Women's groups excluded from this yera's Federal Budget lockup

Women’s groups excluded from this year’s Federal Budget lockup

Eight community organisations representing women, children and indigenous Australians have found themselves excluded from this year’s Federal Budget lockup on 2nd of April.

Many of the groups, which include National Shelter, the National Foundation of Australian Women (NFAW), Volunteering Australia, the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL), and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, have routinely attended in the past.

In an email to one group a representative from Treasury advised that the office had selected the most ‘relevant stakeholders’ to attend. The email reads:

“Thank you for your interest in attending the 2019-20 Budget lock-up.

The event is at capacity and unfortunately we are not able to offer you a place.

This decision does not reflect in any way the standing in which we hold your organisation. Each year we work with the Treasurer’s office to put together a list of stakeholders most relevant to each year’s budget measures, and this list varies from year to year.

We will contact you immediately should space become available. Please note that all budget material will be available at www.budget.gov.au from 7.30pm on Budget night.”

Other groups were told there simply isn’t enough space for them.

In a joint statement, WEL National Convenor, Jozefa Sobski AM and NFAW President, Kate Gunn expressed their profound shock at the government’s decision.

“For more than a decade,  this has been an annual opportunity for our examination of the budget to prepare the Gender Lens Budget Analysis, a focussed report on the Budget’s commitment and impacts to Australian women.”

“We are extremely disappointed by the Morrison Government’s decision to exclude Australia’s leading non-partisan women’s groups from the Federal Budget night lockup briefing. ”

“We have worked tirelessly over the last ten years, each Budget night to evaluate the budget papers and to produce Australia’s Gender Lens report of the Government’s policy and funding commitments for advancing and supporting Australia’s women.”

“Locking key independent women’s groups out, is a further example of the Government’s inability to be inclusive, gender sensitive and consultative.

“One wonders if the Prime Minister’s recent comments about equality for women, not at the expense of others, has become the instructions to his Treasurer on access for women’s rights groups on Budget night.”

It was a travesty in itself that in 2013 the government, under Tony Abbott, abandoned the Women’s Budget Statement that had been prepared each year since 1983 analysing the impact of all budgetary measures on women.

It was insulting that in its absence an army of female volunteers undertook the task themselves to ensure the information was known and published.

And now, either, ‘women’ are not a relevant enough ‘stakeholder’ or there isn’t enough room for them because 8 different community organisations representing women & children have been excluded from attending the budget lockup this year.

It is almost laughably absurd but it’s not a joke.

What kind of government, ahead of an election, in the midst of the most profound manifestation of its  ‘women problem’ being played out for all and sundry, would exclude not just one women’s organisation but a whole group of them?

It truly seems this government could not care less about women if it tried.

The NFAW and WEL will work to deliver the Gender Lens report in a timely manner, despite being locked out.

NFAW’s Marie Coleman is hopeful the decision might be changed ahead of the 2nd of April.

“There is a glimmer of light,” she told Women’s Agenda.

It’s not enough. On budget night there ought to be a torch big enough to light up the whole of Canberra to illustrate exactly how the budget impacts women. Instead they’re not even in the room.

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