Paid Parental Leave Scheme, Radio 3AW
E & OE – proof only
NICK MCCALLUM: Last night there was history in Australia. For the first time we now have a paid parental leave. It cleared the Senate, it has already cleared the House of Representatives, it is now law. Jenny Macklin joins us. The Minister for Families, thanks indeed for your time.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Nick.
NICK MCCALLUM: So first of all, give us the nuts and bolts. When does it start, what exactly is it, and who qualifies?
JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much Nick. It starts on 1st January next year. It will be eighteen weeks of Government funded parental leave pay and that will be paid at the national minimum wage, which is just under $570 a week, and it will be made available to those eligible parents who meet the work test. It’s a pretty generous work test. You have to have worked 330 hours in the ten months’ prior to your baby arriving, that’s about a day a week.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, so how long does it actually last? It’s eighteen weeks?
JENNY MACKLIN: Eighteen weeks, that’s right. What we’ve wanted to do is design a scheme that was affordable to the Budget, so this is fully costed, fully funded in last year’s Federal Budget. We have recognised that it was important to provide this additional assistance for families. So long parents have waited for this extra financial support for when their babies come along.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, so you’ve said that you hope to be able to reassess it and maybe beef it up in the future, over the next two years?
JENNY MACKLIN: We have said that we’ll, and this is in the legislation, that we’ll do a proper review after a couple of years, and we’ll particularly look at two issues in that review. One is whether or not in the future we might provide additional support to cover superannuation, and the second is, that we might extend the support for dads to be able to spend more time at home. One of the good things about the design of the scheme that is now law, is that families are going to be able to share the leave. So if mum takes the first eight to ten weeks for example, she might then need to go back to work and dad can take the remainder of the paid leave. So it’s really up to families, but we do want to make sure that families can make their own choices.
NICK MCCALLUM: Any gay couples?
JENNY MACKLIN: It’s up to a person having a baby and there being a primary carer. So we’re not going to go inside the bedroom, what we’re on about is supporting parents who have babies and it also applies to those who have adopted babies.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, now Senator Steve Fielding raised a whole lot of objections in the Senate. He went through a whole lot of them. Let me just raise them quickly. Are prisoners, will they be able to get it?
JENNY MACKLIN: Prisoner work is not covered by paid parental leave, so that doesn’t meet the work test.
NICK MCCALLUM: So that was a furphy?
JENNY MACKLIN: There’s quite a few things that Senator Fielding said that I thought were quite disgraceful. And he knows that the rules that apply to the current baby bonus for example will also apply to paid parental leave. I think it’s important in these debates that all Members of Parliament actually make sure that they do understand the legislation that’s before them, before they make outrageous comments.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, well he made some comments regarding people who have late term abortions, getting it as well. Is that a yes or a no on that?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, and that’s what I think was particularly disgraceful. The same rules that apply to the baby bonus apply to paid parental leave. It will be available for a stillbirth but a medical professional has to certify that it was a stillbirth and of course, that’s a very important certification that any doctor would make.
NICK MCCALLUM: What happens when, if a woman is working in a company that the company actually pays paid maternity leave? Can you double dip in other words, can the woman then get paid by her current company and also get the Government’s scheme?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t think it’s double dipping. I think many companies have already negotiated with their employees to deliver paid maternity leave or parental leave, it varies. We know that many companies understand that paid parental leave is very good for their businesses. It means they can hold on to their skilled staff and be an employer of choice, and you would have seen some big companies recently announcing that they were extending their parental leave, Westpac for example. What parents will be able to do is combine the Government’s scheme and their employer schemes in whatever way suits families.
NICK MCCALLUM: We’ve got a couple of callers who’ve called in with questions, I’ll ask them on their behalf.
JENNY MACKLIN: Sure.
NICK MCCALLUM: First of all, Cameron asks, will we still get the baby bonus in conjunction with parental leave?
JENNY MACKLIN: You can either choose to take the baby bonus and Family Tax Benefit Part B, or the paid parental leave. So parents will be able to look up on the Family Assistance Office website and figure out which is best for their families. So that’ll be a choice for families.
NICK MCCALLUM: And I presume the baby bonus would still be in operation for stay at home mums, those who are not working?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right. The baby bonus will continue and parents who have one parent at home they also receive Family Tax Benefit Part B. That is not available to those who opt for paid parental leave.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, now Vivien has asked the question, do you fear that some firms will now not employ child bearing aged women because of this? And because of the paperwork I suppose more than the finances?
JENNY MACKLIN: No I don’t. I think two things. One is that this is a Government funded scheme. We have wanted to make sure that we don’t put an additional financial burden on employers and I think many, many employers have said to me how useful they see paid parental leave at holding on to their skilled staff. So I think most employers see this as positive and that the Government funded scheme will in fact be beneficial to employers. Most of the paperwork will in fact be done by the Family Assistance Office.
NICK MCCALLUM: And parents who work for themselves such as ABN holders?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it will be available for those who are self-employed as long as they meet the work test, 330 hours in the ten months prior to the baby being born.
NICK MCCALLUM: Now Deb, a caller is upset because the payment to the parents is in fact bigger than the disability pension, she thinks that’s unfair.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think people would be aware that we’ve made a very significant advance on the pension both for the disability support pension and for aged pensioners. In fact as a result of the Government’s changes the single rate of the pension has gone up by around $100 a fortnight. So we certainly recognise that we did need to increase the pension and that was delivered last September and increased again in March this year.
NICK MCCALLUM: Okay, Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, I know you’re very busy, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much for answering so many of our listeners’ questions.
JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure