Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid parental leave, gambling, gay marriage, Victorian election

Program: ABC News Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: We’re joined from Canberra now by Families and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin. Minister good morning and thanks for joining us.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So what is the status of that which the Opposition is proposing in Parliament today?

JENNY MACKLIN: The Opposition is trying to disrupt the introduction of Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme, this paid parental leave scheme is due to start in less than 6 weeks time on 1 January next year. We already have two thousand parents who have registered for payment under the scheme. More than five hundred employers have registered so we don’t want any disruption to the smooth introduction of Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme.

I think this legislation that the Liberals are putting in to the Parliament today is just further evidence of their wrecking mentality. It is really not the time to be disrupting or confusing anyone as we go towards the introduction of our first Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It’s not necessarily wrecking if it actually improves the legislation and there is a strong argument that perhaps it’s going to be a hell of an impost on smaller employers for them to be managing that Paid Parental Leave scheme themselves. Why not, Jenny Macklin, actually consider putting it through Centrelink when Centrelink is in place and knows how to deal with national payments. That’s the job that it does. Is it just a philosophical or an ideological block that you have to this idea?

JENNY MACKLIN: No. One of the things that we understand is very, very important is to keep the connection between employees, largely mothers who leave the workforce for a short period of time. If they keep that connection with their employer, they’re more likely to go back to work, more likely to go back to the same employer and that of course is good for business as well as being good for the employees.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But you don’t necessarily have to keep that connection via, if I can put it this way, a bureaucratic link and that is simply where the pieces of paper are stamped so that the money is paid. You can keep that link but still get the centre that knows how to do this best, Centrelink, to manage the payments.

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve discussed this a lot with employer representatives in the lead up to the introduction of the legislation, because we did want to make sure that the legislation was both fair to business and workable for employees. And many, many businesses do understand the value of having this relationship, having them as the pay master. We certainly understood how important it was for the Government to make the money available to employers, we’re not proposing, unlike the Liberals, the Liberals want to impose a new tax on business to pay for Paid Parental Leave. The Labor Government is not doing that. We’re paying the money to employers. We’re also making sure that they only have to pay for long-term employees. Employees they’ve had on their books for more than twelve months. So, we’ve made a number of changes to make it easier for employers. We understand how important it is to work with them, but we also know how critical it is to keep that link between the employees and employers.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Just moving on to some other subjects, the last word on this kerfuffle that seems to have blown up in the last few days, Andrew Wilkie suggesting that he’d abandon his agreement with the Labor Government if it fails to honour his pokie deal. Is that all nailed down? Are you all in the same place now?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think we always were. As he said to the ABC yesterday, he’s very happy with the way the discussions are going with the Government. Last week he met with the head of my Department and with the head of the expert group that we’ve established. Dr. Peter Shergold met with him and Andrew Wilkie certainly indicated to the ABC and then I spoke to him again last night. He certainly indicated to me that he’s very happy with how the discussions on problem gambling are going. So I think he’s certainly indicating that we’re on the same page.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Moving on to something else altogether; there’s an interesting poll in the Age today, showing that fifty-seven percent of Australians actually support gay marriage. When you go back and speak to your electorate and take the temperature in your electorate as Adam Bandt has now required all MPs to do, what sense do you think you’ll get from your electorate about support for gay marriage?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think there’s a variety of views. I’ve already had correspondence from various members of my electorate indicating exactly that. We’ll have a discussion about this issue at our national conference next year, that’s the right place for the Labor party to discuss this issue and that’s certainly where I’ll put my views.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Do you have a personal view that you’d like to share with us this morning?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ll be putting my views at the National Conference.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: The state election in Victoria looms, just this Saturday, as a Victorian MP, do you have a sense of how this is going to go for the Labor Government?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it will be very close. There’s no question that both leaders have felt exactly that as they’ve got closer and closer to the poll. There are some very important issues just for me and my local area. Health is always the biggest issue and I’m sure that will dominate people’s thinking as they get closer to the poll.

They do remember just how bad the Liberal government was when they were in power for our health services and I think a lot of people will think about that when they come to the poll.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: (inaudible) considering them pretty seriously now.

JENNY MACKLIN: I think they understand just how serious it was when Mr Kennett was in power and they don’t want to return to that

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Jenny Macklin, we have to leave it there but thanks for joining us.