RMIT experts are available for comment on the upcoming 2021-22 Federal Budget

RMIT experts are available for comment on the upcoming 2021-22 Federal Budget

Experts from RMIT University are available to talk to media about a variety of topics ahead of next week’s Federal Budget, ranging from the economy, to transport and infrastructure, to the health and arts sectors.



Dr Leonora Risse (0401 360 733 or

Topics: gender equality, women in the workforce, labour economics

"Placing a gender lens on next week's Federal Budget policies will be crucial for ensuring that Australia's road to economic recovery is a gender equitable one.

"Cutting the pink tape on women's workforce participation, increasing paid parental leave for dads, and boosting the availability of childcare and early learning, aged care and disability care are key policies that would lift women's workforce participation and fuel Australia's economic recovery.

"Placing a gender lens on the budget recognises that men and women tend to work in different industries and take on different roles within households and society, meaning that a policy can have a different impact on men and women even if it's not intended to be gender-specific.

· Cutting pink tape to increase women's workforce participation

"Tax and transfer settings make it financially unviable for second income earners to work more than three days a week. A gender lens shows it's largely women who take home only around 10% of these additional days' earnings, by the time they factor in a tapering of tax benefits and the added childcare costs.

"The improvements in childcare affordability announced for this budget will trim back some of this 'pink tape' on women's workforce participation. It needs to be accompanied by expanded availability and accessibility of childcare places and a pipeline of well qualified staff, otherwise the government is setting up the system to be overloaded beyond current capacity.

· Boosting the availability of care

"Expanding public provision of all forms of care would not only activate more jobs in female-dominated areas, but also allow unpaid carers to increase their paid workforce participation and apply their skills in more efficient ways. The overall benefits to the economy, including higher tax revenue for the government, means this investment largely pays for itself.

"We need to treat investment in the paid care sector as infrastructure that allows the rest of the economy to thrive, the same way that we invest in roads and bridges.

· Increasing paid parental leave for dads

"Increasing government-funded paid parental leave for dads – and making it non-transferable on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis – would help to more evenly balance caring responsibilities and break down the barriers against men as carers."

Dr Leonora Risse is a Lecturer in Economics at RMIT University, and a Research Fellow with the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University and Women's Leadership Institute Australia. She serves as the National Chair of the Women in Economics Network. Her research specialises on gender differentials in the workforce, the influence of social norms and psychological factors on economic outcomes, disadvantage, inequality and wellbeing.

Interviews: Dr Leonora Risse 0401 360 733 or


Emeritus Professor David Hayward (0416 174 833 or

Topics: the economy, care economy social service sector, social policy and employment

“This budget will be remembered as the first genuine care economy budget, recognising the need to lift the number of people employed in everything from childcare and disability to mental health, as well as the dire need to turbo charge pay, conditions and qualifications.

“Women will be the big winner, as both major users of those services, and employees.

“There’s a lot of money on the table, but is it enough? Is it backed by a compelling vision? Or are we set to see more Royal Commissions because not enough has been done with enough urgency?”

Emeritus Professor David Hayward is an economist and former Director of the Victorian Council of Social Service RMIT Future Social Service Institute. Before that, he was the Dean of RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies for seven years. He has undertaken extensive research around the funding of social services and social policy and is a regular media commentator on budgets and politics.

Interviews: Emeritus Professor David Hayward 0416 174 833 or


Dr Kathryn Daley (0412 168 361 or

Topics: Young Australians, unemployment, low-income families, national debt

“Young people are carrying the economic load from the pandemic.

“Youth unemployment remains high, and the rate isn’t decreasing as quickly as the government would have hoped.

“Long-term youth unemployment increases the risk of future unemployment. Today’s youth will be the ones who pay off our high national debt, but they cannot do it if they are un- or underemployed.

“We need to see investment in strategies that create real jobs for young people, such as funding for graduate jobs and employment pathways.

“Low to middle-income families are living in extreme poverty. The cost of living – particularly housing – is pushing many into a state of precarity.

“Investment in housing security, childcare and food relief schemes reduce the immense stress that some children and young people are living in.

“Simple measures like this alleviates stressful home environments, which prevent longer term issues such as homelessness, early school leaving, and unemployment.

Dr Kathryn Daley is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. She is the Program Manager of the Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies and is an expert in public policy and social affairs. Interviews: Dr Kathryn Daley 0412 168 361 or



Dr Chris De Gruyter (0403 073 743 or

Topics: Transport planning; transport impacts of new land use development; sustainable transport

“COVID-19 has shown how important local living and the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods are to our communities for people to meet their daily needs via walking, cycling or public transport.

“High quality walking and cycling infrastructure is crucial to achieving this goal, yet its funding rests mainly with state and local governments.

“Cycling projects in most Australian states and territories represent only around 1% of total transport spending, well below the United Nations target of 20% dedicated to active travel.

“The Federal Government could help Australia reach this target by funding walking and cycling infrastructure in local areas, supporting and investing in the 20-minute neighbourhood concept.

“While a road user charge for electric vehicles has been hotly debated, the sheer cost of purchasing an electric vehicle – around $10,000 more than an equivalent conventional car – remains a key barrier for many Australians.

“This compares to significant financial incentives in place in the US and Europe, equating to as much as $20,000 in savings per electric car.

“The Federal Government should look to better incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles to increase their uptake in the vehicle fleet, supporting efforts to achieve a reduction in transport emissions.”

Dr Chris De Gruyter is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the RMIT Centre for Urban Research. He conducts research in transport and land use planning, with a focus on understanding the transport impacts of new residential development.

Interviews: Dr Chris De Gruyter 0403 073 743 or


Associate Professor Andrew Butt (0408 369 097 or

Topics: Regional planning, regional development

“The upcoming Federal Budget offers an opportunity for a population and infrastructure reset to relieve pressure on Australia’s largest cities.

“COVID-19 has shown the dominance of population and jobs in metropolitan regions has its limits and that many Australians would and can choose regional towns and cities as their preferred homes.

“Opportunities for the decentralisation of work and better transport links are evident and projections of lower population growth in large cities suggest now is the time for this investment.

“This requires infrastructure support, including through telecommunications and housing diversity.

“Working with the states and territories, the Federal Budget should target housing choice and affordability in Australia’s regions.

“Housing investment for both social and affordable housing, should maximise the use of existing infrastructure in smaller cities and regions.

“It should also recognise the inherent liveability in many communities, where population ageing, rapid price increases and a poor rental market challenge social and economic health.

“Regional landscapes also offer significant opportunities to meet climate change challenges.

“National approaches to create new energy landscapes, including large scale solar and wind, should be a priority, along with support for supporting infrastructure.

“While many of these goals require state and territory regulatory support, the economic motivations should be driven by Federal investment and taxation incentives.”

Associate Professor Andrew Butt is the Associate Dean of the RMIT Sustainability and Urban Planning program. His research includes investigations of the processes and practice of planning in metropolitan fringe and non-metropolitan settings.

Interviews: Associate Professor Andrew Butt 0408 369 097 or



Associate Professor Wendy Steele (0455 134 949 or

Topics: climate change, urban planning, policy and governance

“As a signatory to the 2015 COP21 Paris Agreement, Australia is legally committed to action on climate change.”

“To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, national action is needed to drastically reduce emissions in areas such as energy, transport and agriculture.

“We also need to help develop resilient and resourceful communities in our increasingly vulnerable cities and regions.

“The priority initiative that the Federal Government should fund in the upcoming budget are changes to the Australian Federal Relations Architecture to include Climate Action as core business of the National Cabinet.

“This includes priority within a National Cabinet Reform Committee, Council on Federal Financial Relations, an Experts Advisory Group, involvement of the Australian Local Government Association and a multilateral body comprising Indigenous Australian peak organisations and Indigenous Affairs ministers, and the set-up of a series of National Federation Reform Council Taskforces.

“Genuinely addressing climate change and meeting international obligations requires changes to national governance and policy, and in particular, the way the Commonwealth, states and territories, and local government work effectively together to address new areas of reform.

“As a nation, we have the resources and innovation to address the climate emergency.

“We can do much better than ‘every state for themselves’ with action on climate change – but this requires national leadership, commitment and investment.”

Associate Professor Wendy Steele is the Co-convenor of the Critical Urban Governance Research Program in the Centre for Urban Research. She is the author of the recently published book ‘Planning Wild Cities: Human-Nature Relationships in the Urban Age.’

Interviews: Associate Professor Wendy Steele 0455 134 949 or



Dr Chris Maylea (0439 463 255 or

Topics: Mental health, JobSeeker, unemployment, counselling

“A successful Federal Budget will ensure that all Australians have their basics needs met by raising the rate of JobSeeker to a liveable wage.

“COVID-19 taught us that more hospital beds and more wellness apps won’t fix Australia’s mental health crisis.

“Ensuring everyone’s basic needs of housing, income support and social connection is critical in improving the nation’s mental health.

“A mentally well society is one where we all have our basic needs and human rights met.

“We don’t fix our mental health crisis with counselling.

“Counselling is useful when you have a roof over your head, a full belly and a connected community. We need to get those basics right before wasting money on therapeutic interventions.

“What we are doing now is not working. The 5th National Mental Health Plan was meant to be a road map for fixing Australia’s mental health system, but it hasn’t worked.

“With the disruption caused by COVID-19, we need a new approach focused on prevention, early intervention, and providing basic human rights.

“The Federal Government have abandoned the goal of full employment, using unemployment to drive the economy and lower inflation.

“They have a responsibility to support unemployed Australians and protect their mental health, as anyone could find themselves in need of welfare in this economic upheaval.”

Dr Chris Maylea is Senior Lecturer with RMIT’s Global and Social Studies Centre. He is a mental health lawyer, mental health social worker and has managed mental health services. He is Deputy Chair of the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council and consults to government on mental health policy.

Interviews: Dr Chris Maylea 0439 463 255 or



Dr Meg Elkins (0410 323 057 or

Topics: arts and cultural sector funding, cultural economics and public policy evaluation

“Over $135 million has been slated for the arts and culture sector in 2021/22 federal budget. This sector was one of the hardest hit and one of the slowest to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

“However, the Federal Government has still not distributed more than a third of its arts budget from 2020/21.

The Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund and SupportAct are the two major initiatives being heavily promoted in this 2021/22s budget. RISE will receive $200 million in support from 2020/21 and 2021/22. Support Act will receive $10 million in funding in this year’s budget.

“SupportAct is a charity focusing on musicians, support crew and music workers. The organisation will receive an additional funding in this year’s federal budget. The initiative requires musicians to demonstrate three years of work in the music industry, however, emerging artists can fall through the gaps.

“Many creative workers are faced with a highly competitive landscape where informal, insecure and discontinuous work are the norm.

“As JobKeeper has finished, artists and arts support workers are left without formal safety nets to create their own livelihoods. SupportAct provides some level of financial benefit, in the form of $2000 grants, but others outside the music industry are having to find even more entrepreneurial means of finding support.

“Arts organisations have been forced to pivot into a new digital landscape. My research into buskers has demonstrated how marginalised artists have been forced to find new ways of finding financial support. One such way is through digital and online payments, however, not all artists are as digitally savvy.

“Urban arts organisations still struggling to find audiences as cultural participation hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels. The problem of the lack of audiences is two-fold. Firstly, we are out of the habit of going out to cultural events and, secondly, venues aren’t allowed to be back at full capacity.”

Dr Meg Elkins is a senior lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University and the Behavioural Business Lab. Her research interests include cultural and development economics, wellbeing and public policy evaluation.

Interviews: Dr Meg Elkins 0410 323 057 or


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.