This year’s Budget papers include the first steps towards a Gender Impact Assessment of the State Budget (sadly under-delivered on in last year’s Budget).
In this year’s Budget papers, it’s called a Tasmanian Gender Budget Snapshot (not an Assessment). That is probably because the Government acknowledges that it is still working on how to do the Assessments. After all, a Gender Impact Assessment of the State Budget will require the Government to analyse its policy development and funding initiatives in a new way, to really understand the way they impact on people of different genders differently. That has huge and exciting potential to challenge the way we think about the priorities for expenditure of public money.
How does this Budget document do it? The Gender Budget Snapshot takes indicators of gender equality and then analyses some Budget initiatives based on the question of whether they move us towards greater gender equity, or not. It’s a start, but predicting the future is messy and it seems the economists who wrote it are making a lot of assumptions (e.g. the Digital Health Transformation in the Tasmanian Health System is of strong benefit to gender equity because “it aims to improve productivity in the health sector, which could underpin higher wages in a female dominated industry and make a positive contribution to closing the gender pay gap.” It would certainly be nice to think so, but will it?).
The problem is that so much of our discussion of State Budgets focuses on the small amount of new money given to new projects when so much of our public money is already committed to be spent on things we know are important (i.e. hospitals, schools, etc.). Perhaps a Budget Impact Assessment has the most power when it looks at a history of expenditure. For example, if we were to look at Government investment in key social policy areas over the last ten years we would get an idea of who in the community those initiatives benefited, and who missed out. It may tell us what we think we know, or it may overturn our assumptions about how large amounts of public money are spent. It might be another lens to use to help make decisions about large scale infrastructure expenditure, for example.
Perhaps this kind of analysis will be the next iteration of the Budget Impact Assessment, a baby being born from a very long labour. We know the Minister for Women, The Hon Jo Palmer MLC, genuinely wants to see these Assessments work. We’d love to hear from the Government where they hope to be with developing them by next May.