Knock me down with a feather. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to deliver a speech on Wednesday and announce an astonishing $270 billion will be spent on new and upgraded defence capabilities over the next decade.
The Guardian reports that this is “a substantial increase from the $195 billion committed in the 10 years from 2016 when the last defence white paper was released, although it covers a later time period.”
There is no denying $270 billion is a lot of money, nor that defence is a particularly high-spend category. But there is also no denying that defence is overwhelmingly dominated by men. According to the 2018-19 Women in ADF report women make up 18.6% of the ADF workforce.
Put another way, more than 80% of the $270 billion of taxpayer funds will most likely make its way into a man’s pay-cheque. Which is the bit where I’m knocked over by a feather.
We are no longer on the cusp of a pink recession: we are in it already. We know that women are bearing the brunt of the job losses inflicted by this pandemic. We know that women already earn less than their male peers. We know they’re less able to secure financial independence as a result. We know that even before COVID19 women over 55 are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. We know without any intervention gender inequity will be further entrenched and compounded in the aftermath of this pandemic.
We know that, so far, the only workforce in Australia to have JobKeeper taken away prematurely is early childhood educators and carers. A workforce that is dominated by women that is famously, criminally in fact, underpaid. A workforce whose chronically-undervalued and underpaid work was deemed so essential in the thick of the crisis that their health was sacrificed so others could go to work. We know that as a ‘thank you’ this was the first group to have JobKeeper yanked away ahead of schedule.
That is insulting in itself but when considered in the context of other ‘measures’ the government picked to help the country bounce back it’s devastating.
Just a few days earlier the PM announced that construction workers – mostly men who earn considerably more than the average Australian who mostly remained employed throughout the crisis – would be the beneficiaries of a $688million ‘homebuilder package’.
And here we are again. The current PM has chosen another already-well paid, heavily male-dominated sector to invest $270 billion in ‘Australia’s future’. Nothing to address the alarming impact COVID19 is already having on women despite serious warnings being issued for months. Literally, nothing.
Only a PM who is surrounded by men – in his party room, in Cabinet, in the Expenditure Review Committee – to the extent Morrison is could announce this defence spend, after the construction package, without even throwing so much as a half-eaten bone to women.
On Monday’s Q&A program, Yasmin Poole raised the lack of women’s representation in the key decision making roles right now.
We have a male PM. A male treasurer. A male finance minister. We have an expenditure review committee that, until two weeks ago, comprised five men and not a single woman. The swift appointment of Social Services minister Anne Ruston, after the West Australian raised this issue, means there are now five men and one woman in that powerful group.
The National COVID19 Coordination Commission is made up of six men, and just two women.
With that as the backdrop it is no wonder women are being almost comically sidelined in the Federal government’s efforts towards recovery. Women need to be at the table.
Aside from the money itself the framing of this defence spend to shape Australia’s future is telling. The PM is expected to say today that Australia needs to “prepare for a post-Covid world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly”.
Without any serious intervention and commitment Australian women will almost certainly be poorer and in greater danger in a post-COVID world. Given they were already considerably poorer and in greater danger than men even before this pandemic hit this is an abomination.
Yet, apparently, it’s not something that appears to faze the PM in the slightest.