The tampon tax, double-dipping and mixed messages for working mothers… Of course the Federal Government still has a Woman Problem.
The Federal Government reminds me of a certain kind of man I occasionally dated back in the day.
Admittedly, I was never really the dating type (that’s a whole other story), but sometimes pity, or my mother, prevailed over my better instincts, and I found myself dining with an eligible suitor who despite his unfailing chivalry— opening doors, picking me up in a flashy car, paying for my meal— kept rubbing me the wrong way with comments about women that I deemed unsound.
So I resorted to chain-smoking, quoting the assorted works of Andrea Dworkin, she of the “all heterosexual sex is rape” school, and exhibiting such an astonishing lack of grace that I went home disliking myself as much as I disliked the bumbling suitor.
Read more: The 100 most powerful women in the world.
The Government’s Mother’s Day sledge on “double-dipping” mothers—the latest in a series of gaffes and policy blunders on what some might call women’s issues—- has turned me into that ungracious date again, rubbed the wrong way and chafing.
The notion that the 80,000-odd women who legally access both their employer’s paid parental leave scheme and the government’s are “double-dipping,” “rorting” and until Joe Hockey’s belated denial, “defrauding,” the public purse is a provocation on many levels. As a matter of substance, the policy crackdown will leave an estimated 40 per cent of new mothers $11,500 worse off.
Most inflammatory though is the gendered language, which implies parental leave exists only for the benefit of women as opposed to the ubiquitous, aggressively courted, “working families.” The Government appears to be saying: “See what happens when you give these women an inch? And they want all this and more childcare too!” Yet the government scheme of 18 weeks leave paid at the minimum wage was always intended to be just that: a minimum, with employers encouraged to provide a top-up.
Nor have the Coalition ministers acknowledged this particular “rort” yields a greater public good in helping women maintain their attachment to the workforce as they devote time to nurturing future generations of taxpayers. Financial stress is hardly the right background music for mother-baby bonding. But the Government’s line carries the implication that working mothers are just another special-interest group angling for a better deal from boss and state. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see these comments as undermining the legitimacy of women in the workforce.