaranteed a minimum entitlement of five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year for employees covered by the Fair Work Act.
To tackle online abuse, the role of the e-Safety Commissioner has been expanded to take responsibility for online safety abuse affecting adults, building on the existing scheme to protect victims from image-based abuse (revenge porn).
(As of March 2021), more than 1.6 million jobs have been created since the Liberal and Nationals Government was elected in 2013, with nearly 60% of these new jobs taken up by women.
(As of March 2021), the female participation rate is at a record level of 61.8%.
The gender pay gap is also moving in the right direction, down to a record low of 13.4% from 17.4% under the previous Labor government.
The Government’s Child Care Subsidy is making child care more accessible and affordable for mothers and fathers.
- In 2020-21 we will continue to support around one million families through more than $10 billion in child care funding, including $9 billion in direct support to families through the Child Care Subsidy.
- Our means-tested child care package is targeted, families earning the least receive the highest rate of subsidy. Those who work, train or study the most, receive more hours of support.
- Our child care package also includes a substantial safety net to provide even higher subsidies (which can cover the full fee) for vulnerable and disadvantaged families.
The 2020-21 Budget includes the Government’s second Women’s Economic Security Statement, with $240 million in measures and programs to specifically support:
- New cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
- Job creation and entrepreneurialism; and
- establishing the Respect@Work Council to be led by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and coordinate efforts to improve prevention of and responses to sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.
Information current as at April 2021.
The 2018 report Liberal Women: A Proud History of Firsts can be found here.
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