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.
This pattern of jobs and growth has continued with the election of the Coalition in September 2013. Of the 441,000 new jobs created so far (as at March 2016), 249,000 of these (56%) have been 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 current Coalition Government is strongly committed to further supporting choice and boosting workforce participation for women. Its Jobs for Families Child Care Package includes a Child Care Subsidy that would make working families with incomes between $65,000 and $170,000 around $30 per week better off. We will continue to fight Senate obstruction to introduce this comprehensive new package.
The Howard Government helped women to better prepare for their retirement, including through the introduction of the Superannuation Co-contribution. The current Coalition 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.
Ensuring the safety of all Australians is a critical priority for governments 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.
The Turnbull Government’s recently announced $100 million Women’s Safety Package will fund immediate and practical action focussed on: keeping women safe at home (including trials of technology); support and training for frontline services; and additional resources to help teachers, parents and students.
With State and Territory Governments, the Turnbull Government has developed a $30 million national campaign to change young people’s attitudes to violence. The 2016-17 Budget also allocated an additional $100 million over three years to assist with the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
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, while the Turnbull Government has recently announced a target of women occupying 50% of Australian Government Board positions.
The achievements of the Liberal Party since 1944 are testament to the commitment of the Liberal Party when it comes to recognising, protecting and enhancing the position of, and opportunities for, Australian women.