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  • Writer's pictureMatt Bach

27 October 2020 Speech - COVID's effect on Women

The matter I raise on the adjournment debate tonight is for the Minister for Women in the other place. As we have heard today, as we know full well, the devastating lockdown that is still ongoing even today, in particular across metropolitan Melbourne, has decimated many industries. It is very interesting to note, however, that that decimation has most certainly not been evenly felt. There has been much discussion recently, in particular among our friends in the commentariat, about the fairness or otherwise of the federal budget. It has been asserted that the federal budget could have done, should have done, more for women. Well, that debate is an entirely legitimate one. I find it interesting, however, that the same members of the commentariat have not been so keen to apply a gender lens to Victoria’s road map.

Truth be told, Victoria’s road map is and will remain a far more consequential document for Victorian women than any one federal budget ever could be. And of course when you look at the impacts of both the initial lockdown and the ongoing plan for reopening, they are felt far more keenly by Victorian women than by Victorian men. Between February and July this year, by way of example, 61 per cent of job losses were felt by Victorian women. The impacts have been shocking on Victorian men, of course, but disproportionately felt by Victorian women. This is simply a fact. Angela Jackson, an outstanding economist, the lead economist at Equity Economics, has said the road map, and I quote, ‘clearly favours male jobs over female jobs’.

I find it bizarre, extraordinary even, that given that we know the impact of lockdown has been disproportionately felt by women instead of men, the plan for reopening, again according to eminent economists, clearly favours male-dominated industries like the government’s mates in the construction industry over female-dominated industries like dance and beauty and hospitality, and yet as my friend Mr Ondarchie has said, we have not heard much about this from those opposite. They are experts, when it comes to debates about Victorian women, in virtue signalling and experts in gesture politics, and yet here we have a massive negative impact, a disproportionate impact, upon Victorian women—crickets!

I had the great privilege in the period between 2010 and 2014 of working as an adviser to Victoria’s Minister for Women’s Affairs, and I learned a great deal at that time. I certainly learned that financial independence is so important for all people, but because we know that over the course of the life span men, sadly, overwhelmingly earn so much more than women, financial independence is vital for Victorian women, certainly in terms of many economic indicators but also more broadly in terms of economics. Therefore the action that I seek is this: an explanation regarding the inequalities of the road map from the minister. Is she happy with these, and if not, what is she going to do about it?

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