Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

The Circle, Network Ten

Program: The Circle, Network Ten

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

Subject: Prime Minister, Paid Parental Leave Scheme

INTERVIEWER: We asked Federal MP Jenny Macklin to be on our Circle couch since Julia Gillard took over the reins so …

JENNY MACKLIN: (inaudible) so I was supposed to be here last week.

INTERVIEWER: Massive, massive week for you.

JENNY MACKLIN: It was. Even bigger for Julia.

INTERVIEWER: Massive, we were thrilled with the news of course, the first female PM. But given that you are on the couch, wanted to ask you, we had Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop on the Circle couch on Monday, um, and she said this, I’ll just quote her, she said: “that people have a feeling of absolute bewilderment, that a popularly elected PM can be replaced by their Party, yet the policies haven’t changed, what is it all about?” What’s your reaction to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think she’s being a bit of a party pooper for starters. But look at the way in which Julia’s been received by the public. One of the things that I found so wonderful was seeing all those shots on TV of the young girls in high school just overjoyed, especially the girls from her own school in Adelaide who are basically saying, here, we can do anything. That’s really what I think has been so wonderful for all the girls and young women around Australia. In the end of course Julia Gillard like every Prime Minister will be judged by what she does, but it is a very exciting moment.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, let’s move on to what we wanted to talk to you about, paid parental leave. Very exciting for Australians.


INTERVIEWER: We would just love to go through some questions especially for our viewers and we’ve got a lot of viewer emails we’d love to go through. Maybe if we could start with the question, would I have the choice of going for the Baby Bonus or the paid parental leave, maybe if you could just talk about that.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. That’s a really good question. One of the things we’re doing is making sure that parents can make their own choice. One of the things you have to do at the moment is do all your paper work for the Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefit when the new bub comes along. Having had babies myself I know you don’t want to be filling out forms once you’ve been through the birth, you actually would like to get that done beforehand, so you’ll be able to do that. We’re going to have an online calculator so you can put your own details in, your income, all those sorts of things and figure out what’s best for you. We do want to really support mums and dads, increasingly there are dads who want to help out as well, and we want to help them make their own choices, what’s best for them.

INTERVIEWER: So if you’re earning quite a lot of money getting taxed at a high rate and you put in a little calculator, you might work out that it’s actually better for you to get the Baby Bonus.

JENNY MACKLIN: You might, or you might actually figure out that it’s best the other way, so we really want to do what’s best for families.

INTERVIEWER: Can we talk about the 18 weeks paid leave. That, um, to me seems great, um, but once again it’s not really enough time to raise a whole baby is it, eighteen weeks? So it’s great on paper but once again isn’t it the mum who has to pick up that slack?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the first thing is as you’ve said in your introduction, this is so fantastic that Australia is finally catching up with the rest of the world, and that we finally have a paid parental leave scheme which has never existed before. And that’s especially important for those lower income women, casuals, part-timers, the self-employed, contractors, who don’t get any paid parental leave from their employers. So we really wanted to provide support for those mums and dads who are the moment have to go back to work in many circumstances, straight after their baby is born. We had the Productivity Commission do a big inquiry for us and of course we had to balance what we thought the country could afford, what we thought was important and fair for business and what was important for families. So that’s how we got to this position.

INTERVIEWER: If the mother wants to go back to work after say ten weeks, what happens then if it’s an eighteen week allowance?

JENNY MACKLIN: If she’d like to share the leave with dad she can. Once again, we’ve really wanted to make it a choice for families. So if she wants to have that ten weeks off to recover from the birth, maybe establish breastfeeding, and then dad wants to take the second eight weeks, she can do that. If her employer provides paid parental leave or paid maternity leave she can take it either together or consecutively, whatever suits her.

INTERVIEWER: And what about Minister, very quickly if you don’t mind, just yes or no, because I’d love to get to our viewer emails, if I’m adopting a baby, yes or no?


INTERVIEWER: Great, and if I’m on a casual employment contract?

JENNY MACKLIN: We really do want to provide it for casual workers so the work test is very generous, around a day a week of the ten months, as part of 13 months, before your baby comes along. So it’s a pretty generous work test.

INTERVIEWER: (inaudible) sent us an email saying, why can’t stay at home mums get the leave?

JENNY MACKLIN: As I mentioned before it really is going to depend on individual parent circumstances. The Baby Bonus will be there and Family Tax Benefit Part A and B for those mums and dads who do decide that they want to be at home. So there are……

INTERVIEWER: …… sort of left the workforce but the ones who weren’t in the workforce to start with?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s what will be available for them and for some of them it really will turn out that those payments are better for them than it would have been with the paid parental leave. So that’s why we’re having the online calculator, you can look at the circumstances that affect you.

INTERVIEWER: Amanda Rose wants to know, she’s having a baby on 13 January. She’s finishing work just before Christmas, she wants to know if she gets it?

JENNY MACKLIN: There’s a couple of conditions. One is, does she meet the work test, and as I’ve just said, it’s a pretty generous work test.

INTERVIEWER: So say she does?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s if she does and the baby is born on or after 1 January. Of course you can never be sure when a baby is going to come along, but as long as the baby is born on or after 1 January and she meets the work test, and the income test, she needs if she’s the primary carer, she needs to earn under $150,000.

INTERVIEWER: Right, okay. Erica, don’t know whether this one is going to be clear for you Minister? But my sister has been living in New Zealand for seven years with her husband, he’s a Kiwi. They’ve got two children already but they’re planning to move here for good and run a small business. They do plan to have more children so will she be entitled to the paid parental scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: With these residency arrangements, I think it’s best if they check with Centrelink because obviously I don’t want to get the rules for an individual family wrong. So in those circumstances go along to Centrelink and check your eligibility.

INTERVIEWER: Same sex couples?


INTERVIEWER: Great. Now Tony Abbott said that if they’re elected they’re going to give a six month paid parental leave. Do you think that’s realistic or is he just blowing smoke?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think that’s a good way of putting it because Mr Abbott was famously heard to say that paid parental leave would be introduced over his dead body, so maybe call the undertaker. But that might be a bit mean. The way that he’s going about it is of course he’s going to introduce a new tax on a lot of businesses to pay for his so called paid parental leave. So that would mean that everything that everybody buys at the supermarket, Target, Coles, Woolies, the price of course will go up. We think that his scheme is also very unfair given everyone is going to have to pay higher prices for all those basics, and higher income women are going to get anything up to $75,000 (inaudible). We think it’s very unfair.

INTERVIEWER: And finally, just for employers who might be concerned listening to this, thinking where’s this money coming from, reiterate that the Government will be reimbursing them?

JENNY MACKLIN: The Government is funding the cost of paid parental leave. That’s why we wanted to get the balance right between the cost to the Government. We wanted to make it as easy as possibly for business. We do want women to keep their connection with the workforce, that’s why we’ve asked businesses to be the paymaster but they’re not going to actually to have to foot the bill. The Government will make sure it’s paid for.

INTERVIEWER: Well Minister it’s certainly really a positive step in the right direction for both mums and dads. We do hope though, I have to say before we go, that we get to Sweden which has got sixteen months, and the UK has thirty-nine weeks which is a start. But it is a great start, thank you for joining us on the couch.