Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Doorstop Paid Parental Leave, Melbourne, 31 December

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JOURNALIST: So Jenny, obviously it’s good news for mums that haven’t had their babies, what about the mums who have had their babies between last night and today?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is a very exciting time for Australian families, for mums and dads and for babies. For the first time Australia is going to catch up with the rest of the developed world and have a national Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Eighteen weeks, paid at the federal minimum wage, which is five hundred and seventy dollars a week before tax. So a very, very exciting time for parents from the first of January.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to those mums though giving birth today who miss out by literally a few hours?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the important thing for every mum and dad, of course, is to have a healthy baby; for mum to do well through the birth and for a wonderful healthy baby to come out the other side. The important thing to know too is that the Baby Bonus is still going to be there for those mothers who give birth today. The Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefit will be there to provide extra financial support for those parents.

JOURNALIST: And you’re still not aware of any mothers-to-be who have been delaying any interventions until after the New Year?

JENNY MACKLIN: No I’m not and I don’t expect that to happen because mums and dads want to have a healthy baby, that’s what their doctors want too, that’s what the midwives want; what we all want. And the important thing is for us all to celebrate the arrival of the new babies, but also to celebrate this historic occasion, the introduction of Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme.

JOURNALIST: Would there be any leeway on mums that maybe give birth a minute or two before midnight?

JENNY MACKLIN: You always have to have a start date and the start date is the first of January.

JOURNALIST: Won’t there be some fudging of birth certificates if they’re born a couple of minutes before midnight? Asking the doctors to change the time by a few minutes?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think so. I think everybody will recognise that you have to have a start date for any new scheme. The start date is the first of January. That’s when we can celebrate the introduction of Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme and the Baby Bonus will be there for those babies that come along beforehand.

JOURNALIST: What about businesses, who say they will be strangled by red tape by this scheme when, is it after July that it will go back to businesses? What would you say to those small businesses out there?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve been working very closely with small businesses to make the introduction of this new Paid Parental Leave scheme go smoothly for business. We do have some businesses that are going to start being the paymaster for Paid Parental Leave from the first of January. But from the first of July next year we are asking businesses to pay the paid parental leave to their long-term employees; that’s employees they have had for more than twelve months, because we think that’s good for business.

We think it’s good for business to keep connected with their long-term employees, the employees that they’ve invested in, that they’ve trained and we want to make sure that this scheme works for them. Business will get the Paid Parental Leave paid by the Government into their bank accounts in advance of them needing to pass it on to their employees. There won’t be a need to establish any extra accounts and employers can also use their normal pay cycles to pay their employees.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t it inevitable that some employers will start cutting back on their maternity leave schemes?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, I don’t think so. I expect that employers who already have paid parental leave or paid maternity leave will recognise just how beneficial it is for their employees to have improved parental leave. Those employers who have parental leave or maternity leave now, have it because maternity leave is good for business. It means that they can keep hold of their employees who they value.

JOURNALIST: So how can you guarantee that though? Because there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course they’ve got their maternity leave provisions in their Enterprise Agreements that they’ve negotiated with their employees.

JOURNALIST: Do you think this may stop some employers employing someone that is of child-bearing age?

JENNY MACKLIN: No I don’t think so. I think employers recognise that their female employees are very, very valuable to them and we see women now employed right across our economy in all sorts of different workplace situations. That’s to be celebrated and Paid Parental Leave will just provide that extra support to enable employees to stay with their employer of choice.

JOURNALIST: And there’s no chance in the future that this scheme will be scaled back so it’s only available to women who don’t receive any form of maternity leave from their employers?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, this Paid Parental Leave scheme has been designed to make sure we provide Paid Parental Leave to a broad cross-section of the Australian workforce. We recognise that there are many, many women who don’t get paid parental leave now, casual workers, seasonal workers, part-time workers, workers like Louise. We wanted to devise a scheme that was generous to those women in particular, that made Paid Parental Leave available to them for the first time. So it is very exciting for Australian women in particular that we finally have a Paid Parental Leave scheme.

JOURNALIST: Will this spark a Baby Boom, do you think?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think so. I think parents decide to have babies for a wide range of reasons, but we’re very pleased to be supporting those families who do want to bring a new baby into their family.

Thank you.