Dad and Partner pay, Jill Meagher peace march, Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave plan
STEVE PRICE: There’s been an announcement made today that fathers and same-sex partners will receive two weeks paid leave under a Federal Government scheme aimed at giving dads more time off to help care for their baby. The Minister’s on the line. Thanks for your time Minister.
JENNY MACKLIN: Hello Steve.
STEVE PRICE: Amazing scenes, those pictures that I saw out of Melbourne yesterday. Must have touched you.
JENNY MACKLIN: It certainly did. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t there, I wasn’t in Melbourne yesterday, but I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in Brunswick and I can really understand why people want to come out, obviously, to say how they feel towards Jill Meagher’s family, but also to say this is our suburb and we love living here and please, everybody, continue to have a strong sense of belonging. So it was very powerful.
STEVE PRICE: It was. And that whole dreadful sad story has touched a lot of people. These changes that you’ve announced today, can you afford them?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, we can. They’re already budgeted for. And so they’re already paid in the forward estimates. But I think the way to think about it is how much value they’ll be, especially to those dads who don’t get any paid leave from their employer, and who at the moment have to go straight back to work and miss out on those incredibly special first few weeks of their baby’s life.
And just talking to a young dad today, actually in Brunswick, the excitement in his eyes about the expectation of being a dad, and being able to be there for those first few weeks, it’s definitely worth it.
STEVE PRICE: I couldn’t wait to get back to work.
JENNY MACKLIN: [Laughs]
STEVE PRICE: It’s too hard.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think a lot of dads these days really do want to be at home and be part of it and as he said, he’s looking forward to making sure that his wife’s going to get that extra bit of support when she’ll really need it. But more than anything, having been a mum myself and seen how important the relationship between children and their dad is, this is a very, very good way to strengthen those bonds.
STEVE PRICE: So means-tested, paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
STEVE PRICE: And to be eligible you’ve got to earn less than $150,000. Is that as a family or as an individual?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, the dad. That’s the dad’s wage. So these are the same rules that apply for paid parental leave, which largely goes to mums, so they’re exactly the same means test and the same wage rate.
STEVE PRICE: So will you pay, this runs parallel with paid maternity leave?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it does. So dads need to apply. And the reason we’re talking about it today is it’s now time for dad’s to start applying if their baby’s due after 1 January. This is a change we’ve made with paid parental leave as well – so that parents can get all the paperwork done before the baby comes, because I think we all know that once a baby comes, that it all gets a bit chaotic.
STEVE PRICE: Explain to me why if you’re on the dole you can’t get this payment.
JENNY MACKLIN: Who says that’s the case?
STEVE PRICE: Well you said that to qualify for the payment you must have worked 330 hours one day a week…
JENNY MACKLIN: Right. Sure.
STEVE PRICE: … in 10 of the 13 months before receiving the Dad and partner pay. So presumably if you’re on unemployment benefits you wouldn’t qualify.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well you may have worked though for that much time in the 13 months before the baby comes along.
STEVE PRICE: But why is that requirement there?
JENNY MACKLIN: But this is really for dads who otherwise have to go back to work. So we want to make sure that people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to spend time at home bonding with their baby can do so.
STEVE PRICE: You’ve said that Tony Abbott’s maternity leave package is unaffordable, haven’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, I have. And that’s…
STEVE PRICE: …$3 billion I think it’s estimated at.
JENNY MACKLIN: …that’s right. That’s what he wants to do. He basically wants to pay mothers their replacement wage. So it doesn’t matter if you’re earning $1 million or even $200,000 as a wealthy city lawyer, Tony Abbott will pay…
STEVE PRICE: …but what if you’re earning $80,000?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think it’s different if you’re on a lower wage. We obviously recognise that too, and that’s why we’re paying our paid parental leave at the national minimum wage to make sure that people get a decent level of support while they’re having time off to look after their baby. But I just don’t think that paying out $3 billion is affordable, and of course Mr Abbott also wants to impose a new tax on companies to pay for that paid parental leave.
STEVE PRICE: It seems odd, though, for a Labor politician, and a conviction politician like yourself, to argue against paid maternity leave. You’d be a huge fan of that I would have thought.
JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, I am. And it was my policy that saw it introduced a little while ago. And of course I’m very pleased that we’ve introduced this national scheme. But I also know how important it is to make sure that what the policies you have are affordable. And I think we struck the right note with our paid parental leave scheme. It is paid at the federal minimum wage. We’re not going to have ordinary taxpayers subsidising very wealthy people to get their replacement wage while they have a baby. I just don’t think we can afford it. I don’t think anybody wants to see company tax go up.
That’s what Mr Abbott would – well he says that’s what he’s going to do.
STEVE PRICE: What about as an employer, if you can’t afford to lose the Dad for that two weeks?
JENNY MACKLIN: Under the national employment standard, the parents are able to have three weeks unpaid leave. So that right already exists. This really will mean that instead of it being unpaid, two weeks of it will be paid at the national minimum wage.
STEVE PRICE: And that will be a Government responsibility into the future, it won’t end up being an employers’ responsibility?
JENNY MACKLIN: No. It’s in our Budget out into the future.
STEVE PRICE: All right. Thanks for your time Minister.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.