Marie Coleman chairs the Social Policy Committee of the National Foundation for Australian Women. (www.nfaw.org). NFAW has played a leadership role for national women’s organisations in research and analysis of the impacts of the former WorkChoices and Welfare to Work policies on woman, and spearheaded the campaign which resulted in the establishment of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into a National Paid Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave Scheme.
Recently she coordinated a project to encourage women to respond to the Henry Report on Australia’s Future Tax System.
Currently the national women’s organisations, in cooperation with a wide range of other groups including unions and academic researchers, are exploring the associated problems of women’s under-employment, hidden unemployment, and the gender pay gap.
Marie Coleman is a retired Commonwealth public servant.
Public Service Medal 1989; Centenary Medal 2003. Victorian Parliament’s Honour Roll of Women 2001, Royal Australian Institute of Public Administration (RAIPA) Centenary Medal 2001. ACT Woman’s Award 2005
Bachelor of Arts, 1953 , Diploma of . Social. Studies. 1955 University of Sydney;
Daughter late John Alexander and Kathleen Burns; b.Mar 3, 1933, Dubbo, NSW
Chair Management Assessment Panel, Office of Public Advocate (formerly Community Advocate) 1996-
Chair, Care Coordination Panel, OPA 2007-
Chair Advisory Board Hindmarsh Education Centre 2003-6
Educated. Lithgow High School, Univ. of Sydney.
Public Sector Career: First Assistant Secretary Dept. Human Services and Health 1994-95, Acting Director Australian Institute of Family Studies 1994, Visiting Fellow Aust. NZ Studies Centre Pennsylvania State Univ. 1991-93, FAS Policy Dev. Div. C’wealth Dept. Human Services and Health 1986-90, Special Adviser and Head Policy Coordination Unit ( formerly Social Welfare Policy Secretariat) 1982-86; Director Office of Child Care 1976-82; Chairman National Social Welfare Commission 1974-76.
Represented Australian Government variously at ESCAP (1984), OECD ( 1985,7,9) United Nations Preparatory Committee Conference on Population and Development 1993, organising committee at US Centre for Injury Research on planning committee for Third World Injury Prevention Conference 1993.
Commentaries by Marie Coleman:
18 August 2010
Election 2010: What’s in it for women?
How well do the policies of the Australian Labor Party, the Coalition and the Greens meet the needs of women in Australia? According to Equality Rights Alliance, while progress has been, many policies remain blind to their possible impact on women.
Today Equality Rights Alliance launched Election 2010: What’s in it for women?, an examination of the policy positions and statements of the ALP, the Coalition and the Greens against areas of need for women. “In certain policy areas, real advances have been made for women in Australia ” said Kathy Richards, Equality Rights Alliance Manager.
“We welcome the recent launch of the Government’s National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children as a very significant step towards addressing the relentless epidemic of violence against women and girls”.
“It also very significant and pleasing to have across the board support for Paid Parental Leave as an important policy to reduce the obstacles women face in work force participation and support families with the arrival of a new baby”.
Equality Rights Alliance also welcomes having pay equity on parties’ agenda. “We now need supportive statements translated to policy to address the fact that on average women working full time earn only 83 cents in the dollar earned by men” urged Kathy Richards.
However Equality Rights Alliance also reported many significant areas of policy remain without analysis or assessment as to their impacts on women. This includes a failure to deliver funding in important policy areas. “The ALP has failed to deliver funding to implement its promised National Women’s Health Policy. Disappointingly, the Coalition has indicated it will scrap funding to strengthen anti-discrimination laws, which would include laws that protect against sex discrimination”.
“We are also disappointed to see that neither major party has made any headway into developing long term programs to promote and support women in vocational and education training – particularly for women in non-traditional trades and professions”.
“In this last week of the election campaign, Equality Rights Alliance urges all parties to put gender equality on the agenda and make women count in the 2010 Federal Election”. Election 2010: What’s in it for women? can be found at www.equalityrightsalliance.org.au
Equality Rights Alliance (ERA) is Australia’s largest network of non government, not-for-profit and social enterprises coming together to advocate for gender equality, women’s leadership and policies responses that support women’s diversity.
4 August 2010
Paid Parental Leave- Government and Opposition policies
The Opposition released their revised Paid Parental Leave Scheme on Tuesday August 3. The media release states:
The Coalition's Paid Parental Leave scheme will:
1.. provide mothers with 26 weeks paid parental leave, at full replacement wage (up to a maximum salary of $150,000 per annum) or the Federal Minimum Wage, whichever is greater;
2.. include superannuation contributions at the mandatory rate of nine per cent;
3.. allow two out of the 26 weeks to be dedicated paternity leave to be used simultaneously or separately to the mother's leave, paid at the father's replacement wage (up to a maximum of $150,000 per annum) or the Federal Minimum Wage, whichever is greater, plus superannuation.
4. use the same work test and eligibility conditions as the Government's recently legislated scheme;
5. be funded by a 1.5 percent levy on company taxable incomes in excess of $5 million; and
6. be paid and administered by the Family Assistance Office and will not impose an unnecessary administrative burden on employers, unlike Labor's scheme.
It is to be introduced in July 2012, should the Opposition win Government, and the current Government Scheme will start in January 2011 as promised.
While the two schemes have very similar objectives ( "enhance child and maternal wellbeing, boost workplace productivity by keeping some of our most productive workers more engaged in the workforce" according to the Opposition), the Opposition will make payments through the Family Assistance Office, while the Government Scheme is designed to enhance work-force attachment by making payments through the employer, and only through the FAO when this isn't possible).
The Opposition media statement is silent on how the proposal will work with self-employed workers, contractors and rural and farm workers. The Government Scheme is designed to include these workers.
The Opposition has accepted, it seems, the argument from NFAW that its more generous scheme should build onto the base-line of the Government Scheme, and guarantees the adult minimum wage for low income workers- as many casual and part-time workers, and minors have lower take home pay than this.
The Opposition policy says it will bring Australia into line with Paid Parental leave programs in a wide range of European countries, paying at income replacement levels (up to $150,00.00 pa) yet these countries all make payments through employers.
Generally proponents of a national scheme have argued for a minimum of 16 weeks paid leave, together with the compulsory superannuation guarantee.
The Government has established a review of the scheme to report in 2 years on whether the scheme meets its objectives, and on the introduction of superannuation.
Media commentators have generally dismissed the idea of income replacement- although this is the case for all current Australian private and public sector schemes, of whatever duration.
While the Opposition media statement contains no references, Mr Abbott appears to have made some off-the-cuff references to bringing the Commonwealth employers superannuation scheme ( fully Government funded)into play.
The mode of financing is also subject to media criticism. The original NFAW proposal for was a 0.5% of wages levy across all employers- easily managed by both small and large enterprises. The Coalition proposal is for a company tax/levy, and ultimately public sector funding.
18 July 2010
Federal Election 2010
The starter's gun has been fired, the runners are out of the blocks. No formal set-piece campaign launches yet, but already within thirty six hours a series of speeches and announcements from the Government, Opposition, and Greens.
No news on leaders' debates either. Will the Greens be invited to take part? All will be revealed in good time.
The Liberal Leader and the Prime Minister have each enunciated their themes, next will come the policies. The Prime Minister has made a firm commitment that all new spending will be funded by off-setting savings, so that there is nothing additional on the Budget bottom line. We can expect the more senior of the media commentators to keep a close watch on that, even as some of the more breathless commentary picks up on the PM’s hair and clothing, babies kissed, and other ephemera.
It will be sensible for those following the election to log on from time to time to the political party web-sites to keep track of party announcements and promises- see site listings below.
Another invaluable site is that of the ABC, with its data on candidates, on electorates, and high quality analysis by Antony Green
From the point of feminist analysis, the two most useful check points as to what women said they wanted (not based on Party affiliation) are the Gender Equity Blueprint, launched by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick at the National Press Club on June 23, just as the ALP leadership ructions were gathering speed across town on the Hill (no wonder so few working press made it to the televised lunch). Find the Blueprint at the HREOV site below.
Another useful tool for cross checking promises is the election manifestos from the Equality Rights Women’s Alliance- download the sheets from the ERA web-site also listed below.
Neither ERA, nor the Human Rights Commission, will be commenting directly during the campaign on Party policies and promises. But their material is one useful checkpoint to see what is being offered, and what is not.
For that matter, the NFAW itself will not be commenting on Party policies during the election- NFAW does not endorse Parties, notwithstanding taking a firm stand on particular policy issues.
At the time of writing, on 18 July 2010 at 16:19:34 (Canberra time), the resident population of Australia is projected to be 22,390,960- check out the population whenever you read this by going to the ABS site below.
Astonishingly, 1.4 million eligible voters from this total population are not on the electoral roll, and voters 18-30 are thought to predominate in this group.
No wonder the Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis, has been out in the electorates banging the drum for enrolment of young people, no wonder Get-Up is campaigning to get young people enrolled.
Social Networking media are in use by all Parties to get their messages out to particular demographics- if you want to download some of the Labor material you’ll have to do so through Facebook. Don’t have a Facebook page? Good Heavens. Never mind, lots of us don’t Twitter either.
We’ll have a go at some analysis towards the end of the campaign to see how the initiatives identified by ERA and the Gender Equity Blueprint have been addressed.
18 June 2010
Paid Paternity Leave (PPL)
Passed the final phase on 15 June 2010 around 5.30pm in the Senate. The Government agreed to three amendments from the Senate Report. The amendments from Sen. Fielding, the Greens and the Opposition were disagreed.
The Bill is now ready for Royal Assent.
PPL will operate from 1 January 2011.
The NFAW is a member of the Implementation Working Group to oversee the introduction of the Scheme
One more thing:
Following on from the Henry review of Australia's Future Tax System, NFAW, in association with the University of Sydney Women and Work Research group, and the Law School University of Melbourne and RMIT will run two workshops on gender issues in the Henry report.
We have commissioned distributional analysis from NATSEM (UC) on the Henry recommendations on child Care funding. Professor Patricia Apps has modelled the Henry proposals on tax and children.
More on these workshops anon.
4 June 2010
Paid Parental Leave Bill Almost an Act
In a frenetic Parliamentary week, on Tuesday 1 June the Opposition parties had a joint Party Room Meeting where they agreed to let the Government Bill pass. Shadow Spokesperson for Women Dr Sharman Stone issued a media statement to the effect that the Opposition couldn't be expected to do the Government's work and repaid their legislation, but would fix everything when in office ( adding they'd do the same for child care). This followed her Second reading Speech the previous week when, having failed on the Wednesday night to bully the National Foundation for Australian Women into endorsing the Liberal policy, she used Coward's Castle to call the NFAW ' the Labor Party's own NFAW", and accused the NFAW of being 'cowed'.
Of course, for the Opposition to move amendments in the Senate which created additional expenditure wasn't going to work, since money Bills can only be moved in the House of Representatives.
On Thursday around 6.00 p.m. after an even more frenetic Opposition performance in Question Time, which went on to around 4.30 pm, the Senate Community Affairs Committee Report on the Paid Parental leave Bill was quietly put into the Parliament web-site, with the effect that it was completely missed by the Press Gallery for their Friday stories.
Both Houses of Parliament are out of session this coming week, until the final two weeks of Sitting before the long recess ( and potentially, before an August election).
It is a fair bet that the Labor Senators would not have recommended changes to the Bill without the prior agreement of the Minister, so it is another fair conclusion that FAHSCIA and DEEWR officers are busily at work, preparing briefs for Parliamentary Counsel, so that an amended Bill can be debated in the Senate when it resumes sitting on 15 June. Once debated in the Senate, assuming that the Opposition does not move any more amendments, it will be adopted. Then the amended Bill goes back into the House of Representatives for the final debate and ultimate passage. The Governor General has already recommended Appropriation. The final Act then goes to the Governor General for Royal Assent. This should all happen over the next two to three weeks, and so it should come to pass that their will indeed be a Paid Parental leave Scheme operating from 1 January 2011.
An interesting recent paper by an academic at the University of Melbourne found there was a correlation between the introduction of the Howard-Costello Baby Bonus. It will be interesting to see if the new Scheme has a similar effect- certainly Minister Jenny Macklin did issue a media statement back in March , when winding up the pressure on the Opposition, telling the women of Australia that they could now begin to plan a January 2011 baby.
The recommendations from the Senate are set out below:
1.80 The committee recommends the inclusion in the bill of a clear statement of the objectives of the bill.
1.108 The committee recommends that the development of rules and regulations under the bill include consultation with relevant stakeholders, including those organisations that have been invited to join the implementation group.
1.117 The committee recommends that the Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010 be amended to include a comprehensive review of the paid parental leave scheme to start two years after the scheme commences.
1.138 The committee recommends that the government examine the eligibility requirements for paid parental leave in the bill to ensure that seasonal, sessional, contract and casual workers with a demonstrated ongoing attachment to the workforce, and women who experience unexpected difficulties during pregnancy which may affect their ability to meet the eligibility requirements of the bill are able to access paid parental leave.
1.184 The committee recommends that the Senate pass the government's bill.
18 May 2010
Federal Budget Response
A quick look into the Portfolio Budget Statement for FAHSCIA Outcome 6- Women- improved Gender Equality, tells the story.
Not a great deal in this budget for Women, as such.
(Although the Minister with the Treasurer held a special briefing at Parliament House to brief women).
Nothing on the Jackson Report on Pay Equity. Nothing on the Review of the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency. Nothing, indeed, has emerged from the Senate Committee Review of Child Care Provision and Funding. We should be grateful that the Attorney General did respond (quietly) earlier in the week to the Senate Review of the Sex Discrimination Act.
At the briefing, the Minister did promise that responses on Pay Equity and the EOWA Review were imminent.
Paid Parental Leave is the big news story for women in the 2010-11 Budget. Clearly, this is going to be the biggest new administration challenge for the Minister and her Department- getting legislation through the Parliament before it rises for the winter, then the administrative effort of setting up machinery and ensuring that employers and workers are well informed on their obligations and rights before it comes into effect on 1 January 2011. The Senate Community Affairs Committee is already receiving submissions on the Exposure Draft of the Bill, and will start hearings in Canberra this week. Interestingly, of the first seventy odd submissions on the website, sixty-seventy per cent are clearly part of an organised campaign to de-rail the Bill, demanding more help for stay-at-home mothers.
Alongside that, there are a number of new or recently announced measures in other portfolios which are population wide, and which will benefit women, as well as men.
Initiatives to improve conditions for indigenous Australians- new child and family health measures, for one, will certainly benefit those women.
The expansions in the Employment and Education portfolio in skills development- new funding in positions in VET level certificate training are good news for young as well as mature women- as is the expansion of literacy on-the-job training places. So many migrant and refugee women have poor levels of English written and oral literacy- levels which often prevent them from taking the option of VET training. The budget offers an additional 13570 training places over four years, plus better support of the Language Literacy and Numeracy Program to see an additional 9,500 Workplace English Language and Literacy Program places.
The Working Women’s Centres (Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin all that remains) have vanished from the budget papers- causing some anxieties, but Treasury advises they are to be funded under a new program, yet to be announced, and bridging finance is being provided. Perhaps all those reviews will finally produce a decent outcome. I suspect thatir future funding will be tied up with the response to the Jackson report.
It’s a pity that the benefits to lower income two-income families which will potentially flow from the changes to tax including raising the Low Income Tax offset (LITO) have the capacity to be wiped out by the rather sneaky changes to child care rebates which will see the rebate capped at $7500 annually and indexation ‘paused’.
There are many programs re-announced in this rather steady as she goes document- such as the big grants to promote the role of women in local government and the changes to superannuation for older people- again with implications for women- most will continue to rely on the Pension and need to work longer.
One example of re-announcements are initiatives for women in sport- additional funding to improve media coverage of women’s sport, a women in sport register to connect sport with potential female board and administration candidates (would this have helped Melbourne Storm, we wonder?) and new awards to recognise women- all aimed at the health objective of breaking down the barriers to women’s and girls’ participation in sport. The CEO of Australian Women’s Rugby Association has written: “From a sport perspective, the announcements about the new initiatives for women lack any detail and are old news. We've been waiting two years for implementation of the majority of
recommendations in the "About Time" report, and The additional funding to improve media coverage of women's sport essentially goes to national associations to pay the ABC to televise women's events
We already have a women in sport register that obviously needs implementing or promotion, whilst Women on Boards has a fantastic dossier of women ready and able to be appointed to Boards and other administrative bodies.
Bringing back an awards program that recognizes women sounds like we might see the old Prime Ministerial Women and Sport Awards re-launched? Not sure how this would help the health objective of breaking down the barriers to women's and girls' participation in sport. The areas of sport that require urgent treatment are in coaching,
officiating, leadership and management - much the same as the problems for women breaking down the barriers in other male-dominated domains. And of course we need to address the violence and inappropriate behavior
of men in sport towards women.”
There are the great changes planned in Health- more nurse practitioners, more nurse and health and aged care worker training initiatives. The long anticipated new National Women’s Health Policy is yet to be announced, but there is good news for the health of Australian men, a health program and an expansion of men’s sheds where blokes can meet and talk. Yet there are savings in Medicare affecting counseling, and nothing for new dental or mental health programs.
Lots of new health structures : Medicare Locals, independent entities to coordinate primary care, new structures to manage hospital networks. Nothing in the budget papers to suggest that these will be encouraged to ensure there are positions for women on the governing structures- but one would hope that will be the case.
4 May 2010
Henry Report-Australia’s Future Tax System- \Government Response
Today’s announcements by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, while not responding to many of the areas of change proposed by Henry, do include several changes which will be of benefit to women, including young women.
Noting that small to medium enterprises (SME’s) are frequently headed by women, are the employers of large numbers of women, including older Australians, the changes proposed to company tax will greatly simply administrative requirements, and provide up-front tax relief to SMEs.
NFAW notes that the imminent introduction of Paid Parental Leave will have administrative implications for SMEs, with its strong emphasis on maintaining work-force attachment for the primary carer through having the employer as the paymaster. These company taxation reforms for SME’s should lessen administrative issues for SME employers of women taking PPL.
NFAW has noted with concern the problems caused by over-reliance on the Age Pension as the primary support for women in retirement, and the slow rate at which their superannuation savings accumulate.
We have been concerned that any proposal to increase the Compulsory Superannuation Guarantee to 12% would impact adversely on the capacity of low income women, with intermittent work-force attachment, to have an adequate income on which to live. We still have some concerns.
However, the Government proposal to offer a superannuation contribution up to $500.00 annually on incomes to $37,000 will improve the equity of superannuation taxation arrangements.
We note that these measures are described as leading to situation where “a female worker aged 30 today on AWE with an interrupted work pattern will retire with an additional $78,000 in superannuation” .
We are concerned that in 30 odd years this sum may not seem quite so generous- indeed this confirms that for many women a working life- time of low wages is likely to be followed by retirement in relative poverty.
The obvious way to remedy this is to bring about significant wages reform, and to reduce or abolish the current 17% gender wage gap. We look forward to announcements from the Government to remedy this situation.
NFAW welcomes the overall response to date on changes to superannuation policy, while noting that further significant changes may be made in the Government’s response to the Cooper Review of the industry.
These Cooper proposals, many already in the public domain in draft form should have potential to greatly increase the efficiency of individual’s savings through simplified administration, and the introduction of no-frills products with significantly lower costs for administration and commissions. We hope that all political Parties will agree to enact the relevant enabling legislation.
We note also that Henry has made further recommendations about financing aged care services, which will now be taken up in the recent reference by the Government of the issue of financing aged care to the Productivity Commission.
The new interest in Government in exploring insurance/contributory systems of financing aged care and care for people with disabilities ought also, logically, to allow for reconsideration of a contributory system of funding future expansion of the national Paid Parental Leave system to one of income replacement, as initially proposed by NFAW.
This is an extensive list of recommendations which the Government has said it will not consider- some are perhaps a cause for regret- for example, in particular in relation to new approaches to housing affordability.
The Henry Report has made a number of important recommendations concerning enhancing female work-force attachment, including enhancing provisions for and funding regimes for child care, contingent on work-force attachment for parents once a child reaches 4 years of age, as well as changes to tax and transfers systems. So far these have not met with a Government response overall.
NFAW has strong reservations about Henry’s proposal to require parental work-force attachment when a child reaches the age of 4 years, notwithstanding our support for methods of increasing attachment and decreasing disincentives.
We welcome the Government’s rejection of this specific proposal.
However, we consider the issues around work-life balance do demand further policy exploration and public discussion over the next term of Government.
It may be that some of these issues will be addressed by the Government in the context of the 2010-11 Budget and/or the 2010 election platform.
Other recommendations by Henry, in relation for example, to transport and infrastructure, not yet either taken up or explicitly rejected, are also of keen interest to women, and we will be raising them in discussions with political Parties.
18 April 2010
Supporting Parents through affordable, accessible, quality child and after school hours care
Access to accessible, affordable and quality care for young school age children as well as for those under school age is a basic requirement for any parent wanting to stay in paid work.
Many parents struggle to find a place for their child, even when they can afford to pay. Other parents find that the costs of care are prohibitive, with their paid work proving to not be worth it when the sums are done. For others using child and after school hours care, parents are stressed by unreasonable and costly travel and questions about quality. Hours of care are often incompatible with paid work hours, particularly shift work. The problem is even more acute for the parent of a child with special needs who requires more intensive staff-child ratios
Many grandparents talk of being required to fill the gap, and give up or reduce their own paid work so that they can help to provide care for their grandchildren
The National Foundation for Australian Women thinks that political parties should:
Carefully consider any recommendations from the Henry Review of Australia’s Future Tax System which have the objective of reducing disincentives for women to participate in the workforce
De-couple the funding of care services for school age children from the funding for services for the preschool children (including infants)
Develop new funding options for both under school age and school aged children’s services which will also support services for low population areas in regional Australia, which assist with provision of services for culturally and linguistically different service models, and for services for children with special needs. Capital and recurrent grants as well as fee relief should be offered.
Provide grants to trial and assess different approaches to age appropriate after school and school holiday programs
Set in place capacity to forward plan for appropriate services in under-serviced areas, including rural and regional Australia
Promote connections between school/education, recreation and sport/health related programs, and services for children of primary school age
2 April 2010
The Great Paid Parental Leave Caper
Four years ago, a broad coalition of interest groups persuaded the then Labor Opposition to promise that if elected to Government Labor would ask the Productivity Commission to investigate options for a national paid maternity leave scheme, and report back to Government. See www.nfaw.org <http://www.nfaw.org>;
Within a few weeks of election, that promise was kept. The members of the coalition, and a diverse range of interested groups and individuals made submissions to the Commission. Of particular significance, expert evidence was provided on early childhood and infant brain development, the economic benefits of extended breast feeding were demonstrated, unions and women’s groups made proposals and business groups and academics shared their ideas for possible ways of financing paid maternity leave. The process was both inclusive and comprehensive.
The Commission Report recommended a basic scheme of Paid Parental Leave (PPL) which provided leave for both partners and included detailed costings. It also costed some alternatives. www.pc.gov.au
In the May 2009 budget, the Government committed to paid parental leave, based on the Commission’s recommendations. The Government wishes employers to administer the payment, and be recouped by the Department.
The Government undertook to review the Scheme after two years, and to consider introducing then the explicit paid leave for fathers, and the superannuation guarantee payment. http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/families/progserv/paid_parental/parental_leave/Documents/paid_parental_
Further consultations were then held by a PPL group in Minister Macklin’s Department with employers, unions and community groups in the second half of 2009. The draft Bill is complex, in that it must be consistent with industrial relations law, taxation law, and social security law. Legislation drafting is currently being finalised.
The Government has referred the Draft Exposure Bill to the Senate Community Affairs Committee- that is expected to be around May 3, with a report due on June 3. It is expected that the Bills to establish the Scheme will be introduced during the Budget Sitting ( May 11) and that debate will occur after the Senate Inquiry has reported, during the June Sitting.
If enacted then, the Department will begin the work of setting up payment systems, briefing employers and other stakeholders, and the like, with a view to introduction from early January 2011.
The Greens have introduced their own legislation, and will seek to make amendments. The Liberal party has announced an intention to introduce an income-replacement level scheme, funded by an employer levy.
The Liberals have now undertaken not to block the Government Bills, in part because of recognition that their own Scheme would require a similar system to be in place to protect low income earners. Many women currently do not have a take home pay equivalent to the adult minimum wage. When on paid parental leave they will in fact experience a higher income.
The situation is still fluid, and all protagonists are awaiting the Exposure Draft to be able to understand the precise detail of the Government proposal.